Nature and Art with William Neil
William Neil is a California-based landscape photographer. His photographs have won awards, and have been displayed in galleries and museums across the United States. They also have been published in many books, magazines, calendars, posters and in limited-edition prints.
What are your favorite places to photograph, and why?
I have to put Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada at the top of my “favs” list. I have lived in this area since 1977 and am fascinated by the light, the changing seasons and the dramatic topography. I am also very attached to Death Valley, and keep returning there because of the sand dunes and other amazing landforms. Number three on my list is Big Sur with its rugged beaches and steep cliffs rising out of the Pacific.
How have you remained dedicated to being an artist for so long, given all the challenges?
The answer is in your question: dedication. Although we all have our creative ups and downs, I’ve stayed dedicated to pushing myself to find new ways of seeing, stayed intent on improving my craft, maintained a curiosity about the world, and nurtured a signature style without falling into a rut.
What drives your art?
My main artistic interest is in the natural world. I have had, and continue to have, a deep sense of wonder for the natural landscape, its patterns, forms, weather and light. I enjoy the chance to share my visual discoveries with others through my web site, gallery exhibits, my ebooks, etc.
In your photography workshops, what do you see students struggling with the most?
The most common struggle for students is with capturing what they felt. They find a subject that inspires them, but can’t translate the emotions. They include too much info in the frame, so I remind them that simple is better. Another blocking point for students is finding the best light for a scene. I encourage them to return to favorite places often to learn the light, and improve their chances of finding that magic light. Don’t settle for average light!
Next: More on photography and nature with William Neil
How much do you believe nature photography can contribute to conservation of nature?
I have a BA degree in Environmental Conservation, which I received in 1976 from the University of Colorado. I had faith back then that nature photography was a major component in the environmental movement, and still do. But it is just one of many ways to help conserve nature. We can all contribute by writing, voting green, and supporting organizations that work hard every day to improve our environment through education, political action and fund-raising. We must all contribute in some way.
Who are some of the non-photographic artists who you admire?
I admire the British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, painters Chiura Obata, Monet and Van Gogh.
What are some of your future photography goals?
My goals for my future: remain creative, to publish new portfolios of my photography; to continue to share my knowledge and experience through teaching and writing. I just released a new ebook, William Neill’s YOSEMITE: VOLUME ONE so I plan on continuing creating portfolios of my imagery as high quality PDFs and soon as apps for the iPad and iPhone.
How much time do you spend just being in Nature appreciating it, versus time spent photographing?
This is a very interesting question. The line between being in, and photographing Nature, are blurred for me. I live on a beautiful acre in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and there is beauty all around me everyday. I count that as “being in Nature” and I observe Nature everyday. The actual time I photograph depends on inspiration, but it can be as little as one session a month. I am lucky that I can be in Yosemite Valley in about one hour, so if conditions are looking good, I can go photograph.
If photography did not exist, do you think you would have been a landscape painter?
Yes, or perhaps a graphic designer. I tried landscape painting once long ago, but it required more patience than I had then. Had photography not existed, perhaps I could have learned the patience and skills!
For a time, Ansel Adams studied to be a concert pianist, and he noted relationship between music and his photography. Does music play any role in influencing your artistic vision?
No, I am not a musician nor does music influence how I see photographically. I knew Ansel and appreciated how he metaphorically related music to the rhythm of tones in one of his prints. His famous quote about the negative being the score and the print is the performance still applies today with digital capture. A digital photograph is not complete until it is “performed” through post-processing and the finished print.
What other photographers work do you like?
Michael Kenna, Bret Weston, Paul Caponigro, Chris Rainier, Charlie Cramer, and Chris Burkett.
The digital workflow is more convenient, but do you notice anything has been lost in the film to digital transition?
I haven’t used film since 2005, and can’t think of anything that I miss. I am very glad that I used a 4×5 camera and film for twenty years. I was the best choice for me at the time, as is digital capture for me now.
To learn about his one-on-one workshops, ebooks (William Neill’s Yosemite, Meditations in Monochrome, Impressions of Light and Landscapes of the Spirit), PhotoBlog, and online courses with BetterPhoto.com, visit William Neill’s web site, WilliamNeill.com.
Image Credits: William Neil