Scott Littlejohn flies a drone over Nanaimo’s Linley Valley Park. Aerial photography from drones has taken off as an integral part of tourism promotion in recent years.

Scott Littlejohn flies a drone over Nanaimo’s Linley Valley Park. Aerial photography from drones has taken off as an integral part of tourism promotion in recent years.

Best of the City: Nanaimo is picture perfect

Harbour City becoming popular place for aerial photography and instagrammers to capture scenes and experiences of the region.

Nanaimo isn’t into self-promotion anymore.

The city, Tourism Nanaimo more specifically, now counts on residents and visitors to capture their experiences on digital cameras, smartphones and drones and upload them to social media platforms like Instagram.

Combined with visitor survey data, collected digital images reflect an ongoing shift in visitor preferences for outdoor attractions and activities and, in turn, tourism marketing focus.

Tourism Nanaimo has encouraged the behaviour with ‘Instameet’ events, an idea that was tried and produced a crop of images in 2015.

“We’re shifting that slightly and we’re getting some great imagery in some of the outdoor locations and the outdoor activities that, we all know as locals, have been here forever, but we’ve never really done a great, great job at marketing them to tourists, so yeah, working to get Ammonite Falls on the map, it’s been a huge attraction,” said Chelsea Barr, Tourism Nanaimo destination marketing officer.

Five Instameets ( are being hosted this summer, starting with an event at Ammonite Falls in Benson Creek Falls Regional Park in May, followed by Instameets at Gabriola Island’s Malaspina Galleries, Hemer Provincial Park and Sebastian Beach in Lantzville. Participants can upload their digital snaps to Tourism Nanaimo’s #ExploreNanaimo contest ( for prizes, while generating content that will eventually attract more interest in the region through Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

Tourism Nanaimo has more than 1,000 images on its Instagram page ( shot by residents and visitors.

Hundreds more images of local scenes can also be found at Share Vancouver Island (

Drone technology has cast fresh eyes on the Island landscape and added to the buzz of awareness about the Island by allowing viewers to skim above stream beds, leap over waterfalls, draft cyclists and kayakers or capture bird’s eye views of weddings and real estate.

Scott Littlejohn, owner of Living Forest Campground and former board member of Tourism Nanaimo and Tourism Vancouver Island, says social media channels respond to viewers’ preferences for video posts, which dramatically outdraw static photos and text, by applying social media platform algorithms to boost pages with engaging video.

Littlejohn has produced short videos with radio controlled drones and motion-stabilized ground equipment for several years, which he posts on What’s Up Vancouver Island on Facebook (

“I call it ‘edutainment,’” Littlejohn said. “The ‘edu’ part is trying to create awareness of all the special places on Vancouver Island … to get people outdoors, get people moving and get people seeing the Vancouver Island that you and I fell in love with many years ago and this is just a compelling way of doing this.”

Dave Matthewman and Doug Wortley created Arrowsmith Aerial Photography ( to cover real estate, sports, events and even scientific projects.

Some client commissions, such as for Nanaimo Port Authority or the historic McLean Steam Sawmill in Port Alberni are directly tourism related, but even overflies for real estate promotions that capture surrounding landscapes get noticed on social media by viewers searching for fresh rural or urban adventures.

“Matthewman shot the aerial footage for Wortley’s recently completed full-length documentary on Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere region. It has been shown at Vancouver Island University and is being uploaded to Shaw On Demand to be made available for viewing across Canada.

“There’s tons of things about Vancouver Island, the whole area, you know, beaches and mountains and climbing,” Matthewman said. “We actually climbed Mount Arrowsmith to get some of the video up the saddle there.”