- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Camille Storch never set out to become a famous photographer on Instagram. It just happened that way.

Storch’s husband, Henry, is a beekeeper who maintains about 500 hives, moving them up and down the West Coast to pollinate agricultural crops. Together the couple operate a home-based business called Old Blue Raw Honey, selling about 15 varieties of honey produced by their bees. They live with their two young children in Philomath, where Camille was born and raised.

She started posting pictures on Instagram about five years ago, when the mobile online photo-sharing service was just starting to catch on.

“I’ve been an early adopter on almost nothing in my life,” Storch laughed, “but I was an early adopter on Instagram.”

At the time, the family was living outside of town in a cabin with no electricity, and Storch was chronicling their rural lifestyle in a blog she called Wayward Spark. She adapted the name of the blog for use on Instagram, where her handle became @waywardspark.

She was already using photography to illustrate her blog, and she was initially attracted to Instagram by its easy-to-use photo editing tools. But she soon gravitated toward the app’s social media aspects as well.

Storch began following other photographers she found interesting, and before long she had struck up dozens of relationships through Instagram’s commenting and direct-messaging features. She even traveled across the country to visit some of her new acquaintances.

“There are people I’ve met on Instagram that I’ve met (in person) and consider my actual friends, and some I haven’t met but consider actual friends,” she said.

While Storch was building her social network on Instagram, she was also building a body of work on the app, steadily posting photos that reflected her life and personal interests.

Some of her photographs feature her family or showcase aspects of the honey and beekeeping business. Others are taken on small farms owned by friends around western Oregon, and many images focus on food or cooking.

“I like to tell people about things I think are interesting. I like to have a platform,” she said.

“It’s really not about photography,” she added. “Some of it’s for marketing, some of it’s self-promotion, but mostly it’s for fun.”

Nevertheless, Storch’s photos have struck a chord with Instagram users.

Her first picture, posted on Aug. 11, 2011, got just two likes, but these days her posts get anywhere from 300 to 900 likes, with some topping the 1,000 mark.

So far this year, three of her posts have collected more than 2,000 likes, and one - a short video clip of her husband prepping beehives for transport posted on Jan. 6 - has garnered 3,588 views.

The popularity of her photos is tied directly to her growing army of Instagram followers. Storch’s numbers built slowly at first but got a significant boost in March 2014, when Instagram profiled her account in a blog post.

“It was kind of a gradual uptick to about 8,000,” she said. “Then that Instagram feature thing happened and it went up to about 18,000. There was a big jump.”

A few months later her numbers rose again when Country Living magazine included her in a feature titled “23 Country Instagrammers You Need in Your Feed.”

Now it’s happened again. Earlier this year the online edition of Time magazine selected Storch to represent Oregon in a piece called “Instagram Photographers to Follow in All 50 States,” and there are currently almost 28,000 people following her @waywardspark account.

Storch downplays her Instagram success.

“I’m not a serious photographer,” she insists. “Ninety-seven percent of my photos on Instagram I take with my phone now.”

Still, there’s also an element of vindication for the early adopter.

“My husband used to make fun of me endlessly for spending so much time on Instagram - until he started doing it,” she said.

Henry Storch has a ways to go before his numbers match his wife’s, but he’s getting there. His @oldbluerawhoney account, launched in mid-2013, has amassed 7,843 followers.

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Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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