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A passion for adventure

January 2017

Callum Snape is a new breed of travel and adventure photographer, who uses the power of social media to reach out to a rapidly growing audience. With 600,000 followers on his Instagram account, he must be doing something right, as CPN Editor David Corfield discovers...

What comes first: the adventure or the image? Callum Snape takes a moment to ponder. “It used to be the adventure,” he reflects. “If I didn’t have that passion for travel then I wouldn't be doing what I do now. But as I have got more experienced, it’s definitely become the image. The photo takes priority now; it absolutely must.”

© Callum Snape
© Callum Snape

Sossusvlei, Namibia. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 53mm; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/5, ISO 500.

Callum immigrated from England to Canada to pursue a career in snow sports before the photography bug took a hold. “I became a snowboard instructor and progressed to leading back country trips involving kayaking, mountaineering and so on,” he recalls. “During those trips it just seemed natural to pick up a camera. And then seven years ago I moved from Alberta to Vancouver as the west coast was so much more entrepreneurial; there was – and still is – much more opportunity for getting new business.”

“I market myself as a social storyteller,” Callum continues. “When I share a story on social media the image can’t stand alone. If clients want to sponsor social media posts, the written piece is just as important. It’s amazing the amount of money that is in this business now. The commercial side of tourism photography has declined, and has transitioned into social media because it’s a little bit cheaper to produce, but the opportunities are more plentiful. There has been a real increase in demand for this side of the travel business and Canada was one of the first countries to capitalise on that. And now the rest of the world is catching up...”

Callum recalls a recent trip to Japan, which started out as a holiday but which became a working vacation. “It was a personal trip that I turned into a paid trip with several clients in the end. It’s always nice to find a way to pay for travel. I research clients’ marketing plans and find their weaknesses and look for ways in which I can use my social media reach to fix their problems. I pitch that to them and try to either do it in exchange for all expenses paid but most of the time I try and do it for money.”

© Callum Snape
© Callum Snape

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 17mm; the exposure was 30secs at f/13, ISO 125.

On his social media success, Callum says: “Everyone has become an agency as well as a photographer. I offer the whole package, so as well as photographs I provide stats reports and analysis for social media. I’m doing all this myself at the moment but I would like to take on staff to do all that side full time. It’s become a crucial part of my business.”

“I have 605,000 followers on Instagram and 150,000 on Facebook. It’s taken me four years to reach that number. I do market myself on other channels too, but those two are by far the most successful, and Instagram is definitely the primary one.”

Advances in imaging

Keeping abreast of this social media tidal wave means Callum’s kit has to be up to the task. He still remembers his first ever camera, and argues that the approach he took back then hasn’t changed much, despite the shifting platforms of delivery. “I had the EOS 550D and a basic kit lens, and I’ve only ever used Canon equipment.”

He recently upgraded his kit bag with the new EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR. After a few years with an EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 6D, the difference in performance and quality from Canon’s latest flagship 5D-series was truly eye-opening. Callum admits: “The 5D Mark IV is pretty much all I want of a camera right now, although an EOS-1D X Mark II is also on my wish list, along with the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. The leap forward in technology has been really noticeable. The Mark IV has incredible video performance now and the beefed up Live View autofocus is a real boon. Plus the ISO latitude is stunning. I can shoot in low light and know that there will still be plenty of detail in the shadows with hardly any noise at all.”

“For lenses I use the EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. These two zooms come everywhere with me and I often take a third – the EF70-200mm f/4L USM – which is a really great lightweight lens with a useful telephoto reach.”

© Callum Snape
© Callum Snape

Kinney Lake, Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/80sec at f/4, ISO 200.

Callum travels as light as he can and takes an Induro carbon-fibre tripod with him plus a couple of pan-and-tilt heads. But as the demands from Callum's clients increase, his kit starts to get heavier. “I have a drone, now – a Phantom 4 Pro – which travels with me on hiking trips and adds a real nice added extra to my work. This is why a camera like the EOS 5D Mark IV is so good for people like me, because it can be used in many applications and performs to such a high standard, both in terms of 4K filming as well as producing exceptional stills.”

But with all this cutting edge technology at his disposal, Callum remains steadfastly traditional for much of his photography. “I feel like I come from more of the old school fine art side of photography and that means I put myself under a lot of creative pressure to remain fresh and inventive and not rely on post-production tricks back at my office. That’s probably my biggest challenge: to try and find a balance of shooting stuff for myself that I like and producing work that a client will love. As a photographer I think I am never fully happy with what I do, but that does keeps me pushing harder. I have a short attention span, so post-production work is kept to a real minimum. For me the real joy is being out there, so I like to shoot long exposures with traditional filters [made by Lee] used over the lens instead of playing around with the shot later on a screen.”

New ways of seeing

On how people now look at his work, Callum reveals: “I would say I shoot for the more traditional way, so I shoot the way I see a scene and then figure out a way of capturing it so I can use it on social media too. It helps that you can show your images full crop on Instagram now, for instance. Sometimes different images work better on different social platforms.”

© Callum Snape
© Callum Snape

Numa Falls, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens.

“I had a really good year last year and now for 2017 I have some huge projects lined up. I have more commercial work coming in and I’m trying to pursue a few more personal projects – that’s my focus. I’m pretty selfish with my photography and mostly do it for myself – I think you have to be single-minded in your approach if you’re going to succeed in life and that’s advice I would give to anyone who wants to follow their dream. And as for tips on doing what I do? Just get out there as much as you can,” he smiles. “It seems there’s a lot of pressure to be on social media these days and I think people should avoid that and shoot photographs purely for themselves first and foremost. Try not to force it – photograph what you’re passionate about.”

Biografia: Callum Snape

Callum Snape

Callum Snape is a freelance adventure and travel photographer from the UK now living in Banff, Canada. His work is a reflection of his passions and is layered with landscapes, lifestyle, adventure, sports and the personalities that find meaning from the same sources. Callum specialises in displaying the natural landscape in a unique way and photographing harder to reach locations, capturing the spirit of adventure. Clients include Canadian Geographic, BMW and Adidas.


Lenticular clouds over Mount Fuji, Japan. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/3200sec at f/4, ISO 200.