Photo-crashing squirrel

Too cute not to post: Melissa Brandts' photo, featured in NatGeo.
200908131514 My husband and I were exploring Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park-Canada when we stopped for a timed picture of the two of us. We had our camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready to take the picture when this curious little ground squirrel appeared, became intriqued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into our shot! A once in a lifetime moment! We were laughing about this little guy for days!!
Squirrel Portrait, Banff (Via Andrew Hearst)


  1. Scratch the above: On closer inspection: “I’m in ur frame, stealin’ ur focuz” is the correct answer.

  2. OK, so I guess this is actually a meme or something? It looks awfully similar to the “nuts” squirrel commonly seen on Fark photoshops, and the link in #3 is the identical squirrel.

    Disappointing, but it really was too perfect to be true.

  3. @ Cory

    The squirrel in link #3 is obviously poorly inserted into the photo. The Banff squirrel looks pretty legit to me.

  4. This brings back some great memories for me! My ex spouse and I used to hike the C Level Cirque trail out of the Upper Bankhead Picnic Site next to Lake Minnewanka. Once you get to the boulder pocket (cirque)under Cascade, you have this sense of a moonscape, an absolutely majestic view! We used to stop for lunch there and soon enough these little goobers would come out of nowhere looking for food.
    While the animal in the oicture is a squirrel, I think the ones we saw were actually pikas.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great photo, and a meme on the make. But, who gets credit for the photo? Not the giggling couple who propped up their camera with a timer, certainly, there was no squirrel then. And not the squirrel, who had no idea what the image would look like. But there is an entity, looking through the lens, who caught the change in scene, readjusted and refocused as best it could, then pulled the trigger and captured this iconic shot. It’s a robot photographer, and a pretty good one. It won’t be the last, and pretty soon, we’ll have to start giving them more credit.

    (*goes off whistling, “when the robots win, we’ll have to listen to techno”*)

  6. Cute – but the real challenge in Banff is getting a photo without one of those squirrels. (Maybe I’m just jealous because my pica photos from Jasper last week were crap.)

  7. Yeah, I don’t see anything to support fakeness. It would be as easy to get a stuffed squirrel and put it in front of the camera as do a ‘shop job that good.

  8. Suppose all three got eaten by a bear seconds after this was taken. Not so funny then, eh?

    Or is it ???

  9. If the Banff photo is ‘shopped it deserves attention anyway, it would be the best composite I’ve seen in ages. Fine hair detail, light source, depth of field all ring true.

    I can tell by the pix oh forget it.

  10. Sorry, I have a terribly hard time believe this is real.

    What cameras that use a timer only focus the moment before the shutter snaps? If someone can tell me this, I’ll feel better.

    But ever point’n’shoot and DSLR I’ve ever used has set the focus at the time the trigger is depressed, giving you time to walk all the way back to the front of the camera.

  11. I have nothing in particular to add to this thread, just wanted to say that when I went to send the permalink to an animal-loving friend, the Captcha anti-spam words that came up were:

    $3-million janitors

    It occurs to me that The Three Million Dollar Janitors is a great name for an imaginary (possibly even a real) band. Thanks! I’ll use it in a short story I’m working on.

  12. “What cameras that use a timer only focus the moment before the shutter snaps? If someone can tell me this, I’ll feel better.”

    My canon does, as a matter of fact it can be a problem and why you should switch to manual focus for this kind of shot.
    Feel better now?

  13. Ever notice that the people who scream “fake” at every novel photo they see seem to be the ones with the least understanding of digital manipulation or optics?

    Amusing things are bound to happen in front of a camera now and then, you don’t need Photoshop to explain everything.

  14. @Brainspore: I’ve never heard of digital manipulation or optics… sounds like a wondrous world of wild wackiness.


    What model? I own two canons, a point’n’shoot SD1100 and a Digital Rebel. Both hold the focus during a timed shot. Not saying yours doesn’t, just curious as to which ones do.
    And, yeah, I do feel a little better.

  15. In my perfect world, the “itz shopped!” people would all be delivered to the same special hell I’ve reserved for the “first post!” people. They could keep each other company.

  16. @25: Sorry, I have a terribly hard time believe this is real. What cameras that use a timer only focus the moment before the shutter snaps? If someone can tell me this, I’ll feel better.

    I’d guess that most, if not all, cameras do this. The way timer pictures usually work:

    1) Point the camera at the waterfall.
    2) Press the button.
    3) Scramble in front of the camera, waterfall artfully displayed behind you.
    4) Camera takes picture.

    If the camera focused only when I pressed the button, I (the subject of the photo) would be blurry.

    Any sensible design would have the camera seek focus right before the shutter opens, to allow the user to get in position.

    Isn’t this blatantly obvious?

    Awesome picture, btw!

  17. Too bad the lady didn’t think quick and stick her hands up quickly and give the squirrel finger horns.

  18. Since nobody’s pointed this out yet, I will.
    According to an article in today’s Globe this wasn’t taken on a timer but with a remote control. This is why the camera decided to focus on dramatic squirrel rather than the humans. They took a bunch of pictures with the squirrel there and chose the best one to send to Nat Geo. It’s a nice photo but wasn’t entirely random.

  19. @#33: Ah, you’re right, Antinous. I should have said “I can tell by some of the pixels, and from having seen quite a few ‘shops in my time.” My bad. Carry on.

  20. my exr200 fuji digi camera makes a squirrel noise when its focusing. I’m off to try this in my city.

  21. Is it too nitpicking to point out that if the photo is genuine, the animal is probably a marmot? Taxonomy should matter and squirrel is not a generic term.

  22. If you search Google Images for the string “us in front of,” you will notice that the instances of ‘us’ being to the side, though producing a more attractive photograph, is relatively rare in this type of snapshot. That is what makes this photo emanate a whiff of ‘fake.’

    I too have a Canon DSLR, and obviously during delayed photos it only focuses at the end of the delay.

  23. I believe the musical stylings of Mr. Parry Gripp are entirely appropriate here…

    Vaguely related squirrel story: Years ago, I was hiking a section of the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. I kept hearing this weird, repetitive chirping. It was loud enough to echo off the surrounding rock formations. At first I thought it was my backpack squeaking, but it kept going even when I stopped walking. I eventually discovered the source: a large squirrel standing bolt upright on an outcropping, chirping and then listening to the echoes.

  24. My pets could learn a thing or two from this squirrel. They always turn their heads away from the camera at the last second just leaving motion blur, lol.

  25. It’s on the cover of a major newspaper in Canada today!!!! I think the National Post, just saw it in passing so can’t be sure. Slow news day I suppose.

  26. @ Anonymous #39:

    Is it too nitpicking to point out that if the photo is genuine, the animal is probably a marmot? Taxonomy should matter and squirrel is not a generic term.

    The Sciuridae (squirrel) family encompasses the genus Marmota. So yes, marmots are squirrels. So are chipmunks for that matter. Who knew?

  27. That’s not a marmot. Marmots are way bigger and also more shy of people.

    I’m also pretty sure they live higher up in the mountains than where that picture was taken. You’d be more likely to see a marmot if you went for a couple hours’ walk up a trail from that lake, I think.

  28. I guess I’m the first Albertan to chime in and mention that the animal is not a squirrel, it’s a Gopher. They are rampant in Banff and the fact that this one inserted himself into the picture doesn’t suprise me one bit. They are very bold and will eat from your hand if you offer it.

    (and the person who mentioned marmot was close. Marmots look like really big Gophers)

  29. oh, a gopher, what with the absense of pointy ears.

    but this post is first in a google search of “squirrel”!

  30. Although its not a gopher – when I first glanced at it, it reminded me of the gopher in CaddyShack -Carl Spackler where are you?

  31. There are a couple of different species referred to generically as gophers – and they’re all ground squirrel species. I think the gophers in Banff would be Richardson’s ground squirrels.

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