Dani Connor

A baby red squirrel peers over a tree branch in a photo taken by Canon Ambassador Dani Connor with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Dani Connor has spent most of the past two years working with red squirrels in Northern Sweden and says if she could only photograph one animal for the rest of her life, it would be the squirrel. "I've learnt so much about them," she explains. "I followed one individual and I saw him drying out mushrooms and building his nest – I thought I knew everything about squirrels and yet there was more to learn." She's particularly known for naming the squirrels she photographs; this one is called Baby Pear. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/250 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 500. © Dani Connor

'Queen of the Squirrels' is a title not many people can lay claim to – it takes years of loving and respecting these gentle creatures, to be able to gain their trust – but wildlife photographer and vlogger Dani Connor has honed her craft while immersing herself in the lives of these fascinating animals.

Dani was born in Warwick, UK, but spent her childhood in southwest London and developed a love of animals and photography as a teenager. "I wanted to take nice photos of my dog," she recalls. "I lived in the city, so I didn't have much access to wildlife, but I was always fascinated by animals. While photographing my dog in the woods, I started to notice details in nature – interesting leaf patterns, colours, light – and my focus shifted."

Photography developed into a serious hobby, and aged 14, Dani won the Marwell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. "They gave me a camera, but I knew what I wanted, so I sold it and bought a Canon EOS 550D," she recalls.

Inspired by her love of animals, she studied zoology at the University of Exeter and worked part-time at the Natural History Museum in London. "I always thought I would go into the sciences, and I was about to start a PhD when I decided I needed a break before starting five years of hardcore study, so I travelled to Sweden," says Dani. All the while, she was taking photos, sharing them online, and creating mini vlogs, but not yet sharing them on YouTube.

A headshot of Canon Ambassador Dani Connor holding a Canon camera.
Location: UK and northern Sweden

Specialist areas: Wildlife, conservation, vlogging

Favourite kit: Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM
Two puffins fight in the snow in a photo taken by Canon Ambassador Dani Connor with a Canon EOS R5.

Disputes between rivals often occur when puffins return to land after a winter at sea. "We spent three days on Hornøya Island in Arctic Norway," recalls Dani. "The puffins were returning to nest and raise their young. Puffins mate for life and go back to the same nest but when the nests are covered in snow, they get confused and start fighting. These two rolled down the cliff in the snow, taking out feathers, but when they reached the bottom they flew off, uninjured." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/5000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO 1000. © Dani Connor

When the Covid-19 pandemic began Dani lost her PhD funding, which proved to be a blessing in disguise because, while she was in Sweden in 2020, one of her Twitter posts about a family of orphaned red squirrel kits went viral. "That was the turning point," she says. "I thought, 'I've got an audience now, I've got the tools, I might as well try to take it further and see if I can make this my full-time job' – and here I am."

Dani developed her skills while in Sweden, moving from photography to vlogging and, today, she has 126K followers on Instagram and another 123K on YouTube. What does her audience like to see? Red squirrels, Dani's favourite animal.

A young otter with a crab in its mouth in a photo taken by Canon Ambassador Dani Connor with a Canon EOS R5.

Dani visited the Shetland Islands in Scotland specifically to photograph otters. This young otter came onto shore with a freshly caught crab. While sea otters don't have many natural predators, they are at risk from road traffic accidents, drowning in fish and lobster traps, and water pollution. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens with a Canon Extender EF 2x III at 600mm, 1/800 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 1600. © Dani Connor

An underwater photo of a ray, taken by Canon Ambassador Dani Connor with a Canon EOS R5.

This was the first time Dani had tried underwater photography – she floated over this ray, capturing it in natural light alongside the shadow cast by the boat. "I struggled with having both the snorkel mask and the underwater housing – two layers of plastic can make it tricky to work out what you're photographing," she explains. "The EOS R5 made it easy though, because you can see the photos as they're being taken, there's no shutter so you can keep clicking, and the subject tracking is amazing." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 160. © Dani Connor

It's the way Dani tells their stories that sets her apart. "People were interested in how I set up shots, how I named the squirrels," she says. "Red squirrels are everywhere in Sweden and they're quite accessible because the community in my village has been feeding them for 100 years. The squirrels come into the village to get food when the weather gets cold, so I started focusing on them – going to the forest and setting up camera traps. I was amazed at how easy they were to photograph."

Dani's aesthetically pleasing work strives to deliver a powerful message: that of hope. "I don't want to share conservation stories in a pessimistic way," she says. "I always try to share stories of hope. I think if people are optimistic about what others are doing to help nature, it can really inspire them to make a difference. Rather than just saying, 'This species has been declining by X amount and there's nothing we can do', I always try to end on a positive note, so that people feel good."

While freelancing full-time hasn't been easy and "every week is tough", Dani is pleased with what she has achieved, and hopes to continue raising awareness, spending time with the animals she loves most and striving to make a difference.

What are some of the names you've come up with for squirrels?

"Baby Pear because he liked to eat pears. There was a squirrel called Ghost who was quite unusual. She was very comfortable with me but very quiet, and she would just appear out of nowhere. I realised later that she made tunnels under the snow which she would pop up from. It always confused me! Other squirrels would do an alarm call to say, 'I know you're there but don't come closer', but she never did. She was very chilled, very quiet like a ghost."

What does a day in the field look like?

"It depends on the species and where I'm going. If it's somewhere accessible, where I know the animals, it's about preparing for the conditions or a long day – maybe logistics, such as getting to the island. If it's a case of finding an animal in a forest, I'll be looking for tracks – droppings, footprints, hair. Once I know roughly the area where the animal might be, I'll set up a trail camera. It's an all-in-one system with a camera, sensor and infrared light. Sometimes it can take months to find something. Understanding the ecology, the habitat and the animal's behaviour really helps."

What's your post-production process like for photos?

"I'm quite harsh – I delete about 95% of the photos I take. Wildlife photographers take thousands of photos, so even when you cut that much, you're still left with a few hundred. At that point, I go through and assign a five-star rating to my top shots. Then, I'll do some basic edits – up the shadows and brightness. I'll spend hours on one image trying to get it right. I edit photos for two outputs – YouTube and Instagram. I do a 16x9 edit for YouTube first, so it fits the letterbox style that I really like, and then portraits for Instagram. It takes quite a while!"

And how long does it take to edit a video?

"Up to five or six days. It's a lot of work: organising the footage, creating a storyline that includes vlogs as well as voiceover. YouTube is very competitive. People watch the first 45 seconds of a video and if it doesn't tick their boxes, they'll move on to the next, so the first minute is the most vital and that's where I often put the best clips and try and have some captivating storylines that get people interested. That's the tricky part when nature is quite relaxed and often slow-moving."

What's been your most memorable wildlife experience?

"I didn't have a camera with me at the time, but I was sitting on a tree having lunch in the rainforest in Costa Rica. Suddenly, I heard growling and could see the foliage moving, and out came two male pumas. Clearly it was a territorial dispute – an older puma chasing a younger one – and they ran past about five metres to my left. Maybe they didn't even see me. It was scary but also quite cool. Another time, we had trail cameras on the paths to monitor wildlife, and we discovered that a puma had been following me for an hour. I never saw it – they're just curious animals. Two quite memorable instances."

One thing I know

Dani Connor

"Showcase your style in your vlogging, but also share your story. I think a lot of people follow me for my stories rather than my photos. There are probably thousands of excellent squirrel photographers out there taking great photos, but it's the fact that I focus on certain individuals and share their stories that viewers tend to get attached to. People still ask me, 'How's Baby Pear?' I believe each animal has its own personality and that's what I try to show in my videos. Don't be afraid to experiment until you find your own style – find your niche and build on it."

Instagram: @daniconnorwild

Twitter/X: @daniconnorwild

YouTube: Dani Connor Wild

Website: www.daniconnorwild.com

Dani Connor's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Dani Connor's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

Capture sensational 45MP photos at up to 20fps or flick a switch for cinematic 12-bit 8K RAW video using the entire width of the camera's sensor. "This is my favourite camera for almost every aspect of my work – whether it's long focal length, vlogging or camera trapping," says Dani. "My favourite features are the subject and animal eye tracking, and also the 4K 120fps slow motion and 4K crop. The opportunities are endless!"

Canon EOS R

A full-frame 30.3MP sensor with impressive detail, ISO performance and Dual Pixel CMOS AF. "I use this camera for my YouTube work, and I'll often use this camera to film me filming wildlife," says Dani.


Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM

A fast, affordable, ultra-wide lens that's great for vlogging, landscapes, architecture, astrophotography and more. "I love this wide-angle lens; it's lightweight and great for handheld vlogging," says Dani.

Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM

This lightweight lens encourages you to explore your creative side and thanks to IS and quiet AF, it's ideal for smooth, high-quality video. "This is my favourite wide-angle lens," says Dani. "I often use it to shoot different aspects of my day-to-day life, such as vlogs, packing my camera bags, and occasional cooking and crafts. At night, I use it for timelapses of stars and the Northern Lights."

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

A high-performance L-series super-telephoto lens with 4-stops of IS, delivering outstanding image quality in a robust lightweight construction. "My most used wildlife lens," says Dani. "When shooting fast-moving wildlife in poorly lit areas, I can count on this lens to be fast even at high shutter speeds. I also love its flexibility – I can mount the Extender 1.4x III and get even closer to my subjects."


Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

This adapter allows EF and EF-S lenses to be used with the EOS R System cameras. "This adapter is a must when shooting with older EF lenses," says Dani. "It doesn't impact the speed of the lens so it's a great tool to use as we transition to mirrorless equipment."

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