SALTILLO • Before the sun rises, Jordan Hill drives to Bankhead National Forest in Alabama and hikes to Shangri La Falls. Crystal-clear water tumbles over the rocks into a vibrant pool of blue, and he snaps a photo as rays of light begin to slice through the leaves overhead at just the right angle.
The 36-year-old Guntown native grew up hunting, but several years ago he traded the thrill of tracking ducks and whitetail deer for capturing moments in time.
Both hobbies provide the same serenity, foster the same sense of oneness with nature.
“The birds start flying around and chirping, the light, everything kind of begins to wake up in the morning,” Hill said. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.”
And just as it is with hunting, landscape photography requires a lot of patience.
He’s waited up to a year to capture certain photos, like one of a red barn in Blue Mountain with the sun setting through the doorway.
“Waiting for stuff like that and capturing that moment, knowing how much time I put in and planned for that, is something I really enjoy,” Hill said.
From vacation photos to magazine covers
Hill fell in love with photography after borrowing a friend’s camera to use during a trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2018.
He had always appreciated the art of photography but hadn’t grown up with it as a hobby.
“That kind of gave me a taste of it,” Hill said. “When I came back, I got my own little setup and from there, I developed a real passion.”
Hill’s work has been featured on the covers of three magazines so far: the January/February 2020 edition of Mississippi Outdoors, the Spring 2021 edition of The View from Woodall and the June/July 2021 edition of Beachcombing magazine.
The View from Woodall cover features one of his favorite photos. It was taken at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island in Georgia.
“When I see that picture, I always go back to that morning,” Hill said. “Getting mosquito bites and just sitting there watching it, how quiet and peaceful the waves were coming in, and watching the light brighten up that morning. It’s one that I always go back to and enjoy the memory of.”
Typically traveling no more than two hours for his shoots, Hill often visits Lake Lamar Bruce in the mornings at sunrise. Other favorite locations in Northeast Mississippi include Elvis Presley Lake and the Natchez Trace.
He takes photos nearly every weekend and at sporadic times throughout the week, for a total of about 10 shoots per month. He shoots more during spring and fall, when the changing weather causes fog, blooming flowers or colorful leaves — something that stands out and sets his photos apart from others.
Hill isn’t the type of photographer to walk around with his camera constantly taking photos. He likes to find unique situations and images most people wouldn’t, particularly while he’s at the beach.
“As a photographer, I can slow down the shutter speed or speed it up and make the waves into more of an arc, and I enjoy that because that makes it more unique,” Hill said. “I’m not one to just take a picture of water and a sunset or sunrise. That doesn’t inspire me. Making it more of an art piece is what I’m more into.”
Along with Mississippi, he has captured photos in several other states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. He’s also taken photos in Canada.
He often takes vacations with his wife, Angel, and their two daughters, Autumn, who is 11 years old, and Addie, who is almost two years old, where he takes photos along the way. They all enjoy beaches, mountains and nature in general.
“We’ll have a hotel room and I’ll get up a couple of hours before daylight,” Hill said. “I’ll go do my thing and pretty well be done by the time they’re getting up.”
The start of Jordan Hill Photography
“A lot of stuff I put out then, I’d never even consider selling now,” Hill said. “I’ve grown and learned a lot more since then, but that’s been part of the journey.”
He’s self-taught, so it took time to learn the ins and outs of his camera equipment — a Canon EOS R for landscape photos and a Canon EOS 80D for wildlife photos, along with a tripod he uses to steady his camera while taking photos with low light, like at sunrise and sunset — and to determine proper photo composition.
But it has certainly paid off. He recently sold a beach photo taken in Destin, Florida, to a buyer in Italy. It’s the farthest from Mississippi his work has reached thus far.
“To me, it’s not about the money,” Hill said. “It’s purely about passion. I really only take photographs of something that inspires me or something that I can see that really gets me motivated.”
He enjoys marketing photos that he’s taken, but doesn’t think about it ahead of time. That would take away from the experience.
Jordan Hill Photography blurs the line between hobby and business. He works on it constantly. If he’s not taking photographs, he’s answering emails or Facebook messages from potential customers.
In the beginning, he’d hoped to sell one or two photos but never expected the business to grow into what it has.
He hopes to continue that progress, improving his photography and sales year over year.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” Hill said. “I hope ten, fifteen years from now I’m still healthy enough that I can get up at 3 o’clock in the morning, drive somewhere and hike two or three miles in to a waterfall or some kind of cool location that I’ve scouted out or found online, and enjoy doing that.”