An Artist with a Camera

Most people hear the word “artist” and think painter. However, for Brainerd-area artist Bill Lindner, his art is produced through a camera lens. Inspiration, great mentors and an unquenched passion for creating the perfect image have driven him for more than 40 years behind the camera. As a teen, he was already helping dad Ron and Uncle Al with the early In-Fisherman issues with photos, drawings, illustrations and writings. At 16, he became a certified diver and began exploring underwater with a camera.

“Thinking back on those days with Jeff Zernov as my mentor, I learned how to take fishing pictures,” Lindner says. “Up to that point, I knew how to point and shoot.”

With a scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he entered the art world, but the cameras kept calling. After a couple years he couldn’t resist temptation and spread his wings, sailing to Alaska. He hooked up with a magazine to pay for the adventure. Returning to Minnesota, life at the family business continued for a few years, but then he packed up his experiences and ambition for the Twin Cities. Exceptional photos and his writing for a lure company resulted in Dick Sternberg hiring him to work on the famed Hunting and Fishing Library, a series of outdoor books which were part of the Time/Life series.

“The best photographers worked there,” he says. “I gained a new mentor, Buck Holzemer, who not only taught me, but inspired me to probe every cool camera angle and how to really use lighting to enhance photos.”

This 20-year period was like a master’s degree for Bill, now he was the “camera artist.” The book series included tons of cookbooks, the Black and Decker home improvement series, the Singer sewing series and a landscaping series.

He worked on all of them, and attention to detail was paramount.

“We were working under Cy DeCosse and producing photo art,” Lindner said. “He expected nothing but perfection. He examined every shot, and if not up to his standards, we had to reshoot. He graded our shots in front of all of us—about 8 to 10 photographers—and told us his opinions face-to-face.”

But the results Lindner said were somewhat easier to accomplish because in Library they had included the highest quality of photography gear anywhere.

“We used it every day and were encouraged to take it on weekends. I really took advantage of this, and did my crazy art shots, experimenting with light and filters and finding the perfect angle for each shot—this was a fun time in my life.”

Besides shooting for the cookbooks, Lindner met his future wife Kitty, who was assisting as a model. And, he acquired another passion: cooking.

“Some of my best friends own restaurants and are top chefs. And, yes, I love to create in the kitchen, too,” he said.

He has a mountain of food photos and recipes in the files, also.

One of the reasons Bill’s photos grace so many national magazine covers and illustrate hundreds of fishing articles is due to a key lesson learned through Library.

“We took the principals of studio photography into the field and on location,” he says.

Of course, part of the job was traveling the world, shooting in the very best places with the top anglers and guides. Being a pretty good fisherman himself, Bill knew where to position himself for the best fishing shots.

He says working with the best and most meticulous art directors really honed his skills. In winter he was in the studio and in summer he was in the field. And the more he shot, the more his creativity and artistic juices flowed.

When he picked up a motion-picture camera and began shooting in 16mm format, his life as a photo artist elevated him even higher in the field of photography. His credentials include assisting with many TV ads for Proctor and Gamble, General Mills and other major companies. He shot Berkley TV commercials and also produced the original Rapala film.

From the Hunting and Fishing Library, Bill then went out on his own with a stop at North American Fisherman to shoot about 20 books and other projects. His offices in the Twin Cities for 10 years included every project that could be accomplished with any type of camera.

Soon, he realized much of his work occurred “up north,” and it made sense to return to his roots. For the past eight years, Bill Lindner Photography has been housed under the same roof with Lindner Media in Baxter, Minn.

Today, his clients include Lund, Rapala, St. Croix, Frabill/Plano, Aqua-Vu, Daiwa, Custom Jigs & Spins, Lindner Angling Edge TV, Humminbird, Ranger, a number of medical projects, work for churches and non-profits and shooting for resorts and tourism. He estimates about 60 percent of his work is video and the remainder still-photos.

“When on a shoot for a client, I do both video and stills. This maximizes my time in the field and also gives the client more bang for the buck.”

He says he is proud of his lifetime collection of more than 500,000 filed, sorted, and available images.

“I am relied upon for many special, high-end projects, and have exactly what’s needed,” he said.

One highlight of his career was shooting a National Geographic TV special titled, “Season of the Salmon.”

This opportunity in the Alaskan wilds still rates as a special memory.

“I sat in the river, waiting for the exact moment the sockeye salmon spawned right in front of me.”   He’s also excited about a romantic coffee table book on muskie fishing that’s scheduled to be published later this year.

More memorable accomplishments for Lindner include his high-end Rapala commercials and shooting broadcast spots for major companies.

“I really love to conceive and take my creation from head to finished project, especially when that project makes an impact.”

Looking back over a four-decade-long career, he says he remains surprised that almost every time he stepped out on a limb and took a chance it usually blossomed into a much bigger and better end result. Maybe he will be recognized in the book of inspirational quotations for this: “Things work out when you stretch yourself.”

Part of that “stretch” occurred from a desire to please mentors and the high expectations of employers and co-workers, and now himself. He’s always lived and breathed each job with this motto: “Don’t stop until the job is done. Be relentless. Take beyond overkill to every shoot.”

Now, his crowded office is just a few doors and down the hall from his dad. But Bill is seldom behind a desk. Maybe that’s because his dad seldom stays put for very long either.

“Dad established the entrepreneurial spirit within my bones. He taught me to look to the future and be the one to discover the next big thing. I will be forever grateful for his wisdom.”

How long will he continue plying his craft as one of the best photographers in the country?

If his father Ron is any indication, it will be for another three decades. Ron, 81, is active in a number of ventures, showing up at the office every day and still thinks about the next big thing, working on projects that will see the light of day in several years, and while at it, inspiring those around him.

As engaged as Bill is, the list of his passions is very extensive. He loves to shoot underwater and loves capturing that specific instant when a fish strikes a lure. He loves nature and showcases it with time-lapse photos. He also fishes, but admits that a great fish photo is more of a story than catching it that makes a story. A fishing day with Bill is like stop-and-go, stalled traffic.

“I am always stopping to get the perfect shot,” he says.

Perfection might just be Bill Lindner’s middle name.


    Note: we want to thank Al and Ron Lindner, Jim Kalkofen, and the team at Target Walleye/Ice for this solid fishing tip. You can subscribe to free, twice-a-week emails from Target Walleye, at