We had the good fortune of connecting with Roy Toft and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roy, how do you think about risk?
Risk taking has played a huge role in my life and career. When one chooses a career in photography, especially wildlife photography, the hill to success is quite steep. There is no real established path that is easy to follow. I quit my day job working at a zoo in 1991 and started getting in the field full time to be a wildlife photographer. Traveling involves airfare, lodging, transportation, food…….and photography requires equipment and film (until 2004), all of which costs a considerable amount of money. An unknown photographer in those days needed to produce a sizable amount of images to get noticed and established at a stock agency to start making sales. This took me about five years to start making a return on investment and work! That’s a huge risk! But like so many things in life, that effort and risk has allowed me to live a dream of spending 6-8 months each year in the wild places of this glorious planet.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My actual career as a wildlife photographer has changed quite a bit over the years. The first 15 years was spending a lot of time in the field researching and photographing wildlife and selling those images through stock agencies. As the internet became established and digital photography took off, many of those revenue streams through magazine assignments and stock images really started to dry up. Around this transition time, I had started to lead clients to locations for the purpose of photographing the wildlife. This new phase of being a tour leader continued to grow over the years until now where most of my professional time is spent on leading photo tours around the world. As you can imagine this shift in the photo industry has caused many photographers to get into the tour business. This probably is my biggest challenge in continuing to fill my trips up every year……pure competition. I’m very fortunate to have a core group of clients and friends that continue to choose Toft Photo Safaris for their adventures into wild places around the globe. Clients on my trips can expect a well planned itinerary, reliable ground logistics, clean lodging, good food, exceptional wildlife experiences and photographic opportunities………and all at a reasonable price point. You might even enjoy me!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m not a city person. I love nature and wild places. So if I wanted to show someone a good time in my area, I would take them to the desert, or the mountains, or the beach. Living in southern California gives us to many natural places within easy reach for a day or a week adventure. Some of my local favorites are Joshua Tree, Anza Borrego, Yosemite, Laguna Mountains. A bit farther but still doable Zion, Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire and Death Valley. We would eat steaks and drink beer and whiskey! During the day we would hike, swim, mountain bike, jeep and generally just soak up the nature and beauty of our surroundings.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout people needs to start with my parents. They allowed a snake crazy boy to fill their garage with slithery creatures and stink up their backyard with rodent breeding facilities. They also always encouraged me to do things in life that made me happy. I had some wonderful teachers throughout my time in school including Mr. Bounds, Mr. Macintosh, Mr. Eric Johnson. Influential friends and colleagues at the zoo I worked at included Bill Toone, Sunni Black, Gary Price. My most important photographic mentor was Michael “Nick” Nicols who I assisted on two National Geographic Magazine articles. My ex-wife Robin Toft was hugely important for not only allowing me to be gone so much for my work but also keeping everything together at home.
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