Story By Jenn Gidman
Images By TJ Drysdale
The Photopportunist by TJ Drysdale
TJ Drysdale uses the 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD and 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lenses for portraits close to home during the pandemic.
The Local Traveler
Fine-art photographer TJ Drysdale and his life and work partner, Victoria Yore, are accustomed to traveling around the world with camera gear in hand—they even have a travel blog with itinerary recommendations, packing lists, and additional tips and resources. But COVID-19 has thrown a yearlong wrench into their usual plans, and so TJ has spent the time in and around his home in Tampa, trying to keep the creative juices flowing. “It’s been an adjustment,” he says. “I even went through a patch where it was hard to get motivated at all.”
Since then, TJ has rediscovered his photographic drive, and his go-to lens during his at-home wanderings has been the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lens for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. The 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lens, also for Sony mirrorless, is the latest addition to his gear bag. “The 28-75mm is the perfect landscape lens, as it offers me a closer perspective when I need it,” he says. “Meanwhile, this was supposed to be my year to travel with the 17-28, which offers me a wider perspective when I’m out and about. The traveling got knocked out of the equation, but I’ve still been enjoying experimenting with this lens to see what I can create with it.”
On one day when they were stuck at home, TJ and Victoria let their imaginations transport them to the olden days, using a spare room in the house to re-create a time before electricity. “This set of photos was a lot of fun,” he says. “I even helped curl Victoria’s hair for the first time. To create our set, we pulled some furniture in from around the house, and also went to Goodwill to buy some props. I had another light source I’d planned on using, and I did take some shots with it, but ultimately I preferred just the light from the candles and the way it fell on Victoria. It helped bring out the mood I was going for. The 28-75 was the ideal lens for this situation, giving me the perspective I wanted.”
Although TJ usually has Victoria as his main model, he occasionally recruits others to pose in front of his camera. “For this outdoor photo in the woods, I had a theme in mind of a woman in solitude, reading a book in gorgeous golden light,” he says. “I grabbed the same chair I’d had Victoria sit in for the previous photo; it was one of those bargains I’d found at Goodwill, and I figured its woodsy look would work well. The photo came out pretty much as I’d envisioned it.”
About 40 minutes away from Tampa, in Dade City, is the Pioneer Florida Museum, a simulated village that includes a main house, a one-room schoolhouse, and a church, all designed to show the lifestyle of the state’s early pioneers and their everyday experiences, including churning butter, weaving, and cooking over a wood-burning stove. “We have a solid relationship with the people who work there, so they let us go beyond the usual barriers and use the location as a set,” TJ says. “Victoria’s attire was provided via a partnership with two companies we work with.”
The photo of Victoria at the piano was taken in the on-site Methodist church, originally built in the 1870s and reconstructed in 1903. “That piano is located on one of the church’s altars,” TJ notes. “You can’t see it in the frame, but there’s a window on the left, so the light is coming in at an interesting diagonal angle, so that Victoria is nicely lit on both sides.”
There was a bit of a logistical challenge while photographing Victoria in the old-time kitchen. “The museum has a motion sensor light, which we couldn’t disable, so we had to be relatively still while taking those pictures,” he says. “The light coming in from the window was beautiful, natural light, but if one of us moved too much, the motion sensor would trigger a bright fluorescent light that ruined the shot.”
The next two photos were taken at Beer Can Island, a remote area at the northern end of Longboat Key, off of Sarasota. “I hadn’t shot in this location in about four years, but because we’ve been keeping things local, I figured it was time for a revisit,” TJ says. “It’s secluded. You have to hike through mangroves to get there, but it’s worth the hike. The beach is filled with all of this dramatic-looking driftwood, which makes for great photos, especially around sunset. And the water is so blue—I didn’t have to do much editing to get the photo with the wave to look like this. By the way, right after I took that photo, Victoria got walloped by a wave.”
For his final image, TJ created a composite using the 17-28mm wide-angle lens. He first photographed Victoria in a field not far from their home, then merged that with a background he’d captured on a trip last year to the Italy countryside, before the pandemic hit. “When I created this image, I was missing our travels very much,” he says. “I wanted to put something together that would make me feel like we were traveling again. When I posted this photo, I made sure to emphasize to people that this was a composite, and that Victoria and I weren’t really traveling again! It was just a fun photo to create, and it made me feel better.”
To see more of TJ Drysdale’s work, visit his website here.