Some people are born with creative talent.
Tom Till is one of those people.
He was a musician, playing guitar and keyboards, before becoming one of the most published landscape photographers in the United States.
He was pretty good too; he was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
And though he still loves music, photography “is definitely my calling,” he said.
The American Southwest led him to that calling.
He traveled west with a group of friends as a college student from Iowa. While visiting the Grand Canyon he and his friends hiked down to the canyon floor and watched the sunset.
“I’d never seen light like that before in the Midwest,” he said. “A storm was coming in and the light had a profound effect on me.”
A few days later Tom Till was in Moab and another sunset that took his breath away. He was hooked, and returned as often as he could.
“(Moab) wasn’t on anybody’s radar screens back then, the people in Grand Junction would think that it’s the end of the earth over here,” Tom Till laughed.
He moved to Moab in 1974.
Though he had toyed with photography in the past, it wasn’t until moving to Moab that he pursued it seriously. But it was a long process. There were no workshops or classes to take. He taught himself by studying the work of other landscape photographers. He worked as an English teacher at Grand County High School, developing his photography skills on the side.
“Every night after I finished grading my papers I would work on sending my imagery out to people,” Tom Till said. “I was terrible at first, absolutely awful.”
But he improved quickly.
By 1985 he had enough imagery and customers that he was able to leave his teaching job and dive into photography full time. Because he had built up his clientele and material base over his years teaching, Tom Till managed a smooth transition into professional photography.
“I actually have more demand than I had supply for images,” he said.
The business continued to grow and Tom Till, and his then wife and current business manager Marcy Till, were able to expand their operations.
“We ran the business out of the den of our house for a long time. Finally we got it together and built an office behind the house in addition to the Main Street gallery,” Marcy Till said.
Since then Tom Till’s success has only increased.
In addition to photographing landscapes in all of America’s 50 states, Tom Till has traveled to and photographed 102 different countries around the world. Earlier this year he shot photographs in Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
The inspiration for his subjects comes to him in different ways.
“I will get an idea in my head or something will trigger something,” Tom Till said.
For instance, one night he was watching the Science Channel and saw a special on an ice cave in Iceland. Soon after he bought a ticket to go and photograph it.
But for Tom Till, it is the American Southwest that most fascinates him and to which he most often turns his lens. Over the years that lens has changed from a 4×5 film camera to his current digital, 41-megapixel Nikon D800 E.
Many of Tom Till’s desert and mountain shots, along with some of his international photos, can be found in his gallery on Main Street.
“This is just a very small sampling of his work,” said Linda Vaughan, a salesperson at Tom Till Gallery. “We have a computer so customers can go in and look at all his stock photos. I believe he has over ten thousand stock photos.”
This year Tom Till has released something new; Magnetic Moab, a 2014 monthly calendar with photos of the Moab area. Though he has released Utah calendars before, this is his first that focuses exclusively on Moab. The calendar is available at a number of stores around town, including Till’s gallery.
And neither Tom nor Marcy Till see his love of the area diminishing any time soon.
“There are always discoveries. Always something new and fascinating,” said Tom Till. “It never gets tiresome.”
“I think that he just has a love particularly for the southwest landscape. He really gets a kick out of Mother Nature and all the gifts and surprises she has to offer, from the smallest detail to the grandest vista,” Marcy Till said.