Callum Snape is an adventure travel and freelance photographer from Banff, Alberta. At least, that’s what his website says. We reckon he could well be a secret agent, who’s sole mission is to bring as much of Alberta’s beauty into the world as possible. And if that is the case, Agent Snape, mission complete.
Callum has been shooting Alberta for around six years. And in those six years, he’s produced some of the most incredible photographs of the Alberta – or anywhere – we’ve ever seen. We wanted to talk to Callum to find out a little more about his Alberta, and to try and pry some photography tips out of him. Luckily, he was more than happy to have a chat with us.
You’re from Alberta. Do you remember a time when the visual beauty of the place first dawned on you?
I moved to Banff, Alberta from England over six years ago now, the snow initially brought me over here to pursue a career in snowboarding. It was a temporary move initially but after spending just a few months in Alberta, I knew it was where I wanted to live. The visual beauty really dawned on me after I took my first back-country camping trip out in to the wilderness near Lake Louise where I fell in love with the enormous Alberta mountains and deep blue lakes.
What was it like growing up in England? Did you spend much time out in nature as a kid, or did that come later?
I spent a fair amount of time outdoors, but that was nothing compared to now. I grew up in a family that went on vacation several times a year to some beautiful places all over Europe and I think that started my passion for an outdoor lifestyle. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago I really started to appreciate those trips and now I want to go back to all of those locations to photograph them.
When did you first get hooked on photography?
I got hooked on photography just five years ago at the age of nineteen, shortly after moving to Alberta. I picked up a basic camera to share some of the views with my friends and family on social media back in England. From there it progressed into a passion, a hobby and now a full time job.
Has photography helped you appreciate Alberta more?
Photography has definitely helped me to appreciate Alberta more. It forces me to look at the landscapes in depth, to look at familiar places with new eyes and it makes me sit down and really take everything in. Alberta is such a huge province, I’m always finding new areas to explore.
Do you think you’ve explored more of Alberta because of your passion for photography?
I’ve definitely explored more of Alberta because of my passion for photography. If I see a photo of an area that I like the look of, it plants a seed in my head and within a year I make that trip happen. Even if I haven’t seen any photos of an area yet, I scan over maps looking for remote mountain lakes that look like they would offer up some incredible views to photograph.
Where are your favourite places to visit in Alberta, whether you have your camera with you or not?
My favourite place in Alberta to visit is easily Moraine Lake. Its one of the most visited places in Canada and for a good reason. You can drive right up to it and with a short ten minute walk up a rock pile you can get a breathtaking view of the crystal blue lake and the valley of the ten peaks. Ive been there at least one hundred times and it never gets old, I could sit there and stare at that view for hours.
Do you have a favourite shot you’ve taken in Alberta? If so, which one and why?
My favourite photo I’ve taken in Alberta would have to be the one I captured on a cold November morning at Bow Lake. It was a beautiful morning with fresh snow on the ground and the lake hadn’t yet frozen. A 90-minute early morning drive in the dark brought us to the lake shore and conditions didn’t look good for me at all. The sunrise itself wasn’t even a spectacular one. But thirty minutes after sunrise, the sun peeked above the mountains in the distance and lit up the low cloud the most incredible gold.
What things do you look for in a photograph? What’s a ‘good shot’, in your eyes?
I have a mental checklist when I go to take a photo, it generally involves a clean landscape with little clutter, open lakes and meadows work well. From there I try to find a unique composition with a foreground element to it to anchor the scene leading into the mid ground and out to a mountain or similar subject. Nothing should compete with one another in a scene, mountain peaks need to be dominant but not fight for attention and human subjects should fit into the landscape in a way that doesn’t overwhelm to scenery. A ‘good shot’ ideally has all of these elements but it can be interpreted in multiple ways.
What advice do you have for photographers who might one day like to emulate your career?
My advice would be to pursue your passions in photography because it will really show in your work. Hone your skills and practice continuously, get out shooting as much as you can and don’t do it because you feel like you should, do because you want to do it.
Finally, be willing to do anything and everything to get the photo you want. Usually it’s moments in which you have enormous obstacles between you and the shot, that make for the wildest photos.
You do a fair bit of Instagramming – do you approach Instagram differently to your regular photography?
Yeah I do. Firstly, I always photograph a scene for my portfolio before considering which social platform it will end up on. Then after I’ve done my best working to produce a 2×3 image I will move on to trying to create a 1×1 photo. I have a few different techniques working in square but one of my favourites is that I love to use the distortion of a wide angle lenses to make mountains appear taller, sharper and more impressive.
I will often photograph vertically for square cropped images so I know the width of the scene I’m shooting and the distortion is more intense when shooting this way.
Any closing thoughts?
Alberta is one of the most incredible places to photograph, explore and see. I don’t think any photos can truly do it justice even though I try but seeing it for yourself should be on everyones bucket list.