31 Days of Photographers that Inspire: Day 21: Getting Bear Naked with Tony Dathan

Day 21: What do grizzly bears and glamorous women have in common?  They both have Tony Dathan.  

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I found today’s inspiration in a world of photography that I could have easily missed if my eyes hadn’t been wide open and I don’t want anyone else to miss what I found!


My friend Gina and I sat down at a breakfast table with a photographer who we could tell took his work very seriously.  But I had no idea that when he pulled out his iPad that my world was about to be rocked in the most unexpected way.

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Image by image Tony began to show us his close encounters with wild animals from his exotic adventures and life in Vancouver.  The images alone brought me to tears with their crisp beauty and dynamic colors, but what made my jaw drop and my head swirl was when he started explaining his secrets to getting the most gorgeous light and exposure I had ever seen. They were more like portraits than any nature images I had ever seen.  If I was the mother of these animals, I’d be proud to have these portraits hanging in my cave. The emotion he captures in their eyes makes me feel like I could reach out and hug these animals.

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His secret?  Women.  That’s right…Tony also shoots beautiful women with equally mind blowing perfection.  But what is the connection between grizzly bears and women and Tony’s camera?


Tony told us about his photographer hero, Julia Kuzmenko, a brilliant fashion photographer and retoucher.  Both he and Craig LaMere learned to refine their own styles from her incredible teachings.  Tony has studied her methods in depth as well as other genius artists and has mastered how to make women look flawless and applies his techniques to the wilderness.  How does he get that bear fur looking perfectly sharp and crisp?  Just check out his models’ eyelashes.  How about their perfectly exposed and colored fur and environments?  It’s all in the magic of the way he gets his models’ skin tones perfected.

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While he can’t pose his wild animals, he can certainly give them the same flattering light and color attention that he gives the women who are lucky enough to end up in front of his camera.

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Awesome Photoshop Tips from Tony

Tony is humble, inquisitive and generous with his knowledge and he shared a couple of his magic tricks with us that just may change my life.

If you want the women you shoot to be a tad taller, but still mathematically proportional?  Change the height in your image to 104%.  No more.  I failed every math class I have ever touched so don’t ask me about the science behind it, but I trust the man.


Do you want the crisp, brilliant colored, almost HDR look to wild moving animals that are impossible to keep still long enough to snap multiple exposures of?  Tony starts off in Lightroom and gets his exposures for the highlights looking fantastic.  Then he opens the image in Photoshop.  Then he goes back to Lightroom and sets his exposures on the same image for the mid tones.  He opens that image in Photoshop and layers it on top of the first image. Then he goes back to Lightroom and sets the image for the shadows.  He repeats this process as many times as needed to make sure he has a perfect exposure for every inch of the frame and then uses layer masks to erase the layers until they all blend together as one perfect image.  This was definitely one of those, “why didn’t I think of that?” tips that I’ll definitely be using immediately!


All I know for certain is that one of you MUST, MUST, MUST have a National Geographic Magazine connection that can get Tony’s work in their hands.  He’s too humble to realize he belongs there and I’m determined that within this beautiful world of networking someone will be able to help National Geographic find the man who can make a polar bear look glamorous.  They NEED him. (seriously, friends, pull out your connections for this artist!)

check out his 500px here. 

You can follow Bonnie and Gabriel at or visit my fine art/conceptual photography site at

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our 31 Days of Photographers that Inspire!  


  1. Pingback: 31 Days of Photographers that Inspire | fromthebirdcage

  2. I just shared your extraordinary blog post & photos on I want to travel more so I can take more nature shots and have more fuel for the fire to write about as well.

    Paulette Le Pore Motzko
    Writer & Photosgrapher

  3. Claudia Wrightson

    I’m in love with your site sweet Bonnie. What a pleasure to meet you!

    As far as tony, well, his work is uber fantastic! The consistency of brilliance is jaw dropping! I feel so blessed to have met him. I am sure we will some day be able to say…”I knew him before he sky rocketed!”

  4. Pingback: We don’t shoot weddings often…because they’re boring…except when they’re NOT. | fromthebirdcage

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