Kawartha Highlands Sunrise
Autumn At Smokey Hollow Falls
Interview with Tom Freda
EWW: I am curious to know what qualities of your work would others comment on first?
Tom: Usually the colour. I began as a colour photographer shooting 35mm Kodachrome and, in retrospect, I think over the years I developed an affinity for that vibrant look. Or, maybe it’s the other way around; I chose Kodachrome because I liked its colour. Either way, I do often get positive feedback about it.
I follow the ethos that if you’re going to be a colour landscape photographer, you have to recognize that color is just as important as other elements of a scene, such as light, line, form, shape, tone and so on.
EWW: What are your challenges in doing your work?
Tom: Being primarily an outdoor photographer, of course, I’d have to say the biggest challenge is the weather. I specialize in Canadian scenes, so it goes without saying that during at least a quarter of the year, I’m out shooting when most sensible people are either skiing or caccooned in their homes waiting for spring. With experience, I learned to dress properly, follow weather reports and understand and read the weather in real time.
Cameras aren’t particularly fond of the cold either. I take lots of spare batteries and have even resorted to wiring my camera to a warm battery in my pocket.
EWW: When doing a shoot, besides the weather, what are the challenges?
Tom: All of my landscape and seascape scenes have been done on a tripod, so there’s much more unpacking, set up, filtration, test shots, etc. That slower style tends to allow more contemplation about the entire image-making process. However, out in the wild, it also makes one more vulnerable to creatures that either aren’t particularly happy with me invading their space or are thrilled that I’m there as a potential meal. Grizzly bears and rattlesnakes, both of which I’ve encountered, are the bigger variety. But they’re amateurs compared to bloodthirsty mosquitos and ticks that are always present during the peak seasons of May through September. Again, dressing right and understanding the enemy is key.
EWW: You have several galleries such as landscapes, cities, people, etc. Do you have a favorite?
Tom: Tough question. I studied photography at two technical institutes that trained me to handle just about any photographic assignment. Over the years, I think I put all of that training to use doing everything from products & catalog, portraits, industry, travel, architecture, and of course, landscapes. Pinning down one favorite isn’t so easy. I truly enjoy them all. However, I do have a soft spot for the outdoors and traveling so, being at an age when I can now choose not to do assignment work, landscape photography has just naturally become my favorite.
I also enjoy infrared photography but haven’t yet found a market for its unique “otherworldly” look. I have an exhibition planned for that collection in 2019.
EWW: Excluding subject matter, are there themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?
Tom: I do tend to shoot early or late in the day a lot, so warm, contrasty light or fog and mist are frequent elements of my work. I’m also rather partial to leading lines and extreme depth of field. For the latter, I use a PC lens or focus-stacking.
As far as “style” goes; I guess I’m kind of old-school in my taste for traditional landscapes. I split my shooting between natural scenes and those, for lack of a proper term; “incorporate a human element without including a person.” For example; a beached fishing boat, a lighthouse, an old plow in a field, etc.
Because I carry a camera everywhere, I’ll photograph just about anything interesting I see when I’m out. Much of that diversity is reflected in my online photos, and for those, rather than following one particular formula, I like to mix it up a bit and surprise viewers of my work.
EWW: Do you think it is important for photographic artists to have their own website, in addition to another gallery they appear on?
Tom: If they’re just an enthusiastic and not trying to sell their work, not really. But if they want to make money from it, absolutely. Even if it’s basic and only has a small sampling of work, a bio and contact info, it can be a very valuable marketing tool.
I’ve had a photography website since 1992, back when many of my clients weren’t sure what a website was or even had an email address. It was more or less a novelty back then, but now, a website has proven to be as integral to any commercial enterprise as a business card and letterhead were in the pre-digital days.
EWW: What do you see, or have experienced, as the most effective way for you to market and promote you and your work?
Tom: When I first began promoting my photography, I did a lot of cold calling and promo card mailings. It may not be fashionable in the digital age, but I think emerging photographers can still benefit from a quick introductory phone call to a photo editor or art director, even if it merely opens the door to follow up by email.
Up until ten years or so ago, I also had several stock agencies representing me that provided a relatively stable income to compliment my assignment work. But when royalty-free took over and licensing fees plummeted, I began representing myself exclusively. Anyone without the wherewithal to sell their own work can still make a few bucks off the stock agencies, though.
A lot of new clients also land on my photo sharing pages through online searches. Of them, I’d say that Flickr produces a slightly higher amount of new clients – possibly because I’ve been using it for the longest time (12 years). Close behind would be 500px. For clients to find images through online searches, it’s integral to make sure uploads have extensive and accurate meta tags.
I’m new to Instagram. I can see its possibilities, but my personal preference for viewing photos is big with lots of detail, rather than on a tiny smartphone screen. Its audience is huge, so maybe over time, I’ll end up embracing it.
EWW: Do you use social media platforms to market and promote your work? If you do use social media platform seems, which one(s) work the best for you?
Tom: In addition to the photo sharing sites, I use Facebook and Twitter. After all, one can’t ignore the huge potential of having your work visible to millions of people. I’ve been with Facebook off and on since it began, Twitter for a little less. The Facebook groups and networking with other photographers are a nice bonus.
EWW: Just to wrap up this interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?
Tom: Well, I guess I should say that I owe my longevity in this business to having branched out part-time into other areas. Like any field, I believe it’s important to take a break now and then to help avoid creative blocks or burn-out. So far, that seems to work for me. Some other areas I’m involved with are website content management, technical writing, and volunteer activism.
But just in case an amazing photo opportunity comes up while doing that, a camera is always by my side!