Thomas Olson

Thomas Olson

I have been into photography since I was in school as a photographer for the school paper. I was not as strongly involved with B&W and after school I moved away from shooting while in the military. After the Military, I was working on a family and going to college majoring in Electrical Engineering.

Unfortunately being color blind and working with Electronics can be a serious yet explosive issue. While working as a service Technician, I was also regaining my love of photography. I am self taught and did model portfolios and promo work with local bands.

I found that there was no better feeling than taking the image from concept to capturing but then to print it was making the full circle with the craft. Though I needed a assistant to help with the color balance, the rental lab I used always had someone on duty to help with such things.

During the 80’s I was a Stringer for the Columbian Newspaper. I was assigned to shoot Mt St Helens as the eruptions began. I was up on the mountain for the duration of the event. I had the pleasure of interviewing Harry Truman, the owner of The Spirit Lake Lodge.

I would have been on the mountain May 18th except for my father had a heart attack the day before. From his hospital bedside I watched the eruption play out. The remains of the other photographer I was scheduled to be with was found in the burned out rubble of his car.

My career as a Professional has taken me very close to danger out in the world….you just do it and not think about it

On a whim, I went out to the Portland Raceway to enjoy some Drag Racing. I wanted to see if I could hold my own while shooting the speed shots. I ran into a friend that was caring for his car, he asked me to shoot some shots of his Bracket car for him. I told him that I would if he could get me a press pass to get out on the track, which he came back with in a short time. I did his shots and as the next driver came up to the line, the next driver also asked for photos of his car. The Idea $$$$ was very apparent and so having the press pass I started into a 2 year long passion with shooting racing.

I saw the opportunity to make some serious coin here. So working with my first camera (an Olympus OM-1) I worked with the fully manual camera and perfected my style. I found a 1 hour processing shop just off the track and ran the film over between races, when I saw the results I bought several more rolls of film. I took the prints back over to the track and went thru the pits with them. As I found the drivers, they wanted enlargements of the prints. Being able to do my own custom printing made it easy to do the job from start to finish. The look on the clients face when they saw the results set the hook.

I was picked up by National Dragster Magazine and went on the tour shooting some of the biggest names in Pro Drag racing. Was very fun and profitable. Unfortunately it was seasonal and then Portland banned Drag racing because of the noise.

My lady at the time found a add looking to hire a photographer for portrait work for a national company. I walked in and walked out with a career, after 30 years of shooting family portraits I have learned to work with the colors and developed some cheaters to help me. One of those was to write the name of the color gel on the holder, that way I know what it is and the correct effect I will get.

I have always said that I shoot people for a living; I do my landscapes as therapy after to deal with it.

Thomas Olson
Certified Professional Photographer


  1. Martin UnrueMartin Unrue01-13-2014

    A very nice story of your history and motivation behind your career!

  2. MimiMimi01-24-2014

    What a great life story–race cars to portraits! 😀 Thanks to your dad for keeping you from the Mt. St. Helens shoot; I hope he recovered well!

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