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Lighthouse photos spotlight Tinley Park man’s photographic talents

Tom Gill Tinley Park shows some his lighthouse photographs Friday April 5 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Tom Gill, of Tinley Park, shows some of his lighthouse photographs Friday, April 5, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 17, 2013 6:02AM



Splashes of water were freezing into ice. It was 20 below zero.

But a determined Tinley Park man stood on a pier, clutching his camera and timing the waves just 150 feet away.

The winds were strong that day, howling in his ears as they gusted at more than 50 mph.

The shutter on his camera was set. Then the wave came, and everything blurred. Jeans drenched with frigid water clung to his legs, yet he didn’t leave. He stayed another half-hour in awe, attempting to capture the moment with his camera.

Such moments are why Thomas Gill, 45, started taking pictures. He would go on vacations and wish his brother John could see this or that. Snapping pictures was a way to capture the moment and share it.

Sure, he thought his pictures were decent. But Northern Indiana Lakes Magazine thought they were more than that and published them, and his efforts now are more widely known.

It started with, “Oh, we like that picture” and “We’re drooling over your lighthouse photos” to “Can we use this for the cover?” Gill said.

Though lighthouse photos are not uncommon, Gill was praised for shooting photos of icy lighthouses near St. Joseph, Mich., from unique angles.

His photos have even been published in The Australian, Melbourne and Victoria Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, The Daily Mail and other major newspapers and magazines, according to his Flickr page, which features several of his photos of lighthouses and rustic barns.

His work also has been exhibited locally. In 2011, he had a solo exhibit of his Illinois & Michigan Canal photography North Central College’s Oesterle Library. Gill is an instructional media coordinator at the college in Naperville.

Photographing lighthouses and the Indiana Dunes are among his favorites. The birds’ chirping, the wind’s whistling and even the buzzing of cicadas calm him. Most days, he’s the only person there, and the moment sticks with him beyond the photograph.

“When I look at these frozen ice lighthouses, I can remember what I was doing,” he said. “It’s like a trip down memory lane.”

As a Curie High School graduate who grew up with Chicago as his back yard — filled with its skyscrapers and railroad tracks — Gill has a love and appreciation for nature.

Still, while as a kid he went on family vacations, it wasn’t until he was in his 30s, married with children of his own that he visited the Dunes.

Now it’s a weekend routine for he and his wife, Kimberly, to take their three sons on trips.

Christopher, 13, the oldest, wants to be a photographer like his dad. He and Gill hike together or visit the lighthouses, shoot photos and compare images.

“Look what I got, Dad,” he’ll say.

Gill’s camera goes wherever he does. He’s always looking for that next picture.

“I always wanted to take pictures when I was a kid,” Gill said.

His father and uncle used to take photos of their vacations. Though they weren’t photographers, he sort of wanted to be just like them. He got his first camera for his Communion while he was in third grade.

“Sometimes I’ll just look around a room and go, ‘Oh, there’s a picture,’ ” he said.

As gratifying as he finds the recognition of his work, he’s never more pleased than when he gets the shot.

“It’s depressing to miss the moment,” he said.



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