Up Close & Personal: Q&A with Ryan Tonegawa

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Not only are we all about the image, but we’re finding that the wonderful staff at Vistek’s many Canadian locations are too. We’re excited to bring you the first of many features about just how about-the-image some of our staffers are. For example, Ryan Tonegawa has found an outlet for his many passions in combination with his already-vast photography knowhow. We got a chance to chat it up with Ryan and get some of his insights about gear, grinds and globetrotting.

Meet Ryan Tonegawa


How does your job at Vistek relate to your creativity outside of the office?

Working at Vistek has allowed me to tap into the vast amount of knowledge that is held amongst the staff.  We are continuously sharing thoughts and ideas. It’s like working in a symposium every day and it’s awesome!  We have creatives of all shapes and sizes here at Vistek and that certainly keeps the mind active and inspired.  Sure it may sound cheesy, but it’s the truth.  I have the privilege of working with some incredible artists.  The same could be said about our clients as well.  There is always someone with a technical question we haven’t heard before or a client with a new twist on an old technique.  Not to mention the great equipment we get to test out!  Everyday is a little different and I love it.

How long has photography been a passion?

I have been collecting images for as long as I can remember.  I was fortunate enough to travel a little bit with my grandparents when I was young. It must have started there since I always had some sort of camera with me.  We weren’t exactly globetrotters, but over quite a few summers we did a good job of visiting every nook and cranny from Toronto to the Florida Keys.  As we ventured through history at Museums, old forts and Tallship gatherings I would document all of the cool things that crossed our path, which was pretty much everything according to an 8yr old.   All of the new and amazing landscapes we travelled through were always fun to shoot as well!  That certainly sparked my interest early in the power of a picture.

Do you have a particular genre that’s your favourite to shoot?

Action sports.  Hands down.  Specifically, snowboarding and aggressive inline skating.  Hanging out with gnarly people doing gnarly things is always an exciting time!  But there is certainly something incredible about being given the privilege to document a person’s family.  When shooting weddings I’m immersed in a stranger’s friends and family.  By the end of the day I have a created bunch of new relationships and memories for a lifetime.  Regardless of the genres, I have met a slew of wonderful characters in the past few years, a great side effect of shooting for sure.


How did you get your start?

Endlessly reading “Daily Bread” magazine. It was an aggressive inline magazine out of California and for the longest time it was the aggressive inline magazine.  I started consuming and creating action sports photography early.  At the time skating was my passion and the images in Daily Bread were my inspiration.  The same could be said about Snowboarder Magazine as well.  I couldn’t wait for the Photo Issues every year.  Thanks to photographers like Beau Cottington, Andy WrightScott Serfas, Matt Andrews and many others, they exposed me to all kinds of shooting styles and creativity.  This started me down the path of planned, creative, intentional photography.  I had always thought of photography as a tool for documentation, but these guys definitely shifted the paradigm for me.  I was one of those strange kids who read the names to see who took the shot more than who was in it.

Ryan Tonegawa - Vistek MISS 11

As for shooting DSLR and wedding photography that started all around the same time. I had a friend who had access to special Canon prices.  I bought a simple little rebel xti for around $600 and spent night shifts alone with the internet, books and a camera. I spent my days off shooting anything and everything I could.

To be perfectly honest I booked my first wedding by accident. I was at a big party, enjoying some refreshments and boasted I could shoot a wedding, no problem!  I could do it for waaaay cheaper than the quote that was mentioned. (sorry for being that guy, but I’m sure a lot of us were at some point) Eight months later I found myself flying solo on my first wedding.  My experience to that point had consisted of second shooting once and reading some books by Mr. Scott Kelby.  Needless to say it was exciting, intense and terrifying. I was hooked.  What a rush!  I get to hang out with beautiful people on one of their happiest days and create permanent memories for them.  Similar as well, to a snowboarder dropping 30’ off a bridge there are no “re-dos” in wedding photography.  Oddly enough both genres lend themselves to each other very well.  You usually get one moment, one shot, and it had better count!

All that being said, I would say I am in the middle of getting my start. I’m learning constantly.  There is still tons of knowledge out there to acquire.

Ryan Tonegawa - Vistek MISS 3

What is your background/education?

I learned the basic pillars of photography from my family members; Shutter speed, film speed and aperture.  This knowledge was supported by a simple media course in high school.  I learned to keep my eyes open and use the camera as a tool to freeze moments in time; to forever wonder, experiment, test and execute.  Everything else has been learned in the school of hard knocks.

In a perfect world, how would you be paying the rent?

Travel photography.  Then I wouldn’t need rent either! haha… More specifically I would say action sports travel photography.  I have been very eager as well to try my hand at destination weddings as well. In theory anything that keeps me moving will keep me happy.

Ryan Tonegawa - Vistek MISS 2

What/who (where?) inspires you to shoot?

Absolutely everything.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t see an image somewhere on my daily journey. However trivial it may seem, there is almost always something that triggers the shutter so to speak.  Some of the most inspirational moments though have come from being a part of someone’s wedding day.  There are so many emotional moments, cute kids, gorgeous decorations, locales, fabrics, colours and textures.  How could one not be inspired in that type of environment. I think that is certainly part of the appeal of wedding shooting.  There is always something and it is almost always completely new or different from a previous wedding.

What has your greatest career accomplishment been to-date?

My greatest accomplishment would be the trust I’ve earned to shoot a couple’s wedding.  Two entire families trust me to capture their special day. Years of planning with potentially thousands of dollars on the line and I get to document the story.  And people keep asking me to do it! Oh and once I had 50 likes on an Instagram post.  All jokes aside, I am the worst at submitting and sharing my images.  I don’t submit to critiques, contests or shows very often.
A personal accomplishment I will mention though was shooting in the pit at Method Man’s last concert in Toronto.  He is a favorite entertainer of mine, a memory I will have for a long time.

Ryan Tonegawa - Vistek MISS 10

Can you share with us anything that you’re working on right now?

Right now is wedding season.  That is my sole focus for the next few weeks.  Shoot, cull, edit, shoot, cull,edit… that is the mantra for the rest of the summer.  My fiance and I are also planning our own wedding for next June so I’m all wrapped up in matrimony for the time being.  I would like to do a 365 project again, perhaps after the summer settles I will start one up again.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

At the rate at which technology is moving forward, I’m not sure I can even imagine what might be possible 10 years from now.  Perhaps we will just be blinking to capture an image and thinking to share it.  Now matter which direction things go I see myself somewhere in New Zealand with my wife celebrating our 10 year anniversary.  We will have to have a flourishing travel and lifestyle studio that pays the bills and allows us to do so.  Or, who knows … Maybe I’ll be doing travel blogs for Vistek!

If you want to learn more about Ryan or his work visit his website Fumio Photo or visit Vistek’s Mississauga Store location and see him in person!