Archive for the ‘Fine Art Photography’ Category


Saturday, November 16th, 2019

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


Aspen in winter, Conway Summit, Inyo National Forest, 1995

November 17th – January 4th

Since 1983, when Ansel approved my work for sale in his gallery, I have been exhibiting my fine art prints there. This has been a great honor for me, with 15+ shows over those many years. I’ve chosen this exhibit’s title to be Light On The Landscape as it is also the title of my forthcoming book by the same name. You can read more about the book below.

Starting soon after the first of the year, a pre-order sale of a limited number of signed hardbound editions will be made available by the publisher Rocky Nook on their website. I will be offering some form of deluxe edition for direct sale only. Softbound is expected to be $45 and the hardbound $55. I will announce the details when the pre-order is launched so stay tuned to my social media or sign up for my occasional newsletter HERE.

I will be attending the opening reception to be held on Saturday, November 23rd from 1-3 pm.

Kind regards, William Neill

In 1977, photographer William Neill found his life’s path when he moved to Yosemite to work for the National Park Service. Not long after this, he began working at The Ansel Adams Gallery as a staff photographer, teaching visitors all he could about the art form and the place that he loved. Mr. Neill has said that: “Perhaps one of the greatest joys of being a photographer to me is to see the light on the landscape, seeing its daily cycles change with each season and shift with each day’s weather. I revel in the light. I am its disciple.” While other itinerant interests would take him on adventures far and wide, from the American Southwest to the Himalaya to Antarctica, he would make Yosemite his home.

His life in photography has been an amazing journey as witnessed by the incredible and intimate imagery that has resulted, as well as the numerous books and articles written in the process. Between November 17th, 2019 and January 4th, 2020, The Ansel Adams Gallery will be exhibiting “Light on the Landscape – Photographs by William Neill” featuring work made throughout an illustrious career.

A reception with the artist will be held on Saturday, November 23rd from 1-3 pm, on what will no doubt be a beautiful autumn day in the park!

Impressions of Light

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Create Artistic Blurs In-Camera
Tips for achieving a painterly effect with subtle camera movements

Alders, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington 2006


Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California 2006


I have been a photographer for four decades. I started out with my first camera in 1974, a 35mm Pentax Spotmatic film camera. Over the years, I have most often photographed natural patterns and other details in the landscape. In 1982, I acquired a 4×5 field camera, and for the next 20 years, I photographed mostly with 4×5 transparency film. I continued to concentrate on photographing landscape details as well as broad views and dramatic light.  

My intention in using a large format camera was to render Nature with great detail such that the textures and eloquent light on my subjects became extra-ordinary. Since switching to digital, I used Canon’s high-resolution DSLRs and currently use a Sony high-resolution camera, to create most of my images. No matter the tool, however, my goal has remained the same – to inspire passion for the natural world and convey my emotional response to the subjects I photograph – that of awe and wonder.

Back in 2005, I discovered a new way for me to convey such an emotional response. I give credit for this inspiration to students taking an online course I was teaching. They had picked up some blurring, or “painting with light” techniques from other instructors. I had a strong visceral response to their images. I tried it out myself and became very intrigued by the possibilities, then immersed myself in creating this new portfolio of work.

Since I was a boy, I have loved impressionistic painting. My mother was a docent at the National Art Gallery when I lived near Washington, D.C. as a teenager. I was inspired by the en plein air approach of Monet and by the pointillism of Van Gogh I viewed there. Art was one of my favorite elective courses during high school. In college, I became intrigued by the motion studies of the great color photographer Ernst Haas. Another photographer that inspired me was Freeman Patterson, who also was using camera motion as a creative technique, as well as other methods for creating impressionistic photographs. 

The motion studies seen in my Impressions of Light work are simply another way to depict the profoundly moving beauty I see in Nature. The technical aspect of sharpness or softness of focus ultimately doesn’t matter to me. 

I try all kinds of movement, up and down or sideways, starting and stopping and changing direction in the middle of the exposure. Sometimes I just jiggle the camera. It’s a learning process, a sort of feedback loop. Every frame is different. I tend to photograph in bursts of five to ten images at one shutter speed. I then watch the images come up on the LCD, so see what happened. Based on what I see, I adjust shutter speed, focal length, or my camera position or movement to refine the effect. 

How I move the camera depends on the subject. If working with a forest scene, like the Alders image, I move the camera up and down. With the Sand Dunes image, I moved laterally to the right and left. In both cases, I panned along with the major lines in the scene. With other images, like flowers or leaves, I make very small motions not sweeping motions, so that the edges are softened. This technique works for my tastes since I usually want the shapes to be “painted” but distinctive of that subject. The degree of motion varies, sometimes long sweeps up and down, then some short. If I see an area of the scene, like a bright sky or distracting object, I refrain my motion to avoid it. 

This process continues until I think I’ve created something good. I end up with dozens, and sometimes a few hundred photographs after I try all the creative options that come to mind. The LCD screen is a vital tool in reviewing my results. 

As I edit the large number of images I generate, my use of Adobe Lightroom (or any software that helps review and compare files) helps tremendously. My selection process involves rating the images that appear to have the most potential, and once I have several similar frames, I use the Compare View function. I rank my photographs as I edit and process, coming back at least many times to arrive at the final top photos. Then I begin to work with those top images in Lightroom’s Develop module and/or in Photoshop.

In terms of composing, I start with an image design and camera position that would work for me as a sharp photograph. A great joy in making these images is the freeform and spontaneous style of capturing them. Still, I am conscientious about applying the same quality of any composition I make. For example, in my Winter Forest photo, I carefully moved my position to create the spaces between the trees that are a critical design element for the image.

Since the camera is moving during the exposure, it is not possible to control precisely where objects land within the frame. Most compositional issues, such as distracting bright areas along the frame’s edge, can be corrected by responding to feedback from the LCD. Any other problems with composition can be solved in the editing process, as I make enough similar images that usually at least one works out.

The most important note on my technique is that these images are all single exposures created with camera motion only. Having seen other techniques used, such as multiple exposure methods, I find the single-exposure approach works best for the mood I wish to create. The resulting images have an organic and painterly look rather than a “digitized” look. Other methods often look heavily manipulated or Photoshopped, while my style is to work with the textures and light and color I see in my camera.

Even when I use my camera set to its low­est ISO and the lens stopped way down, there’s often still too much ambient light to permit a long enough exposure time. In that case, I use a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter, with which I can adjust the strength of neutral density to reduce the light entering the camera by up to eight stops. This tool has greatly increased both my options in bright lightings conditions and in controlling the balance of aperture and shutter speed. For example, with my flower close-ups, I can still use a slow shutter speed even when using the widest apertures.

In my processing, I make a few minor adjustments in Photoshop, including boosting contrast lost when a scene’s brighter areas blur into darker ones. I output images with Canon’s 12-color, pigment-based printers, which have 24- and 44-inch carriage widths, respectively. I usually print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, a watercolor-style paper. This paper’s texture is very effective at accentuating the painterly feel of these images.

Around the same time I was building this series, I watched a DVD entitled Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers & Tides. If you are not familiar with his art, I highly recommend that you check out his books and this DVD. He is dedicated to connecting with Nature, especially around his home in Scotland, and this DVD shows him at work and talking about his art. I scribbled down some notes as I watched this inspirational documentary. As I listened to him express his philosophy, I realized, in a more concrete way, what I am trying to do with my Impressions of Light series:  Remove the context; distill down to the essence, convey the energy of a subject or scene in a fresh way.

The blurring process has the effect of simplifying the landscape, much as what occurs in snowy or foggy conditions. For me, these images defect the mind’s tendency to dwell on the concrete issues of place and name when viewing a subject. The spirit of a place or an object is less objectified and can be more strongly conveyed.


Winter Forest, Yosemite National Park, California 2007


Giant Sequoias, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California 2007

 I’m trying to stretch, not just to be different but also to find new ways to express what I’ve been trying to show all along—the beauty of Nature. It may sound trite, but that’s still what motivates my photographic explorations. To both grow and survive creatively as an artist, I have found it important to push myself in new directions; in other words, to evolve. Success towards this goal cannot be achieved passively, but it must be sought out. I have tried to adhere to the concept that as an artist, one should always question one’s preconceived notions.


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.


“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
North American Nature Photography Association


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

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