For the past four years, photographer Dean Mason has used an unusual model as his muse—a harvest mouse. These pint-sized rodents have large ears and eyes, as well as short whiskers that make them quite photogenic. At just three inches long, the harvest mouse is half the size of a house mouse and incredibly acrobatic. Their curious, charming behavior makes harvest mice fascinating to photograph, as you never know what they’ll get up to in their tiny worlds.
Mason photographs these active mice as they scurry up thin plant stems and balance expertly in tiny flower blossoms. How do they do it? Their acrobatic ability is due to their prehensile tail (which helps with balance) and their broad feet (which are adapted to climbing). They’ve even evolved a partially opposable outer toe that helps grip thin stems. For Mason, this athletic ability is just part of what makes them incredible to photograph. And when combined with their curious personalities and love of people, harvest mice really are the perfect models.
“They make you smile due to their sheer size and behavior,” Mason tells My Modern Met. “Photographing them is an absolute joy albeit very challenging as they tend to move rather quickly when active!” In fact, Mason loves these small critters so much that he’s based his whole business around them. His Windows on Wildlife runs photography workshops that allow others to experience the joy of photographing the fascinating animals.
Whether snuggling into a dandelion or hanging out in a tiny clubhouse, these mice are sure to give anyone joy. And for Mason, that’s one of the great satisfactions of his work. “I get many emails and messages from social media followers thanking me for brightening their day and for making them smile…. I can ask no more than that!”