About Bill Stevenson



Photography is genetic in my family. Both my great-great grandfather and great grandfather were photographers living on the edge of the American frontier. Their home, Leavenworth Kansas, was a staging point for wagon trains heading west. They photographed many of those pioneers and left behind over 10,000 glass plate negatives that currently reside in the Smithsonian Museum. Both my grandfather and father were enthusiastic amateurs.


For my ancestors, photography was about recording the lives of people, but for me it’s about the natural world and exploration. I've been a wanderer from an early age and I came to photography not from art school but from adventuring.


As a child, maps and the magnificence of the world’s great mountain ranges, deserts, and rivers captivated me. Since then I’ve been mountaineering in many of the world’s highest ranges including five expeditions to the Himalayas of Tibet, Nepal and Pakistan where I’ve reached almost 27,000 feet without oxygen. I’ve made six climbing and skiing expeditions to Alaska where I’ve been skiing as far away as the Aleutian Islands way out in the Bering Sea. It was the desire to capture and communicate the power of what I’ve experienced that provided the original impetus for becoming a photographer. In order to communicate that effectively I’ve studied both great photographers and landscape painters. Ansel Adams is at the top of the list for me. Modern masters I admire are Carr Clifton and Seung Kye Lee. In terms of painters, I’ve learned much about photography from the nineteenth century Hudson School of U.S. landscape painting. Their style of imagination and the painterly ability to communicate magnificence has been influential.


Being a photographic artist, however, is different than being a painter. Each discipline has its challenges, and great photography is equally as demanding. A painter can take “liberties” with a scene and use his artistic vision in combination with paint and canvas to complete his imagining. A photographer must realize his vision with what nature provides. First the photographer must discover a great composition. Then, in order to improve upon it, he must imagine the optimum light and conditions that nature may deliver at some future point.  The photographer must then wait for all these elements to coalesce at some fleeting moment. Sometimes it may happen the same day. At other times it may require visiting a spot for years until conditions are perfect. For example, my image Big Splash took five years and over 10,000 photos before a photograph was created that I was happy with. Lake Tahoe is not the Pacific but I wanted a photo that felt oceanic. Every time a big wind would blow during those years I’d run out to Tahoe’s east shore and hunt for the best splashes. After five years of scouring the shore I finally found a time and a place where everything came together.


Like the great landscape photographers of the past and present I make changes to my images in order to realize my vision.  I optimize the color, contrast, and saturation. I also make some areas of the image lighter and some darker than they appeared to the eye at the time of the shot. Before the digital age using filters in the photo enlarger did some of this.  Changes in the lightness and darkness of a print were made in the darkroom by means of the exposure time of the paper. Choosing among a variety of films, engineered to produce different color effects, changed color tone and saturation. Now this is all done in Photoshop.   The greatest technical challenge for photography, however, since the invention of the medium has been the impossibility of representing all the gradations of light and dark that the human eye can see on a piece of photographic paper. The eye can detect about 30 exposure values (EV) while a piece of photographic paper can only display 9. In order to account for this Ansel Adams invented the Zone System. By varying the developing chemicals and development time he compressed 30 EVs down to 9. As a digital photographer, when necessary, I reach the exact same end by taking multiple exposures of a scene and then blending them together in Photoshop. This avoids final images that have large areas of featureless black or white. Landscape painters do the exact same thing with paint. Look carefully at a classical landscape painting and notice how every surface of the canvas is covered with visible detail. Every square millimeter of the photo must add something of value to the overall.


Many of us experience strong emotions when we’re in magnificent country at the moment when the light and conditions are splendid. When this occurs wonderful memories are created. Each of us is different so the memories we make mix with our individual pasts and experiences. It’s my goal that my photos evoke the good memories and emotions that have become interwoven into your life.




Gallery: 13450 Donner Pass Rd. Truckee, CA 96161

Mailing: 11200 Donner Pass Rd. #185. Truckee, CA 96161

Ph: 530-913-8666     Email: billstevensonphotography@gmail.com