Best of the Year

Late Summer Meadow, Ahwahnee, California 2011
Late Summer Meadow, Ahwahnee, California 2011

Will you be posting your Best Of 2013 online? I am still working on mine, hoping to finish this week…

Here is my Best of 2011:

For some thoughts on the subject, here is my essay from Outdoor Photographer Magazine in 2010:

Many years ago, when I was involved with Ansel Adams’ workshops, I was fortunate to hear lectures by many master photographers. One of them was Jerry Uelsmann (, who became a friend and mentor. During his lectures, he’d show his work from the past year. Since his work involves compositing many images together, these images included variations he had tried, often with the same objects in different locations or scenes. The overview gave insight into some of the progression of Jerry’s creative process. I always felt inspired when I saw many of his slideshows. I’d often thought I should do this myself each year in order to assess my year’s efforts, but I never got around to it until recently.

With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and blogs, it’s now very easy to create a “Best Of” portfolio to share with friends and fans. Using Collections in Lightroom is an ideal way to do this. I simply take the top-ranked images in my Library folder to create the new Collection. From there, I edited down to the top 30. SlideShowPro is good software I have used to post portfolios on my website via their Lightroom plug-in, which is simple to use, but also highly customizable in terms of design. Most recently, I use a Lightroom plug-in by Photographer’s Toolbox that export my image choices from LR to my WordPress blog page.

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 image-making. By turning back the clock, we can see if we’re stuck in a rut or are making great progress. One technique I’ve used to analyze my own work is to use the filters built into Photoshop’s Lightroom or Bridge. The software will show you the metadata analytics for any folder of images you have. The data shows how many were made with which camera body or lens, the shutter speed, aperture or ISO used, or by ranking labels.

I especially like seeing which lens I used the most (in most cases, it’s my Canon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8). Even with this simple bit of knowledge, I can recognize that I tend to photograph details of the landscape rather than wide views. This information can lead to ideas for a portfolio or theme. The data can also be a hint that I’m in a rut and I may want to break away from this trend to expand my repertoire of wide-angle landscapes. Another option would be to filter by keywords to see what images I’ve made of water or trees, or with clouds and sky. Studying my photos in such a way may lead to the creation of a new e-book or an idea for an exhibit. Developing themes in your work is an important way to focus your photographic efforts.

The photograph shown here is currently my favorite from the year. I was photographing Monterey pine trees in a dense fog. Toward the end of my dawn shooting session, I decided to make some panoramic images so I composed overlapping frames that could later be stitched in Photoshop. The image for this column was made from two side-by-side exposures. I rotated my tripod laterally, overlapping by about 25%. I knew that I would have to crop since I was aiming up into the trees at 160mm on my 70-200mm zoom, so I widened my composition to allow room to crop later.

I used Adobe Lightroom to select the two digital files, then sent them to Photoshop using the menu option Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. After assembly, I cropped as shown here. When the layers are flattened, I have a 308 MB master file created with two exposures from my 21-megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. This gives me plenty of resolution for large mural-sized enlargements. We converted to black-and-white using menu option Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White. I liked it so much I added it to my recently printed version of my Meditations in Monochrome e-book.

The main point is to assess your photographic efforts on a regular basis. The beginning of the year is the ideal time for me. Ansel used to say that if a photographer can make 10 portfolio-grade images in one year, he or she had a great year! When you read this, go back one year in time with your own work and see how you do.


To learn about William Neill’s one-on-one workshops in the Yosemite area, his e-books Meditations in Monochrome, Impressions of Light, Landscapes of the Spirit and William Neill’s Yosemite, and his online courses with,, or to visit his PhotoBlog, go to

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.

5 replies on “Best of the Year”

  1. Hi, Bill. I post my favorite of the year on my blog as part of the annual tradition most photographers take part in. In doing this, I’ve found it to be more than traditional; it really does highlight themes that have emerged in my photography and it allows me a chance to take a deeper look at my own vision and motivations for making images.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your favorites from the year!


  2. Nice article – looking forward to seeing your best of 2013! I just did the same, for the first time (a blog post with an embedded slide show) and it was so interesting to look back, finding areas where I’ve challenged myself with new subjects & techniques.

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