The local sports and photography worlds are mourning the loss of a great as Jeff Billings, known to many in Northland for his work photographing Liberty High School teams, died this week.
Billings started KCSports.net, a sports photography service focused on Liberty-area schools, in 2006. In 2008, Marty Williams joined Billings, and the pair began photographing everything from high school sports, shows aerial, nature, wildlife, pastoral scenes to experimental photography. .
Williams described Billings as an inspired photographer, a patient and knowledgeable instructor, and a solid friend.
“Widely known for his generosity with resources, knowledge and friendship, Jeff built a life filled with art, beauty and a circle of friends that stretched from the Arctic Circle to a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya, from Alaska to the Dakotas, from Escalante to Washington, DC,” he said.
Billings had a love for wildlife and landscape photography which led him to travel the world to get the perfect shot.
“He was a perfectionist post-production technician whose speed and agility in getting footage online after a shoot will not be matched, nor will his ability to make friends,” Williams said. “He gave freely of his talent and knowledge, and reveled in the success of his acolytes as any great teacher does. He leaves behind a coterie of better photographers than he found.
Billings, Williams and some of their colleagues have worked with the Courier-Tribune to provide action photos from select Liberty and Liberty North sporting events since 2011.
“Jeff was always nice and worked well with our staff at CT. Jeff was also kind to his knowledge, providing advice to new photographers in the area on how to shoot in certain local conditions and in places like dimly lit gymnasiums. We certainly appreciated his knowledge and his partnership,” said Amanda Lubinski, editor of the Courier-Tribune.
Billings’ passing prompted many in the local high school sports community to take to Twitter to express their appreciation for the community photographer and business owner, who also owned Billings Construction.
Eric Langhorst of Langhorst Photography sat down with Billings at the William Jewell Basketball Tournament in late December.
“We hadn’t spoken in person in a while so it was great to catch up. … The last email I got from him let me know he thought I had done a great job on a recent project. It will always be special to me because I always knew that when he gave a compliment, it was sincere.
Langhorst said everything he does, from gear to software and publishing, is the result of asking Billings questions and learning from him.
“I can’t believe he won’t be a phone call away when I want to talk about photography. The most important thing I hope to take away from Jeff is having fun taking pictures of kids doing what they love and sharing them. He really cared about the coaches and athletes he photographed over the years,” Langhorst said.
Thanks Jeff. I hope you know how much I appreciate you. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/K94gdhr8iE
— LanghorstPhotography📷 (@LanghorstPicts) January 17, 2022
Ali Neibling, Liberty’s football coach and English teacher, said Billings was a great teacher in his own right.
“When I first got my DSLR, I signed up for photography lessons…then had to cancel due to football disputes. But, Jeff Billings saw me with my camera at all the boys football games, came over and gave me the best advice. I found a friend. Heart of gold, this man,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Liberty High School Girls Soccer team wrote, “When Covid-19 took away our 2020 season, Jeff Billings dug deep into his photo archive and created special photo posters for our seniors out of the kindness of his big heart. No payment involved. He was a generous man who showed us how to use his passion to bring joy to others.
When Covid-19 took away our 2020 season, Jeff Billings dug deep into his photo archive and created special photo posters for our seniors through the kindness of his big heart. No payment involved. He was a generous man who showed us how to use his passion to bring joy to others. 💙 https://t.co/Uzp4Aku82U
— LHS Women’s Soccer (@LHSLadiesSoccer) January 17, 2022
Coach Steve Person and Liberty North Eagle Women’s Football called Billings a “local treasure”.
“Rest in peace. Prayers for those he left behind,” he and the team wrote.
Liberty High School Jays Soccer coach Thomas Rottjakob met Jeff when a friend of Billings wanted to start photographing football as the class of 2011 made their back-to-back state runs.
“Jeff then photographed both programs for years. He was an integral part of the Blue Jays Athletics and will be greatly missed,” the coach wrote on Twitter.
The Liberty Boys basketball team’s Twitter feed for Sunday January 16 said Billings, a staunch supporter, “loved our program and every member of our teams.”
“He was a friend. He will be missed,” the team wrote.
It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Jeff Billings this morning. Over 16 years ago, Jeff contacted our program to take photos during games and launched https://t.co/2sDouLsD3I. Since then, thousands of matches have been watched, millions of photos taken,
— Liberty Ball (@LHSBasketball) January 16, 2022
Lane Green, Liberty North athletic director, said he and everyone in the department were saddened to hear of Billings’ passing.
“For many years, Jeff has demonstrated his support for our student-athletes through the thousands of photos he has taken at various Liberty North sporting events. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be greatly missed. .”
As the photography world lost a great professional, Williams said he mourned more than a colleague.
“There was no best friend,” he said.