From mountains to the sea

Tomas Trinkl

Photographer to raise funds for local charities

Profile by Elizabeth Allen

When the moon is full and his family is in bed, Austrian-born Tom Trinkl grabs his camera and heads for the beach.

“I walk down to South Golden and take photos of whatever catches my eye,” Tom says.

“Coming from the mountains, I’ve had to find out how the ocean works for me.”

Tom, 53, was a first prize winner at the Ocean Shores Art Expo in 2019, the last time it was held.

Now, with the 17th expo being held online to avoid disruption by Covid, he will try his luck again with two entries in the photography section. 

Born in Hopfgarten in the Austrian alps, Tom had an early introduction to photography, helping in the studio of his father Alberto, a portrait and winter sports photographer.

“My older sister Andrea and I were in the dark room helping,” Tom says. “I began developing photos at 10 and when I was 12 my dad gave me his oldest Leica M4 to play around with.”

At 16 he undertook a three-year apprenticeship to his father, followed by enrolment at Vienna’s photographic school.

“In Austria you had to do a masters exam in your field of trade. Because I was working with chemicals, I had to be qualified.”

After graduating he worked in advertising in London but city life was not to his liking and he returned home to take over his father’s business.

There he met his future wife, Australian traveller Narelle, in 2002.

“We had been introduced by mutual friends and she brought her camera into the shop to be fixed,” Tom said. “Six months later we got together in Tuscany; that’s where we fell in love.”

They married and the births of Xavier, now 15, and Skye, 13, followed.  

“We came back to Australia and lived at New Brighton when Skye was a little baby,” Tom says. “My business in the Tyrol was being run by a manager. After two years, the mountain lifestyle called us back to Austria and we stayed until Xavier was 12 and ready to enrol in high school.”

On the family’s return to Australia, they rented a house at South Golden Beach and Tom landed a job through friends as a floor sander.

“I had never done it but I didn’t want to start a new photography business because I had run a business all my life,” he says.

“Sanding is physically hard but I thought maybe it was good to start in a new country from the floor up.”

“South Golden Life” by Tomas Trinkl

He now combines sanding work with freelance architectural, lifestyle and food photography in Byron Bay.

But it was his work for a garden lighting firm at Byron during his earlier time in the region, that inspired his passion for art photography.

“I got really interested in night photography,” Tom says. “At the same time, I met an artist, Ken Griffiths, through Narelle.  He became a mentor, encouraging me in night photography and abstract photography.

“I also became interested in pictorialism. It’s a photographic art direction, a painterly photography.”

Popular between about 1890 and 1925, the movement’s leaders included Olive Cotton and Max Dupain in Australia and Heinrich Kuhn in Austria.

“They wanted to bring photography in an artistic direction by using longer exposures to make it more painterly, and also using colour by mixing different chemicals,” Tom says.

“Pictorialism emphasizes the beauty of subject matter, tonality and composition rather the documentation of reality. The camera is a tool that, like the paintbrush and chisel, can be used to make an artistic statement.” 

However, he stresses he sees himself as a photographer rather than as an artist.  

“I take my photos anywhere,” says Tom, who uses a Canon 5D Mark IV. “I don’t try to do a specific shot that is beautiful. I might go to a train station, for example, and spend three to four hours there in that space. 

“Because I have the technical side of the photograph under control with my (camera) settings, the photo I take when I release the shutter…that is the creative act. 

“I don’t photoshop. I’m not sitting there for hours putting in something that was not there. That’s why I find it hard to call myself an artist. I start with some type of exposure; I might take pictures for half an hour; then I change the exposure to create a different feeling to the same scene. The focus is not in the foreground; it’s more the composition of the image.”

Timing and exposure are very important. 

‘As soon as you take longer exposures, you give the moment longer to unfold itself. I’m capturing the phase when one moment is unfolding into the next moment. If you take a 10 second exposure, these moments are all on the same image.”

He uses a tripod for fixed images such the moon but the camera is hand held when he pans along a wave to follow it to shore.  

“I like to capture movement,” he says. 

After living in the Austrian alps, life by the sea in Australia has presented new creative stimuli.

In 2019, he won a first prize in the Ocean Shores Art Expo with a photograph of his family at the beach, illustrating that year’s theme: “Celebrating a moment”.

“Reflect to see light” by Tomas Trinkl

This year’s theme is “Anything goes” — meaning the theme is open. 

Tom has volunteered to take photos free-of-charge for any entrants who are having difficulty photographing their art works for display online. (Providing photos of submitted art works is a condition of entry. Details of Tom’s availability can be found at

An avid listener of Bay FM 99.9, Tom also hopes to raise money for the community radio station, to help it buy new equipment, and for the Byron Community Centre, which supports homeless people. 

  • Both of Tom’s OSAE entries for 2021 will be available as a Limited Print Edition of two.
  • Each one of the four framed, signed A2 Hahnemuehle Photo Rag giclee prints will be offered to buyers in return for a $1250 donation to the not-for-profit organisations

Expo entries will close on September 1.