Bliss in a field of Corn Lilies

Corn Lilies, Yosemite National Park, California 2013
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III__TS-E24mm f/3.5L__1/6 sec at f / 19__ISO 400

One of the main dilemmas for nature photographers is how to frame an image.  The choice of camera position and lens angle greatly affects the image design.  Nature often provides us with chaotic lines, shapes and colors from which we must distill and extract the essence of our subject.

This past Monday, I was in Yosemite National Park photographing one of my favorite subjects – corn lilies.  Returning to a favorite patch, I was happy to see that they were still fresh green in spite of recent hot weather.  The leaves were covered with pollen and a light rainfall added some water drops.  The wind was blowing, which meant that the leaves rarely would hold still for my camera.  On top of that, the best camera position was on the shoulder of the road with tons of traffic moving the plants as they zoomed past.

From my past experiences, I was a little late for the corn lilies since they had grown tall, making it difficult to aim downward where the leaf patterns are most strongly visible. Also, other plants in amongst them made for a difficult composition to simplify.  I usually prefer to zoom in tightly for a very graphic portrayal. In this composition, I chose to embrace the chaos by using my 24mm Tilt Shift lens.  The TS function helped me retain focus from front to back of the subject area, just like I often did with my 4×5 camera while still using a fast enough shutter speed.  I shuffled my location around trying to find a pleasing and well-balanced pattern in the lush vegetation.

Time vanished. Wind, rain showers, and sunbeams came and went. I tried dozens of framings, using the 24mm TS, my 90mm TS and my 50mm macro.  I waited for still moments in the wind, and for breaks in the traffic.  I hid from the mosquitoes inside my parka hood, and slapped away the ones that broke through my defenses.  In spite of the challenges, I was “in the zone,” blissfully focused on the beauty I saw and felt, and on finding ways to convey it all photographically.  Before I knew it, I had spent two and a half hours photographing within a ten-foot section along the road, and made over 200 images. That’s my job, and I felt blessed.  As I drove home, I was greeted by the most amazing sunset, with golden light shining through pouring rain accented by red clouds.  I howled loudly as the rain drenched me.

Enjoy and share!


Published by William Neill

William Neill, a resident of the Yosemite National Park area since 1977, is a landscape photographer concerned with conveying the deep, spiritual beauty he sees and feels in Nature. Neill's award-winning photography has been widely published in books, magazines, calendars, posters, and his limited-edition prints have been collected and exhibited in museums and galleries nationally, including the Museum of Fine Art Boston, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Vernon Collection, and The Polaroid Collection. Neill received a BA degree in Environmental Conservation at the University of Colorado. In 1995, Neill received the Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography. Neill's assignment and published credits include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History, National Wildlife, Conde Nast Traveler, Gentlemen's Quarterly, Travel and Leisure, Wilderness, Sunset, Sierra and Outside magazines. Also, he writes a monthly column, On Landscape, for Outdoor Photographer magazine. Feature articles about his work have appeared in Life, Camera and Darkroom, Outdoor Photographer and Communication Arts, from whom he has also received five Awards of Excellence. His corporate clients have included Sony Japan, Bayer Corporation, Canon USA, Nike, Nikon, The Nature Company, Hewlett Packard, 3M, Freidrick Grohe, Neutrogena, Sony Music/Classical, University of Cincinnati, UBS Global Asset Management. His work was chosen to illustrate two special edition books published by The Nature Company, Rachel Carson's The Sense of Wonder and John Fowles's The Tree. His photographs were also published in a three book series on the art and science of natural process in collaboration with the Exploratorium Museum of San Francisco: By Nature's Design (Exploratorium / Chronicle Books, 1993), The Color of Nature (Exploratorium / Chronicle Books, 1996) and Traces of Time (Chronicle Books / Exploratorium, Fall 2000). A portfolio of his Yosemite photographs has been published entitled Yosemite: The Promise of Wildness (Yosemite Association, 1994) which received The Director's Award from the National Park Service. A retrospective monograph of his landscape photography entitled Landscapes Of The Spirit (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, 1997) relates his beliefs in the healing power of nature. William has taught photography since 1980 for such prestigious organizations as The Ansel Adams Gallery, the Friends of Photography, Palm Beach Photographic Workshops, The Maine Workshops and Anderson Ranch Workshops. He specializes in landscape and nature photography and is concerned with conveying the beauty seen in Nature. Currently, he teaches online courses for and One-on-One Workshops in his home studio near Yosemite National Park.

2 replies on “Bliss in a field of Corn Lilies”

  1. The fact you were able to ignore the mosquitoes tells me that you were indeed in a zone!

    Lovely images of one of my favorite subjects as well! Although the corn lilies will be past peak, I’m looking forward to getting to the High Sierra in about 2 weeks.

Comments are closed.