Combining his love of nature with his skills in photography, 21-year-old Ossi Saarinen captures the many wild forest animals living in Finland’s mystical woodlands. From curious foxes and mischievous red squirrels to shy deers and even grizzly bears, the talented wildlife photographer gets up-close and personal with these charming creatures, revealing their most intimate and adorable moments.
Finland is almost entirely covered in untouched forests, tundras, and lakes, making it the perfect home for a wide range of species. Saarinen spends hundreds of hours amongst the picturesque landscape, patiently waiting for the timid animals to emerge. His resulting images look like something from a real-life fairytale—fox cubs are captured playing, majestic owls perch in snow-covered trees, and squirrels busily hoard their nuts.
We recently caught up with Saarinen to find out what it’s like to spend time photographing these amazing animals. Read on for our exclusive interview.
When did you first become interested in photography?
I took my first photo with a DSLR in the beginning of 2015 and fell love immediately. My first photo was of a bird in my backyard. I started with all kind of photographing but ended up shooting nature and mostly wild animals.
What draws you to capturing wildlife?
I’ve been super interested in nature and especially animals since I was a kid. I realized that with a camera I can save and share those amazing moments and feelings I experience in the nature.
Wildlife photography is very challenging which makes it even more interesting. Sometimes it means hours and hours of waiting with no result but when I finally get the shot I wanted it’s all worth it.
You’re able to get so close to the forest animals. How do you charm them into trusting you?
I spend lot of time with them. I start carefully from a far distance and then slowly, day-by-day, I try to get closer. I learned to know how the animal behaves and reacts to my presence. No sudden movements or loud noises. Over time they start trusting me more and let me closer.
Do you have a favorite creature that you like to photograph?
Foxes. Young fox cubs especially. I find the life and behavior of these smart animals very interesting. Following the life of the cubs, seeing how they grow up and leave the nest. I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to do that. The fox cubs are also very adorable and cute and adult foxes are beautiful in their thick orange fur.
Do you have any funny stories of a particular animal encounter?
I can’t remember any exceptionally funny moments with animals. But the moments I often go back in my mind and laugh at them are the days when everything goes wrong. One early morning I went close to a fox nesting site and waited for the shy foxes to appear for almost 6 hours. I couldn’t move at all because I didn’t want to make any sounds to scare the foxes. The air was full of mosquitoes and they were biting me all around and I couldn’t do anything about it. After hours without seeing a single fox I finally gave up and went home. My right hand was so full of mosquito bites that I couldn’t have even taken any photos with my finger as its size had almost doubled from a bite. It was also very cold, so I could barely feel my toes or fingers.
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in taking up wildlife photography?
Just go out whenever you can. Instead of at noon, try early mornings and late evenings. Keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll be surprised how many animals there actually are. Even if you’re living in a big city. You don’t need an expensive camera and huge lenses. Start with a phone and when you feel like it’s not enough anymore get a real camera.
Spend a lot of time in nature and with the animals. The more you know about your photo subject the closer you can get and the more interesting your photos can be. Take as many different kinds of photos as possible. Then you can choose the best ones and next time you will know what worked and what didn’t.