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Photographer Q&A – Geert Weggen Communes With Squirrels

red squirrels sitting in a camping bus

We recently sat down with Geert Weggen, nature photographer based in Sweden, to discuss his “naturally staged” tableaux of wildlife, usually focused on red squirrels. You can see more of his  fantastical, yet real, work here!

red squirrel on a chair holding an umbrella with nut in mouth

Aurora Photos: You have been featured on the internet a number of times (here, here, here…you get the picture) for your wonderful captures of, “squirrel lifestyle,” let’s call it. We have to ask. Why squirrels?

Geert Weggen: The amazing thing about squirrels is that they can do many things similar to humans. Their front legs are like hands and they can stand on two legs, like us. Besides all that, they can do even more…they’re very acrobatic! With those talents, I can capture photos where people can imagine themselves in the scenes: Driving, riding horses, cleaning, opening doors, holding umbrellas etc.

I live in nature, with the forest literally next to my house. I built an outside studio where animals can come and go. With all the wild squirrels visiting me every day they are the perfect subject to take photos of.

red squirrel standing on moped with yellow orchids

Au: Can you describe your process and technique?

GW: My studio is about 30 square meters and has a half open roof and 2 open sides. The rain and snow can come in, but still my equipment will stay dry. I created a 2-meter square table, which is the same height as my kitchen window from where I can shoot. The flashes are on remote and I use a big reflector. There is always back light, which is why many times only ambient light is not enough. I create scenes on my table and put food in the places where I hope squirrels will come. Sometimes I have to clone away small food buckets or wires from my photos. Sometimes I can do four scenes in one day.

great tit is painting abstract art

Au: Was there a trick you tried to get a squirrel to do that didn’t quite work?

GW: There have been shots which I worked at for 5 days, but in the end I got my result. Like I had the idea that the squirrels were skiing in the snow, and I really wanted them to hold both poles in each hand. I am not a very patient man, but when I have an idea in my head it is hard for me to walk away. Sometime, I have difficulty capturing the squirrels with flowers; most of the flowers come from my garden, and there’s a short window of time where they still look fresh.

I’ve had issues with mischievous squirrels in the past…some love to take props in to the trees and disappear before I can even take a shot. I lost a beautiful tea pot some years ago, though I was lucky then, and was able to capture the images I wanted before it disappeared. In fact, I FOUND IT this year in the forest, after all these years!

red squirrel standing on jumping horse with a hurdle

Au: What’s the one shot you’d love to set up, but haven’t tried yet?

GW: For 4 years now I’ve been photographing the red squirrels and I have literally worked with thousands of ideas, but there are still a few I haven’t tried. It would be wonderful to capture two squirrels kissing, but I have no idea how to get them into that shot. I have captured squirrels sniffing each other, but these situations are impossible to plan.

squirrel with water, light tower, shark and canoe

Au: It’s a common saying in the business, “don’t work with kids and animals”… would you say that’s true?

GW: Well…It can be frustrating. I often find myself cursing. There are many potential issues…Of course there is wind, and weather problems, etc. In the winter days, I sometimes only have 3 hours of light, and it can be so cold that in 5 minutes I cannot feel the buttons on  the camera, but all that is not even the biggest challenge. The animals do exactly what they want, and I have no control. They are always on the move and very quick! Photography is not really relaxing when they are in front of my camera; I need to be alert and very quick to capture those moments! Lucky for me, there are so many squirrels that I have many chances to capture what I hope for.

Red squirrel holding a Mobile Phone in hands

Au: Do you think some of the techniques you use on squirrels would work on kids?

GW: For me, the trick is food and trust. The animals are always looking for food and looking for it in my studio with me nearby. It takes a long time before they feel safe. Similar to deer, they are alert the whole time. However, when they started to trust me they naturally became curious and dared to challenge themselves in new situations. Whenever I set up a new scene, they almost go directly towards it and act like they are familiar with their new surroundings, and behave like I am not there.

I don’t photograph children, but I guess it has a lot in common with how I approach photographing wildlife. Children need to feel safe so they can behave naturally and they like a reward as motivation. When I have a good shoot, and the wildlife cooperates, I will climb out my window to give them a nut, as a reward. I assume child-photography involves rewarding the kids when they cooperate and listen, as well. However, I do think you can guide children in a different way than squirrels.

Here’s a few action shots and behind the scenes of Geert’s studio. You can see more of his furry friends in action here!

man feeding a red squirrel which is standing on a wishing well

man feeding a red squirrel  with a shark in hands with water and canoe

man feeding a red squirrel which is standing on wooden blocks with text happy fathers day

Kiliii Fish and Whit Richardson for Canoe & Kayak

The June and July issues of Canoe & Kayak featured images by Aurora photographers Kiliii Fish and Whit Richardson.

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June issue of Canoe & Kayak, photo by Kiliii Fish

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July issue of Canoe & Kayak, photo by Kiliii Fish

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July issue of Canoe & Kayak, photo by Whit Richardson

To see more work by Kiliii Fish, visit the Aurora Photos website here.

To see more work by Whit Richardson, visit the Aurora Photos website here.

Limited Edition Photo Book by Christopher Herwig Available on Kickstarter

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Photographs of Soviet bus stops, done by Aurora photographer Christopher Herwig, recently attracted considerable interest around the world, and now for the first time, are available in book-form. Copies of  Herwig’s new photo book “Soviet Bus Stops” are available on Kickstarter for the next two weeks. Herwig is seeking support to “immortalize this incredible modern art form.”

Herwig tells of his experience with Soviet bus stops: “Ever since stumbling upon them while biking to St. Petersburg in 2002 I have been hunting bus stops in remote corners of the former Soviet Union. I have covered more than 30,000 km by car, bus and taxi in 13 countries documenting these wonderfully strange works of art, created behind the Iron Curtain.”

The bus stops show the range of public art from the Soviet era and give a rare glimpse into the creative minds of the time. Huffington Post calls the book “fascinating” and Bears and vodka write that it is a “delicate balance between modern art and clinical insanity.” The photographs are accompanied by research from Moscow-based journalist Slava Kuzminsky.

Soviet Bus Stops

Soviet Bus Stops

Soviet Bus Stops

To order the book and to see a video on the project, click here

To see more work by Christopher Herwig, visit the Aurora Photos website here

 

 

Travel Channel’s “Daily Escape” Features Many Aurora Photographers

Everyday, Travel Channel posts a picture on “The Daily Escape: A Vacation for Your Brain” that is picturesque and dream-like, allowing for people to get away for a little while, without actually going anywhere. January’s Daily Escapes spanned the globe, from Utah to Namibia, and some images are from Aurora contributors.

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Whit Richardson, Moab, Utah

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Whit Richardson, Telluride, Colorado

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Karl Schatz, Cape Point, South Africa

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Mauricio Abreu, Leon, Spain

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Joel Addams, Erg Chebbi, Morocco

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Sabine Lubenow, Ibiza, Spain

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Chris Caldicott, Marrakesh, Morocco

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Whit Richardson, Telluride, Colorado

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Shaun Egan, Andalusia, Spain

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Dan Ballard, Westcliffe, Colorado

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Walter Bibikow, Valais, Switzerland

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Image Source / Aurora Photos, Cape Town, South Africa

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Gavin Hellier, Istanbul, Turkey

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Meg Haywood-Sullivan, Big Sur, California

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Chris Schmid, Kunene Namibia

To see more Daily Escape photos, visit the Travel Channel here.

To see more work by Aurora Photos photographers, visit our website here.