For the third time in his more than 20-year history in Breckenridge, photographer Steve Tohari has moved the location of his gallery, Colorado Scenes, this time setting up shop on the south end of Main Street on the second level of the Four Seasons Plaza.
Hundreds of prints fill bins in Tohari’s new location, while popular photographs are framed on the walls, showing snowy Breckenridge lit up at night, golden Aspen trees along a winding path and summer wildflowers in front of a towering mountain.
Tohari only took two photography classes in college in California, but said he started freelancing after graduation and eventually made it his full-time job.
“Over the years I’ve sold thousands of pictures to people from all over,” he said.
He estimates in the more than two decades in business, he has sold about $4.5 million in photos.
Tohari specializes in Colorado scenery, and prints every photo himself. Even reprints of old favorites always turn out looking a little different every time, he said. He still uses a film camera.
“I organize my pictures in such a way that the eye sees it as a put-together, total image,” he said. “That’s not something you can really teach people.”
Presentation is important to him as well, and since he is such an outdoors person — loving skiing in the winter and hikes in the summer — scenic landscapes really appeal to his eye.
“If you can’t see the same thing again and again, but see something different, you’re not a photographer,” he said. “I try to present Colorado the way I see it.”
His two Shetland sheep dogs come along on every shoot, exploring mountains, lakes and fields across the state. To get some of the vantage points in his photos, Tohari gets into a “dog’s eye view,” lying down on the ground and getting dirty to get a picture with a flower right up front.
Tohari takes most of his photos in the fall, a short time frame when the colors are warm. In summer, he really only has about two months of time when flowers are in bloom, and in the winter, he must wait for a storm to drop snow on the trees. For his glowing night shots, Tohari must wait until there is a full moon with no clouds in the sky around midnight.
“We have one of the most beautiful ski areas in the county,” he said. “It photographs better than anything I’ve seen and I’ve been all over — nothing photographs like Breckenridge.”
For Tohari, moving locations was about saving on rent money in a constantly shifting economic climate.
“It’s a tough business,” he said. “The economy has a lot to do with it, the weather too. Seven days a week running retail business in a resort is not easy.”
Tohari has also published photo books through his own Shelties Press, named after his dogs.
“Composition is so important,” he said. “When a painter sketches a scene, they can make the right lines, but photographers, we can’t sketch the lines, we have to find them.”
Tohari said he is looking forward to seeing what changes his new location will bring, if any. For him, sticking to his “old-school” methods is how he’s seen success and survived over the years.
“It’s all about putting things together in one big picture,” he said. “It’s about the way the eye is attracted to something, like a bear is attracted to honey.”
“It’s all about putting things together in one big picture. It’s about the way the eye is attracted to something, like a bear is attracted to honey.”
Owner of Colorado Scenes, photographer