Sometimes all you need is a change of perspective. A new way of looking at things. That old idiom, “can’t see the forest for the trees” encourages you to take a fresh look. To see the bigger picture; to not get lost in the details. And for Tobias Hägg that meant looking from above.
Tobias is a Swedish photographer and filmmaker and for the past two years or so he’s been working under the moniker @airpixels on Instagram. Tobias’s work caught our eyes in mid-2016. He has a rather special ability for transporting his viewers into nature; to make them feel as though they’re not looking at it from above but rather that they’re in it, surrounded by it. For us, and our mission of inspiring more people to get outside and experience all the wonder of nature first hand, a collaboration with Tobias seemed natural.
But despite Tobias’s obvious skill, his journey to Instagram success with more than 180,000 followers – amassed in just two years – has surprised him more than anyone.
“It’s ridiculous how fast @airpixels has grown. At first, I didn’t understand how I could be inspiring people to get outside or travel. I didn’t even realise that was what I was doing until I started getting fan mail. And I still don’t really see myself as an influencer.”
But that’s what he has become. He’s shared more than 550 posts. His images are mesmerising and receive tens of thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
“Ever since I was young I’ve been interested in visuals – from film and photography to graphic design. But it was more just a hobby, something I did because I loved it. I never thought it would actually become my life.”
Part of what makes us Fjällräven is our passion for and dedication to getting more people outdoors. We aim to develop products that stand up to the rigours of the trail, that stay looking good for years to come; and we produce them in a way that has as little environmental impact as possible. But another big part of what we do is to enable and inspire more time outdoors.
The main channels for this are our Fjällräven Classic events. This year we’re running events on three continents and in four different countries: Sweden, Denmark, The US and Hong Kong. These events are aimed primarily at helping new trekkers take their first muddy boot steps in the outdoors. (Not that we’re excluding experienced hikers – we want everyone, of all levels and abilities, to feel welcome at our events.) For those of you that are new to camping, long-distance trekking and carrying everything you need on your back, participating in Classic (as well call it) is hopefully the supported start on a lifetime journey in outdoors.
But in between these events, we strive to provide continued inspiration. And a great way to motivate you to get up and get out is to show you just how spectacular the outdoors is – often in places closer to home than you think. And Tobias and other photographers and filmers help us to help you.
“My work is 100% inspired by nature so I get to spend a lot of time outdoors. That’s the best part of this job actually. It’s amazing. And the more time I spend outdoors the more I appreciate it and the more things I find. Wherever you are, there is always something interesting to see and discover.”
Sounds like a dream job, right? Travelling the world to photograph beautiful places, seeing so many new things all the time. But Tobias says it may sound glamorous, but it’s just a job like any other.
“OK, it’s more fun than my previous work in construction, but it’s a lot of hard work, particularly when on location. I shoot mostly at sunrise and sunset; then there’s the editing to do and travelling around. You have to wait for good weather too. When I travel I shoot practically 24 hours a day for seven days – sometimes more. I want to make the most of every moment. So it’s not really a holiday. It’s work. I love the experience of course and it’s amazing to see so much beauty, but you practically need a week’s rest once you get back. It’s intense!”
Tobias is especially busy right now. His work as a social media influencer and photographer is really taking off, with a broad spectrum of brands contacting him on a daily basis. Then he also runs his own online print shop. And on top of that, he’s just become a father.
“It’s amazing being a dad and I’m used to a lack of sleep from the influencer work. But I definitely don’t want to travel as much right now. My girlfriend supports me and I can go off to shoot whenever, but I don’t want to miss out on stuff with my son.”
Good thing that Tobias likes shooting in Sweden these days, then.
“When I started photography I dreamed of getting out of Sweden and exploring the world. I thought there was no inspiration to be found here. But now Sweden is my favourite place to shoot and I’m definitely not done with it. The more I travel, the more I love Sweden.”
Tobias is joining us at Fjällräven Classic Sweden this year to document the event. And he’s incredibly excited to finally get to shoot in a part of his homeland that he has yet to explore. But with his unique eye for angles and composition, Tobias manages to find beauty anywhere.
“Everywhere you go has something to offer and each place has its own charm. And as long as I’m outside I’m happy. Mountains, oceans and forests are my key inspirations – but that’s a lot of places.”
Tobias was an early adopter of drone photography and he believes that’s why he’s become so successful. His images offered viewers something new in the beginning. They offered glimpses into the same old nature scenes but viewed in a fresh way.
“I always loved films with aerial photography, but who has enough money for a helicopter in their early twenties? So as soon as drones came out I bought one, even though I couldn’t really afford it. It was pretty risky, but today I’m really happy I bought it – there probably wouldn’t be an @airpixels today if I hadn’t.’”
Like with pretty much anything, being successful is part skill and hard work, part luck. But wrapped up with all that is vision and the courage to be unique.
“There are so many people, particularly on Instagram, trying to do the same thing. But most of the big, successful accounts have something unique to offer. They give people a reason to follow them and not the next guy. My advice is to just be yourself and don’t try and copy anyone else’s style. Don’t get lost out there.”
You can view Tobias’s work on Instagram or buy his prints here. His Fjällräven Classic Images will be available to view on the Foxtrail and @fjallravenofficial in September.
Text: Sarah Benton