Tom photographing the South Korean seascape from atop Geumsan Mountain at a Buddhist Temple known as Boriam Hermitage. (Photo Credit - Kathryn Burns Oliver, 2018)

Tom photographing the South Korean seascape from atop Geumsan Mountain at a Buddhist Temple known as Boriam Hermitage. (Photo Credit - Kathryn Burns Oliver, 2018)

Thomas Oliver

Since I was a child, nature, wildlife and the outdoors have always been my deepest passion - the intrinsic force which drives me. I was introduced to the out-of-doors through my family’s activities, including hunting, fishing, land management, and camping. Those activities led me to pursue a wide array of outdoor recreations, including hiking, backpacking, rock-climbing, canoeing and kayaking, and birding. All of these interests finally led me to study wildlife ecology and then into a career as a wildlife biologist. I just happened to be a wildlife biologist who decided to pick up a camera to learn more about the creatures in which I was so interested. So, it was not photography that lured me outdoors; rather, it was the outdoors which guided me to photography. As my career shifted to education and the opportunity to travel presented itself to me, I quickly realized that I needed a means to stay connected to the natural world and, coincidentally, much of what had always intrigued me about wildlife could also be seen in the unique human habitats I was encountering in my new adventures. This background formed my approach to photography and embodies what I try to show in my pictures.

From my viewpoint, the technical aspects of outdoor and travel photography, while definitely important, remains a minor aspect of the genre. Instead, successful outdoor and travel photography is almost entirely about the experience. With this in mind, I am constantly trying to improve my skills as a photographer not just by practicing photographic technique but also by becoming a better naturalist, geographer, historian, ecologist, educator, and traveler. My approach to photography is to spend time afield; camera in hand; searching, sitting, observing, learning - essentially, I hunt for my photos. I have discovered that many of the hunting skills I learned from my father, and honed during my latter adolescent and young-adult years, definitely apply to how I approach photography.

My greatest fascination is trying to understand the natural and human-made ecosystems that surround us and how the many cogs of this complex machinery interact and work together. Ecosystems are not just a collection of multi-species communities and the individuals of which they are composed. Ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent webs of living and non-living things. Understanding this, I try to show in my photography not only simple portraits of individual animals but also dynamic scenes that tell a story -  how species (including humans) interact among themselves, with other species, and with the environment. I want to provide an honest depiction of life - with the struggles, the successes, the lives and (sometimes) the deaths. To tell the real life stories of individuals while never losing sight of the fact that they are (and we are) part of something much, much, much bigger.

The primary objective of my photography is for the viewers to come away with a greater respect toward, appreciation for, and knowledge of the world in which we exist and the challenges and beauty that is always part of survival. Then through that, hopefully, inspire them to learn about the diverse and amazing world that surrounds us.