TylersJourney: On A Journey Of Roof-topping And Night Cityscapes

TylersJourney: On A Journey Of Roof-topping And Night Cityscapes

Strategic releases of multiple seasons and scenes of burn-to-redeem NFTs help him build a collector community

By Pam Voth

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TylersJourney leveraged his early entry into photography NFTs to build strong personal relationships with big collectors in the space. As someone who benefited from the early gamified crypto space, he decided to gamify his latest open & burn-to-redeem editions to allow him to expand his collector base to people around the world excited to see how the story of his night cityscapes and rooftopping scenes unfold. We caught up to him in Istanbul, Turkey.

Visit TylersJourney’s series Transit Chronicles on Sloika https://sloika.xyz/tylersjourney.eth/transit-chronicles

Pam Voth: Welcome to One of One from Sloika, the curated NFT photography marketplace. Today I'm talking with TylersJourney, an award-winning photographer featured by National Geographic. He's based in downtown Toronto where he's a visual storyteller and timelapse cinematographer specializing in vibrant and intimate night photography, cityscapes, and street photography. Welcome, Tyler, and thanks for being here.

TylersJourney: Awesome. So happy to be here with you. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me.


Yeah, for sure. And as I was noticing, you're not necessarily in Toronto right now. Right? Where are you?

I'm in Istanbul, Turkey right now. I've been here for about a week. I'm currently traveling right now for my photography.

PV: Awesome. How's the jetlag?

It's getting better. I'm over it now after about a week. I'll be traveling for the next year for photography, hopefully creating collections everywhere I go. So that's why I'm in Istanbul at the moment.

That's awesome. What a great place to be based. I’ve met so many photographers from Turkey, They are some of the most creative visual creators. Have you run into any photographers on your journey so far?

Yeah, I was here last year for I think a period of six or seven months last year. I met Rizacan Kumas, who's a really famous documentary photographer from Turkey. I think everyone knows him. I really look up to him. So meeting him was really, really nice.

I've met a lot of amazing Turkish photographers. They're all really welcoming.

That's great. Yeah, I'm familiar with his work. And yeah, he's one of the tops in the space, isn't he?

I see from your work that you seem to thrive in an urban environment. I really love all the bright lights and high places that you capture. How did you get started doing that kind of photography?

I would say the main thing is moving to Toronto, of course, being in a big city surrounded by just amazing architecture, bright lights, and things like that.

I first moved to Toronto about 10 years ago. That is what ignited my passion for shooting architecture and night city lights.

Before this, I was shooting landscape photography and nature because that’s what I was surrounded by. I grew up in nature. I was shooting some cities during my travels. But mostly it was a lot of landscape. So coming to Toronto was kind of what really ignited my passion for night photography.

That plus film. I love films, like Blade Runner.


You really seem to thrive in some of the worst weather I've ever seen being photographed. I was wondering if you have any special equipment that helps you get that really tack-sharp image in snowfall and rain, and even the dead of night.

I like to immerse myself in the environment and not be afraid of it in any way. And I think that's what allows you to get those really, really good photographs. So I have a completely clear like plastic bag, it's called Optech. It's just a really cheap little Optech rain cover that cost about $10. I use them everywhere to protect my gear just a little bit. I use Sony so they're decent in the weather, but I want to keep it protected. So I don't think about it.

I cover it up in that way. I never use an umbrella. I have like a raincoat with a hood over my head. And that's it. It's just me and the environment and my camera. And I think that allows me to really immerse myself. I have a lens hood over my camera, of course, to try to avoid as much raindrops on the lens as possible. I have several microfiber cloths.

I have a lens blower to blow the raindrops off of the lens. I use that in combination with a microfiber cloth in between each shot to get the water and snow off my lens to get a sharp photograph.

And then another important thing I'm gonna mention comes down to style. I like to shoot my images at F2 or F 2.8 to maintain sharpness from the front to the back of my scene.

Because as you know, Pam, if you look at my photography, I like to maintain the detail of the architecture, because those details are as important to the photograph as the moment a person walks through the scene for my street photography.

Make sure you're shooting at about one 1/25 of a second usually at the lowest if your subject isn't moving that fast. And then having a really good camera like a Sony will benefit you in low light to not have as noisy of an image.

I've been shooting with a Sony A7 since 2017 when it came out. I still use it to this day. I never upgraded once. It’s still perfect for me at this moment. I could upgrade if I wanted to. I don't need to. I treat my camera like my baby. It's creating the same photos that were created in 2017. So I'm just gonna keep using it till maybe it breaks or something really, really amazing comes out.

Well, if you find something that works, I think you should just stick with it. And that camera seems to do really well in low light and high ISOs.

nft (3).jpg

I would say my ISO is around 800 up to 3200. And I don't really have to shoot in any other extremes because I try to put my subjects under bright lights. And Sony handles that really well.

I didn't hear you say anything about a tripod. This is all handheld, right?

Yes, so mainly I was speaking about my street photography. But if we're talking about cityscape photography at night, yes, I would use the heaviest tripod possible. Whenever I'm shooting a cityscape if it's very windy, I also like to sit the nose of my camera onto a ledge even with my tripod. When I'm on a rooftop or something just to get my camera's still as physically possible and as low to the ground as I can. I guess that'd be kind of my trick for cityscapes.

Magic is coming out.

Little tricks of the trade. Yeah, right.

So speaking of getting up on the rooftops, how do you go about deciding when and where you're going to shoot? Are you scouting during the day? Do you have some locations a theme in mind? You've got a theme for example, with the work you have on Sloika with the buses in Toronto. How do you go about deciding when and where you're going to shoot?

Yeah, themes are really fun. If we were speaking about roof-topping, I think that was very spontaneous.

I spent two or three years I was really addicted to roof-topping. I captured a really large body of my work from roof topping. It was very spontaneous. I would go out with one person and myself. And it'd be very spontaneous.

We'd start in the afternoon while it was still daylight and look for buildings that looked interesting and had interesting perspectives of the city.

This wasn't something that happened overnight. A lot of these images were created over like two or three-year period. People might be thinking oh, he just captured this in the last week or something. But no, it took me years to really put together this body of work. It was a lot of, I would say backbreaking effort and amount of time to create some of these projects.

It was really fun, and exciting. And it could be stressful at times because it's not all completely legal what I was doing at that time. But I loved it. I loved every moment of it.


Do you have any special rooftop stories you can share?

TJ: I'll share a fun one for everyone. I may as well. It's been quite a few years since I've done this now. But if anyone's roof topped, before, the top of the skyscrapers, there was a mechanical room and then a rooftop.

And the mechanical rooms are extremely noisy, you can't hear anything. It's just loud sounds of machinery and elevator rooms and stuff. And I walked into the mechanics' room. And the security staff were sitting there having their lunch. They didn't see me. It was dark with a little dim light in this area. And they sat there with their lunch at a table.

So I walked by them, in a corridor next to them. With the hum of machines, you can't hear anything. I walked right by and went up the ladder hatch and straight out the roof and closed it without anyone knowing I was there. Then I went out and took photos. And they just continued having their lunch. No one knew I was there. It was nerve-racking. But you got to do what you got to do to get the photograph. Sometimes.

I like to think I'm not harming anything. I'm just going to take a photograph. I'm not there to bother anyone. I'm just there to create a beautiful image that hopefully others can be inspired by. So I like to think I'm not doing anything wrong in that sense.

PV: Sounds harmless.

I think photography is pretty harmless. Yes.

That's great. I love it. I can almost see that scene in a movie, you know? The tiptoeing behind the guys having lunch. This must have been before closed circuit cameras and stuff where they can see who's coming at every angle. But that must have been really heart-pounding.

Yeah, in the majority of buildings, there are cameras in the elevators and lobbies. But once you get to a stairwell, and after that point, there's usually nothing.

I want to tell our listeners don't try this at home.

Yes, it's usually more than frowned upon, let's say.

Yeah. Did you ever get into any serious trouble for roof-topping?


No, never been in serious trouble. But I have had run-ins with security. But I've always been let go with small tickets. Just trespassing tickets. But never any serious run-ins. Luckily, in Canada or at least Toronto, for the most part, they're pretty nice to me. I think they understood what I was doing.

So far, so good. Well, you gotta have some kind of badge of honor. Right? So before we go on, I wanted to hear about how you got into NFTs. But first, about your handle Tyler's journey. Is there any story behind that you'd like to share? It's a cool name. And it sort of makes me wonder where it came from.

So I actually started on Instagram, I guess like 2011 or 2012, right when it came out. And then I renamed my Instagram account. My Instagram account was named something else that I honestly don't remember at this point. TylersJourney came about from my big move.

I lived in Los Angeles, California for two years before Toronto. It was my first move out of my small city. I grew up in Thunder Bay, a small town in Ontario, Canada. And I think I changed my handle to TylersJourney right around that time because it was my first big adventure out of this small town. It just kind of came to me I guess, just one of those things.

With all the traveling you're doing now, I think it fits perfectly.

So how did you make the transition into NFTs? Was there anyone that helped you along the way?

Yeah, well, actually, I first learned about NFTs through Noealz. He's a street photographer from South Korea. He was making YouTube videos really, really early on about NFTs, before many people were minting NFTs. And that's what initially piqued my interest in NFTs. Because I used to love collecting things as a child, like Pokemon cards, stamps, coins, literally anything I could collect, I would. And then over time, you don't have these things anymore, you know? You start moving around, and you have no place to keep them. Now I'm traveling so much. And it just made sense. In our new digital world, we can collect art and things like this and bring it with us everywhere and share it with other people.

Whereas if you're collecting paintings and you don't have a home, what do you do with it? It's gone, it disappears.

So I thought NFTs were the future. So I kind of just buckled down full-time on NFTs. I tell a really fun story about so I had no means or no money to mint NFTs. I knew it cost money. I knew it cost crypto and yet I knew nothing about crypto.

Then, I found a random game exactly like PokemonGo. It was a game for your phone called coin hunt world or something. And it allowed you to earn Ethereum and Bitcoin in this game. So I was just walking around playing it.

This isn't an advertisement for the game, by the way. This is a random story. So I played this game for like three months straight to get money to mint my photos. At that time. It was like during the pandemic had no money to mint photos. I finally got enough money to mint these photos. And this was back when on Foundation it was like $200 to mint an NFT. It was crazy. So I think I earned like $600 in Ethereum and Bitcoin. And I transferred it all to Ethereum and was able to pay my gas fees to mint my work on OpenSea. And that's kind of that's kind of like how I started.

And I think the person that helped me the most is Teexels. I'd love to give Teexels a shout out. He's on the team for Punk6529 memes. He does everything for the meme cards. He was actually the one to give me my first Foundation invite when that was a really rare thing. He knew me for 24 hours. In only that 24 hours of knowing me, he gave me a Foundation invite after he saw my photography. And he's like, “This is amazing.” He said some sort of power told him to give me this invite. So he gave me a Foundation, invite. And I started minting almost right away on Foundation.He got me kick-started. And we've been best friends ever since. And we talk every day. I probably talked to him an hour ago.


PV: That's so great. I remember back to those days when everyone was vying for those Foundation invites. It was it was a precious commodity, wasn't it? That's really cool. That's a great story.

It was very rare to get. It was very tough back then. I don't know if a lot of people remember now how hard it was to get on Foundation back then. Anyone on Foundation had to sell an NFT in order to get an invite. And then once you sell an NFT you have one invite to give to someone else. Then it continued from there.

Everyone thought that was where you had to be to sell your work. But as you've shown, you've got hundreds of collectors out there.

One thing I always hear from photographers is the cool thing about being in NFTs is you can make those personal connections with collectors. I was just curious if there have been any really special collectors that stood out to you along the way?

I guess I'm just gonna go with the top one on top of my head. Because it's fresh. I would say a Streelion is one of my pretty early collectors. He's collected numerous amounts of my work, but it was beyond that. He's actually a surgeon as well.

I haven't told much of my health story in this interview yet, but in the past I've gone through like, dozens and dozens of surgeries over the last several years in Toronto – from my appendix bursting and lots of other surgeries. And then I was diagnosed with a brain tumor a little while after.

With him being a surgeon, I was able to talk about health-related things that were really personal to me. And he was able to help me through a lot of these things. When I was going through a really hard time, it was to important to be able to meet him in this NFT space.

I guess it’s been maybe over a year, maybe two years, now we've known each other. And we keep in touch as much as we can. He's a super busy guy with a family. And he tells me all about his kids and about his life and what's going on with him. We just became really close, after he collected just one of my pieces of work.

So I would say the connections you make in NFTs are probably the most important. I've probably made stronger friendships in the NFT space and like the web3 community than I made in my real life and for a very long time.

So I think that's what I love most about being here. And that's why I spend all my time on Twitter. It’s these connections that we get to make.

I've heard so many stories that sound very similar to that. It's the friendships that you make, while you're either posting about your work, or sharing other people's work, or finding each other in Spaces that are really just so personal and real. Those relationships are very real.

Like you said, you showed up in Turkey and started meeting these amazing photographers there that you probably already had met on Twitter.

So tell me about your burn-to-redeem editions. Is there anything new coming up for you that you want to give us a sneak peek at?

Yeah, definitely.

So for my burn-to-redeem editions, if people aren't familiar, I started season one of burn-to-redeem editions where they're all scenes. We have seen one to seven so far. The first scene was released completely for free and 10,000 of them were minted.

And then scene two, people were able to get the next one for free. You minted the first one, you take 10 of them, you burn them, and you get the second one for free. And then we repeat that process.

And then the third one, the first one, about half of them got kind of bought it. So the third one was released for $1. And then we're able to get them in the hands of a lot more collectors this time, which was really, really exciting.

And then after that, you basically burn a certain amount of that, and you get to go to the next scene. And we're kind of growing it kind of like a film and you kind of continue the adventure with each new photograph, which has been really, really fun.

And at the end of each scene, I'm rewarding the top three collectors who will get one of ones from each scene, whoever collects the most. I think that's just a really fun way to reward everyone for taking part. And I think the newest thing if everyone that's been following along with this is each piece has between been between $1 or $2 to mint. I wanted to keep it super, super accessible, but still avoid getting bought out.

Because if you do a completely free mint nowadays, at my level, it'll just be hit by bots. And it'll go secondary right away, which I don't really want. So I'm keeping it around $1 to $2. So I can actually get actual collectors.

I'm thinking I'm going to try to do lots of promotion. And I'm going to do a free mint and and try to get it in my collectors' hands. So I have a free scene coming very, very soon. If anyone wants to join the journey that might have missed the free Scene one, I'm going to have a free event coming.

Season one of this project will be about 12 scenes in total. We're at scene seven now. I'm pretty excited to be able to include people for free – just gas fee and that's it. It's just a way to be able to share my art with the world. To be able to inspire people through photography. It’s a super accessible way to have more people be a part of my community with me.

To be part of your journey.

I try not to overuse my journey. Fun.

You’ve got to own it. I understand. It definitely works.

It works very well.

That's great. Are these scenes part of your current travels that you're doing now? Or have you already shot them? How much of this is going to be freshly created?

Season one is going to be entirely Toronto, which is scene one through 12. It's going to be entirely Toronto based, but I'm not gonna reveal anything. But once I start with season two, it will be kind of similar to what they're doing with meme cards, they are released in different seasons. Season two will most likely be in another location.

Well, we're gonna have to follow you. You can follow TylersJourney on Twitter, of course, and Instagram.

I really appreciate you talking with me today. Of course, you've got some work on Sloika, Transit Chronicles. There are only four of the original 20 1/1 pieces left. So if anyone is listening and wants to take a look at that, you can find it on Sloika.

And I loved those shots that you took of all the bright red buses in Toronto. I live in San Diego and our MTA trains are all bright red, but every time I see them, I think of your work, although ours are never covered in snow!


The one thing about those trains that are really special, at least the historic ones, like the older-looking ones that we're seeing in the photographs, is they were retired from the road in 2019. They were sent to a scrap yard so you'll never see them on the road again. You'll never be able to photograph them again.

So a lot of those images are really special to me because I got to spend a few years in Toronto photographing these older-looking trains and buses that were on the road. And now they don't exist. We just have these like, futuristic kind of bubble-looking ones left. They're cool, but they don't have a historic or nostalgic feel of the city at all. I'm happy I have these photos on Sloika.

So hopefully I’ll find collectors that connect with them soon. It will make me happy.

That'd be awesome alright! Let's make it happen.

Thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it. It's been really cool to catch up with you. I know it's been a while since we first had a chance to talk and it's really great to have you join me here on One of One.

I'll let you get back to your day. And we'll be on the lookout for anything coming from Season two of the scenes from you. I wish you luck on that project.

Cool. Thank you so much, Pam. It's been a pleasure.