Tom Walker: Alaskan Wildlife Photographer & Sourdough Extraordinaire​

Posted Sep. 13th, 2019 by Daniel J. Cox

Meeting a Legend

I can’t recall the exact date I first met the legendary Tom Walker. It was somewhere around the mid 80’s when I gained my first professional photography permit for Denali National Park. Venturing to Alaska for the first time was an awe-inspiring event in itself but meeting Tom Walker put it on a whole different level.

Tom Walker,
Tom along the shores of Katmai National Park where we were photographing brown bears, Alaska.

I had spent the day working in the park, and as I recall, it was wet and soggy. The thought of cooking in my rented van was less than appealing, and so I ventured into the little village of Denali to find a warm meal. At that time Denali wasn’t the size it is today, and from what I can remember, the only place in town was a rustic little bar known as the Lynx Creek Pub.

Tom Walker
Tom Walker on St. Paul Island. Pribilof Islands, Alaska

Somewhere among the wooden benches and Paul Bunyan plaid tablecloths, I was introduced to the man I now call “Old Mentorous One.” Being a young photographer at the time, I was well aware of all my peers, guys and gals, I was competing with for the pages of magazines, books, calendars, and other publications around the world. I knew of Tom; he had no idea who I was.

Tom Walker
Tom has always been a trendsetter. Case in point, here he was photo bombing my buddy Roger Holcomb while we were trying to catch halibut. Tom was a photo bomber before photo bombing was even cool. Like I said, he’s a trendsetter.

Long-term Friendship

It’s been over 30 years since the day we first got acquainted. Since then we’ve spent many days in the field together—adventures that included snowy owls in Barrow, caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, polar bears on the shores of Hudson Bay, ptarmigan and Dall sheep along the Haul Road, humpback and killer whales in SE Alaska, and brown bears in Katmai and Kodiak. Over the past 10 years, we lost touch with each other, but I’ve never forgotten this wonderful man who mentored me on all things Alaska.

Tom Walker
Tom and I driving through the Brooks Range on the Dalton Highway. Alaska

Jack of All Trades in the Alaskan Bush

If you know anything about Tom Walker, you know he’s not just a world-class photographer and writer. Along with these skills he’s been a professional hunting guide and a commercial boat captain and bush pilot; he’s built several log homes by hand, writing at least one bestseller on the subject. Tom is the real deal, a genuine Alaskan Sourdough with numerous books on the subject of Alaska.

Tom Walker
Tom’s newest book Wild Shots is available on Amazon.

Wild Shots: A Photographer’s Life in Alaska

With that, I want to introduce you to his most recent book titled Wild Shots: A Photographer’s Life in Alaska. As described by the publisher,

“This new memoir by renowned wildlife photographer, author, and naturalist Tom Walker shares his adventures living in Alaska for more than five decades. Wild Shots blends natural history with stories about Walker’s wide-ranging forays into the wilderness to photograph animals–beginning as a clueless “cheechako” (newcomer), but ultimately becoming a seasoned old-timer revered by many. Vivid, clear prose beautifully captures the landscape both around his home just outside of Denali National Park and wilderness destinations across the state.

Following a loose chronology, Tom tracks his evolution as a novice wildlife watcher raised in the dusty hinterlands of Southern California to a more knowledgeable observer to homesteader and photographer to vocal conservationist. Collectively, the stories convey how, through all life’s travails, nature remains his source of inspiration, joy, and solace through visceral experience and his patient lens.

Get to know one of the industries most prolific photographers, Tom Walker and his new book Wild Shots.
Tom Walker in Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Congratulations Old Mentorous One. May the gods of nature and Mother Earth grant you the success with this book you so richly deserve. Mother Earth needs more people like Tom Walker.

You Can Find Tom Walker on Facebook

As sourdoughish as my old buddy Tom is, he has found his way to Facebook and you can follow his work there.

Add Your Voice!
There are 9 comments on this post…
  1. David CrossleyOn Mar. 3rd, 2022

    Just found your blog Dan researching the Olmpus 150-400.

    After sternly admonishing the owner of a station wagon parked a couple of feet from an exhausted rutting bull elks head in an off limits meadow in BNP,-i immediately felt embarrassed having rebuked the man in close proximity to about 15-20 other photographers.

    One voice in the crowd shouted out “good for you” and marched over and firmly shook my hand (red face immediately disappearing). That happened in 1990 and I’m proud to say Tom Walker and I have been good friends ever since.

    Appreciate you shining a deserving spotlight on Tom Dan, he is an extremely talented photographer, writer and mentor.

    David Crossley….

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 3rd, 2022

      Could not agree more David. Thanks for adding your voice.

  2. Eric M BeemanOn Oct. 11th, 2019

    A few days ago I was fortunate to attend one of Tom’s evening book signings at an intimate cafe/bookstore in Anchorage. I knew his recent book would be entertaining, as I was already reading it , but I really wanted to see some of his great photos and hear his commentary. Well… Just prior to leaving his home in Denali, a series of storm-related power outages had sent all his picked photos “somewhere out in the aether”, so now a photo-less photography presentation! For anyone else, this would have been a boat without a propellor, but with Tom Walker at the helm, we were treated to an evening of his insights, delivered in his thoughtful and inclusive style. Most interesting to me were his stories about past wildlife photographers, many of whom I’d admired their works over the years. Probably the best moment, though, was when asked about missed opportunities at pictures not taken, Tom paused a moment, smiled, and said “I’ve definitely taken better pictures in my mind than with my camera.”
    Anyhow, just wanted to share this and offer my appreciation for the book plug, and for all your work on the blog and equipment reviews.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 11th, 2019

      Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience of the evening with my good friend Tom Walker. He’s an amazing individual who I respect and admire greatly. So glad others are getting the chance to meet and know him. I appreciate you adding your voice here on the blog Eric.

  3. Bud RiceOn Oct. 8th, 2019

    Excellent review; spot on. Tom Walker is one genuine human being; his book is a must read for nature lovers.

  4. Thomas E HughesOn Oct. 4th, 2019

    I bought Tom’s book, and at the halfway point I have alredy concluded that it is an informative and entertaining book. In fact, it is a delightful read! Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Portrait of David and Shiela Glatz

    Dave GlatzOn Sep. 20th, 2019

    Sounds like quite a guy! Just ordered the book – will let you know what I think about it after I get through it!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 21st, 2019

      He is Dave. You’ll enjoy the read I’m sure. Thanks for your interest and support of a dear friend.

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