Callum Snape's frozen bubbles an Instagram hit

Callum Snape is a photographer based in Banff, Alta., whose stunning pictures of outdoor adventures have made the 24-year-old an Instagram sensation. One shot in particular, a photo of methane bubbles trapped in lake ice, has taken off with 43,000 likes and counting. We reached out to find out why.

One thing the 24-year-old photographer wants to make clear: He is not 'an Instagrammer'

Callum Snape is a photographer based in Banff, Alta., His stunning pictures, like this one of ice bubbles frozen in Abraham Lake in Alberta, have made the 24-year-old an Instagram sensation. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Photo of methane bubbles frozen in Abraham Lake a runaway success

Callum Snape's images average between 16,000 to 30,000 likes per image on Instagram, but the ice bubbles photo, embedded above, has been particularly popular. 

We reached out to him to learn the secret of his success.

This shot of Bow Lake was taken near Snape's home base of Banff. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: What is it about the ice bubbles photo that made it take off?

A: It's definitely the most engaged-with photo I've posted on Instagram. I think because very few people know about that location and it's such a surreal thing to see. It's not a creatively impressive photo, in my opinion, but the composition works well for showcasing the bubbles and the sheer vastness of the lake.

Snape is Belgian-born and a British citizen but moved to Canada, where he is a permanent resident, when he was 18 to pursue a career in winter sports. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: How did you start out as a photographer?

A: I picked up a camera my first summer in the Rockies, where I did a lot of backcountry hiking, to share photos with my friends and family. Over time I got really passionate about it and picked up techniques from studying photographers I admire. Canadian Geographic was one of my first clients.

Q: When did you take to Instagram?

A: I've been using the platform daily since 2014, but I was shooting long before Instagram came around. It's a great marketing tool, but 75 per cent of my work never makes it there … it goes to clients. I could continue if it wasn't around.

This self-portrait taken last year inside the Athabasca Glacier has racked up nearly 13,000 likes on Instagram in the three weeks since Snape posted it to his feed. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: Landscape and adventure imagery have taken off on Instagram. Is the marketplace crowded now?

A: There are a lot of outdoor scenes on Instagram, but most are generic postcard shots that typically don't push creative boundaries. It's the people who get creative that I follow for inspiration. The marketplace is crowded, but it's an opportunity to collaborate rather than compete and I think that concept alienates a lot of people focused on being "the best."

This wintry scene is of Numa Falls, B.C., in Kootenay National Park.

Q: Any tips for the aspiring Instagrammer?

A: If you're looking to use it to market yourself, the most effective method is to post consistently high-quality work daily during peak engagement hours. It's fairly simple, really. Be a photographer who uses Instagram and not just an Instagrammer (that is, someone who shoots to be popular).

This shot of the Vermillion Lakes area near Banff is on its way to 20,000 likes on Instagram after being up for about a week. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: Is it fair to say you are Instagram famous, despite not wanting to be labelled an Instagrammer?

A: Yes, that is fair to say, but I don't really like the idea of being Instagram famous. I don't shoot for Instagram or any other social platform. I shoot because I like creating photos, not for the likes. That said, the large number of followers (403,000) I have has put my name out there.

Most of Snape's travels are done solo, though he says he sometimes works with writers and other photographers. This is a view of Mount Assiniboine, on the Great Divide between B.C. and Alberta. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: What does your travel schedule look like?

A: I'm currently packing for six months of back-to-back travel with assignments in B.C., Quebec, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Ontario, Croatia, Switzerland, India and lots of other places. I spent nine months of 2015 on the road and this year is shaping up to be similar.

Most of Snape's photos are in colour, but here's an exception titled Unknown Peak, from Yoho National Park, near Field, B.C. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: Do you travel solo? Does the lifestyle make it hard on relationships?

A: I prefer to travel solo. I get more creative that way. As far as relationships go, it's definitely a challenge not being one place for very long, but I'm young and accept that this lifestyle isn't going to be my life forever. For now I'm very happy with it.

Q: What is your favourite place to shoot?

A: Coastal B.C. without a doubt. The combination of mountains, ocean, wildlife, cities and the constantly changing weather make it incredible to photograph.

Snape travelled to the Great Bear Rainforest in B.C. last September for an assignment and says the remote area was a 'dream location.' (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: Where do you still want to go?

A: Nepal and Patagonia.

Snape spends about nine months of the year on the road. He has travelled all over the world on assignment, including to Namibia, where this self-portrait was taken. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Q: What are the biggest challenges of your job?

A: The hardest part is balancing everything and taking time for myself. I'm outsourcing much of the business end of things now so I can spend more time with a camera in hand. As hard as it is, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Snape's selfies are better than yours. This one was expertly framed up on the foothills of Mount Assiniboine. (Submitted by Callum Snape)

Want to shoot the bubbles?

Snape first visited Abraham Lake five years ago and has been waiting for similar conditions ever since.

The photo and video above were taken on a "surprisingly warm" (-3 C) day on Jan. 12, 2016, when the bubbles and ice clarity were the best Snape has ever seen. The spot gets windy, he warns, but that gives the ice a nice polished look.

Abraham Lake, located about 130 kilometres north of Lake Louise, is a popular spot with photographers (there are some 4,000 tagged #abrahamlake on Instagram) because of the methane bubbling up from its lake bed.


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