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Pictures and prose

Award-winning landscape photographer publishes second book

Created date

October 28th, 2015
Landscape Photo by Bill Carlson
Landscape Photo by Bill Carlson

Browsing through Bill Carlson’s landscape photography from over the past 50 years—presented in his newest book, From Delicate Lily Pads to Sculptured Peaks—it’s no surprise that he realized a deep appreciation for nature at a young age. 

“I was always out noticing the wind direction and the clouds,” he says. 

By age seven, he could identify three major cloud types. By age ten, he subscribed to the daily weather map, waiting avidly for the mailman to deliver his prize each day.

But it wasn’t meteorology that introduced Bill to a second career as a landscape photographer. During his 60-year career as a geologist, Bill observed and appreciated beauty in nature. 

“I spent a lot of time in the field and just saw the intricate patterns, the geometrics and lines, the intricate landforms,” Bill says. He developed a desire to capture what he saw in photographs and describe it through poetry. A verse accompanies each photograph and describes the scene, the geology, or “the impact of the perception upon my senses,” he writes in the introduction to Lily Pads

Landscapes around the world

With little training and a lot of help from his wife Christine, Bill began capturing on film some of the world’s most beautiful natural places. “I did a lot of traveling in my career; I was transferred a lot,” he says. 

His two books include photographs from New Mexico; Idaho; North Dakota; Utah; Ontario, Canada; Texas; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Colorado; Maryland; even Sweden, his parents’ home; and many others. 

No matter where he went, Bill always had no fewer than two cameras on hand—one color and one black and white. “I prefer doing black and white work to color. I think it’s more artistic, but I’ve done real well with color as well,” he says.

Bill photographs in both medium (6- by 7-cm) and 35 mm format cameras. 

At a lean 6’2”, Bill often carried his photography gear in addition to the bulky geology equipment. 

When traveling for pleasure, Christine would assist him not only emotionally by providing moral support and encouragement, but also “physical assistance because she always ended up carrying a lot of my equipment,” Bill says. “She was a real trooper. Without her help, I never would have gotten a lot of these photographs.” 

With Christine by his side, Bill was able to capture such details in nature as the geometric design of “Mosaic,” a photograph taken in Uncompahgre National Forest, Colo., or the frozen surface of Moraine Lake watched over by snowy peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Both photographs appear in Lily Pads, the latter on its cover, along with more than 100 other spectacular landscapes. 

He anticipated his most prized photograph, “Dock,” while out for a stroll through Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in 1969.

“I saw the scene, and I told Christine, ‘You know, on a foggy morning, that’s going to be a great picture.’ I had to wait three months for it [to happen],” he recalls of the moment he snapped the award-winning photograph. 

“That’s probably the best picture I’ve ever taken, at least from an interest point of view,” Bill says. The photograph took first place among 6,000 international entries in a competition sponsored by the Famous Photographers School of Westport, Conn., and the Hartford Insurance Company.

“I have a compositional eye. That helps when you’re looking for photographs that appeal not only to me but to the public,” he says. 

Bill self-published his first collection of black and white photographs with accompanying verse, A Walk Through Mountain, Meadow, Marsh, and Woodland, in 2001. It includes photos from 1970 to 2000. Lily Pads includes photos from 1960 to 2012. 

Rocky Mountain fever

After relocating for much of their marriage, Bill and Christine finally settled in Lakewood, Colo., in 1974, hence the prominence of Rocky Mountain locations in his collection. 

In fact, he says, “I’d say Southwestern Colorado is my favorite place to photograph. At least 50% of my photography is done there.” 

He appreciates the broad expanse of mountains and the calming, quiet scenes as Southwestern Colorado’s crowning gems. “I try to isolate smaller areas, and you’ll see in this book that I look for scenes of quiet simplicity. That doesn’t mean I don’t do massive-expanse photography, but I look for details.”

Bill and Christine lived in Lakewood for 34 years before moving to Wind Crest, an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch. 

They chose an apartment with a breathtaking northwest view of the Front Range. On a clear day, Bill says he can see 70 miles and can perhaps identify a peak on the Wyoming-Colorado border. “It’s just beautiful,” he says.

Refocusing

Bill has continued to photograph some, but in retirement he has turned more of his attention to producing photography books, such as Lily Pads, and another one due out next year. 

Assisted by neighbor Royalene Doyle, Bill has sorted through nearly 13,000 transparencies and negatives to select those that will appear in his books. Royalene transfers the negatives to digital format for design and print, and she designs the books’ layouts.

“It’s a total joy. I enjoy Bill’s sense of humor, and we both appreciate nature’s beauty,” says Royalene, who provides writing and editing services to people wishing to publish memoirs or other work. She also recently published Fireproof Proverbs: A Writer’s Study of Words.

“We have a lot of jovial moments in creating his books. Some of his photographs you could just walk into,” Royalene adds.

Aside from his books, Bill publishes his photography and verse in Wind Crest’s monthly resident newsletter, the Gazette

Plus, he adds, he’s the weather guru. He measures daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly precipitation and reports it on Channel 54, the community’s in-house TV station. 

With the opening of High Line Overlook this fall, Wind Crest now has its own in-house TV studio, where Bill can report the weather on camera.

Though his books and meteorology keep him occupied, Bill also finds time to take and teach classes with Wind Crest’s Lifelong Learners. “You can be as busy as you want to be here. You just don’t run out of things to do. I meet new people every night at dinner, and with the second neighborhood opening, there’s a lot of new people,” he says of community life. 

And while he’s become well known amongst his neighbors for his talents, he touts theirs as well. “There are a lot of professional people here, a lot of ministers, a fair number of geologists, a lot of financial people, so it’s interesting,” he says.

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