Hello! Tom Schaefer here. Welcome to my small corner of the web. Since most people have difficulty spelling my adopted last name correctly, I created tommyshutter.com to provide an easy, fun way to remember the domain name. (My mother called me “Tommy“, even as an adult, as she was old-school Irish.) I cringe at this site’s very existence, but it is a necessary evil. You may have known me at miamitom.com as my primary domain, but it became too much of a location dependent name, and so it’s being retired.
Photographers constantly struggle with acceptance of their work, whether it will be “worthy-enough” to see the light of day, worthy of acceptance and approval by strangers who will judge our work to be shite. In spite of the internal struggle with such “imposter” feelings, I press on, and display my work here and in other forums such as Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. It’s my small contribution to the collective consciousness, and can only hope that you will enjoy my work. Comment on my photos, suggest better cropping or changes, tell me you love it or hate it, I press on undaunted by judgement, and enjoy the engagement.
Earliest Beginnings In Photography
A little history… I started fiddling around with an old box camera I found in a rummage sale or garage sale, or maybe someone gave it to me – when I was a sophomore in high school. Photography was not my first love, as family will tell you I was an avid electronics geek in an age right before the computer revolution. I stripped a lot of old TVs and radios for parts, and I was a regular Radio Shack customer, as well as mail order outlets across the country.
My life’s goal was to become a skilled electronics technician and have my own TV repair shop. I had a several incidental mentors from my high school era.
A couple of them worked in the emerging computer industry, one a mainframe field engineer and another a real punch-card programmer. The IBM Field Engineer passed down discarded broken circuit boards I would strip for parts for my own experiments.
One mentor was a sound engineer who could design electronic circuits in his head from memory, and then breadboard them and they always worked. He had a 1967 GTO like this one but because he was a paraplegic, he added additional hand controls for the gas and brakes making it kind of like a 4-wheeled motorcycle. I got to drive a couple of times and it was a blast! I love classic cars and you’ll find more than a few in my photos although cars were never my favorite aspect of photography, shooting them has been more of an opportunistic thing for me.
At barely 18, I wound up in the Navy after high school. It wasn’t about patriotism, it was about not having money for college. (No “thank you” is necessary) I needed a job and an education and the military was my option. It also provided me an escape from an abusive adopted father and emotionally troubled home life and religious oppression. I wound up at 19/20 years old on a nuclear submarine patrolling the coasts of Russia back during the Cold War.
Me and the Navy – not a good idea. I learned a lot of engineering as a mechanic, but the Navy’s huge amount of bullshit based upon policy and not good sense, treating enlisted people as cannon fodder – none of this appealed to me and I said goodbye to the Navy. I did make some life-long friends and got a few great photos from the journey.
After my illustrious adventure into the Navy, I wound up in Hollywood, CA on a lark with my twin brother and another buddy. There, I found work in an electronics store, selling TV parts and sound gear. They had all the big studios as accounts, and I got to meet a few celebs.
After only a few months in California I wound up finding out about my biological family, and headed back to the midwest to meet my roots. That’s an adventure in and of itself.
I wound up working in a camera store for a while and then wound up getting a job as an intern at a photography studio back in my original home town of Fenton, MO.
This was an amazing time for me, learning all aspects of studio photography, lighting, black and white dark room work. I got to use large, medium and small format cameras. (8×10 view camera on monopole, Hasselblad, Yashica medium format, 4×5 view camera, and various 35mm cameras like Nikon and Canon). I also found work in a photo lab doing what is known as “litho” work, making high contrast photos of architectural renderings and then developing what I shot.
I owned a Canon AE-1 in the Navy, and a small pocket camera, and bought a Nikon FE black after I got out. It was also during that time back in the midwest that I met the woman who became my wife. The little money I was making as an intern was never going to be enough to start a family, and I wound up going to tech school to get into the computer business. I had to put my photography on the back burner for a few years.
Less Than Recent
In the mid 80’s I wound up with my wife and kids in Arizona. I was still working IT and didn’t get much time to shoot, so I only have a few shots from back then.
Around 2000 I bought my first digital camera, a Toshiba that was capable of 640×480 photos – with a resolution of like 64k. It was interesting but the quality was just awful and a couple of years later I bought a Sony with a whopping 1.5mp capability. Don’t laugh – I actually sold a few prints from that camera!
I like Sony, and Nikon cameras. I’ve owned several Sonys, and I had a Nikon D90. The Nikon D90 served me well for a few years but ultimately went away, and now I have another Sony (a6000). The accelerated pace of technology has caused me to stop holding on to gear for very long, and has hampered my desire to buy too much because of its shorter life expectancy.
I pull the most I can from what I have. I have no quest for gear, or pixel peeping. I’m more interested in making the most out of what I have. I’m a minimalist. For me, the automation available provides me more opportunity to “get the shot” and get it well. I like the tool staying out of my way. A camera for me is a brush and canvas. The more it stays out of my way the better. I currently shoot Panasonic for video, as well as using my Sony for video.
I almost dropped the phone! But of course my answer was yes! They happily invested in my work and proudly displayed my work right off of the Miami Heat’s locker room in their vip lounge.
I actually sold a few prints and was amazed at the reception. I am naturally shy about my work, and never dreamed I would get such a moment, and am forever grateful for that moment!
I’ve also supplemented my photography work with my computer skills, and have built numerous websites, and have done custom graphics, logos and product photography for years for a number of clients in Miami, St. Louis, Nashville, California and now central Florida.
I especially like shooting musicians, while they are performing. It is for me, the moment when their pure creative energy is flowing. I also relate to them as artists, many of whom are totally unknown, but gifted nonetheless.
I also have experience in the technical world of multimedia platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and how all of it works, such that I consult with clients about how to use these platforms and setup their live streams. Let me know if this is something you need help with.
I have focused on doing as much videography now as I do photography, as both are equally as important in their own right – so feel free to contact me about any videography and/or photography you may need.
And thanks again for stopping by!