To Change People’s Negative Perceptions Of Rats, I Started Photographing Them In A Nice Way (19 Pics)
With all the birds feeding in the garden on the seeds I drop for them, there is always some left for nightlife. This resulted over the year in a group of about 5 rats visiting my outdoor ‘studio’ every night. With an infrared camera and an app on my phone, I could follow in detail what they were doing every night, finally deciding this had to become a photo project. From the start, I wanted to portray the rats as nicely as possible. There are a lot of prejudices about rats and a lot of negativity surrounds them. In my series, I wanted to show them in such a nice way that the animal in combination with the setting would make you love the image and therefore the rats without maybe even realizing it.
I started with a simple setup just to see if the rats would accept me sitting 5 meters away and with their feeding spot all of a sudden in full light. I decided to use a 100-watt LED lamp so I would not need to flash and shock them. This worked from the start, the rats accepted the light immediately and only had to get used to the sounds I made with the camera. By moving slowly and starting with one click at a time I could gain their trust. Once all of this was done I could start building the settings I really wanted. I worked on my water table which, during the day, is used by birds to drink. It gives a great reflection as an extra dimension to the pictures.
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However, I needed nights without wind, no falling leaves or other rubbish, and a fully filled table to have the perfect reflection and photo. So every night started with cleaning the water and filling it to the max. I then created a setting so the whole photo was created upfront, I just needed a rat to complete the shot. After all of this, the waiting would start, but as soon as the sun went down, the rats started to show up. The first setup was simply some autumn leaves on the water edge with seeds between the leaves so the rats would end up on the right spot. Their sense of smell is so amazing that they would find each individual sunflower seed on the spot. Because the rats did a great job and all normal wildlife shots worked out pretty fast, I decided to go for next-level settings.
With the Latin name of the rat being Rattus norvegicus, so Norwegian rat, I wanted a rat with a Norwegian flag. After some puzzling, I figured one-half flag would do as it made a full flag when reflected. And so it was done. With the rats doing a perfect job, I could create one picture in a specific setting each night.
In Dutch, but in English as well, we often talk about disgusting or filthy rats. I, therefore, wanted a photo with the cleanest rat on the planet surrounded by cosmetics with the irony that they are tested on rats, probably. Because I created a track for the rats to end up on the table a meter higher, I knew exactly where it would enter. Therefore, I could have it run perfectly between all the cosmetics. And the same with the smart rats. With a Rubik’s cube, I thought it could become a nice colorful shot and by elevating it a bit, it would be even more fun. Peanut butter would do the trick this time to get the rat where I needed it.
And so I built a wall that looked like a Dutch channel and the same wall with a backlight. By replacing the grout with glass plates and placing the lamp behind it, I could create a rat coming through a surreal wall. The biggest fun of such projects is to think of an idea, create it, and finally take the one shot to complete the plan.
The compost rat refers to all the food we throw away from our kitchen as compost or simply unused and expired. When rats are in our compost, we find them disgusting. When you see it like this on the food the way we buy it, it does not look all that bad, I think.
After a few months, owls started visiting my setup more and more cause they were attracted to the rats being a nice source of food for them. This made it a lot more difficult as rats became more careful. I decided a final shot of an owl that killed one of my actors could be a nice end to this great project. I made a new setup in front of the window of my house and I could take pictures through one single glass window. I was basically watching Netflix when owls on the second screen (windows) would just land in the corner of my eye. I had found a dead rat and placed it on a trunk, hoping for the owl to find it and complete the story. After some nights, it did what I hoped for and I could finally go to sleep again at normal times.
The funniest thing was people’s reaction to the photos. Are these rats in your garden? That’s no fun. Is this owl in your garden? That is great to want that as well. Yes, it is, and why would that be?