BRECKENRIDGE - Breckenridge resident Steve Tohari majored in psychology but decided he would rather snap pictures of wildlife and nature than record the wanderings of rats in a research lab.
Born and raised in London, England, Tohari spent a few years of his adulthood in Switzerland before immigrating to the United States. He owned a photo gallery in Bishop, Calif., (near Mammoth ski area) before moving to Colorado in 1983.
His passion for photography began in 1970 after he took two classes at the University of California, Berkeley. He learned through trial and error, then started his freelance career shooting colorful pictures for financial calendars.
One of the reasons his photographs stand out is his sharp focus on both the foreground and background.
"I make everything in my picture stand out, from two feet away to the mountain peak," Tohari said. "I use color to draw in the eye. I put everything in focus so people can look at the image and feel like they're standing in the picture - what it looks like in front of your feet and what it looks like in the distance. I get really low to the ground to get that effect."
Once he shoots the pictures, he spends hours in the darkroom perfecting them.
"I bring out everything that's in the negative and everything that I see when I take the picture," he said. "It's like a sheet of music. There's a hundred ways to perform music, and there's a hundred ways to develop a print. The negative is the score, the print is the performance."
Tohari spends 40 hours a week in the darkroom after he closes Colorado Scenics, the photo gallery he has owned in Breckenridge for 15 years. Every year, he prints 8,000 pictures, tossing half of them but ending up with about 150 prints to add to his portfolio. He has a few photographs that never seem to go out of style, such as Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and shots of Summit County, selling more than 2,000 copies of each so far. However, the photographs evolve throughout the years because each time Tohari prints them, he adjusts the color, density and contrast, altering them slightly.
"I like to look at the same thing in different ways," he said. "There's always a different take on something familiar. It's like a sense of wonder. To me, when I look at something, I look at it with a fresh eye. The true mark of a photographer is to be able to look at something that's been photographed before and make it look different. It's just like nature. Nature is different all of the time."
Tohari has published four books with his press, Shelties Press, named after his dogs, which he loves to hike with. His latest book, "Colorado and Favorite Places: Photographs by Steve Tohari," features a picture of Breckenridge on the cover and includes shots of Breckenridge, the Maroon Bells, Vail, Telluride, Steamboat, the San Juans, Monarch Ski Area and Lake Dillon. About 20 percent of the book showcases the beauty of Summit County, he said.
"The colors are really intense in this book," he said. "It's got some of the best color reproduction of any Colorado book I've ever seen."
The book is $28.95, and Tohari will be available to sign it from 4-7 p.m. Saturday at Weber's Bookstore in Breckenridge.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.