Archive for the ‘Fine Art Photography’ Category

LIGHT ON THE LANDSCAPE

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Spring storm, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 1986

I am happy to announce my next book!

LIGHT ON THE LANDSCAPE: Photographs and Lessons from a Life in Photography.

To be published by Rocky Nook in the spring of 2020. A collection of photographs and essays based on my On Landscape column for Outdoor Photographer Magazine.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

“For more than two decades, William Neill has been offering his thoughts and insights about photography and the beauty of nature in essays that cover the techniques, business, and spirit of his photographic life. Curated and collected here for the first time, these essays are both pragmatic and profound, offering readers an intimate look behind the scenes at Neill’s creative process behind individual photographs as well as a discussion of the larger and more foundational topics that are key to his philosophy and approach to work.

Drawing from the tradition of behind-the-scenes books like Ansel Adams’ Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs and Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, Light on the Landscape covers in detail the core photographic fundamentals such as light, composition, camera angle, and exposure choices, but it also deftly considers those subjects that are less frequently examined: portfolio development, marketing, printmaking, nature stewardship, inspiration, preparation, self-improvement, and more. The result is a profound and wide-ranging exploration of that magical convergence of light, land, and camera.

Filled with beautiful and inspiring photographs, Light on the Landscape is also full of the kind of wisdom that only comes from a deeply thoughtful photographer who has spent a lifetime communicating with a camera. Incorporating the lessons within the book, you too can learn to achieve not only technically excellent and beautiful images, but photographs that truly rise above your best and reveal your deeply personal and creative perspective—your vision, your voice.”

A Dance On The Beach

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

Protecting Place

Sunday, July 14th, 2019


Eroded Navajo sandstone slot canyon, Antelope Canyon Tribal Park, Arizona 2002
Wista 4×5 Metal Field Camera

NOTE: The original version of this essay was written and published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine in 2002 after a recent visit.

I first visited Antelope Canyon in 1982, when only a very few photographers had discovered the remarkably-carved sandstone slot canyon. I happened to have seen some of the first published photos of slot canyons ever published, which intrigued me greatly. Some years later, and without planning to seek them out, I saw photographs in a nearby visitor center, I asked for directions and was drawn a simple map. I parked my car along the highway as directed. No signs or markers were to be found. Hoping that I was heading in the right direction, I shouldered my heavy pack and hiked up the wash. I had no clear idea of how far the slot was or how I would get into it when I got there. After a few miles, I could see the sides narrow down to a sandstone cliff with a slot in it. I entered this unknown space with a sense of mystery and discovery.

I spent hours within the sculpted walls, completely in awe, and completely alone. Well, except for a raven cawing eerily from somewhere above my head. The few images I had previously seen did not prepare me for what I saw and felt. Here was the Sistine Chapel of natural sculpture. The profound art of Creation.

At the end of that extraordinary day in Antelope, I heard a truck driving up the sandy wash. I was a bit worried. I didn’t know if I belonged there. The people from the truck seemed surprised to see me, with my 4×5 camera, recording the slot canyon. Worried and protective, they asked me what I planned to do with my images. I told them I would label my photographs vaguely if they were published, in hopes of protecting the canyon from becoming well known. In a fine bit of irony, these were the folks who had led me to the site with their published photographs!
NOTE: A new book “Searching for Tao Canyon” chronicles their explorations starting in the early 1970s.
Searching for Tao Canyon By: Pat MorrowJeremy SchmidtArt Twomey

I returned home with a few decent images, two of which are included here. Some were published, some I printed for display in galleries or were shown to workshop students, but I never labeled the location specifically, only “Slot Canyon, Arizona” or something. I was often pressed for more specific directions, and I gave as few hints as possible. I was torn between the desire to share such a treasure, and the same territorial feelings felt by those early photographic explorers of Antelope. At the same time, other photographers were discovering, and publishing images of the slot canyons. The secret was getting out.

We must all think carefully about the impact of our images.  Does publishing our work outweigh the possible impact the exposure might bring?  Can we depend on resource managers to protect delicate or overused landscapes?  Is nurturing the love of nature’s treasures through our photographs more critical, and worth the risk? These are important questions, for which I have no definitive answers.

Just the other day, I received my copy of a travel magazine that reaches several million readers.  On the cover was a beautiful image of a very sensitive area, which had already been a subject of vandalism, with its location clearly defined.  I cringed and could only pray more damage would not result from the added attention.  In spite of this quandary, I am hopeful that when images are published of delicate places, others that follow will tread lightly and become involved in its protection.

NOTE: Here are two nature photography organizations involved in protecting nature and encouraging safe and ethical standards for nature photographers.
Nature First https://www.naturefirstphotography.org/
North American Nature Photography Association http://www.nanpa.org/

 


Side Canyon, Arizona 1982
Wista 4×5 Metal Field Camera


Slot Canyon, Arizona 1982
Wista 4×5 Metal Field Camera

Last Light – Revisit the key themes in your photography to add depth and quality to your portfolio

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

I was driving home at sunset a few months ago, as the last light of 2018 faded into darkness. I had recently posted my favorite images of 2018. I stopped to photograph at an open area of grassland where I could see the bands of sunset color. Using the magic of ICM (intentional camera motion), I moved my camera back and forth horizontally, blending the land and sky into a painterly abstraction of the scene before me. I relish the uncertainty of this process, where no results look the same and are hard to predict. In near darkness, I made 73 images in 6 minutes, experimenting with various shutter speeds and speed of my camera motion. The exposure times ranged from 0.5 to 2.5 seconds.

The creative life of an artist has its cycles like the seasons, its ebbs and flows in the river of experience and ideas. I’ve learned to embrace this lifelong process, riding high when new images come readily and being patient when my vision seems stale and repetitive. If inspiration isn’t appearing, I won’t force the issue. My goal is to see the beauty around me as a daily practice, and if I stay connected to that purpose, I know the images will come sooner than later.

While developing my recent retrospective book, I naturally got thinking about the major themes in my photography. The most significant departure in my landscape photography is my “Impressions of Light” series. I had spent 20 years creating images with, and building a career using, a 4×5 view camera with the goal to represent the magic of nature with exceptional sharpness and exquisite detail.

Then about a decade ago, I began to see students of mine experimenting with intentional camera motion using a single exposure and slow shutter speed with great results. Soon I became fully immersed in the technique myself, experimenting with, and developing a portfolio of, impressionistic photographs.

As a teenager, my mother worked as a docent at the National Gallery of Art when we lived near Washington, D.C., so I often had the chance to visit the exhibits. I was captivated by the “en plein air” approach of Monet and by the pointillism of Van Gogh I viewed there. Art soon became my favorite class during my high school years. My intrigue with the Impressionist movement led to my experiments with blurred images many years later.

The motion studies seen in my “Impressions of Light” work are an extension of my core goal of depicting the beauty I discover in nature. The ICM technique removes literalness and context, and distills the essence of a subject or scene in a fresh way, much as snow or fog simplifies the landscape. This less-literal approach has great potential to convey the spirit of a place powerfully.

To evolve creatively as an artist, I have found it necessary to push myself in new directions. Success toward this goal cannot be achieved passively, but it must be sought out and consciously pursued. I have tried to adhere to the concept that, as an artist, one should always question one’s own preconceived notions.

As 2018 ended and I reviewed my photographs from the past year, I noticed that I had not made any new “Impressions” photographs. So, on that last day of the year, it seemed the right time to push myself to add new work to my portfolio. Well, those results got me revved up for another session in the same area a few days later. This time I worked on a day with ominous clouds and beams of light striking the foothill grasslands.

Progress happens one step at a time; one idea leads to another, and down the road we travel. The pathway toward elevating one’s photography is to continually add depth to those primary themes that inspire us. Creative tangents are critical to that growth but sometimes can be too random. Most of us can benefit from a more focused approach. My recent images shown here will add valuable breadth to my Impressions series. For your own creative resolutions, target your key themes to build their depth and quality level, plan shooting sessions with those targets in mind, and I’ll bet you see exciting improvements in your photography. Enjoy the ride!

Feel free to leave your comments below.

Cheers,  Bill

PS  My Impressions of Light ebook is available at my ebook store HERE.


Grasslands at sunset, Madera County, California 2018, Madera County, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/2 second at f/11, ISO 100

 


Grasslands at twilight, Madera County, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
2.50 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Grasslands and sunset, Madera County, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
3.20 second at f/5.6, ISO 100

 


Sierra Foothills, Madera County, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
2 second at f/32, ISO 100

Whispers And Shouts

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Mountain and Iceberg at Twilight, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014

Whispers And Shouts

Your subject selection and processing style can and should be affected by what you want to say

What do you want to say? Standing behind your camera, looking through the viewfinder, what inside there inspires you? Once you stop to answer these questions, you must next consider how you want to say it, making choices such as what light or weather will help you create an emotive image. Is what you see now the best option, or do you need to come back in different light or another season? Dramatic lighting during a clearing storm? Soft, subtle light on a cloudy day? During sunrise or sunset?

Yellow Pines in snow, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 1990

 

I have written often in this space that I love making high-key images. My intent is that they reflect the quiet, slow-paced meditative experience of the moment of exposure. Simplicity. Subtlety. These are words I value highly in my landscape photography. I love making peaceful and serene images. I strive to distill those aspects of nature that whisper rather than shout.

In my last column, “Write Your Story,” I talked about the use of writing to enhance your photography. I mentioned that creative titles for your portfolios could entice viewers and encapsulate the emotion behind them. I recently came up with a theme title for my high-key imagery: “Whispers of Light.” I feel that the words express my emotions and intentions. My Yellow Pines image shown here, with the use of high-key processing, is part of my newly named portfolio. A heavy snowfall and a rare hush blanketed Yosemite Valley. If you can sense the silence, my photograph has succeeded.

But nature is not always subtle. Sometimes nature makes me want to shout. And howl with joy. I was recently browsing through my Lightroom catalog and remembered an epic scene in Antarctica. The late evening glow combined beautifully with swirling clouds layered across the mountainscapes. I started playing around with processing ideas. What did I want to convey? The light, the massive sense of scale I felt as we sailed past mountains and glaciers for hours? Subtlety was not in order; a shout, not a whisper, was required. I converted the color capture to black-and-white and worked on the file to pull out all of the magic. I am hoping my rendition of the scene translated the power and awe I felt at the time.

Although having a consistent style for your photography is a good thing, one shouldn’t be a slave to that style at the sacrifice of expressing the moment. Most of us gravitate toward seeking out and sharing the most epic lighting or weather or locations. Even though subtle images are less popular online, or perhaps because of it, I continue to pursue the quieter, more intimate landscape images. My two photographs shown here are meant to illustrate that your subject selection or processing style can and should be affected by what you want to say.

How you organize and present your photographs will have a significant impact on how viewers respond to your work. Once you find a theme and style direction, such as my high-key “Whispers of Light” series, you can focus your shooting and processing efforts on that body of work to build depth. This type of portfolio building can take months or years, but the extra focus can make it a more efficient way to create multiple themes in parallel. The stronger your theme’s concept, the stronger the communication to your viewer will be. When you decide what you want to say, you are more likely to be heard—whether you wish to whisper or shout!