Our friend and photographer behind some social media sensational squirrels, Luna and Neville, Ashly Deskins is back with new furry photos!
Ashly and her squirrel friends took over social media this winter with her photographs featuring the adorable furry crew. She captured the squirrels interacting with various human-centric scenes such as watching the Superbowl and voting. Deskins painstakingly created the tiny set-ups, curated the squirrel interactions and patiently waited for the perfect moment to capture the squirrels on set. With all the viral buzz going a calendar of images was created with portions of the proceeds going to a local wildlife rescue group.
The self-proclaimed Squirrel Girl takes us on an exclusive behind the scenes tour of her latest squirrely set designs and nutty shoots that she is currently working on!
I have been photographing the squirrels for eight months now and am always trying to find new scene ideas. I get my ideas from everyday life, such as my first inspiration with a dining room. Creating the calendar lead me to creating more themed shoots like Christmas and Halloween to match up with the appropriate month.
Now, I am exploring more everyday scene ideas like a laundry room scene, a bedroom scene and a bathroom scene. The most important aspect to any scene is finding the right props and creating a scene the squirrels will be comfortable exploring. I had created a bathroom scene for an elf on the shelf photo and decided it would be super fun for the squirrels too. I started with a quick sketch of what a squirrel bathroom may look like. I watch a lot of HGTV, which is where I think I get a lot of inspiration. I tend to want to create magazine worthy rooms for the squirrels.
Once I have my sketch and I know what props are needed, I sit down to decide what props I don’t have, what will need to be purchased and what I can make from scratch. With the bathroom scene, I knew I didn’t want the hardwood floors I always use or the concrete patio floor so I decided to get some linoleum perfect for a bathroom. I attached them to a thick poster board so it could be easily moved around like my hardwood floors. Props that are portable and easy to move is very important to me so I can easily change out scenes without much hassle.
The sink and bathtub had to be purchased but the rest of the décor used was found around my apartment. One of my favorite parts of the design is searching my apartment décor for items I can re-purpose as squirrel props. Once all props are gathered, created or purchased I begin the setup. There are many scenes that I will put together in my apartment first just to test out different placements and setups. Once I am happy with a scene I then set it up on the patio and wait. I was a little unsure about this bathroom scene so I was sure to take the time to set it up inside first so I could determine my favorite placement and then take it outside.
“There are a lot of details and little decisions I make that may not always be obvious at first until you dive into the shoot.”
While I wait for visits from my squirrel friends, I test the light, get my exposure and rearrange the scene if necessary. I also take detail shots of the scene. I do this for a couple reasons: 1. To remember how it was set up in case I need to set it up again, and 2. It’s a great way to document all the work that can go into just one scene. There are a lot of details and little decisions I make that may not always be obvious at first until you dive into the shoot.
I do use the ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance each time. This is especially important because I shoot at different times of day which causes the color temperature to change. I want to make sure I am keeping my color as consistent and accurate as possible. I tend to only shoot with one lens, my Tamron 70-200mm. From where I position myself and the size of the scene this lens allows me to get shots of the entire scene, close detailed shots, and everything in between. I also use a Peak Design Field Pouch to store my lens cap (which I always seem to lose), my extra batteries, CF cards and of course almonds. The field pouch helps me keep everything I need right at my finger tips so I don’t have to guess where something is.
From here on in it’s a waiting game. I tend to say this often, but it’s so true. This particular bathroom scene had to be set up three times on three different days to get usable images. The first day I shot this scene Narcissa stopped by and she was super muddy (we’ve been getting a lot of rain in California) and it was perfect for a bathroom scene. She didn’t visit long enough to get all of the images I wanted to get, so I ended up setting up the next day, all day and didn’t have a single visitor. The following weekend was rainy and I couldn’t set up at all. The third time I set up this scene, Neville stopped by and I was able to finally get the rest of the images I wanted.
There are squirrels that will allow me to approach the scene while they are in it and there are some that will not. Neville will allow me to get close to him so I will rearrange and fix a scene while he is there or throw some more almonds out if I need to.
One important aspect to getting the shot is looking for the perfect almond placement. I have to anticipate what direction they will come from, where they will explore, how long they will stay, etc. I start by placing the almonds where I think I can get the best photos, and usually end up making adjustments or changes if they start favoring one spot. I try to make the scene work for me to get that perfect shot, but also work for them so they are always safe, comfortable and get the almonds, avocado, walnuts or whatever else I may set out for them.
With this scene, I wanted to see if they would jump in the tub, so I had almonds placed in there. I wanted them to stand in front of the mirror, so I placed almonds in the sink. I think scattered almonds in other areas to see where they felt most comfortable. Another aspect I have to be careful of is props that can fall over easily. The tub, for instance, in this scene was much easier to tip over than I realized. I ended up putting a candle in the tub that weighted it down just enough that Narcissa could no longer tip it over.
I shoot all scenes until I have at least 15-20 good images. I like to have a variety of images to pick from.
Can’t get enough of the squirrely fun?
You can follow Neville and Luna on Instagram @squirrels_party_of_two, as well as purchase a 2017 calendar featuring Neville and Luna’s photo shoots . A portion of the proceeds goes to the Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz, which provides rehabilitation and facilitates release of injured, sick and orphaned wildlife.