As chief photographer at Highlife for the past 18 years, Tony Sheffield’s images are integral, from the cover photography to the houses, gardens and people on every page. When he’s not on a shoot for the magazine, Tony can be found capturing the natural beauty of the area, which he turns into fine art prints in film and digital mediums.

For his first solo exhibition in 11 years, entitled Land and Sky, at Sturt Gallery in Mittagong, Tony will present 30 of his landscape and botanical images taken in and around the Highlands. Land and Sky will run until February 9

How did you get your start in photography?

My father was a huge influence. He was a serving British Army officer and in the 1960s we were stationed in Malaya for two years before moving to Singapore. My siblings and I enjoyed many trips around the Malay Peninsula, which was recorded by my father as Kodachrome slides on his ‘Minolta Hi Matic 9’ 35mm camera. I was attracted by the technicalities of the camera and the discipline involved with capturing a perfectly exposed photograph.

In your work for Highlife, you shoot everything from people and houses to gardens, interiors, landscapes and horses. What is your favourite subject to photograph?

Before I arrived in Sydney as a migrant 20 years ago, I was well established in the UK as an architectural photographer, specialising in country homes and interiors. This is my ultimate love in the work I do, taking me to different locations every day and meeting amazing owners. I grew up close to horses and even lived above the regimental stables in the Victorian built Knightsbridge Barracks, so horse portrait photography is another passion.

What do you like about living in the Highlands?

As a photographer, the main attraction is the change of seasons. We are lucky enough to enjoy all four of them here and apart from that it’s the people within this rewarding community. Sometimes I feel living, working and raising a family here with its array of amazing schools is a utopian existence and yet it’s so close to Sydney if I ever need that kind of buzz. 

What do you enjoy about photographing the area?

My work carries immense responsibility. As an ambassador of the Southern Highlands, not only at a local level but regionally and around the world, Highlife magazine has become the window to look into for a real-life taste of what living in country Australia can be like (if you don’t want to rough it!).

What is your favourite book?

The Darkroom Cookbook by Steve Anchell. It’s my darkroom bible, containing more than 200 rarely known formulas to really bring out the chemist in any photographer; to create amazing works with the wet process. 

Who inspires you?

I’m constantly inspired by the world around me, and the people I meet in the course of my work. I’m inspired by anyone who displays enthusiasm for their subject and anyone willing to listen to other people. In terms of names, here are three: Ansel Adams (1902-1984). He was the master photographer and printer of the photographic landscape. My dear friend Miriam Margolyes. She is an inspiration to us all on life, theatre and the English language. Finally, David Smith, previous owner of Highlife magazine, for his strong leadership, guidance and resolute focus in this competitive industry, who gave me my first photographic assignment with Highlife in 2001.