Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

A Dance On The Beach

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

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

Springtime in Paradise

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

During the last few weeks, I’ve visited Yosemite Valley several times and I’d like to share my new images with you. Having lived in or nearby the Valley for forty years, it would be all too easy to become jaded or bored photographing the small area for so long. Over the course of a year, I really don’t visit that often. However, whenever I go I find something amazing and wonderous to see, and sometimes photograph. When sharing this beauty with my students, I reengage with and refresh my long love affair with this sanctuary, this paradise.

I hope you enjoy this collection, and that you’ve had a chance to engage with springtime in your areas. Please let me know your favs and add your comments below!

Kind regards, Bill

PS To learn more about my Yosemite Private Workshops, click HERE.


Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1600 second at f/18, ISO 400

 


Dogwood and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/6 second at f/18, ISO 100

 


Waterfall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/2 second at f/20, ISO 100

 


Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1000 second at f/18, ISO 100

 


Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/800 second at f/18, ISO 100

 


Moon over Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/25 second at f/5.6, ISO 400

 


Dogwood along the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/3 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Spring sunrise over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/40 second at f/11, ISO 100

 


Spring Elm, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM,
1/20 second at f/14, ISO 100

 


Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1600 second at f/5.6, ISO 200

 


Waterfall and Mist, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1600 second at f/7.1, ISO 200

 


Dogwood over the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/6 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Rock and Waterfall, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/2 second at f/32, ISO 100

 


Spring dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/2 second at f/18, ISO 100

 


Spring dogwood and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/2 second at f/25, 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!

Winter Etchings

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Greetings from Ahwahnee. Over last weekend, we had a massive storm hit Yosemite and the central Sierra Nevada. I hear eight feet of snow fell at Tioga Pass, and ten feet at Mammoth Mountain. That was over 4-5 days. At my location of 2000 ft, we had 3-4 inches. On Tuesday, I walked around my neighborhood, looking for SnowZen images. The first two images are from that day. I’ve also included an essay I wrote for Outdoor Photographer magazine a couple of years ago called Winter Etchings that seems fitting for the season.

Enjoy, and feel free to add comments or links to your own Winter Etchings!

PS Today, I finally figured out a way to have WordPress allow for each photograph to enlarge for a better view when you click on it… check it out.

 

Winter Oaks, Ahwahnee, California 2019

 

Grasses and snow, Ahwahnee, California 2019

 

Grasses, Boulder Creek, Boulder, Colorado 1976

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Winter Etchings

Tune into the graphic, elegant starkness of the season

 

I love photographing in winter. When trees are bare, their graceful forms are starkly revealed. The tones of beige and gray or black and white, form a subtle palette in the landscape. The lines of grass and shrub, ice and fallen leaves display themselves in simple, elegant design like a drawing or etching.

Winter photography offers us options at all scales. While winter scenes are less colorful than other seasons, I am drawn to their monochromatic qualities. Winter weather can often provide more interesting and dramatic skies with ominous clouds or clearing storms which work especially well with broad scenics.

Many of my favorite winter images are vignettes of the landscape such as my image of snow-covered branches. By zooming into a section of these oaks for my composition, the wonderful texture of the snow comes alive, and their lines form a dynamic graphic design that fills the frame. This image was made with my 4×5 camera and a Nikkor 360mm lens.

 

Black oak branches in winter, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 1994

Among my favorite winter subjects are ice details. The endless patterns and textures fascinate me. When I first picked up a camera in college, I explored Boulder Creek in Colorado on cold winter mornings before heading to class, making close-up images of the crystalline forms. The Merced River in Yosemite is now my “go to” location for ice imagery. I often find back eddies where ice forms around grasses at the water’s edge. These areas receive very little sun during the winter due to the high granite cliffs that form the valley’s southern rim.  

I seek out compositions, like my Oak Leaf and Ice Crystals photograph, where brightly lit cliffs reflect in the ice to heighten their patterns. Currently, my favorite camera/lens combo is the Sony A7R2, Metabones adapter with my Canon 90mm Tilt-Shift lens. In order to pick up the cliff reflections, I often need to use a low camera position. The lens’s tilt function helps me maintain sharpness throughout the depth of the subject area as I used the same tilt function with my view camera. Although the ice is the main subject, I used the oak leaf as a small focal point of interest and context within an otherwise abstract pattern of ice.

Crystal Ice and oak leaf, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2015

 

When you are creating your own winter compositions, tune into the graphic designs to be found in the landscape. Study the winter photographs by the great masters of landscape photography such as these classic photographs: “Chicago, Trees in Snow, 1950” by Harry Callahan; “Redding, Connecticut, 1968” by Paul Caponigro; “Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park, 1932” by Ansel Adams; or “Stark Tree, 1956” by Wynn Bullock.

If you have a case of cabin fever this winter, give yourself the assignment of producing a winter portfolio of new images. Get out to your favorite local woods, lake or stream where you can return often in various weather and light. Working locally will give you many more opportunities to be out there after a fresh snowfall, or after a hard freeze when ice is everywhere. After all, it is only through practice that you will ready to make your next great photograph. Enjoy the season!

 

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For information about William Neill’s books, posters and workshops, visit WilliamNeill.com and sign up for his newsletter updates. You can find his ebooks in his online store.

William Neill – Photographer, a Retrospective

Introductory Essays by Art Wolfe and John Weller
Size: 295mm x 295mm (11.6×11.6 inches)
Pages: 224
Photographic Illustrations: 151