Ossi Saarinen has amassed hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers with his urban nature photography, most frequently featuring endearing animal photos captured in and around the city streets of Helsinki and nearby Espoo in Finland.
In an antidote to the pressures of modern-day city life, the 22-year-old searches the city suburbs each week cultivating a portfolio of intimate, expression-filled animal portraits: "When I go outside, all chores disappear from my mind and I can relax, even when I'm taking photos. I love every single moment in nature," he says. Here, Ossi shares his urban nature photography story, from the first time he stood face-to-face with four fox cubs, to his rise to fame on Instagram (where he goes by the handle @soosseli) just a few years later. He even gives advice on how to build an Instagram following.
Whether your closest green spot is a park or the shrubberies dotted around the city streets, Ossi's story and tips will inspire you to pick up your camera and capture the nature around you. With urban animals being less shy of humans than their rural cousins, you could find yourself face-to-face with the perfect subject sooner than you might think.
"For as long as I can remember I've been very interested in nature, and especially in animals. Three years ago, when I was 18, I took my first photo and realised that I could record the moments that I cherish in nature."
"Yes. I think it's been growing in popularity very quickly – at least from what I've seen on Instagram, where lots of new profiles have appeared. People are becoming more interested in nature, perhaps because they see so many good photos out there.
"I enjoy taking nature photos so I can save a moment to come back to later. And I like the challenge. Every day, I try to take a better photo than the day before."
"My dad had a Canon EOS 100D and he lent me that. I used it for one or two years. I used a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens with it, which was not very expensive. Now I have a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens and full-frame Canon EOS 6D."
"You don't have to go far to find nature in the city; in my old apartment in Espoo there was a fox den in my back yard, and even in the centre of Helsinki it's possible to see squirrels, raccoon dogs and owls. All kinds of places – even those with just a little bit of nature, such as some bushes and shrubs – will have animals gathering around. Even in the smallest parks, you can find wildlife."
"I once set up a camera trap in a forest near a fox den just to see how it worked, and because I wanted to see what happened there during the night. Besides that I haven't used them. I probably would use them more in the future if I wanted to photograph shy species in rural areas, but with city animals I don't need to use them."