Archive for the ‘Morning Light’ 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!

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!

 

Yosemite Autumn Explorations

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

During late October and early November, I spent seven days in Yosemite Valley working with private students.  We explored many of my favorite locations along the Merced River and in the many meadows around the Valley.

During these sessions, I worked closely with each student on refining their compositions, handling various lighting conditions and dealing with any technical issues that arose.  One of my main focuses while teaching is helping with aesthetic decisions to better enable them to express their own personal response and vision of the landscape before them.  When working one to one and side by side, I can show you my own decision-making process as I create new images. I also worked with those students interested in how I create my Impressions of Light images.

if you are interested in learning from me, see my Yosemite Private Workshops!  To see photographs by those who have attended my sessions, visit my Flickr group page which includes images from all seasons!

Below is a small portfolio from our sessions. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, tell your favorite photographs, and share with friends.

To all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, Happy Thanksgiving!   I am so thankful for the love of my friends and family, and the profound beauty I see in the world around me everyday.  I am also thankful for the gift of being able to share my photographs with others for the past 30 years.  Thank you for following!

Ride the Light,  Bill

 

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Sunrise over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/20 second at f/19, ISO 200
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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

 


Grasses reflected in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/2 second at f/22, ISO 200
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Moonrise over Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM +2x,
1/60 second at f/9.5, ISO 320
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Grasses reflected, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/45 second at f/19, ISO 400
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Autumn Leaves and Ripples, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1/250 second at f/2.8, ISO 800
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Ripples, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, TS-E90mm f/2.8,
1/500 second at f/2.8, ISO 800
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Maple leaf reflected in the 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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Yellow Maples and Granite Boulder, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1 second at f/22, ISO 400
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

Aspen Explorations

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Last week, I spent three days in Lee Vining working with a private student.  We explored the local canyons where the aspen were showing good color, as well as photographing at Mono Lake for two sunrises.  Here is a small portfolio from our sessions.

Please let me know your thoughts and favs, and if you are interested in learning from me, see my Yosemite Private Workshops!

Ride the Light!   Bill

 


Sunrise at South Tufas, Mono Lake Tufa-State Natural Reserve, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/60 second at f/13, ISO 800
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Aspen in autumn, June Lake Loop, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/4 second at f/19, ISO 400
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Aspen Forest Impressions , June Lake Loop, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1 second at f/19, ISO 100
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Aspen backit, June Lake Loop, Inyo National Forest, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM,
1/20 second at f/16, ISO 100
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


Sunrise over Negit Island and Tufas, Mono Lake Tufa-State Natural Reserve, California 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/2 second at f/16, ISO 100
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

 


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
Copyright © 2014 William Neill

Antarctic Dreams – a developing portfolio Part Two

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

As many of you might have noticed, I returned three weeks ago from an amazing adventure:  Antarctica By Air – A Unique Luminous Landscape Photographic Workshop with Michael Reichmann and Kevin Raber.

Here is a set of ten new images.  In spite of all the energy I have been putting into editing and processing in the past three weeks, I am shocked and thrilled that I still have many strong images to “finish” and present to you.

I would enjoy your comments and feedback on this selection.  When I have another set of newly processed images, I will let you know!  Also, as new images are created, I am adding them to my Facebook pageGoogle+ or 500px.

Enjoy, and if you Like, please Share!


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

 


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

 


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

 


Mountain and Iceberg at Twilight, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +2x III,
1/500 second at f/5.6, ISO 400

 


Iceberg Detail, 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 Arch, Pléneau 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

 


Cliffs and Glaciers at Sunrise, Neumayer Channel, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x III,
1/750 second at f/11, ISO 500

 


Icebergs, Neumayer Channel, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica 2014
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x III,
1/250 second at f/19, ISO 500

 


Mountains and 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/16, ISO 800