I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented and thought-provoking nature Photographer Bill Norton. Bill lives on Seneca Lake, situated in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. The inspiration for Bill’s picturesque photographs comes from the beauty of nature and the kindness of people. Bill strives to preserve memories and moments in time through his work and I think you’ll agree that his passion for photography speaks for itself.
Bill, it was wonderful getting to know you and thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. You are a brilliant photographer and I hope to see more great things from you in the future!
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I’m a 68 year old freelance nature photographer situated in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. I’ve been married for 37 years and we have three adult children.
I was born in Rochester, NY in 1950. I attended Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School, then McQuaid Jesuit High School. I graduated from Villanova University in 1972 with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Where is home?
I live on Seneca Lake, which is the largest of the Finger Lakes, in the Town of Benton, New York This is in Yates County between Geneva, NY and Penn Yan, NY.
After browsing through your website, I see that you’ve built up an extensive collection of wonderful photography. What is it that led you towards this field and how long have you been working in it?
The Eastman Kodak Company’s international headquarters is located in Rochester, NY. Everyone living near Rochester knew someone who worked at Kodak and Kodak was very beneficial to the local residents.
When I was a Cub Scout someone from Kodak taught us how to make pinhole cameras, how to develop film and print pictures. They said photography was the preservation of the reflection of light.
I became fascinated with this concept.
What were you doing before you decided to jump into the world of photography?
I worked in the Public Accounting Industry for a few years after college. I left that field and joined my Father’s insurance brokerage firm and stayed there for thirty-three years.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit. The kids were very active in swimming, sailing, track, lacrosse, baseball and soccer. I always wanted to preserve the memories of the sites I’ve seen and all the activities that our kids were involved in.
Is photography your full-time career or a hobby?
Photography was a hobby that morphed into a full-time career.
Are you formally-taught or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
The only formal photography education I received was from that Kodak employee who taught our Cub Scout Pack about pinhole cameras. I have read articles and watched training videos about various techniques. However, the best source of learning has been by trial and error.
What type of session do you look forward to the most vs what type of session you most often do?
I enjoy roaming around the Finger Lakes region of New York and capturing the events and beauty of the region and the four seasons.
What has been the easiest part of learning about photography?
You can learn by trial and error.
What has been the most challenging part of photography?
It is constantly changing and evolving. Sometimes I think I need a third grader to show me how to use some of the new technology.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
I read an article in 2009 written by a British photographer whose name I do not recall in which he said the following.
“Photographers do something really special. They capture special moments in time probably never to happen again and preserve these special memories for the owners to view at any time they choose which help bring them back to visualize that very special memory.”
Who or what inspires you in your personal life and work?
I’m inspired by the beauty of nature and the kindness of people.
What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly? Would any stand out as particularly motivational or inspirational for someone who might be interested in learning about photography?
I don’t regularly read any industry sites or blogs. I do read articles that I stumble upon that peak my interest. It might be a different method or how a shot was made or edited.
Are there any photographers out there who motivate you? If so, who are they and what is it you like so much about them?
I wouldn’t say other photographers motivate me. There are many photographers who I think are very talented and I admire their work.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer just starting out?
Share with us your favorite image and why.
Wings at Dawn
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I shoot mainly with a Canon D7 and a Tamron 18-27 mm.
What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera?
I like the Manfrotto 338 055XPROB tripod with the 3035PH head and a Slik monopod.
Do you use Lightroom, Photoshop, both or other?
I use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.
Can you tell me about one of your favorite or most memorable photo sessions? What made it so great and why did you like it so much?
Several years ago I was traveling across the North Country of New York State. I stopped at a local store in a small village for some water. There were five little kids outside the store around age 8 – 10. The four boys and one girl had been playing in the local swimming hole and were covered in mud. When I exited the store the little girl was trying to take a selfie of the five of them without success. I asked if she needed help and she handed me the camera. I shot several pictures with different poses and backgrounds and handed her the camera. She gave me a leg hug and said “Thanks, they are my only friends.” The mud transfer was successful. I continued on my way.
Shortly thereafter I was pulled over by a NYS Trooper who asked if I took the kids picture. The little girl was his daughter and he wanted to thank me for helping her. I told him that her hug was the best commission ever. However, I never did see the pictures.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
Sometimes, as a nature photographer, you get caught in sudden downpours or snowfalls without the proper rain gear and you have to scramble to protect the equipment. Usually, the gear is in the car but you think you can beat mother nature.
Are there any areas of photography that you have yet to pick up on that you’d like to learn?
I continue to experiment with every photo shoot and discover techniques that I hadn’t tried before.