Wildlife photography

Norwegian photographer turns his lens on Brazilian wildlife

Bjorn-Einar Nilsen moved to Brazil in 2015 and became a full-time wildlife photographer

The photographer spends his days hunting... for the best photo

Image credit: Bjorn-Einar Nilsen

It’s been a life-long dream come true for Norwegian photographer Bjorn-Einar Nilsen, who’d always dreamt of Brazil and its nature, but could never imagine that one day he would end up living in the country, taking pictures of the wildlife that he loves so much.

Since last year, when he settled in Osório, in the northern coast of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, his lens has already captured the beauty of more than 140 species of birds, besides alligators, coypus, Pampas foxes and many others.

Nilsen came to Brazil for the first time in 2012 as a member of the International Committee of Solidarity with the Guarani Kaiowá indigenous people. At the time, he visited several tribes.

During the occasion, he also met Solange Dias, who he married the following year. Two years later, the couple moved from Norway to settle in Rio Grande do Sul. That is when he started devoting more time to nature photography.

His first residence was in Gravataí, where he lived for a year. In the following years, he lived in Derrubadas, in the northwest of the state. And, since March 2019, he has been living in Osório.

“Osório has a very unique ecosystem,” Nilsen tells Gauchazh. “There are many lakes that link to one another and provide food for the birds. There is the Atlantic Rainforest, the coast, the restinga vegetation. Various ecosystems that, besides being beautiful, offer a refuge for breeding, food and habitat for many species,” says the photographer, who has taught himself about Brazilian fauna.

Every photographic excursion is a new adventure. He always keeps his wellingtons in the car for a possible new crossing. A vest, a hat, photo equipment and a sound box to attract birds are items he doesn’t go without as well as a full water cantil in case the excursion lasts longer than expected.

The Norwegian photographer also has a canoe and a kayak that he uses on his expeditions on lakes and lagoons.

Nielsen says he likes to take pictures when birds do something different or interact with one another. His preference is when their image is reflected in the water mirror, creating the mirror effect.

He says nature photography requires a lot of patience.  Everyday, he clicks thousands of photos for a selection at the end of the day. Out of every 100, he picks two shots.

In the search for the best shot or a unique image, Nilsen covers the region four or five times per week, in the morning and in the afternoon. He usually does it on his own.

He visits various sites but he has his favorite ones, which include Morro da Borússia, Passinhos, Lagoa das Custódias and Lagoa Marcelino.

“Although the lake is fairly close to the town, it was on Marcelino I managed to snap three species of birds I always wanted to: papa-piri, cardeal-do-banhado and bacurau-tesoura-gigante,” he recounts excitedly.

Nielsen has been taking pictures for 40 years. For a long time, when he lived in Norway, he moonlighted in it and ran a construction company to make money. Now he lives exclusively for his photography and sells the pictures he takes.

When he photographs a bird for the first time, he looks up information on the bird on Wikiaves and then contributes images and information about them.

“My goal is to show the beauty of nature because I hope that, through the images I capture, people will appreciate it more and take care of what is left of our biodiversity,” says the photographer.

One of the most outstanding experiences he’s had as a photographer was encountering a jaguar in Parque Estadual do Turvo, in Derrubadas. In fact, one of the encounters was the first recorded one of its kind in the region.

He was called Boreal, in homage to the northern light, a natural phenomenon that occurs in Norwegian skies between November and March.

On two occasions, the photographer was surprised by the feline as he got out of his car, and saw himself face to face with the animal.

In both situations, the jaguar did not show any intent to hurt him. It just got away very slowly, giving him the necessary time to put away his shots.

“I looked at the feline very fixedly, without showing fear. That helped. But it was a docile animal. Sadly, the last recording took place in December 2017. After that, he was not seen any more. I heard poachers killed a jaguar in the region and it may have him, unfortunately.

Despite the demand for the pictures, Nielsen does not trade jaguar pictures because they were taken inside a nature reserve. Other pictures are for sale.

He hopes to make an educational book on nature photography and put together an exhibit of the materials, although he needs to find sponsoring for it first.


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