For Andy Tomek of Shiner, it all started with trying to find something to do someday.
The 17-year-old started photography when he was only 14 years old. He credited his father, Bobby Tomek, who was also a photographer, his mentor and inspiration that ultimately led him to buy a camera.
“He’s had his own photography studio in Shiner for a long, long time,” Andy said. “He just had a little gear, and I just picked him up and started trying to figure things out.”
Taking a camera and playing with the plethora of lenses for the first time would lead him to the family backyard where he would experience nature photography. With a Nikon D3000 and a 70-300mm lens, various flowers, insects and sometimes deer would be the focus of his mounts, Andy said.
“I’ve always loved nature,” he says. “We have all kinds of things next to our house, and it’s just very quaint and relaxing.”
Initially, playing with a simple compact camera was the breadth of Andy’s photographic knowledge. He said the learning curve that came with transitioning to an advanced setup was gradual, but very natural.
“I slowly switched to modes that had less automatic settings until I started turning to manual only,” Andy said.
After a few years of learning the ropes and photographing nature, Andy said he has taken a big step forward in his profession as a photographer.
“In 2019 I started playing sports and that’s when things started to change,” he said. “So instead of just messing around doing it as a hobby, I took it more seriously and would say the pace picked up.”
Andy recalled his first sporting event that he photographed, which was a baseball game in Hallettsville. Eventually, Andy’s skills allowed him to land his first freelance job with the Victoria Advocate to photograph a football game between Shiner and Weimer in 2019.
Besides soccer, Andy said that soccer is another sport he is passionate about shooting. The most exciting part of being on the pitch is the unpredictability that comes with it, he said.
“Being able to predict these things is always like an adrenaline rush for me when doing football photography,” said Andy. “Get that picture that turns out to be perfect. “
Even though Andy is more focused on sports photography, with an arsenal of Nikon gear close at hand, he hasn’t forgotten his first love for nature photography and regularly goes out to photograph Mother Nature.
“To me, nature photography looks like the Aransas Wildlife Refuge and has a fun relaxing day that doesn’t have a specific schedule,” Andy said. “With sports it’s a lot quicker to plan, do things as you go and know what to do with them right away.”
Andy believes that photographing sport and nature comes with its own form of satisfaction. But seeing his sports photos printed in the paper is what gives him the most joy.
Between juggling being a photographer and having a job as a student worker, Andy is also a full-time student at UHV pursuing a degree in history.
“My mom and dad were both very passionate about journalism,” he said. “I grew up with an interest in history because of the way I was raised, and I just think it goes really well with photography and journalism.”
For Andy, good photography is about finding that precise moment.
“It’s kind of the highlight of what’s going on, whether it’s someone getting tackled in a football game or a bird with light that just hits it,” did he declare.
Duy Vu is a photojournalist for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach him at 361-574-1204.