Click here to hear our exclusive radio interview with Roy Toft during our show on KNSJ 89.1 FM: https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/sites/eastcountymagazine.org/files/au... . Scroll down to view his fabulous photos and read more.
By Mimi Pollack
May 28, 2015 (Ramona)--Many of us lead mundane lives, but not Roy Toft. This amiable Ramona wildlife photographer has had enough adventures for many lifetimes. His pictures have appeared in National Geographic, Audubon Magazines and Zoonooz, gaining him international acclaim.
Originally, his major was wildlife biology at Polytechnic State University, but a camera, a Canon AE1, given as a graduation gift by his father, changed the course of his life. Photography became his passion and his degree in biology came in handy.
A fledgling photographer needs to build up a reputation. So after he graduated, Toft came back to San Diego and began to work at the Wild Animal Park. During his college years, he had served there as a volunteer and it proved to be a good training ground. Toft managed the park’s bird show, which later took him to Hawaii.
At that time, he constantly took pictures and honed his craft. He began to sell these pictures to stock photo agencies, which he continues doing to this day.
In 1991, he met famous National Geographic photographer, Michael [Nick] Nichols, who had come to the Wild Animal Park to do a story on new zoos. Nichols took Toft under his wing and Toft worked as his assistant on this assignment.
This successful endeavor inspired him to quit his job at the Wild Animal Park and strike out on his own. He then went on an expedition to Borneo with his friend, Bill Toone of Ecolife, to document the trip.
As an up and coming photographer, he was lucky to have a very supportive wife with a successful career to help him support his dream. Roy and Robin Toft have been happily married for 25 years.
In 1993, Toft wrote to Nichols, asking for advice. Because their previous collaboration had been so successful, Nichols asked Toft to join him and work together on a global tiger story, which turned out to be one of the last epic pieces in the National Geographic magazine. They worked together from 1994 to 1996, travelling to India three times to document the plight of the tigers. This 30-page story came out in December 1997.
During this time in India, Toft did unique work setting up all the remote cameras, which at the time was a new concept. This enabled him to capture pictures of tigers that others had not done before. It also provided him with invaluable field experience.
At times, the work proved exhilaratng and also hazardous--such as when a tiger leaped onto the back of an elephant on which Toft was riding. Hear the harrowing details in our radio interview.
Since 2000, Toft has dedicated himself to working on passion projects, such as documenting toucans in Central and South America, the endemic animals of Cozumel, or pumas in Chile, to name a few. In 2007, he traveled to London to receive an award from the BBC at the Natural History Museum.
In addition, he has been guiding photographic tours to various parts of the world. Leading expeditions has been a good fit for him. First, he has always had a teaching bent and even went back to school to get his teaching credential. Second, he had already made many local connections from his previous expeditions. Third, he is a well-known published photographer. Finally, his easy going nature has made it easy to handle many different situations.
He started his own website to announce his trips and post pictures from previous trips. As of now, he offers six to eight trips a year. Each March, he goes to Africa, usually Botswana. In July, he travels to Brazil and in August he leads tours to Alaska. In December, he heads to Costa Rica. Toft leads his clients on photographic adventures that they will not soon forget.
Finally, when he is not traveling, Toft is content to stay at home with his two dogs, Tundra and Beau, on his 40 acres in Ramona, photographing the wildlife in his own back yard. His latest project has been setting up remote cameras and documenting a gray fox in her den and the playful antics of her five kits.
For more information or to see some of his stunning pictures, check out his website at www.toftphoto.com .
Mimi Pollack is an ESL teacher, animal lover, and a freelance writer.