Tom Till, Utah’s ambassador of photography

I’ve been visiting Moab for nearly 30 years, and probably poked my nose in the Tom Till Gallery in October of 1998, the year it opened. I’ve been in awe of Tom’s work every since. I’ve studied his work and it has influenced mine. Tom’s art is pure, mine is not. Tom is a true photographer. I composite in Photoshop.

Nubian Sandstone, Moab, Petra, Jordan   Brilliantly patterned sandstone detail with rock cave   Petra National Park

Tom made photography his career, so I should hardly compare myself to him, but I do. I think I do okay until I see something new of Tom’s. While he travels the world, I make it to Moab once a year, twice if I’m lucky. I seldom make it much further since I’m so enamored with the area. It feels like home to me, and I don’t live there.

I never miss stopping in Tom’s gallery, but in all the times I’ve stopped, Tom has never been there. I always ask how he’s doing, and the answer is usually he’s out working his tail off.

Colorful buildings in Nyhavn,  Copenhagen, Denmark, !7th century waterfront village  Canals reflect multi-colored storefronts

So, I asked for a couple of images and Tom sent me 10. They are thumbs so no one can do much with them, but the beauty isn’t disguised by their small size. I have no idea where many of them were taken, but what does it matter. If you want to know, check out Tom’s website. All images this page ©TOM TILL 2010/2011

Val di Funes and Dolomite Peaks, Dolomites, Puez Geisler Nature Park, South Tyrol, Italy

The Interview:

1. You’ve made your career using film. What is your experience so far with digital, and do you miss film?

My experiences with 35mm digital so far have been beyond great. It’s rejuvenated my work. Part of my change was a health issue at first. I just couldn’t continue to carry a 50-pound backpack around, and many of my friends in this business have had to have surgery on knees, hips, and other problems. I didn’t want to do that. I get criticized along with David Muench on the Internet for giving up the 4×5. All I can say is I took a 4×5 camera where nobody had taken one before, and I did it for decades, and so did David. None of my critics will ever match it, and I can only say that when they reach their sixties they’ll understand.

Stalker Castle, Ancient Seat of the Stewarts, Loch Linne, Scotland, United Kingdom

I do not miss film. I got a digital camera and Lightroom at the same time. There’s a whole new world of what you can do now that was not possible before. I tried to address this in an HDR article I did for Outdoor Photographer, but again I got a lot of criticism. Film seems very dated to me now, and I liked the way images looked digitally right from the start.

2.  Does shooting digital make you want to revisit old stomping grounds?

Tessellated PAvement in dawn light, Tessellated Pavement State Reserve, Tasmania, Australia, Shoreline siltstones cracked in square patterns and eroded by the ocean

Well, I have been, especially in the Four Corners. There are shots that I’ve tried for years to get and they just weren’t feasible on film, mainly due to contrast. I’m revisiting all of those. I’m also having fun with scanned film images. It’s kind of amazing how much information is hidden in a 4×5 transparency that can be coaxed out digitally. We can turn white overexposed skies blue again with the Lightroom digital gnd. This isn’t color we add, it was somehow hidden in the emulsion.

Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Queensland, Australia  Aerial view   Pacific Ocean Coral Sea  UNESCO World Heritage Site

3.  Your Utah landscapes are phenomenal. What other locations are your favorites?

Forest & Fog, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota   White pines in morning fog   Pinus strobus

That’s a tough one. I’ve shot in every state and in 75 countries overseas. I tend to fall in love with all of them. I am a desert guy at heart, though, so Australia and the Middle East are favorites. I was in Libya just before the war, and it was one of the most beautiful desert landscapes I have ever seen–definitely on the scale of the Colorado Plateau. They were just getting tourism off the ground there, but the war has ended that for awhile.

4.  With so many great shots under your belt, are you still inspired to photograph new locations?

Well, I guess I partly answered that. It’s a big world. I don’t think too much about the body of work. I’m having too much fun in the now. For example, last week I shot a ruin that has just been discovered. On another day I went to some world class rock art panels unknown to me that are literally four miles by GPS from my house. I’ve lived here 37 years and I didn’t know about them. The world and this Colorado Plateau have so many secrets and photo opportunities. My kids are grown, I’m single, and at least until I have grandkids, my life is just one big photo funfest.

5. Have you ever ventured into other disciplines of photography, such as still life, portraiture, or weddings?

Easy answer, no, never.

Historic Cumberland Gap in the Fall, Pioneer Route through Kentucky, Virginia and Tennesse, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park,  Kentucky

6.  You seem to have embraced the Internet. Do you see a future in eBooks for your photography?

Yes, I’m trying to learn about eBooks and see if they can work for me. The main reason I’m really interested in this is that I hate taking an image from a computer screen in ProPhoto RGB with millions of colors and shrinking it down to a CMYK conversion on paper that can only hold 300. Also, some of the HDR work does not always transfer well to paper. I love books, but if there’s a way to make eBooks work, and I’m sure there is, I’ll be there.

Rainbow at Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast State Park, Island of Kauai, Hawaii   Kalalau Trail

Dunes & Totem Pole in Winter, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona, rare winter snows caught in dune patterns

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