In her new children’s book, The Spike Cream Woods, Ginger looks pretty manicured as she explores the fanciful forest where ice cream grows beneath the flowers, hedges and trees.
No hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this book. She wasn’t drugged. I didn’t teach her how to do tricks — hedgehogs don’t respond to humans like dogs. Also, the photos weren’t manipulated or edited (except for minor things like brightness).
The secret to these fanciful ice cream forest photos was capturing normal hedgehog behavior. Hedgehogs cannot see well. They primarily sense the world through sound and smell. They are naturally shy.
When I set Ginger down in a new environment, she typically freezes for 30 to 60 seconds, much like a shy 2-year-old does. Then, she starts sniffing. She senses her environment for another 30 to 60 seconds before she decides which direction she’ll go. Then, she scurries to the darkest, coziest corner she can find. She is a natural burrower.
She loves burrowing in flowers, hedges and leaves — or gummy worm and chocolate chip bags!
For The Spike Cream Woods photo shoot, we took it a set at a time, with burrowing breaks in between. I set up a scene, shot on high speed while she enjoyed sniffing the new environment and then she scurried off the set.
The photo shoot was special for Ginger — full of enrichment activities she doesn’t get to experience every day.
The secret in capturing the photos was in the speed of my professional camera and experience photographing Ginger. After taking pictures of her for fun for over a year, I had learned quite a bit about her behavior and how long I would have before she would get bored.
The most challenging set to shoot was the one where she was making her special ice cream treat. It was getting late. A storm was coming. There were multiple scenes on the same set with little new stimulation for Ginger. She quickly scurried off the scene several times before I could get a good shot of her absorbed in creating her treat. I placed her back until she clearly gave the message — excuse me, I’m the posh actress here. Missed the shot? Not my problem.
So, I improvised my vision of what the photos might look like. I had captured several shots of Ginger playing under the porcupine quill. When I looked closely, I realized she looked like she was stirring the special ice cream treat she was creating. Perfect. I couldn’t have planned that.
Ginger made this book as much as I did. I wrote the storyline before I took the photos, but Ginger brought it to life.
I photographed her real self — shy, curious, scurrying, burrowing. She doesn’t really live in The Spike Cream Woods, but she really did visit.
Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest.