Do you shoot only yoga?
About 75 to 80 percent of my work is in the world of yoga—I shoot a lot of conferences and retreats. I shoot for teachers and studios, as well as workshops in places like Belize, Costa Rica, and Hawaii. I travel about two months of the year, and that has opened up work for hotels and eco-resorts. I also shoot for yoga clothing companies.
Which did you love first, yoga or photography?
Photography was my first love. I started as a teenager, went to art school, and majored in visual communications. I worked in film and multimedia for most of the 1990s and early 2000s—I ran huge projects with big budgets, but I was losing a lot of the cre-ative joy that had sustained me.
How did you turn to yoga?
On a shoot for a college in Massachusetts, I drove by the Kripalu Center for yoga and holistic health. I stopped on a whim and asked for the creative director; I showed her my portfolio, and she hired me on the spot. The next morning I was doing a sunrise shoot with a yoga teacher. I found myself in this amazing moment with every element a photographer could dream about coming together. It was an epiphany; shooting yoga is what I wanted to do. That was six years ago.
Do you practice?
I’d studied yoga philosophy and meditation for more than 10 years before my first shoot; now I practice a hybrid of many types of yoga. Knowledge and personal practice are essen-tial for a yoga photographer.
Do you shoot only outdoors?
I shoot in a studio sometimes, but my signature is combining the beauty and lines of nature with the beauty and lines of yoga poses. The majority of my shoots take place at sunrise or sunset, so I’m working with magic light. It allows me to create something that speaks emotionally to the viewer.
Walk us through a shoot.
I treat it as collaboration with the yoga teacher or model. We arrive at the location an hour before sunrise and sit and meditate together so the model can feel grounded. Often, it’s the first time they have practiced in nature, which presents a lot of challenges for balance and focus. We shoot from just before sunrise to an hour or so after sunrise.
Do you follow a shot list?
Only if it’s requested by a client. Mostly it’s just an organic flow. I provide a lot of direction for the poses I think will look best in that environment—I love to mimic lines in nature.
What gear do you use?
I carry two bodies, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D, and up to four lenses. My go-to lenses are Canon's 17–40mm f/4L and 70–200mm f/2.8L zooms. Since I have to hike to locations, I use a Lowepro Nature Trekker bag. I always use a Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod in low light. Most of my work is in natural light, but I use two Canon Speedlites for fill. I use a Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo variable neutral-density polarizing filter that takes up to 8 stops off the exposure, so I can use a slow shutter speed (even in bright light) and create more impressionistic images. I love working in low light and bringing in intentional camera movement and slow exposures.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Postproduction—it can be laborious because of how much I shoot.
What do you like most?
The moment of taking an exposure. I get giddy with excitement when I take a picture that I know in that moment is something special, memorable, and emotionally powerful.
See more of Bill's work at BillTipper.com.