After successful careers as a jazz musician, educator and professional magician, Tony settled on photography as his chosen means for personal expression. Beginning as a film photographer, he reluctantly moved to the digital age. Probably one of the last of his peers to “go digital,” Tony has become facile in imaging software, specializing in plugins. As a charter Nik Team member, Tony teaches and lectures throughout the United States and Canada on the creative use of plugins.
Tony’s photography is published worldwide in every medium and is represented by Getty Images. His iPhone photography is represented by Aurora Photos. Tony’s images are also used by Nikon, NikSoftware, Singh Ray, Alien Skin, Lensbaby and others for national ad campaigns. Tony has authored five books on the art of photography: Fine Art Nature Photography (’02), Fine Art Flower Photography (’05) Fine Art Nature Photography: Water, Ice, Fog (’07), Fine Art Digital Photography (’09) and HDR Photography (2011). He and Masterphoto Workshops have co-produced four photography DVDs: Visual Artistry, HDR Made Easy, Visual Literacy and Flower Photography Artistry, as well as an iPhone instructional video series.
Tony is a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens, a charter member of Team Nik (NikSoftware), a Lensbaby Guru and a Bogen mentor.
You have been a professional jazz drummer for 25 long years and have performed alongside greats like Sonny Stitt, Joe Henderson, Woody Herman, Mark Murphy, Cal Collins. What made you switch to photography?
“I had reached the peak of my jazz career and as the times changed and the work slowed, I bought a camera from who turned out to me my mentor (Tony Gayhart) to take on a mountain biking trip to Moab, UT.”
Well, nothing actually made me switch. I had reached the peak of my jazz career and as the times changed and the work slowed, I bought a camera from who turned out to me my mentor (Tony Gayhart) to take on a mountain biking trip to Moab, UT. I then began photographing in my native environment at the time, jazz clubs, until Tony showed me one of his nature slides shot in the Smoky Mountains, TN. It definitely captured my imagination and I was hooked!
You have also been a magician, musician, a photographer and an author. How have you managed to be good at so many things?
“The problem is that each of my ways to keep busy wound up being professions!”
I am an only child, so as we (only children) tend to do, I had the time and inclination to keep busy. The problem is that each of my ways to keep busy wound up being professions! I am not adverse to many hours of practice, which leads to being proficient.
You are the missing link between Jazz and photography. How much resemblance does each of them have with other?
I never quite thought of myself as a missing link! Aside from the tools, the concept is exactly the same. It’s spontaneous (fleeting light), involves composition, reflexive technical knowledge and very strange hours!
“It’s spontaneous (fleeting light), involves composition, reflexive technical knowledge and very strange hours!”
What is it about nature photography that inspires you to create such outstanding works of art?
First off, I don’t use the word “art” or “fine art” in terms of me or my work. Those are terms that others use to define us. That aside, in answer to your question, it’s not the genre of photography, really. It’s that the light is cleanest at dawn, as well as the most dramatic. Being a lone wolf occupation, being outside when no one else is there perfectly suits only children.
Could you kindly narrate your creative process from the idea to the final result?
“Creativity involves being “in the moment” where time seems to suspend until the process exhausts itself.”
I wouldn’t know where or how to even begin narrating a creative process, mainly because it’s impossible! Creativity involves being “in the moment” where time seems to suspend until the process exhausts itself. Given that, I try to achieve the same mindset as a jazz musician:
“Remove conscious thought and react to the moment.”....which is actually easier said than done.
What equipment and software do you make use of in your work flow?
I shoot Nikon cameras and lenses, currently using the D3X, D3S and D300 (infrared). My plugin software of choice (since I mostly use plugins in photoshop) is the entire Nik Suite and AlienSkin (Snap Art, Bokeh, Exposure and Blow up), Topaz, Magic Bullet Photo Looks, LucisPro, and Totally Rad. I also make extensive use of textures (I shoot my own and use Flypaper and Joel Olives textures.).
You are a strong advocator of HDR images. What are some other tools of digital photography that you like and how do they help in creating your images?
I find HDR and tone-mapping to be an indispensable tool in today’s digital photography. Also, shooting several images and painting in from each is an acceptable and sometimes preferred way to archive “manual” HDR. However, it takes substantially more time. I tend to use HDR when I am trying to make a super-real look or a grunge look. For natural HDR, I still use split grad neutral density filters.
“I find HDR and tone-mapping to be an indispensable tool in today’s digital photography.”
You have used Epson 3900 and 7900 printers for some while now. How has the experience been?
We have always used and have learned to rely on Epson printers, from the 1280 to the currently heavily used 3900 and 7900.
Which is more satisfying experience: teaching, photography or seeing your books get published and why?
“Photography has the zen aspect of being out there in a fresh, clean environment...alone....and becoming immersed in the process of making images.”
Wow, that’s some tri-fecta! Each has its own rewards.
Teaching and sharing knowledge is probably my favorite because of the personal interaction with people of like interests, plus I’m pretty much of a people person.
Photography has the zen aspect of being out there in a fresh, clean environment...alone....and becoming immersed in the process of making images.
Getting published is always a thrill, however, I see getting published as business related in terms of keeping the name out there. I also consider hardcover books in terms of legacy, to remain after I’ve moved on, as they say.
Are there any particular themes that weave through your work?
I try to maintain the same feel to my work regardless of subject, in most cases. However, I like photographing anything that interests me.
Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you press the shutter button?
No. One reacts faster than we can think.
What is the one lasting impression you want to leave in your photos?
I’d like to make images that people keep coming back to.
“I’d like to make images that people keep coming back to.”
Which of your five books is a personal favourite? Could you summarize the lessons of it for our readers?
Fine Art Nature Photography; Fine Art Flower Photography; Water, Ice and Fog; Fine Art Digital Photography; High Dynamic Range.
To summarize the lessons would be another book! But, the goal is to give the reader the maximum amount of usable information in a one page per image format.
Do you have any tips for budding passionate photographers who would like to emulate you and your success?
I really don’t want anyone to emulate me. I would like to see people pursue their own vision, perhaps using the work of a number of photographers to get a sense of direction.
“I really don’t want anyone to emulate me.”
Where can we hear more from you or see more of your work?