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’Tis The Season to be Jolly!
December brings in so much fun and memories during the holiday season and with Christmas just around the corner, we thought that we’d share some magical moments captured by Photographer Geert Weggen also called the “Squirrel Whisperer” in his outdoor studio.
Geert is a Swedish full-time photographer, born in Holland, and is a national and International awarded nature photographer who has for the past couple of years worked very closely with wild birds and squirrels.
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Geert started taking photos of the wildlife around his house through his kitchen window (and still does), however, his main focus is the squirrels he captures in a uniquely beautiful way.
His outdoor studio connects the forest and his house and it is built in such a way that the squirrels that he photographs can land directly on to a high table from the trees. This table contains props and other details that he sets up to photograph the squirrels that visit his studio.
Geert ensures the sun is always behind his subjects enabling beautiful backlight in his photographs. He mostly uses ambient light, but at times when more light is required, he uses flash and reflectors as fill lights which are remotely controlled.
The gear he uses most often is a Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 150-600mm lens. Geert places the props and food in place for the squirrels to visit, a day before he intends to do a photo shoot.
When Geert talks about the squirrels that visit his studio, he says:
“Many squirrels die or disappear every year due to predators, sickness and lack of food during the Winter season, but most of the time they are just fine. The year 2016 has not been so good for the squirrels with the numbers that visit getting down from 8 to 4.
The squirrels take time to get used to things I do, like, opening my window, coming into my studio, sound of the camera, my presence, etc.
There are some squirrels that are so friendly, that they come to me when I walk to the studio table, whereas some of them stay shy and walk away when I approach the table.
Each one has its own personality. They eat meat and toadstools, just like some small birds do and sometimes let their young ones wander alone for a whole day!”
Geert also continues to say that different kinds of birds also visit his studio along with the red squirrels and they have developed a friendly relationship.
With up to 4 squirrels coming into his studio at the same time, Geert says that he may not always get his subjects in sharp focus in a single frame and hence he sometimes stacks two different photographs to make a picture, provided the lighting conditions and the framing are both the same.
Geert’s first photoshoot of the squirrels happened in the beginning of 2014 and since then he’s been shooting them almost every day. Geert added that he is motivated by the new ideas he comes up with for shooting these photographs and from the response he gets from his audience who follow his work.
Geert (who is the author of four animal photo books) continues to say:
“I am often surprised seeing my own work and I work all the time towards new stories for my book and that keeps me going.
Besides these, I just love these animals and they keep on surprising me every day.
The sales that my books make also keep me motivated and I have recently started working on longer stories, the latest theme being “Christmas.”
It’s been a while since I celebrated the holiday myself and this year I thought that I’d let the squirrels celebrate it instead. The light from the snow and the low winter sun add to the warm tones in my pictures. I have just completed my recent squirrel book for children called “Christmas.”
Geert has received many awards for his work, and his stories and photographs have been published in famous magazines like
- National Geographic,
- Wild Planet Photo Magazine,
- Newspapers like Metro and The Times, and
- On Television from France, Sweden, Japan and Radio England.
One of Geert’s 8-page articles with 10 photos, is to be published in the Nordic National Geographic in December 2016. Some of his accomplishments are as follows:
- 3 times photo of the month published in National Geographic Magazine 2015 – 2016 featured in October 2016
- Photo published in the October 2016 issue of Wild Planet Photo Magazine
- Finalist of the 13th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest and featured 2015- 2016
- 3rd place in photographer of the North European Countries 2015
- 3rd place in Fotoland Contest 2016
- Fotosidan Magazine Prize 2015
When talking about his studio, he says:
“I have built a house with an outside studio in the middle of Sweden where animals can come and go. The studio has an open roof and is connected to the forest.”
Geert who is 48 years old, started as a photographer for a youth magazine when he was just 16 and had his own dark room. He later changed his interests into other kinds of artistic work like music, wood carving, digital art, interior design and stone art.
He again picked up an interest in photography in 2013 and has recently become a full-time photographer.
Geert’s main focus is on the wild red squirrels, but also has interests in macro, landscape and bird photography.
To wrap up the story, here is what Geert tells about creating art:
“To create is kind of letting the steam go out of myself. I use up all the wild energy I have in creating photographs. It is a kind of therapy for me, but most of my life I have lived, creating things from my dreams and from my other creative ideas.
My mind continues to visualize new ideas and wants to be manifested and be creative. I just cannot let it go. I wake up early in the morning with ideas in my head and I go to bed with ideas.
Also, another good thing about creating photographs is, it does not take up much space for example when compared to wood and stone art. It is also great to have the ability to sell photos online even though I live in a very isolated part of the country.”
If you wish to see how Geert has set up his outdoor studio and how incredibly he interacts and creates a special bond with the animals, please have a look at the video below.
If you are inspired by Geert’s work, you can have a look at the following links.
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