'Old Glory'

Photographs by Bill Ward, similar to this one, will be on display this month at the County Public Library in Beaufort. (Contributed photo)

Bill Ward was exposed to the “shutterbug” virus at an early age. But the stereo viewer he remembers picking up at his grandparents’ house in Hertford is a long way removed from the Nikon 7000 camera he now prefers as an educator and professional photographer.

Mr. Ward will showcase his extensive photography skills as the featured artist for July at the County Public Library, 1702 Live Oak St., Beaufort.

“My first experience was looking at images in a vintage stereo viewer at my grandparents’ home while growing up,” Mr. Ward recalled. “The images were from all over the world, and they sparked my interest. Later, as a high school student, I became the newspaper photographer using an early Polaroid camera. I then got my first Kodak Instamatic, which I used to document my trip to the World Boy Scout Jamboree.”

That initial spark developed into a career in photography beginning in high school, where he served double duty as chief photographer for the school newspaper and yearbook.

He received his first formal training in camera and darkroom work at the Technical Institute of Alamance in Burlington, where he also studied commercial art and audiovisual technology. 

His technical education continued with coursework at N.C. State University in Raleigh, the Nikon School of Photography and various other workshops.

He retired in 2014 after 20 years as the director of community relations with Carteret-Craven Electrical Cooperative and also taught marketing, advertising and photography at area community colleges, including Isothermal Community College, Craven Community College and Carteret Community College in Morehead City.

Those who visit the library show may expect to view a variety of images, including coastal scenes, mountain landscapes and unique portraits of people of various cultures.

In a word, it’s “eclectic.”

“I like it all, I’m looking at angles, color and texture all the time,” Mr. Ward said. “Composition is the key to my work, but both composition and lighting are important. Lighting can make for good composition. If the image is not lit properly, you lose important elements.

“Photographers need to remember that the eye will always go to the brightest or lightest spot on a photograph. If there is a light or window behind the main subject, you run the risk of the viewer drifting to that and not the subject itself, so lighting and placement is very important. The beauty is that everyone sees things differently. Art allows each of us to put our own take on what we are seeing,” he continued.

Early on, Mr. Ward would shoot in black and white and develop and print his own photos.

 “There is nothing quite as exciting as watching an image come up in the darkroom,” he said.

But with technical advances, he switched to digital because of the “ease.”

His first single lens reflex was a Pentax (“basically because that was all I could afford”) but today, award-winning photos can captured with cell phones. 

“Today – with technology the way it is -– the brand is not so important as long as you have a camera you are comfortable with,” he said. “The key is knowing what your camera is capable of. The last ‘Award of Excellence’ I won was shot with my cell phone.”

In addition to photography, Mr. Ward also enjoys painting (oils, pastels, watercolors, pen and ink), pottery, stone and wood carving and dabbling in magic.

“I was first hooked on magic when seeing magicians during the weekly school assemblies we used to have in the old days,” he said. “I have performed close-up magic at restaurants, as well as with close friends on stage. I was an active member of the Society of American Magicians for many years. Arthritis in my hands prevents me from doing much of that now, though.”

All of the photographs on display during the exhibit will be for sale.

Mr. Ward also does commission work and restoration of vintage photos. But his own personal favorite photo is, sadly, one he no longer owns.

“It was taken in an old storage barn at my grandparents’ farm,” he said. “I opened the door and in a ray of sunlight was an old wine bottle with a picture propped against it, both covered in dust. Everything in the background – in the shadows –  was dark, but you could see the items. I named it ‘Time in A Bottle’ after the Jim Croce song and won several awards with it.”

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