My First Essay for Outdoor Photographer in 1997

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!

Retrospective book now available to pre-order!

March 10th, 2017
This is the cover for the standard version, 20% during pre-order, available in the Fall.Standard Release Cover, available Fall 2017, pre-0rder 20% off now for only £40 (~$49US)

Greetings from the Sierra Nevada,

I am happy to share with you the pre-order information about my upcoming book. The collection will feature images, many never published before, from my very early years with a camera in the 1970s through four decades including very recent work created in the past year. Photographs included are: from my Antarctica series; an in-depth look at my “landscapes of the spirit” work; a Black and White portfolio; a series of patterns in nature imagery; a portfolio of my impressionistic, camera motion work; and last but not least, an extensive collection of Yosemite photographs.

The book’s release is scheduled for the Fall of 2017. Triplekite, the publisher, is now offering excellent upgrades to the standard hardcover version that are only available through them and only until publication in the fall. Don’t miss out on these very special and limited offers!

William Neill’s much-anticipated retrospective book is now available to pre-order. All books ordered before the general release in the Autumn will come with a limited edition cloth cover with foil embossing – this version of the book will only be available as a pre-order and will not be available once the book is on general release. We are also offering a limited edition slipcase version, plus special edition with one or two signed A3 (12×16 inches) prints. 
All slipcased, limited and special edition books will only be available as pre-orders.

For more information and to purchase, visit Triplekite’s website.

special edition william neill-retrospectivePre-Release edition: Cover: cloth cover, foil blocked, set-in image:
approx 300 Plates: TBC Size: 280mm x 280mm (11×11 inches)
Pre-order book with slipcase £57.50 ($70.00 USD)

 

William Neill – Photographer, a Retrospective

£49.50£195.00 £40.00£195.00

Released: Autumn 2017

ISBN: 978-0-957 6345-8-9

Release edition: Cover: Hardback cover printed directly with no dust jacket, matt laminated Pages:  TBC Plates: TBC Size: 280mm x 280mm

Pre-Release edition: Cover: cloth cover, foil blocked, set-in image:  approx 300 Plates: TBC Size: 280mm x 280mm (11×11 inches)

 

Reasons to pre-order:

Name printed in the book

Collectors edition cover

Slipcases and special editions only available until pre order closure

20% Reduced pricing

Pre-order book only  £40 ($49.00 USD)
Retail Price when available in bookstores or online  £49.50 ($60.00 USD)

Pre-order book with slipcase £57.50 ($70.00 USD)

 

Special Edition with one print £160 ($195.00 USD)

In limited edition slipcase with signed A3 print (12×16 inches) by William Neill

Special Edition A – with ‘Rock, Tree and Waterfall’, Yosemite National Park, California

Special A Rock,-Tree-and-Waterfall,-Yosemite-National-Park,-California

Special Edition B – with ‘Morning Mist Rising’, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Special B-Morning-Mist-Rising,-Yosemite-Valley,-Yosemite-National-Park,-California

Special Edition with both prints £195 (~$230.00 USD)

Special Edition C – with both  ’Rock, Tree and Waterfall’, Yosemite National Park, California  &  ’Morning Mist Rising’, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

To make your purchase, you will see the drop down menu where you can select the options as shown below.

Retrospective Book

March 9th, 2017

In case you don’t follow my postings on social media, I am happy to announce that I have a new book project coming soon, a retrospective to be published in the fall by Triplekite Publishing of England. The pre-order details will be announced soon – and there will be some massive rewards for your pre-order purchase – Discounted pricing, Collectors Edition covers, and Deluxe Editions with prints – a teaser of the cover and sample spreads are shown below.

Naturally, I am extremely excited about this book.  Thanks, and please share with your friends!

To ensure that you receive the latest info on my book release, please sign up for my e-newsletter here: http://www.williamneill.com/contact/mail-list.html

 

 

 

An Extraordinary Tree

February 14th, 2017

HeartRock-2Sad News From Yosemite: Saturday I visited Upper Cascades Falls with a private student. I checked out a favorite subject – a small alder tree growing out of a split boulder in the middle of the falls. The powerful storms that recently hit Yosemite, and subsequent flooding, has knocked down this tree, ending its epic struggle to survive in this most precarious of footholds. My favorite photograph of is shown here and attached an iPhone snap made Saturday. In the crack of the rock, you can see a small log that washed down the falls and possibly smashed down the small Adler. Perhaps the root system survives, and it shall rise again!

For more information about my Private Yosemite Workshops, click here.

Rock, Tree and Waterfall, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
2 second at f/19, ISO 100
11/1/16 7:46:51 AM

 


Rock, Water and Tree, Cascade Falls, Yosemite National Park, California 2011
Canon-Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM,
1/2 second at f/27, ISO 320
7/8/11 7:28:32 PM

My Favorite Photographs of 2016

December 29th, 2016

Greetings from the Sierra Nevada. It is that time of year again when we all look back at the events of that last year, and look forward to the year ahead. Many photographers have developed the good habit of editing a collection of their favorite images for the year. The process of self-assessment is a vital part of artistic growth. In the day-to-day rush of life, we don’t often stop to see trends in our own image-making. By turning back the clock, we can see if we’re stuck in a rut or are hopefully making great progress.

I have included capture details, date and time of exposure, in chronological order. I hope you will visit my blog and add your comments or favorites at the bottom of the page.

May 2017 brings you joy, peace, and exciting photographic opportunities. Cheers to a happy and healthy New Year!   Bill


Vernal pools, Little Table Mountain, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8,
1/60 second at f/14, ISO 100
2/2/16 9:42:36 AM

 

 


Purple Plum Blossoms, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/60 second at f/20, ISO 400
3/6/16 8:10:59 AM

 

 


Raindrops and Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 50mm F2.5,
1/6 second at f/22, ISO 100
3/14/16 10:37:07 AM

 

 


Succulent, Clovis, California 2016
Jag.gr-PureShot for Apple iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2,
1/30 second at f/2.2, ISO 80
3/15/16 9:24:41 AM

 

 


Succulent #2, Clovis, California 2016
Jag.gr-PureShot for Apple iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2,
1/30 second at f/2.2, ISO 40
3/15/16 9:25:04 AM

 

 


Two Oaks and morning mist, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8,
1/50 second at f/20, ISO 100
3/22/16 8:00:59 AM

 

 


Tree and wall, Oakhurst, California 2016
Jag.gr-PureShot for Apple iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2,
1/30 second at f/2.2, ISO 25
4/18/16 3:42:53 PM

 

 


Dawn Mist and Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
10.00 second at f/14, ISO 100
4/23/16 5:54:22 AM

 

 


Dogwood and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1 second at f/16, ISO 100
5/2/16 7:32:13 PM

 

 


Backlit maple leaves and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/1 second at f/18, ISO 200
5/3/16 6:45:27 PM

 

 


Morning Mist at dawn, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/18, ISO 100
5/9/16 6:04:44 AM

 

 


Rising Mist at dawn, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/32, ISO 100
5/9/16 6:22:55 AM

 

 


SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/13 second at f/20, ISO 100
5/9/16 6:26:23 AM

 


Sunrise Mist, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/400 second at f/18, ISO 100
5/9/16 6:36:35 AM

 

 


Bridalveil Fall and Maple Leaves, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/640 second at f/16, ISO 400
5/18/16 1:08:17 PM

 

 


Salsify Seeds at sunset, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/1600 second at f/3.5, ISO 125
6/5/16 7:15:17 AM

 

 


Bridalveil Fall and mist, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/1250 second at f/10, ISO 200
6/22/16 1:19:23 PM

 

 


Lower Yosemite Fall triptych, Yosemite National Park, California 2016

 

 

 


Pebbles, Montaña de Oro State Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/6 second at f/22, ISO 100
8/7/16 7:13:51 PM

 

 


Rock formations and surf, at Montaña de Oro State Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1.30 second at f/32, ISO 100
8/7/16 7:39:45 PM

 

 


Forest reflections, Manzanita Lake, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/25 second at f/8, ISO 400
9/23/16 5:54:57 PM

 

 


Autumn Elm and Mist, Yosemite National Park, California
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/30 second at f/25, ISO 125
10/21/16 8:07:57 AM

 

 


Maple Leaves and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/3 second at f/25, ISO 320
10/21/16 4:35:17 PM

 

 


Cottonwoods, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/4 second at f/22, ISO 100
10/22/16 10:26:09 AM

 

 


Half Dome, Elm and Sunbeams, Yosemite National Park, California
ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/250 second at f/16, ISO 400
10/29/16 8:19:06 AM

 

 


Half Dome and Elm at sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/1000 second at f/20, ISO 400
10/29/16 8:23:40 AM

 

 


Maple Leaves along the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1.60 second at f/22, ISO 100
10/29/16 4:57:30 PM

 

 


Autumn Oaks in the Mist, Yosemite National Park
ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/50 second at f/16, ISO 100
10/31/16 9:19:31 AM

 

 


Black Oaks and Sunbeams, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/50 second at f/16, ISO 100
10/31/16 9:20:25 AM

 

 


Rock, Tree and Waterfall, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
2 second at f/19, ISO 100
11/1/16 7:46:51 AM

 

 


Cliffs and Mist, Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/30 second at f/18, ISO 100
11/1/16 9:24:15 AM

 

 


Gathering Autumn Storm, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
1/60 second at f/18, ISO 100
11/1/16 10:05:16 AM

 

 


Clouds at Sunset, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/13 second at f/18, ISO 100
11/1/16 5:49:01 PM

 

 


Rapids and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 24-105mm F4,
5.00 second at f/22, ISO 100
11/5/16 10:29:36 AM

 

 


Forest Reflections and Rapids, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
2 second at f/32, ISO 100
11/7/16 11:15:39 AM

 

 


Maple Leaves, the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/29, ISO 100
11/7/16 11:49:18 AM

 

 


Ice, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/22, ISO 125
12/1/16 10:22:00 AM

 

 


Oak and Purple Plum leaves, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
5.00 second at f/29, ISO 100
12/10/16 2:38:38 PM

 

 


Ice formations, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
2 second at f/16, ISO 100
12/17/16 9:35:04 AM

 

 


Ice forms, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/3 second at f/20, ISO 100
12/19/16 9:19:01 AM

 

 


Purple Plum leaves and frost, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/18, ISO 100
12/19/16 9:45:25 AM

 

 


Crystalline Ice forms, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
2 second at f/32, ISO 100
12/25/16 10:04:10 AM

 

 


Ice curves, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/25 second at f/18, ISO 100
12/25/16 10:11:31 AM

 

 


Ice patterns, Ahwahnee, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/40 second at f/18, ISO 100
12/27/16 9:48:48 AM