Posts Tagged ‘large format 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

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

 

Featured Portfolio and Interview in LensWork

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

William Neill presents photographs that go far beyond mere “pretty pictures.” His work reminds us of our deep connection with the planet, inspires us to seek the beauty of nature for ourselves, and encourages us to see with greater intimacy the beauty that surrounds us wherever nature flourishes.    -Brooks Jensen, Lenswork Magazine

I am honored to be featured in LensWork’s November/December issue. The portfolio, entitled Sanctuary in Stone-Yosemite Winter, contains twenty photographs ranging from 4×5 exposures made in the early 1980s or digital captures made this year.

There are three versions of LensWork are available for purchase -the printed version, the tablet version and the computer version: http://shop.lenswork.com/LensWork-133-Tablet-Edition-33-mb_…

If you are not familiar with Brooks Jensen’s podcast, I highly recommend it: http://apple.co/2zz6i3V

BOOK UPDATE: For those of you that purchased my retrospective book, you may be wondering where it is! Well, the latest news is that, due to an unforeseen issue, the book should be shipping to you in early December. Thanks so much for your purchase, and for your patience. I am certain that the long wait will be worth it.

In parting, I’d like to share with you an endorsement for my book by my friend Dewitt Jones. I am honored and humbled by his kind words:

William Neill is one of the great landscape photographers of the last hundred years. His images – stunning, haunting, breathtaking, poetic – speak for themselves. There are no words necessary, just admiration. Through, in his own words, “observation and immersion” he has seen and recorded the beauty of the planet. But, more than that, he had captured its spirit. Again and again he shows us “the thread which holds all things together”. This book is an instant classic; truly one for the ages.   – Dewitt Jones

Below are a few sample photographs in the portfolio.  Enjoy!

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!

Photographs by William Neill, slideshow by PhotoShelter

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

I have been preparing for a new advertising campaign targeted at art consultants, galleries, and collectors. In order to increase the impact of my William Neill Photography web site’s home page, I went to my PhotoShelter account and created the slideshow below.  Many new images are shown, as well as some of my classic nature photographs.

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Enjoy, and please share with friends and add your comments below. Do you have a slideshow you’d like to share? Add your links below!

See any photographs that you would like to see on your wall at home or office?

William Neill’s photographs may be viewed at these
fine art galleries:

The Ansel Adams Gallery
Yosemite National Park
On The Village Mall
Yosemite, California 95389
800-568-7398
E-mail: evan@anseladams.com

Susan Spiritus Gallery
3929 Birch Street
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949-474-4321
E-mail: susan@susanspiritusgallery.com

Mountain Light Gallery
106 S. Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
760-873-7700
E-mail: gallery@mountainlight.com

The Weston Gallery
6th Avenue & Lincoln
P.O. Box 655
Carmel, CA 93921
831-624-4453
E-mail: info@westongallery.com

The Focus Gallery
15 Depot Court
Cohasset, MA 02025
781-383-0663
E-mail: vallinophoto@comcast.net