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The Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer

Author: Mimi Pollack
Created: 05 June, 2015
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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4 min read

Photo by Roy Tooft
Photo by Roy Tooft

Many of us lead mundane lives, but not Roy Toft. This amiable, 53 year old Ramona wildlife photographer has had enough adventures for many lifetimes! 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!

However, a fledgling photographer needs to build up a reputation, and after he graduated, Toft came back to San Diego and began to work at the Wild Animal Park. During his college years, he had worked there as a volunteer, so it was a good training ground. Toft managed the bird show which later took him to Hawaii.

During that time, he constantly took pictures and honed his craft. He began to sell these pictures to stock agencies which he continues to this day. His pictures have appeared in National Geographic and Audubon Magazines. His pictures have also been featured in Zoonooz.

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 Nichols asking for advice. Because their previous collaboration had been so successful, Nichols asked him 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 their time in India, Toft did unique work in that he set 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 before. It also provided him with invaluable field experience.

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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 known and 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. In March, he goes to Africa, usually Botswana. In July, he goes to Brazil and Alaska in August. In December, he goes to Costa Rica. He leads his clients on photographic adventures 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

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