Posts Tagged ‘Landscape Photography’

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 https://www.naturefirstphotography.org/
North American Nature Photography Association http://www.nanpa.org/

 


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


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

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

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

___________________________________

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

 

My Favorite Photographs of 2018

Monday, December 31st, 2018

NOTE: Five new images have been added at the bottom of this post after the initial upload. The Impressions of Light images were taken during the last light of 2018.

Greetings from the Sierra Nevada. It is that time of year again when we all look back at the events of 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 and presented the images in chronological order. I hope you will visit my blog and add your comments or favorites at the bottom of the page.

May 2019 brings you joy, peace, and exciting photographic opportunities.

Cheers to a happy and healthy New Year!   Bill

Best of 2014
Best of 2015

Best of 2016

Best of 2017

 


Stones, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/3 second at f/13, ISO 80

 


Mule’s Ears Leaves, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Ice Patterns, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/6 second at f/13, ISO 100

 


Oak Branches, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8 G SSM II,
1/4 second at f/16, ISO 400

 


Pine Branches, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1.60 second at f/25, ISO 100

 


Pine Branches and Cones, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1.60 second at f/25, ISO 100

 


Pear tree in bloom, Fresno, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 16-35mm F2.8 G SSM II,
1/100 second at f/13, ISO 640

 


Purple Plum Blossoms #2, 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1/1 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Oaks and Fog, Ahwahnee, California
SonyILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/2 second at f/32, ISO 100

 


Pine and Sunbeams, Ahwahnee, Calfornia 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/1600 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Plum Blossoms #5
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/40 second at f/20, ISO 400

 


Orchid
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1.60 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Day Lily
Sony ILCE-7RM2, 90mm F2.8,
1.30 second at f/25, ISO 100

 


Spring Oak, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM,
1/200 second at f/16, ISO 800

 


Sunrise over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, EF70-200/2.8L USM,
1/125 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Ponderosa Pine and Incense Cedar trees, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, EF70-200/2.8L USM,
1 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Sunrise over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM,
1/160 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1000 second at f/5.6, ISO 800

 


Cascade Falls, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/8 second at f/40, ISO 100

 


Salsify, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #10 50/2.4,
1/750 second at f/2.4, ISO 1000

 


Peacock Feather, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/2 second at f/29, ISO 100

 


Mushrooms, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/2 second at f/20, ISO 100

 


Mushroom, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #10 50/2.4,
1/1 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Stone, 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #10 50/2.4,
1/8 second at f/32, ISO 100

 


Ammonite Fossil, 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/5 second at f/22, ISO 100

 


Salt Crystals 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/3 second at f/18, ISO 100

 


Succulent, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
13 second at f/25, ISO 100

 


Merced River Reflections, autumn, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
3.20 second at f/29, ISO 100

 


Ripples, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/80 second at f/16, ISO 800

 


Backlit Elm Branches, autumn, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, EF24-105/4L IS USM,
1/10 second at f/22, ISO 400

 


Blackberry Leaves, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/2 second at f/13, ISO 100

 


Grasses and Ice, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/6 second at f/32, ISO 100

 


Dogwood and Forest, autumn, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
SonyILCE-7RM2, EF24-105/4L IS USM,
1/6 second at f/16, ISO 400

 


California Quail feathers, Ahwahnee, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #10 50/2.4,
1/1 second at f/16, ISO 100

 


Bougainvillea petals, La Quinta, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, #127 90/2.8,
1/125 second at f/16, ISO 800

 

Thank you for viewing my photographs. I hope you will leave your comments below.

Happy New Year!

 

Here are a few images I’d like to add to the list. The first BW was simply missed during the upload. The impressionistic images were taken after I uploaded, taken during the last light of 2018!


Cathedral Spire and Mists, Yosemite National Park, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/6000 second at f/5.6, ISO 500

 


Grasslands at sunset, Madera County, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
1/1 second at f/11, 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


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 hills at twilight, Madera County, California 2018
Sony ILCE-7RM2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS,
2 second at f/5.6, ISO 100

Focus Your Fall Portfolio

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
Working with a theme can help you create a unique collection of images

 

 

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

With autumn photography season here, 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.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.

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!

Autumn Portfolio

 

 

Autumn Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, California 2015