Roy Toft - My approach is what got him out of the water!

As I approached the water hole, we have WET footprints coming out of the water hole. It’s 120-degrees, you know… blow dryer to your face. Wet footprints don’t last long! My approach is what got him out of the water… (see video for full story)

BACKGROUND

I was working at the Wild Animal Park here in San Diego. I spent seven years doing educational bird shows. Any chance I got a break, I’d be running around the zoo with my camera trying to make images that were compelling and interesting, even though they were captive animals.

A biologist who worked in the Wild Animal Park was going on expedition in Borneo. He asked for me to come along on the expedition. And that was the impetus for me to say, “I have to quit this 9-5 and give it a shot.”

AFFECT ON FAMILY

You’ve really got to appreciate those people in your life who will let you do your passion. My parents weren’t into wildlife when I was a kid...

[More recently] My mom was getting sick… She’s been kind of housebound for the last couple of years. I wanted to give her something to get excited about.

I put up a barn owl box at her house. With a video camera. Three days after I put the box up, she had the first owl in there. She started journaling. It wasn’t just watching the owls. She would document EVERYTHING the owls did. Nine days after that first owl showed up, it got a mate. And two weeks after that, they’re laying eggs.

It just gives us something to bond us. We can talk about something. And it’s getting harder to talk to her.

PASSION FOR THE OSA PENINSULA

It pretty quickly turned into an obsession. I stopped going everywhere else in Costa Rica, and I’d just go straight to the Osa. About 10 years ago, I was approached by some people in the Osa who said, “Man, you’ve been coming down here so long, and doing such good work, why don’t you do a book?”

Six years later, I came out with the Osa book. It’s something I’m really proud of. But more important than me being proud of it, the people who have lived in the Osa their whole life are proud of it.

TURNING POINT

It was the mid-90’s. 

I wrote Nick Nichols a letter two years after I had assisted him on a "New Zoos" story for National Geographic while I was working at the Wild Animal Park. 

It just happened that I was at the right place at the right time, because he had just proposed to Nat Geo to do a wild tigers story. (see video at the top for full story)

Nick’s drive is legendary. 4am everyday until it’s dark. Seven days a week. This is how it’s done. 

ADVICE

Find something in your backyard that you can really spend quality time with. Get in depth imagery. Anything where you can get volume, and all aspects of that animal or habitat... That’s a story!

Please leave a comment for Roy below. Experience more of Roy's work at ToftPhoto.com or learn directly from Roy in Botswana via his newly released course HERE on ALIVE Photo.

Watch the complete interview in the video at the top.