Getting a few thousand followers on Instagram is no mean feat. With little photography experience, 24-year-old Taylor Burk managed to attract over 170,000 followers in less than three years. What’s even more amazing is the adventure photographer from Edmonton who loves hiking, skiing and kayaking taught himself how to take spectacular photos by watching YouTube videos! Now, Taylor @taylormichaelburk is one of Canada’s top travel Instagrammers. Here’s how he did it.
Did you really start in 2013? That’s impressive!
I bought my first camera three years ago. I didn’t know how to use it properly and got annoyed with it early on, so I would only shoot with my iPhone. Months later, I started to invest time learning how to use it by watching YouTube videos, asking lots of questions and trial and error.
What’s your secret?
There is no secret! Early on, Instagram liked what I was posting and put me on a suggested list where people who join the app can find new accounts to follow. I gained 25,000 followers in two weeks.
From there I have built it up mainly from large accounts featuring my work, word of mouth and a consistent feed.
What’s life as a successful Instagrammer like?
Right now a typical day includes shooting sunrise, checking emails, editing photos, paperwork, researching new places to travel to, meeting up with other photographers and friends, shooting sunset and night scenes then repeating it all again.
It is different to what I was doing a year and a half ago – plumbing and heating!
Was it your dream to be a photographer?
I never ever thought I would be a photographer. I am still getting used to introducing myself as a professional photographer! I knew that I wanted to do something that I loved that would get me outside as much as possible. I just never knew it would be this!
Now I work with several brands. For the most part these companies reach out to me. But don’t be afraid to put yourself out there though!
Where has your work taken you?
I have been very fortunate this year! I went to Europe for my first time ever this past summer shooting for a couple of tourism boards. I captured the fall colours of The Eastern townships of Quebec and did a three-day kayak trip down the Santa Elena Canyon in Texas along with some beautiful places in my own backyard of Alberta.
What do you shoot with?
I shoot with a Canon 6D body, 24-70mm f2.8 and 17-40mm f4.0 lenses and LEE Filters. I edit on a Mac in Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop.
I like to capture natural and in-the-moment scenes with a human element included in it.
Show us your three most popular photos in Instagram
One of those “right place at the right time” situations! Watched this Elk make his way across Jasper Lake during a storm, it was majestic. A photo posted by Taylor Burk (@taylormichaelburk) on
Cobalt Lake with Bugaboo Spire in behind. I think this photo speaks for itself. Shot from the @cmh_heli. #cmhheli #explorebc A photo posted by Taylor Burk (@taylormichaelburk) on
What are your top three tips?
1-Post regularly and maintain a consistent feed of high quality photos.
2-Engage with others on the app; use it for its intended purpose and interact.
3-Don’t get hung up on likes; post what you love and what inspires you.
Do you have any favourite apps?
I check Social Blade from time to time. It gives you information on your following.
What are your five favourite places in Canada?
I have not seen as much of my country as I would have liked by now. I have only been to British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario. Of all the places I have visited my favourites are:
1-The Canadian Rockies
The Canadian Rockies is my happy place. You have to go and experience it for yourself then you will understand why!
2-Elk Island National Park
The park was only a short drive from where I lived in Edmonton and kept me sane while living in the city. There is an abundant amount of buffalo, elk, coyote, deer, moose, birds and other wildlife. You don’t feel like you’re only 20 minutes from the city.
Whenever I am stuck in traffic or in a busy place I think back about the endless highways and pristine nature without anyone around in the Yukon.
I like Tofino’s relaxing all-around chilled vibes. It is a little town on the west side of Vancouver Island known for surfing and wild surroundings.
Although I am not much of a city guy, Vancouver is full of life, good food and you can always see the mountains nearby.
It looks like you do lots of hiking. What are your three favourite hikes in Canada?
The hike to Berg Lake in Mount Robson Park is by far my favourite after that Sulphur Skyline in Jasper National Park and Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
More often than I would like, I put myself in situations where I am outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I get a little carried away.
I love that photo of Panorama Ridge with the figure standing at the edge of the lake. Where is Panaroma Ridge exactly and how do you get there?
Thank you! It is in Garibaldi Provincial Park which is a short drive from Whistler, British Columbia. It is a 30km round trip hike which brings you up to Garibaldi Lake then to one of the ridges above it. If you have the chance to do it, I highly recommend it!
Did you actually sleep on that dock up near the Yukon/Alaska border?
Of course! We were getting drowsy after a long day of driving and pulled off into a rest stop. We instantly saw the dock and had the crazy idea of sleeping there because, why not?! Obviously we had to take a few photos and it ended up turning out really awesome, I slept like a baby. Looking back on it now, in terms of Leave No Trace it probably wasn’t the best idea, so I don’t recommend it.
Fall is my favourite season as the weather isn’t too hot or too cold. The mountains are snow-capped and the trees have changed colours. It’s just one of the most gorgeous times of the year in Canada.
Japanese Village, Edmonton
Remedy Cafe, Edmonton
Favourite scenic views
St. Marks Summit, Vancouver
Sam McGee Trail, Yukon
Sicamous Lookout, Sicamous
All are based on their accessibility to the mountains.
If you had to move to somewhere else in Canada where would you choose?
If I were looking to settle down, it would probably be somewhere outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It is warmer in the winter and has everything you need.
Do you have any advice for photographers visiting Canada?
Be prepared for every condition. If you’re out shooting in the mountains, the weather can change instantly. I have had many days starting out in the blistering sun and ending in a blizzard. Wide-angle lenses as well, it’s bigger out here!
Name three places on your bucket list in Canada
1-Torngat Mountains, Newfoundland
2-Backcountry camping in the Tombstone Mountains, Yukon
3-The Maritimes and exploring the eastern provinces of Canada
Taylor Burk is a photographer who grew up in Edmonton. He is currently living on the road with everything he needs packed in his car.