This picture of a Reindeer Trainer with his son, crossing a creek by sled in a winter wonderland, is my most liked picture on Instagram to date. It has been featured and reposted by a dozen of accounts; big and small. Some of the major features include Afar Media, Visit Sweden and Matador Network. Collectively, this image has gained around 15 000 likes, which is large by my current standards, as I am fairly new to Instagram. So how did this likable picture happen? Here is my story:
Back in 2012 I was working as a Reindeer Trainer and tour guide at Nutti Sámi Siida in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. You know, that small town where the world famous Icehotel is? I loved to be outdoors every day, taking care of the reindeers and bringing people out on unforgettable adventures. Some days the temperature could drop below -40 F/C, but we still geared up. This particular day wasn’t quite as cold, but the air was still crisp and clear. The sun doesn’t go very high over the horizon at this time of the year, but instead it creates a shimmering golden light that lasts for several hours, just like an eternal sunrise or sunset. Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.
On the agenda for today was to make some of the younger reindeers acquainted with the route that runs over a creek a few kilometers from the camp. It was a weekend and Janne; a colleague, had brought his son Lucas to work, so he wouldn’t have to be bored and alone at home. I was grooming the trails by snowmobile and set off to get a head start. I knew the route blindfolded and had pre-visualized this image earlier the same week. I had brought my camera to work every day, but hadn’t got the opportunity to make the shot yet. The snow laid thick on the ground and the sun kissed tree tops was glowing fiercely. I didn’t want to leave any footprints visible in the fresh snow, so I parked the snowmobile a few meters off camera, behind the trail. I cross cut through the forest, upstream, far above the the spot I had planned out. The only tele lens I owned at the time was a 90 mm macro that I used together with a Nikon crop sensor DSLR camera (equivalent to 135 mm on FF). I was in other words not able to zoom, meaning that I only had one way to get the framing right, without leaving any footprints in front of me. This meant that I had to start off positioning myself pretty far from the river crossing and gradually approaching it by foot, as I was continuously reframing the shot. I remember it being really cumbersome to get to the right spot, because the snow was so deep it was difficult to walk in it without falling over.
After a slight battle with time, tree trunks, stubbs, stones and holes underneath the snow, I was finally where I needed to be. Now all I had to do was to wait for Janne & Lucas to pass by, and to be honest this was the most difficult part. It felt like I was waiting for hours, but it cannot have been more than 30 minutes. I was sweating and it was freezing. A really bad combination that soon had me shivering like a maniac. When the sledding duo finally approached, I got myself ready and in a heartbeat it was over. I got two shots, but I knew I had it in the first one. The freezing cold wasn’t cold anymore and a soothing feeling of accomplishment ran through my body. Now I just wanted to finish the shift so I could go home and start editing.
A few years later, when I returned to this image, I noticed that my editing skills had become much better since 2012. I decided to to re-edit the picture and post it on my Instagram account. I tagged it with a few suitable hashtags and it didn’t take long until VisitSwedens Instagram account manager picked up on it. They re-posted it the day after and what happened after that could only be described as a “liking-fiesta”. People who saw it on VisitSwedens account was referred back to my account, which led to a great increase in followers, but it also helped adding likes to other pictures on my page. Only a day after VisitSweden had posted my picture, a few other accounts noticed it, resulting in a continuos storm of likes and new followings of my account.
This whole spectacle was of course very flattering and truly inspiring. Instagram as a platform is great in the way that it gives instant gratification. Even though I haven’t earned a cent on this picture as of yet, it has given me and my work valuable awareness. This whole experience has encouraged me to keep sharing my work and helped to build up my confidence as a photographer. With the support and positive feedback from all of you out there I feel energized to keep on sharing my images and experiences. Be sure, there is more to come!