Niki Colemont has dedicated the last five years of his life to photographing squirrels. He’ll spend hours of his free time observing his favourite nimble acrobats, in order to capture the perfect shot.
“They are my little outdoor children,” he laughs. “Squirrels are ridiculously cute. If you see one you want to hug it...but I don’t advise you to do that!”
The 34-year-old amateur photographer, who fled Rwanda as a child refugee and now lives in Belgium, became captivated by squirrels five years ago, when he was walking around the garden of his girlfriend’s grandmother.
“I was just looking around and suddenly out of nowhere a squirrel came out of the tree in very close range,” he recalls.
Colemont has since taken dozens of squirrel photos, some in the wild, others with props, even adopting the moniker ‘Squirrelman’ on social media. His favourite image shows a squirrel flying through the air with a nut in its mouth.
“This one is the most technical and difficult shot I have ever made,” he says. “Also this shot was made without a hide, I was just standing outside.”
Colemon works for an automotive company in Belgium and his day job involves making sound-proof dashboard isolations for cars. His passion for nature started after that first squirrel encounter in the garden in 2016. He bought himself a camera soon afterwards. Two friends, who were also photography enthusiasts, helped him get to grips with the kit.
He now enjoys entering photography competitions but says he doesn’t make money from his hobby. Nor does he use Photoshop to edit his images, saying the secret to snapping the perfect squirrel pic is patience.
“The biggest challenge is not to scare them at first and to be patient as the squirrels need to adapt to your presence,” he says. “You need to put a lot of effort and time in it.”
He hopes his photos will bring a little joy to whoever views them. “I just want to spread love with my pictures and make people happy and laugh,” he says. “People need to find hope and joy and I hope I can make them forget their problems, even if this is for two seconds.
“I also want show the world how smart squirrels really are!”