Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

My First Essay for Outdoor Photographer in 1997

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

 

Dawn, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada 1995

 

NOTE: This article is reposted from the original essay in 2012…

Today, I had a request from my long-time friend and master photographer Michael Frye to post the essay in which I tell the story of making my favorite image, Dawn, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada 1995. Here it is as sent to Outdoor Photographer for first my On Landscape column in 1997.  For more of my essays, see the OP site here.  Michael is mentioning this story is his upcoming blog post:   In the Moment: A Landscape Photography Blog

 

Landscapes for my Spirit
© 1997 William Neill

 

Welcome to Outdoor Photographer’s new column on landscape photography!  I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on all aspects of the landscape genre.  I have been an avid reader of OP since its beginning and I hope that I can contribute to all the exciting ideas and images that are regularly offered here.

The best way that I can think of to launch this column is to put forth the underlying motivation and inspiration for my photography. Any future discussions on light, or composition, or equipment, or technique will be based on this foundation.  I am not one for learning an approach to creating images unless that route allows for a direct connection with the subject and helps me to communicate my own response to it.  In other words, I keep my approach very simple and pragmatic.  We, photographers as a group, tend to let the technique of photography get in the way.  Ansel Adams often complained of the overabundance of sharp photos with fuzzy concepts!

The beauty of nature is the foundation of which I speak; it motivates and inspires my photography.  When I stand before landscapes of silent rock, reflecting water, and parting cloud, I feel most connected to myself and to life itself.  Seeing and feeling this beauty is more vital to me than any resulting imagery.  Still, I am compelled to try to put on film some visual representation of the sense of wonder I feel, and I suspect that you know that feeling!

In my new book, Landscapes of the Spirit, I describe my evolution as a photographer, especially emphasizing my belief in the great value and need for the wildness and beauty of nature.  This belief emerged from personal experience— a death in my family when I was eighteen.  That summer I happened to be working in Glacier National Park.  My immersion in that landscape during a time of great personal distress opened my eyes to the restorative powers of nature, and led me to a life in photography.  At some deep level, the beauty of my surroundings seeped into my subconscious—the lush colors of a meadow dense with wildflowers, the energy of a lightning storm, the clarity of a mountain lake, the splendid perspective from the edge of a desert canyon.  In an effort to capture and convey these life-affirming discoveries, I began to photograph as I backpacked throughout Glacier.  Within a few years, all I wanted to do was make photographs!

Ansel Adams, in paraphrasing his mentor Alfred Stieglitz, used to remind his students that a great photograph was the emotional equivalent of the photographer’s response to his subject.  Such a lofty goal is rarely achieved.  We are all lucky if but two or three or four times a year we make an image where technique and emotion converge to create a transcendent photograph.  I don’t mean simply a technically excellent and beautiful image.  I mean a photograph that rises above your best and reveals a deeply personal and creative perspective.  In this regard, I am not so sure that pros can claim to have a better “batting average” than the amateur given their relatively different expectations of their work.  In any case, it is good to have reasonable expectations for your own progress.

Over the years, I have continued to search for imagery that, in the words of the great black and white photographer Paul Caponigro, can”… make visible the overtones of that dimension [of Nature] I sought. Dreamlike, these isolated images maintain a landscape of their own, produced through the agency of a place apart from myself. Mysteriously, and most often when I was not conscious of control, that magical and subtle force crept somehow into the image, offering back what I had sensed as well as what I saw.” I think that the photograph here, Dawn, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada, 1995, is one of those photographs Caponigro describes.  Rising very early on a summer morning, I hoped for a dramatic and brilliant sunrise on Lake Louise and the glaciers above.  Perhaps it was the two weeks of photographing in rainy conditions that biased my hopes!  I waited patiently for sunrise, but my preconceived vision failed to appear as persistent clouds shrouded the mountains. It was a silent and mysterious dawn.  I simply sat and soaked in the scene.  Finally, I made two exposures, but expected little. I completely forgot about this session during the rest of my trip.  When I saw the film after returning, I was amazed.  I had to think hard about when and where I had made this photograph.  Unconsciously, but facilitated by my experience and instinct, the power and magic of that landscape, at that moment, had come through on film.

The Lake Louise photograph was made with my 4×5 view camera and a 150mm lens.  Due to the use of slow film, small aperture and low light, the exposure was about two minutes long.  Of the two exposures I made, one was horizontal, the other vertical.  The horizontal image looks much like the vertical, minus the rocks in the foreground.  I often like to remove clues and context that show depth or scale in my images, and the horizontal exposure fit my standard approach.  However, the vertical image has a stronger feeling of depth and somehow this subtle sense of scale adds an essential dimension to the composition.  Since the foreground rocks are underwater, and the long exposure also blurred their appearance, they add a little balance and mystery.

 

I had an idea of what I wanted to photograph at Lake Louise that morning, but when it did not materialize, I didn’t feel as if I had to make an image.  The landscape itself presented another idea.  When a concept for an image is forced onto film, creativity can be lost.  By not needing to make an image, I found one.  This lesson is encapsulated by my favorite quote from photographer Minor White,

Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence.

So wait, watch and relax!    It is these magical convergences of light and land and camera that keep us coming back again and again!

Favorite Photographs of 2014

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

NOTE: I am reposting my Favorite Photographs of 2014 due to a past crash of my blog site…

 

Happy New Year!  I finally put together my favorite photographs from 2014.  It is always helpful to take the occasional assessment of our own creative progress. You might be interested in reading an essay I wrote on the subject five years ago in my On Landscape column for Outdoor Photographer on this subject.  Since I started teaching private workshop sessions in Yosemite, I’ve been visiting Yosemite Valley much more often so you will see a batch of new Yosemite images taken this past year.

If you have been following my work this past year, you know that my big trip of the year was to Antarctica last January. Click here to read my Outdoor Photographer magazine On Landscape column, and recent Antarctic Dreams portfolio in OP and see below!

I have numbered each image, which will make it easier for you to let me know which ones are your favorites.  It will be fun and helpful for me to have your feedback.  I will value a list of favs, or general thoughts on what work you respond to the most.  After I assess your feedback, I will then make a final edit of 10-15 that are my top selects of the year.  My criteria for that final selection will be based on which images I feel best represents my personal vision and style rather than the most popular ones.  If you have your own post of top images for 2014, please add your link in your comments below.

I look forward to your comments and favorites for my 2014 portfolio.  Enjoy and please share with your friends!

I wish you a year full of the gifts of nature, peace and love,  Bill

PS  The photographs below are in chronological order.

Yosemite Private Workshops

 


Clouds and Shadows, Bransfield Strait, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/8000 second at f/9.5, ISO 800


Morning light, Gerlache Strait, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/1000 second at f/11, ISO 1600


Early morning light, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
January 29, 2014 06:18:31
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/750 second at f/11, ISO 1600


Ancient crystal Iceberg, Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/750 second at f/16, ISO 1600


Blue Icebergs, Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/750 second at f/22, ISO 1600


Glowing Glacier, Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/8000 second at f/11, ISO 1600


Two Humpback Whales and Iceberg, Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/1500 second at f/11, ISO 800


Two Icebergs, Cierva Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/3000 second at f/11, ISO 800


Icebergs and Sunset, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/3000 second at f/5.6, ISO 800

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/180 second at f/13, ISO 800


Iceberg at Dawn, Pleneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/2000 second at f/2.8, ISO 400


Iceberg Towers at Dawn, Pleneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/4000 second at f/2.8, ISO 400


Iceberg Arch, Pleneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/500 second at f/9.5, ISO 400


Crabeater seal resting on an iceberg, Pléneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/350 second at f/9.5, ISO 400


Iceberg Sculpture, Pleneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/125 second at f/19, ISO 800


Sunset, Pleneau Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/1500 second at f/6.7, ISO 800


Rolling iceberg, Scontorp Cove in Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/250 second at f/19, ISO 400


Glaciers, Scontorp Cove in Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x III,
1/1500 second at f/19, ISO 800


Mountains and Glaciers at Scontorp Cove, Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x III,
1/1500 second at f/16, ISO 800


Chinstrap Penguins entering surf, Baily Head on Deception Island, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/3000 second at f/8, ISO 800


Chinstrap Penguins, Baily Head on Deception Island, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/1500 second at f/13, ISO 1250


Young Antarctic fur seal, Baily Head on Deception Island, Anarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM,
1/250 second at f/9.5, ISO 1250


Roses II
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro,
6 second at f/22, ISO 100


Waterfall on Lee Vining Creek, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/3 second at f/19, ISO 100


Seastacks at Sunset, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park. Washington 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
3 second at f/22, ISO 100


Ferns, Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM,
15 second at f/19, ISO 100


Avalanche Lily, Olympic National Park, Washington 2014
iPhone 5, iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f/2.4,
1/200 second at f/2.4, ISO 50


Backlit Aspen, June Lake Loop, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM,
1/250 second at f/16, ISO 640


Autumn Reflections, Lundy Canyon, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/15 second at f/32, ISO 400


Last Light, Conway Summit, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/15 second at f/19, ISO 200


Aspen Forest Impressions #3 , Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
3 second at f/9.5, ISO 100


Aspen Leaves, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
3 second at f/32, ISO 200


Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/180 second at f/22, ISO 200


Yellow Maples, Cedar and Pine, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1.50 second at f/16, ISO 640


Cottonwoods reflected, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/6 second at f/22, ISO 100


Maples Leaves and Merced River Reflections, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM +2x,
1/1 second at f/45, ISO 400


Grasses and El Capitan reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/6 second at f/32, ISO 200


Grasses reflected, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1000 second at f/2.8, ISO 800


Grasses and reflections in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/350 second at f/2.8, ISO 200


Maple leaf and autumn reflections, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/60 second at f/4.5, ISO 320


Thimbleberry Leaves, autumn, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
2 second at f/32, ISO 400


River otters, American River, Sacramento, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM,
1/350 second at f/5.6, ISO 1250

Best Photographs of 2015

Friday, December 16th, 2016

It is that time of year again for Best of the Year photographs. Except that last year I did not post a Best of 2015. So here it is. Better late than never they say. I’ve included 40 photographs shown in chronological order, enough to give you a sense of the range of styles and subjects I explored.  No exotic adventurous travel in 2015 like my Antarctica trip in 2014.

In August, I made a switch in to the Sony A7R2 camera. I wrote an essay about the switch in my Outdoor Photographer Magazine column. Nothing revolutionary or new in my thoughts, just some excitement about the improved technology of the latest sensors.

I’d love to get your feedback in the Comments below.

NOTE:   I still am using my Canon lenses using the Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony E-Mount Camera Lens Mount Mark IV Adapter. When I exported these images from Adobe Lightroom to my WordPress, the software reads the file data to show the wrong lenses, Sony instead of Canon.

 


Crystalline ice formation Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
3 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Ice Crystals, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1/2 second at f/6.7, ISO 100

 


Crystal Ice and oak leaf, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1/1 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Ice and Grasses, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1 second at f/19, ISO 100

 


Ice and Grass, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1.50 second at f/19, ISO 100

 


Cottonwood Impressions, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/6 second at f/32, ISO 100

 


Winter Forest, Pocono Mountains, Deleware State Forest, Pennsylvania 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/6 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Dogwood Blossoms and Sky, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/750 second at f/9.5, ISO 800

 


Dogwood Blossom, early spring, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/90 second at f/5.6, ISO 400

 


Dogwood blooming, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1.50 second at f/32, ISO 200

 


Dogwood Blossoms, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1 second at f/27, ISO 200

 


Dogwood Blossom Tapestry, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1 second at f/22, ISO 400

 


Dogwood Blossom Sunset, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1.50 second at f/32, ISO 800

 


Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/2000 second at f/8, ISO 200

 


Lupine Impressions, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1 second at f/8, ISO 200

 


El Capitan reflected in Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM +2x,
1/4 second at f/19, ISO 100

 


Bridalveil Fall and clouds, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1000 second at f/3.5, ISO 100

 


Half Dome and Clearing Spring Storm, Yosemite National Park, California 2013
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/350 second at f/19, ISO 200

 


Morro Bay Impressions, Morro Bay, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1 second at f/13, ISO 100

 


Sunset , Morro Bay, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1 second at f/27, ISO 100

 


Sunset and surf, Morro Bay, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/2 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Gull, surf and fog, Morro Bay, California 2015
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/1 second at f/27, ISO 100

 


Ripples and reflection #2, La Mirada, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/1000 second at f/2.8, ISO 100

 


Ripples and reflection, La Mirada, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/1000 second at f/2.8, ISO 100

 


Ripples and reflection #3, La Mirada, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/640 second at f/2.8, ISO 100

 


Japanese Sea Nettle (Chrysaora pacifica), Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California
ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8 G SSM II,
1/250 second at f/8, ISO 3200

 


Japanese Sea Nettle (Chrysaora pacifica), Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California
ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8 G SSM II,
1/200 second at f/8, ISO 3200

 


Pebbles 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Rocks and Surf, Big Sur, California
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
30 second at f/14, ISO 400

 


Sunrise, Rocks and Surf, Monterey Bay, Pacific Grove, California
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
8 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Rocks and Surf, Pacific Grove, California
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
30 second at f/29, ISO 100

 


Calla Lily Flowers 2015
PureShot for Apple iPhone 5, iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f/2.4,
1/20 second at f/2.4, ISO 50

 


Big-Leaf Maple fallen on windshield, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park,
PureShot for iOS, iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2,
1/30 second at f/2.2, ISO 160

 


Autumn Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/8 second at f/16, ISO 400

 


Autumn Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/10 second at f/13, ISO 400

 


Autumn Oaks and Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/5 second at f/16, ISO 400

 


Fog and Pecan Grove, Clovis, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/2 second at f/25, ISO 200

 


Pecan Grove, Clovis, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/2 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Pecan Grove and fog, Clovis, California 2015
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1.30 second at f/29, ISO 100

 


Forest, Padden Creek, Bellingham, Washington
ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8 G SSM II,
3 second at f/16, ISO 125

 

Unique Offer from The Ansel Adams Gallery – Photographs by William Neill

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

 

It is my pleasure to announce that The Ansel Adams Gallery is once again sponsoring a special print sale of two of my photographs, offering a 25% discount off the normal price. The two images we selected for this offer are Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, and Autumn Sunset on El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California. These two photographs have never been exhibited at a gallery or sold before. My signed, open edition 13×20 prints usually sell for $325, but during this sale, you can get one for only $243.75. Or you can purchase a 16×24 print, normally $450, for only $337.50. Most of my prints have been issued as limited-edition and are more expensive than the open-edition photographs. This is a rare chance to purchase one of my photographs at a reduced price, but the sale lasts for just six days until Sunday, September 18th at 6:00 PM Pacific time. Please visit The Ansel Adams Gallery website to purchase a print or get more details.

Making photographs is not only about the technical “capturing” of the image but also about the sensory experience with the landscape itself. Strong images can reconnect us with the experience and the people with whom we shared that time. Here are the stories behind the making of these two images.

Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, 2014 (image above)

One October morning in 2014, I was teaching a private student in Cook’s Meadow at sunrise. As a longtime Yosemite resident, I anticipated great photographic potential there. We started out photographing with a classic view of Half Dome, but as the sun first struck the damp meadow, we raced to where the sun was rising directly behind this extraordinary elm tree. An amazing confluence of peak autumn color and morning mist unfolded before us, with sunbeams bursting through the graceful branches. Knowing that the mist would burn off soon, we worked rapidly to find a strong composition, shading our lenses from the sun using the tree’s limbs. As the sun rose higher, the beams shifted with the rising mist until they disappeared after only ten minutes. To me, this image captures a sense of hope, of “a new day shining out of the darkness.” This elm, which I’ve been photographing for 40 years, was once again a magical and wondrous sight.

 

Autumn Sunset on El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2013

I have been photographing Yosemite and living in the area for nearly forty years. The wonders of this cathedral in stone never ceases to amaze me, especially during the changing seasons. The day I made this photograph began with pouring rain at dawn. Then by mid-morning, it began to snow leaving a white dusting on red dogwood and golden oak leaves. By noon, the storm began to clear with clouds and mist ascending off of granite cliffs. After a thrilling day of chasing this extraordinary light and weather around the valley, I started for home. The clouds looked like they were closing in, how could any more epic conditions appear after so many blessings of the day? While driving past El Capitan, I noticed a small patch of light breaking through the clouds on its cliffs. I raced down to set up my camera along the Merced River, finding these wonderful reflections and sunset colors. The incredible light lasted only a few minutes. After a day full of catching my breath in awe of such beauty, I finally, slowly exhaled with a peaceful sense of bliss.

If you have any questions, contact me by email or post below in my blog. Please click here to purchase or for more information.

 

Focus Your Fall Portfolio

Sunday, September 4th, 2016
Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook's Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, 2014

Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, 2014

Focus Your Fall Portfolio

Below is an essay  I wrote last year for my On Landscape column published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine. I would love to hear feedback on your favorite images, and share links to any “epic day” images you wish to share!

With autumn photography approaching soon, I want to share some ideas that may help you develop an excellent portfolio for this fall season. I have found it useful, for myself and for teaching my students, to think about creating a story line, or clear thematic focus, for your work. Consider what specific locations or aspects of autumn inspire you the most. The location could be your backyard, a nearby park or reserve, or a travel location where you can spend at least a few days to explore the area fully. A favorite aspect might include colorful reflections, or the patterns of fallen leaves, or a series focused on branch-filled tapestries of color. This approach of specialization will help distinguish your autumn images from other photographers’ work.

Two key elements needed for your selection of an autumn theme are passion for the subject and easy access during the season. Passion is a must-have ingredient for creative, insightful imagery. Repeated access to your location will build your knowledge of the light, weather and seasonal changes, helping you find the best conditions for making great photographs. One idea would be to photograph the transition of autumn in your area, from the first hints of color in green trees to the last clinging leaves. This transition offers us great opportunities to communicate that visceral sense that we all feel of time moving forward.

Instead of trophy hunting for singular, spectacular scenic images, I like to explore around for quiet images, ones that don’t shout too loud. In Yosemite, for example, I often find exciting details on the forest floor, in river reflections or cliff details. I have included some examples here from last fall in Yosemite Valley. Over a two-week period in late October and early November, I worked with private students in Yosemite Valley. I enjoy the one-to-one process of helping photographers find their own vision, and share mine with them. Even though I usually focus on intimate details, that doesn’t mean I will avoid those epic, rare events where weather and/or light explode with drama and energy.

On one such dramatic morning, an amazing confluence of peak autumn color and morning mist, rising off a frosted meadow, unfolded before me and my student. We started out photographing from one excellent vantage point, then raced to where the sun was directly behind this extraordinary tree where we witnessed sunbeams bursting through the graceful branches. Knowing that the mist would burn off soon, we worked rapidly to find the best camera position for him to block the rising sun with the tree’s limbs. Even though the lens was shaded from direct sun, the high contrast and rapidly changing situation called for bracketing exposures to ensure a full range of data was captured. The end result, for both of us, were top portfolio “keepers!” The images portray the symbolism of “a new day” and “light shining through the darkness.”

Just as exciting to me were several quiet Yosemite images I photographed last fall. Quiet intensity in an image can endure and engage the viewer for longer in my opinion. With subtle imagery comes a depth that can be enjoyed more over time.


Yellow Maples, Cedar and Pine, Yosemite Valley.

When I pull together a group of photographs such as from last autumn, I edit by looking for the highest and most consistent quality, as well as looking for a balance of scale, light, weather and subject matter. I might use a wide-angle view or two to set the context of the portfolio in Yosemite Valley. However, my intimate landscapes would be my main focus, such as the river and trees reflections, or leaves floating through autumn-colored river reflections. When you see the selected images as a group such as in an exhibit or online gallery, they should create a visual story, a personal exploration, a creative viewpoint.

This fall, think about what thematic project you could develop. Selecting a title, even if you change it later, can give you additional focus for both your shooting sessions and editing. Think about what you want to say with your images. Your unique viewpoint will be better revealed, and the concept behind the photographs will heighten the portfolio’s impact.

Best wishes for great light, wondrous color and creative autumn photographs!