Health scare leads artist to world-renowned art

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Bill Tondreau said he was “kicking and screaming” and was forced to come to Albuquerque. But soon, the Hollywood-award-winning movie man found the beauty in the Duke City and wanted to share it with the rest of the world through his very unique photographs.

“I kept seeing these great scenes, these really wonderful scenes, and I kept saying gee, why aren’t people taking pictures of these?” Tondreau said in a recent interview with KRQE News 13.

He now sells some of the more recognized art in town: colorful shots of the Sandia Mountains, the Rio Grande and other landmarks.

Tondreau said he came to Albuquerque in 1988 because of a brain tumor. The experiential treatment he received was successful and the tumor is now in remission. When Tondreau learned he had to come to New Mexico to access the doctors, he wasn’t too excited.

“I said: ‘Oh no, Albuquerque? Are you kidding? It’s out in the middle of desolation,'” he said.

But when Tondreau finished his treatment, he realized Albuquerque wasn’t a bad place to stay.

“On the third week I realized how my blood pressure had gone down, how I was a lot more relaxed,” Tondreau said. “By golly, I just decided to stay.”

Tondreau has quite the resume. For decades he’s been working on movies in Hollywood. He created the computerized software that allows the same camera motion multiple times to overlay scenes — a process that is crucial for special effects. Tondreau also designed some of the equipment and electronics used with the software.

For more than 30 years, the system has been used in thousands of movies, including huge blockbuster films like “Star Wars,” “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings.”

“That repeat motion camera was used to be able to mix together normal sized people at hobbit scale, at three-foot-six-inches,” Tondreau said.

He’s a three time Academy Award winner.

In 1995, Tondreau started using that same movie technology for his landscape photographs. He overlaps shots with different focus and exposures, capturing the city as the light glides across the landscape. He then “stitches” those images together to make one photo.

Some of his art pieces have as few as 30 overlapped photos; others have hundreds of photos stitched together.

“Very elaborate sequences required to shoot these long, stitched, joined-together panoramas,” Tondreau said. “To shoot a nine picture panorama might mean I have to shoot 36 or 72 or more pictures.”

When Tondreau was first creating his specialty landscapes, he says he was lucky enough to have some of them displayed in The Louvre, one of the world’s largest museums. It’s located in France.

In Albuquerque, Tondreau’s artwork really took off after capturing “Sandia Summer,” a colorful shot of the Sandia Mountains with sagebrush in the foreground at sunset from the Elena Gallegos picnic area.

Photos: Bill Tondreau Photography

“Through totally undeserved beginners luck, I got one of my best pictures ever and one of my best sellers ever that first night,” he said. “The lighting, everything was perfect.”

Since then, the popularity of three dozen of his photographs has taken off.

Tondreau’s art is located in restaurants, lawmakers’ offices, the Governor’s office and soon a new wing of the Albuquerque Museum. They are sold in the Sumner and Dene Gallery in Downtown Albuquerque at 6th and Central.

“I sell one a day if not six to eight,” said gallery owner Roy Johnson.

People all over the country buy Tondreau’s art. He says they’re drawn in by the colors and buy the art because it’s reasonably priced.

“I’m totally honored to have him,” Johnson said. “We’re all honored to have him. He’s an incredible gift to the city of Albuquerque.”

Tondreau is now gearing up for his prime photo season — late summer to early fall — when colors are vibrant.

“That’s the season when Albuquerque especially says cheese,” he said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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