All photos by Ossi Saarinen
How many professional photographers are there on Instagram? Millions, for sure. How many incredible nature photographers are there? Dozens of thousands, no doubt. But even with all this competition, Ossi Saarinen has built a loyal audience of more than 200,000 followers on that social network under the nickname of Soosseli. His secret to differentiating himself from the big masters of photography is to publish delicate and oniric portraits of small wild animals in their natural habitat – Finland.
The Nordic/Scandinavian country, land of the most unvisited and least touristy ecosystem on the planet (the Arctic), is the perfect scenario for Saarinen’s creations. Under his lens, foxes, little birds, squirrels, and deers have that sweet look that will melt the coldest of the hearts. Their fur has a soft texture. And the backgrounds are breathtaking. Today Soosseli’s feed is one of the most amazing photo collections on Instagram, the bit of joy that anyone needs to start off a day in a good vibe.
Besides distributing fairy tales through his photography, Saarinen also teaches and this year published his first photo book – “Luontokuvia – Opi kuvaamaan eläimiä”, until now only published in Finnish.
In this interview, he tells us a bit more about his passion for nature photography.
My name is Ossi Saarinen, I’m 23 years old and I live in Espoo, Finland. I started studying geography at Helsinki University two years ago but since December 2018 I haven’t been taking any courses as I’ve been fully focusing on my photographer career. I will maybe continue my studies later. Right now I’m a full-time nature photographer (including not just photography but also workshops, books, and other products and social media collaborations).
What led you to photograph wildlife? Which were your motivations then and what are they now?
I’ve been super interested in nature and especially wild animals since I was a kid. Even when I couldn’t read yet, I still carried a bird book with me everywhere and just looked at the photos. I used to go outside all the time and observe wildlife with my bare eyes or through binoculars. Later, in 2015, I first tried taking a photo of a bird in my backyard and fell in love with photographing immediately.
Nature itself has always been my biggest motivation. I want to save and share those amazing moments and beautiful things I see and experience in the wild. Today I also want to motivate people to preserve our beautiful and fragile nature through my photos. I want to raise awareness of environmental issues such as global warming and mass extinction.
Do you have favorite animals to photograph? If so, what attracts you to them?
So far my favorite animals to photograph have been red foxes. I think they are very beautiful and photogenic and somehow their behavior also interests me a lot. Finding and photographing them is also quite challenging which makes the whole thing more interesting and rewarding. I’ve been very lucky to find many different fox families and been able to follow their life in long periods. Every time I learn something new about them.
What’s so special about Finland for photography?
I love Finnish nature because it’s (mostly) very clean and looks often very untouched. Finnish forests are full of interesting animals that can be photographed during four totally different seasons. It’s easy to travel inside Finland and most places are accessible and open for visitors.
Finnish Lapland is amazing, especially during the midnight sun in the summer, but also in the autumn colors and snowy, yet dark winters. Lapland is pretty different from the rest of the country, but beautiful nature can be found anywhere in Finland.
Even in the biggest city, Helsinki, nature is all around. Most of my photos have been actually taken in Helsinki or nearby areas. Helsinki is a great destination no matter if you’re looking for city life or nature experiences. And the norther you go, the fewer people there will be. Silence and peace aren’t difficult to find in Finland.
Tell me a bit about your workshops. What’s necessary to participate and when will the next ones take place?
I’ve had so far only a few group workshops, but I’m planning to host many more in the future. In the workshops, we usually learn about nature photography both in theory and in action in nature. There’s not really any special requirements for equipment as the animals that we photograph are (at least so far) pretty easily approachable. Any kind of camera and lenses can work.
My next 2-day-workshop will be hosted in a city named Lahti (one hour north from Helsinki). It’s hosted in Finnish and focusing on nature photography in wintertime. In the spring/summer I will host several international workshops at least in Helsinki.
I also often take tourists to some wildlife spots to see and photograph with me. This kind of private tours/workshops can be arranged almost any time of the year, although summer is the easiest time of the year to find animals.