I, Photographer: Yoga Shooter

Bill Tipper uses his balance of technical and philosophical knowledge to create images of the human form in nature

Photo: Liz Albright

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.

“This was the first frame I ever shot with a yoga model. It was taken when I was still shooting film on the grounds of my client; the Kriplau Center for Yoga and Health. I knew in that moment that this was going to be a powerful new direction for my work.” Bill Tipper
“Darren Rhodes is an exceptionally gifted yoga teacher and was absolutely fearless during our mountain top sunset shoot outside of Tucson, Arizona. There was a sheer drop of well over 100 feet just inches from where Darren was perched for this shot.” Bill Tipper
“We were just wrapping up a yoga fashion shoot when I spied these geese out of the corner of my eye. Megan and I sprinted to line up this shot and had under 30 seconds to capture this image before the geese bunched up.” Bill Tipper
“I was in Jamaica shooting the Caribbean Yoga Conference when one of the presenters, Kathryn Budig joined me for a sunrise session. Even though the colors of the ocean were exquisite shades of turquoise, I was drawn to the tonal qualities of this image in black and white.” Bill Tipper
“This sunrise image was also captured in Jamaica during the Caribbean Yoga Conference. This was the first shoot I had ever been on when neither of us spoke a word of the other’s language. Kazuya did an excellent job of interpreting my gestures and found the stillness I needed for a slow shutter to enhance the mystical energy of the ocean.” Bill Tipper
“I was on assignment for the fabulous Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica when I took this shot. It was that magical time before the sunrise when the air was still and the colors took on a pastel type quality.” Bill Tipper
“This image is from my book: THE NATURE OF YOGA, Meditations on Love, Beauty & Truth. I had been shooting a series of yoga poses at sunrise with Twee Merrigan when she flowed into some free form movements. When her gaze turned upward, I exposed a couple of frames, happily knowing that I had captured a special moment.” Bill Tipper
“This image was created for The Caves, an exquisite Island Outpost boutique hotel in Negril, Jamaica. I used a long exposure to soften the surface ripples and accentuate the amazing colors of the Caribbean Ocean as Liz meditated on the cliff side ledge.” Bill Tipper
“This is the front piece from my book: THE NATURE OF YOGA, Meditations on Love, Beauty & Truth. I used a special color enhancing, polarizing filter and a long exposure to enhance the contrast between the stillness of Taylor’s body and the abstract qualities of the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica.” Bill Tipper
“Being a dedicated student of yoga has helped me to deepen the work that I can do for yoga teachers. When I look at this image of Jaye Martin taken at sunset on Siesta Key, Florida, I can only hope that someday my hamstrings will be that open!” Bill Tipper
“When I am doing one on one assignments for yoga teachers, we don’t have the luxury of a wardrobe stylist on location with us, so I always ask my subjects to bring a variety of clothes with them. Fortunately KK had just the right colors to complement the flowers in this image.” Bill Tipper
“This is one of my signature yoga photographs and it is the cover of my book: THE NATURE OF YOGA, Meditations on Love, Beauty & Truth. The silhouette is of world-renowned yoga teacher Shiva Rea and was captured at low tide at sunset on the expansive beach in Nosara, Costa Rica.” Bill Tipper
“I have always been fascinated by the ocean and it is a recurrent theme in my yoga and travel photography. This image was taken right after sunrise when my model was still in shadow and the background was lit up with the first rays of the day.” Bill Tipper