In this post we introduce the GoWorx Outside the Lens Series, where we take a peek behind the camera at some of the industry's best photographers, filmmakers and all-around awesome content creators. For this first installment we had the privilege to interview Kelly Lund, the human behind Loki the Wolfdog, who is probably the raddest dog on Instagram. Kelly took some time to chat with us about his GoPro gear, the origin of Loki's name, his photography philosophy and how they rose to Instagram fame.
Outside the Lens: Loki the WolfdogKelly Lund and Loki the Wolfdog live in Denver, CO, where Kelly works for the City of Denver as the Recreation Coordinator. When not at work, Kelly and Loki devote almost all of their free time to exploring the greater Rocky Mountain region while hiking, camping, snowboarding and, of course, taking photos. We'll let Kelly introduce Loki the Wolfdog:
During a blizzard in 2012, I brought Loki home. Loki is a husky/arctic wolf/malamute mix. Growing up in a family that took dog ownership very seriously, I had my fair share of experiences with large dogs. Loki was different though. Instead of him entering into my world, I felt like I had to listen closely and enter into his world, if this was going to work out. At that time, I decided that I would do everything possible to not leave him behind at the house. We started backcountry snowboarding together when he was four months old, and before his third birthday, he’d seen most of the western U.S.
It wasn't long after Loki's first snowboard session that Loki the Wolfdog began his rise to Instagram celebrity. Right from the start, the images spread like a furry wildfire. Now with over 880k followers, Loki continues to inspire the world and show us how to live unleashed.
In order to get the low-down on Loki the Wolfdog, we chatted with his human counterpart, Kelly. What follows is a series of questions and answers covering all things Loki. Enjoy!
When you’re gearing up to go out, what kind of camera gear are you packing along with you?
The camera that I shoot most often with is a Sony A6000. I’ve got a few different lenses for it. I’ve got a 19mm prime and I’ve also got a Zeiss 16-70 that I’ll shoot with. So I’m either picking up that or I’m picking up GoPros and shooting video. I also try to capture some stills on GoPro. The hammock photos that have made their way around the Internet, a lot of those were captured on a GoPro because I’m trying to get up real close to him while still kind of capturing the whole feel of the hammock. I think a GoPro is awesome for that.
As far as GoPros, I love shooting with a [HERO] 4 Silver with a screen, especially if I’m shooting stills. But outside of that I’ll usually use a Black. I like to put it in 1440p because if I’m filming Loki while he’s running, he has a tendency to come up out of the frame or below the frame just with his stride. So that 1440p gives me more of that type of perspective, so hopefully he won’t come out of the frame.
Are you primarily using a GoPro pole or a helmet mount or is it kind of all over the place?
I never do helmet mounts. I can’t really get much of Loki. Usually I’m just shooting on a pole or I’ll shoot on a Fetch mount off of Loki. I like a little bit longer pole so I can reach out and get out to him without having to get into his face. So I gear up with that. I bring tons of batteries because we’re always shooting in the freezing cold weather and they die really quickly. Occasionally I’ll set a GoPro on a tripod to get a passing shot.
Lately you’ve been doing a lot of backcountry snowboarding. Does that change your approach? Do you have less time to set up a tripod and that kind of thing?
Yea, it’s definitely made me really try to maximize those moments, like where he’s running downhill. Usually I’ll be out with a few friends and I’ll toss everybody a GoPro so that in case he runs by them then they can capture it as well. We’ll stop and hang out, and if it’s deep snow Loki takes a little bit longer to run than we would care to ski anyway. So we’ll kind of stop and regroup and I’ll be like, oh cool now we can try to get a different kind of shot, like right behind you or right beside you.
It’s hard to tell him what to do, so you’ve just got to be there and be ready to get in the moment. Instead of being like, okay Loki, run from here to here and I’m going to shoot that again...
Were you a photographer at all before this?
Yea, not much. My dad and my brother were always really into photography so I’ve been around it and I’ve kind of understood the basics. Honestly, when I started it I wasn’t really that into taking pictures. It wasn’t really my focus and I think as time has gone on I’ve just kind of learned out of necessity, just to push myself creatively. So I’m kind of learning as I go I suppose. I definitely have no formal training or anything like that. I would still consider myself just a straight amateur. I can barely shoot a camera on manual, to be perfectly honest.
Everybody loves your imagery. It’s an instant crowd pleaser. What, in your mind, has been the reason that you’ve had the response you’ve had?
I think that people like to see Loki and like to follow Loki…honestly, because of the story of a man and his dog. I think people kind of gravitate towards that and it’s relatable in a sense. Also, I think we’re going to a lot of places where people maybe haven’t seen or don’t see on a regular basis.
As far as what goes through my mind when I go to take a picture of Loki, I’m definitely getting down on his level, getting his perspective, trying to accentuate his size and some of his different characteristics…like the looks that he has, as far as being kind of stoic. He’s a calm dog. I try to really capture some of those moments. I try to portray these different moments that he has, but I'm also trying to portray these different areas that we go to. So it’s kind of the combination of the two: a subject but also a new setting.
Where did the name Loki come from?
I’m Scandinavian and I always thought the Vikings and Norse mythology were really cool. So Loki is a god in Norse mythology. He’s the God of Mischief and Thor’s brother. I always thought that was a cool name.
So in his early years, was he the God of Mischief?
He definitely has gotten into his fair share of trouble as far as escaping from the backyard and chewing things up…screens on the windows on the outside of the house or reading glasses. He’s definitely gotten into his fair share of trouble, but he’s also pretty relaxed at the same time. He can be a bit anxious when I’m not around, but when I’m around he’s pretty calm.
Yea, from reading your story it seems like that was a big part of getting him outdoors, to give him that release so we wouldn't get into mischief.
For sure. It definitely became kind of a necessity for us, just getting out and getting out as much as possible. I run him on a bike if we’re not out in the woods, and I think that’s really good exercise-wise. But also I think he just needs the mental exercise of being out and exploring and being able to sniff around and not be on a leash. It just really became a necessity early on when I realized that he was going to be a handful. I’d had another husky previous to him and that was kind of the lifestyle I developed with him. So it wasn’t a new concept for me, but definitely kind of took it to a whole other level with Loki.
Was there a moment when you were out with Loki that this idea came about? Was it a specific moment as far as taking the photos?
Yea, actually there was. A long time ago before the account started, I would fill up my own Instagram account with pictures of Loki and people would always give me a hard time about it. They’d be like, “Well you should just start an Instagram account for your dog.” Back then there weren’t as many pet Instagram accounts as there are now.
I was up in Wyoming in an area called Sinks Canyon. There was this waterfall and it was frozen so we could walk out onto the pool. We were out taking pictures and we snapped a few pictures of him walking in front of this frozen waterfall. And if you scroll back, it’s still one of the first pictures I posted. But that was kind of the inspiration to be like, alright, let’s do this. That’s a really good picture. Let’s make this account.
So that happened and you started taking photos. Was there a big break moment where you went from a few thousand followers to the hundreds of thousands range? Or was it all over time?
Yea, he grew pretty fast at first, a few thousand followers within a couple of weeks—which I was really surprised by—but then grew pretty steady for the next year. Then in August of this year he grew pretty significantly. The account was at like 80k or so this summer and we started to work with GoPro and we started a few other things that developed some momentum. I took a few of those photos of me sleeping in a hammock with Loki sleeping next to me and that image made it to Reddit and a few other viral websites. From there I started getting a few more interests. Buzzfeed called me and wanted to write a little article about us. Red Bull wrote an article about us. Huffington Post, even People Magazine wrote some articles about us. So it just kind of exploded in the month of September. I can’t remember what it was, four or five-hundred thousand and from there it continued to have some momentum. I guess it still does right now.
Yea, you’re pushing a million.
Yea. That’ll be a cool day. It’ll be fun. I would have never thought that was a possibility. Most of all I just try to keep it fun, but even more than that; it’s just kind of a way to challenge myself creatively. I really enjoy it.
I don’t know if you want to speak for Loki, but if you think Loki would say something to 800k people, what do you think he would be saying?
Oh, man. Loki wouldn’t care. Sometimes, I feel like he’s kind of like Kurt Cobain. He doesn’t really like strangers. He doesn’t really like to be around people besides me and maybe a few other people. So he kind of despises the attention in a way. He doesn’t care too much about it, which is kind of a cool part for me. I can be so conscious of what people think of me and the engagement a photo might get or something like that, so just to look back and remember that I’m capturing this dog and he doesn’t care at all. No matter what happens, it won’t change who he is in any regard. He’ll always just be him, you know? I think that’s pretty cool.
You guys did a calendar, right? Is there still a way to purchase those?
Yea we did. They’re actually all sold out. We donated about $3,000 to a girl who’s in need of a service dog. We’ve got some other stuff coming up, some t-shirts and some print and some other things, which we’re super stoked about. […] Everything that we’re going to do we’re going to give back in some way. The next thing that’s on our plate is a wolfdog sanctuary called Eagletail Mountain down south from me. I’m looking for more causes as well. I definitely want to bring a lot of light to wolfdogs.
Do you have any big trips for you two in the spring or in the summer that you’re planning?
So we’re going to X-Games and then we’re going to be up on a photo shoot with a company in Vail and Crested Butte that next week. And then I’m going to be shooting with another video company. So there’s going to be a few videos coming out here in the next couple of months...all locally, though, so all here in Colorado. I’d love to get out of the state. There’s some talk of going up to Alaska and things like that, but nothing is concrete yet.
Have any advice for young or inexperienced photographers or filmmakers trying to get a good thing going on Instagram?
I would say look at yourself and how is it unique to some of the other things that are going on. And how can you tell that in a relatable way. Those are some big concepts that I think about a lot: uniqueness and also being relatable to other people and being able to make that connection to other people. And then finding a personal style within photography and within your gallery on Instagram. But also figuring out how to push the limits of that...so finding a baseline and working from that.
This was the first installment in the GoWorx Outside the Lens Series, where we take a peek behind the camera at some of the industry's best photographers, filmmakers and all-around awesome content creators. Check back soon for more!