A third generation photographer building a career in his beloved Sierras.
Bill Heiser walks a thin line between exploration and conservation, never knowing how the work he shares with the world will change the destinations within the images. He loves to share the intangible rara avis wonders of the Sierras through his photography. Yet, he worries about leading those who view his photos to destinations not meant for the heavy traffic of human exploitation.
Romanticism for unlocking the perfect moment within a picture and experiencing it for oneself is something we all do. The emotional response to aesthetics fuels entire industries, especially tourism. If Bill's photos didn't evoke strong emotions from those who view his work, then he wouldn't have continued to share it for this long. Connecting a feeling within a place to an image of that place is the intent behind each photo. How does a photographer show beauty to the masses without bringing masses to the beauty?
Awareness; and a smidgen of trust in the fans of nature.
As a resident of Tuolumne County and continual activist within "Leave no Trace" groups in the area, Bill is familiar with the waste created by seasonal visitors. Sleds left broken by the hundreds on the side of 108, water bottles and cigarette butts thrown along the sandy river edges; sights like these disturb locals to the core.
Bill pays close attention to the fine details in nature and deeply understands how human presence changes the landscape in short periods of time. Preservation lies at the top of his priorities when wandering the Sierra wilderness as he follows the strict guidelines established by the Nature First Photography Alliance:
• Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
• Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
• Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
• Use discretion if sharing locations.
• Know and follow rules and regulations.
• Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
• Actively promote and educate others about these principles
Almost 2000 photographers from 52 different countries work within these guidelines in the hopes that more will follow.
Bill was born into a family of avid photographers. "My grandfather had his own darkroom. He and my dad made their own prints." The men in his life were heavily influential within his own photography pursuit. He was gifted his first camera as a little boy, and continued to receive hand-me-downs throughout the years. One of the first cameras he used was a Twin Lens Reflex, a medium format camera that uses large film for higher quality prints. Feeling regretful for not keeping the hand-me-down cameras from his youth, Bill remains thankful that they led him to become the photographer he is.
When asked about the type of camera he uses today, he says a Nikon, "but honestly, I use my phone too. The type of camera doesn't matter much unless you need to blow the picture up for larger prints." Surprisingly so, this is a very common answer from local photographers, something new photographers can really take heed to.
Bill's work focuses on Nature and Landscape Photography. While photography is his second job and creative passion separate from his nine-to-five in the corporate world, he has goals to move into the position full time and lead the life he's always wanted; immersed in watching nature's wonders through the camera lens. "There's light at the end of the tunnel," he says, knowing he will get there in time.
A recent achievement of Bill's is the completion of FAA licensure for aerial photography. He's been very excited about this for months due to the new shots he is able to capture from incredible heights and angles. Completing the process of licensure was necessary in order to use images shot with his quadcopter for commercial purposes, like selling prints to customers. Get ready to see some stunning new additions in his online portfolio in the coming weeks and months!
Natural beauty fills Bill's photography portfolio. A noticeable recurrence in his images are the soft blues, grays and whites overlaying the open air. Great skies, sometimes clouded or foggy cover the distances of peaking mountains and the deep waters that flow through the crevices of the land. Distinct textures are a trademark in his images; the jagged rocky mountain edges and layered leaves are so detailed, they seem presently tangible.
"The photos I share with others, they jump out at me," Bill says, "The whites and blues are to convey an optimism. The ones with the fog or dark skies are to convey the feelings I felt when I was there."
There's a sense of fulfillment when people share the same emotional connection to an image as himself. Bill's followers online stem from all over the world. Not everyone is able to view these sights in person. "We're fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. Yosemite is popular, but Sonora Pass is just as breathtaking." When someone near or far is touched by an image, he considers it a successful shot.
Bill moved to California after a life on the East Coast. The wide open spaces and vast wilderness drew him in. Having lived and worked in San Francisco for years after the transition from the Atlantic to the Pacific coastline, Bill found himself visiting the Motherlode every weekend. "The bay was fun at first, but after a while I couldn't take it anymore." He quickly realized he had to make a solid plan to stay in Tuolumne County for good. With advances in technology he was able to convince his employer to allow him to work remotely. Now he is able to spend as much free time as possible working on his photography career, including networking and learning more about the culture of photography in the Sierras.
Currently Bill is the webmaster for the Sonora Photo Club. In addition to his activism for "Leave no Trace," he is a member of the Yosemite Conservancy and the John Muir Trail Wilderness Conservatory (formerly the John Muir Trail Foundation). These groups spearhead the preservation of the popular areas that attract hoards of visitors each year.
Bill feels very connected to the John Muir Trail. He trekked over 200 miles on a 30 day solo hike adventure along the path, motivating him to help the area remain protected.
Outside of nature preservation, Bill shares the importance of two other charitable foundations he is passionate for. Kiva helps provide microloans to people in need in order to aide economic growth in underdeveloped areas. Through their website, you can invest in giving loans to others around the world. Here at home, the Mother Lode Food Project provides food for families in the area. In sharing his inspirations and passions, Bill hopes that readers will look into all of these wonderful resources for spreading positivity in the world through small acts of thoughtful kindness.
From the breadth of work he has mastered between business and creative pleasure, Bill's work covers prints of images within his portfolio and product photography for marketing. On demand, he can customize prints on metal or in frames. Contact Bill Heiser on his website, Facebook and Instagram. Follow his social media pages to see new work as he captures it!
All photos featured on this page can be purchased in print here in The BOP Shop on the photography page.