Photographer Spotlight: William Neill

April 23rd, 2010 by Chris Klapheke

If you read Outdoor Photographer magazine, chances are you’ve seen William Neill’s landscape columns. 
William writes a regular column, On Landscape, where he conveys his images, techniques, and viewpoints on landscape photography.

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William attended the University of Colorado and graduated with a BA degree in Environmental Conservation in 1976.  The connection between William's formal education and his images is pervasive.  During summer breaks from college, he worked in Glacier and in North Cascades National Parks.  William spent those summers backpacking extensively and began to carry a camera to record his treks.  A year after graduation, he began working in Yosemite, and never left.

Yosemite’s deep, spiritual beauty inspired William to convey what 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. In 1995, Neill received the Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography.

Neill's work has been prolific.  He balances assignments from magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian, special edition books published by The Nature Company, his own books and ebooks with work for corporate clients such as Sony, Nike, and Hewlett Packard.

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William has several portfolio style ebooks in the Outdoor Photo Gear store:  Impressions of Light, Meditations in Monochrome, and Landscapes of the Spirit.  You can see them here.

And as if producing wonderful images is not enough, William has taught photography since 1980. Currently, he teaches online courses for BetterPhoto.com and conducts one-on-one workshops in his home studio near Yosemite National Park.

What drives William to constantly produce stellar images, write columns and books, and teach others?

It’s best to read William’s own words:

“The reason I photograph is to experience the beauty of Nature, of wild places. I explore the essential elements of rock and tree, of cloud and rushing water to discover the magic and mystery of the landscape. My search for beauty is romantic and idealistic. It is the spirit of the land I seek- be it in a small piece of urban wildness or in vast wilderness.

Photography is a quiet, intensely meditative activity for me. When the light and the subject inspire me, I am compelled to compose an image. The images that I enjoy making the most are those that rely on emotional response and perception rather than the spectacle of the scene. I enjoy isolating the details of a scene, often to the point of abstraction. By creating photographs where the content or orientation is not obvious, an intimate and enigmatic feeling can come through. I would rather make an image that asks a question than answers one, one that intrigues and arouses curiosity in the viewer.

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Photographing wild landscapes, depicting an image of pristine beauty, absent of the intrusions of man, is a dangerous proposition bordering on creating a false mythology. Yet wild places do still exist. What little is left will be lost if we don't develop a new and enlightened stewardship of our earth where Nature and Man are not considered separately. Perhaps the only way the world will change is for people to go through some kind of a profound aesthetic experience that makes us aware that we are personally accountable for our actions and how we affect the environment.

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I can only hope that my photographs convey an enduring sense of wonder, a deep appreciation of the magic, beauty, and mystery of the natural world."

Lastly, a landscape photography tip from William:  "My BIG tip is not to focus on tips and tricks! Focus on seeing deeply and feeling more."

William Neill's website and blog can be found here:  http://www.williamneill.com/

You can connect with William on Twitter here:  http://twitter.com/wgneill

See William's ebooks in the Outdoor Photo Gear Store here:  William Neill

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