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William Neill
Fine Art Nature and Landscape Photographer, Writer and Teacher
Fine Art Nature and Landscape Photographer, Writer and Teacher

William's posts

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I am excited to share with you the cover for the DELUXE version of my upcoming retrospective book by Triplekite Publishing. ALL pre-order Deluxe Edition books will be getting this special cover. The Deluxe Edition will include options for an original 11x14 signed print or prints. Stay tuned for details in the near future.

To ensure you learn the latest details and offers for my William Neill - A Retrospective, please sign up for my e-newsletter here:

#landscapephotography, #williamneillretrospective #naturephotography #yosemitephotography

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I have been teaching photography since 1980, and love to share my creative techniques, images, and my philosophy on landscape and nature photography. I have been writing for Outdoor Photographer Magazine since 1986, and contribute essays in my regular column since 1997. See:

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Breaking Sad News From Yosemite. Yesterday I visited Upper Cascades Falls with a private student. I checked out a favorite subject - a small alder tree growing out of a split boulder in the middle of the falls. The powerful storms that recently hit Yosemite, and subsequent flooding, has knocked down this tree, ending its epic struggle to survive in this most precarious of footholds. My favorite photograph of is shown here and attached below an iPhone snap made yesterday. In the crack of the rock, you can see a small log that washed down the falls and possibly smashed down the small Adler. Perhaps the root system survives, and it shall rise again!

Rock, Water and Tree, Cascade Falls, Yosemite National Park, California 2011__Copyright © 2011 William Neill

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I am happy to announce that I have a new book project, a retrospective to be published in the fall by Triplekite Publishing of England. I will be sharing more details as they develop, but for now, I have a question for you. The book will be offered in a deluxe edition as part of the release, which will include an 11x14 print. I need to decide what one image to offer, and the publisher is requesting a recent photograph. If you were to purchase the deluxe edition book of my images, which ONE photograph would you select as part of a deluxe book and print package? Please cast your vote in Comments. Naturally, I am extremely excited about this book. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, and please Share if you Like!
5 Photos - View album

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Greetings from the Sierra Nevada. It is that time of year again when we all look back at the events of that last year and look forward to the year ahead. Many photographers have developed the habit of editing a collection of their favorite images for the year. 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 own image-making. By turning back the clock, we can see if we’re stuck in a rut or are hopefully making significant progress.
I have included capture details, date and time of exposure, in chronological order. I hope you will visit my blog and add your comments or favorites at the bottom of the page.
My Favorite Photographs of 2016:

May 2017 brings you joy, peace, and exciting photographic opportunities.

Morning Mist at dawn, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California 2016
SONY-ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8,
1/2 second at f/18, ISO 100
5/9/16 6:04:44 AM

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Maple Leaves and Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
ILCE-7RM2, 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM,
1/3 second at f/25, ISO 320

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It is my pleasure to announce that The Ansel Adams Gallery is once again sponsoring a special print sale of two of my photographs, offering a 25% discount off the normal price. The two images we selected for this offer are Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, and Autumn Sunset on El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California. These two photographs have never been exhibited at a gallery or sold before. My signed, open edition 13×20 prints usually sell for $325, but during this sale, you can get one for only $243.75. Or you can purchase a 16×24 print, normally $450, for only $337.50. Most of my prints have been issued as limited-edition and are more expensive than the open-edition photographs. This is a rare chance to purchase one of my photographs at a reduced price, but the sale lasts for just six days until Sunday, September 18th at 6:00 PM Pacific time. Please visit The Ansel Adams Gallery website to purchase a print or get more details:

Making photographs is not only about the technical “capturing” of the image but also about the sensory experience with the landscape itself. Strong images can reconnect us with the experience and the people with whom we shared that time. Here are the stories behind the making of Autumn Elm and Sunbeams, Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California, 2014 (image above)

"One October morning in 2014, I was teaching a private student in Cook’s Meadow at sunrise. As a longtime Yosemite resident, I anticipated great photographic potential there. We started out photographing with a classic view of Half Dome, but as the sun first struck the damp meadow, we raced to where the sun was rising directly behind this extraordinary elm tree. An amazing confluence of peak autumn color and morning mist unfolded before us, with sunbeams bursting through the graceful branches. Knowing that the mist would burn off soon, we worked rapidly to find a strong composition, shading our lenses from the sun using the tree’s limbs. As the sun rose higher, the beams shifted with the rising mist until they disappeared after only ten minutes. To me, this image captures a sense of hope, of “a new day shining out of the darkness.” This elm, which I’ve been photographing for 40 years, was once again a magical and wondrous sight."

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I wrote this essay in 1999 for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Posting today in response to an email discussion about my most recent "On Landscape" column essay. See link below.
On The Horizon
Cloud reflections and Mt Moran at the Oxbow Bend on the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming 1990.tiff
© 1999 William Neill (published in Outdoor Photographer)
Do you know where your horizon is? In many types of nature photographs, the horizon line in the image is often not apparent nor important. In scenes with a broader view that include a foreground, distant objects, and sky, the decision of where to place the horizon is vital. The proportion of land to sky strongly affects the impact of a landscape photograph.
The beginning photographer, before becoming very involved with the composition of his or her images, tends to place the horizon, or other important subjects, in the center of the viewfinder. Take these images to a workshop to share with the class, and the experienced attendees will chime in, "that photo is too centered," or "our camera club judge deducts points for centered images." After beginners study enough successful photographs, they realize that centering a subject within the frame usually leads to a static composition. The viewer's eye is led to the middle and left stuck there.
Being aware that this is a tendency is an important step, but tendencies tend to become rules instead of becoming a simple awareness of potential problems. Many novice photographers seem to crave rules, but such photo-dogma is dangerous! I have been told it was Edward Weston that once advised, "Always question preconceived notions, especially your own!" I have often recalled this sage advice when I catch myself in a creative rut. Few truly creative photographers rely on rules to create their vision.
The bottom line is that it is important to explore all the options — up, down, or center without blinders. Even though I rarely place the subject, be it the horizon or a flower, in the center of my camera frame, I don't want to narrow my choices. If I had adhered to the "don't center" rule and my own tendency, I would not have made the photograph shown here, Cloud reflections and Mt. Moran.
I had just arrived at Grand Teton National Park, and seeing that the clouds and light were intriguing, I stopped by the Oxbow Bend turnout along the Snake River. I set up my 4x5 with a 210mm lens. As I photographed, I varied the composition to include more sky or more reflection. Even though many of the variations looked fine, I kept coming back to a centered horizon where the Rorschach inkblot design was strongest. I tried on a 90mm wide-angle lens so that the clouds and their reflections filled the frame but then saw that the mountains receded too much. I decided that I needed the impact of the peaks so I returned to the 210mm lens so that the peaks were prominent and I could still include the drama of the clouds. With a horizontal framing, I lost the top group of clouds or their reflections and so the image's balance was also lost. A vertical composition, with the horizon very close to the center and the symmetry of clouds and reflection clearly emphasized, was the most successful image to me.
As soon as you become aware of the importance of the horizon line's placement, you will be making similar decisions in designing your images. Watch carefully as you raise and lower your camera to see how relationships within the frame change. How does the mood, emphasis, and scale change? Think about what is most important to you in the image. When the foreground is most important, push the horizon towards the frames' top edge to see if it works. When you have an amazing sky, try the horizon in a low position.
If you find that you are indecisive in the field, you may wish to try variations on the horizon's position. Then carefully study the resulting images on the lightbox in order to select the best variation. It can be easier to judge the results when removed from the excitement of the moment. With time, you will be more able to make the right decision at exposure. In spite of all the post-exposure corrections at our fingertips, far more are present at the original scene in terms of composition.
My favorite example of the importance of the horizon is Ansel Adam's Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico photograph. As the story is told, Ansel had only enough time for one exposure in order to capture the fading light. Despite the haste required, he knew what effect he wanted. His composition placed the horizon line about one-third of the way up from the bottom, and the moon lies in the middle. Above the moon, the top half the image is only sky. The feeling of space is an essential element to the photograph and with this composition, the expansive quality of the desert comes ringing through. Many other factors make Moonrise a great image, but the proportion of land to sky is an unsung yet essential factor.
The next time you photograph the landscape, consider the horizon, break a few rules, and remember Moonrise!

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Photograph from May 9th's sunrise spectacle. Since I've been working so much in BW lately, I am sharing an essay published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine in 2010:
Enjoy, and Share if you Like!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Meditations In Black-And-White
A business proposal led to a new avenue of creativity
I recently had a client ask to see some images – Black & White nature photographs for a corporate environment. Since I haven’t made B&W photos at all during my career, except on a rare occasion, I was surprised. However, her simple request led me down a path that was both creative as well as successful in terms of business. I have long been inspired by great B&W photography masters such as Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston, Minor White and Paul Caponigro, which has lead me to try a few conversions over the past years using Photoshop. You never know from where inspiration will come, but this project ignited my passion for B&W and pushed me to expand my photographic repertoire.
Ansel Adams used to proudly declare in his lectures that he had been a commercial photographer for sixty years! He would then explain that his many years of making a living from his photography taught him valuable lessons. During his career, he accepted assignments to make portraits, still life product shots, architectural work and more. He felt that the problem-solving nature of commercial work informed and improved his art in terms of discipline and technique. Practice makes perfect, so they say. My B&W project provides a good example of creative results coming from a practical assignment.
The first step was to prepare and send jpgs to my client for her PowerPoint presentation. I received a list of color images that she found in the many web portfolios on my web site. My assistant John and I compiled a portfolio using the Collections in Adobe Lightroom, which proved very useful for previewing potential images using the Grayscale function part of the Develop mode. I have learned that many color photographs don’t convert well to B&W so by simply clicking on Grayscale, the color is removed and an assessment can be quickly made. Additionally, Grayscale offers sliders that allow adjustments to improve your conversion. Once my B&W portfolio was edited down for my client, we easily made JPGs using the Export function of Lightroom and emailed them to her for her presentation.
A few weeks later, I received an order for seven 30x40 fine art B&W prints! This was great news of course, but now the real work began. Each image had to be fully refined and mastered in Photoshop, then prepared for making the final photographs. Each image file began with the high res original film scan or digital capture. Next, adjustments to each image was made using multiple Adjustment Layers. Some layers were globally applied to the whole image. Depending on each photograph, other layers were applied using local masking. For example, if shadow detail needed improving, the mask would be specific to that area. The use of masks is much like the “old fashion” dodging and burning used when printing film to paper.
The main tool to convert my color images to B&W, was the Black and White adjustment layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Black and White). We have found this to be the most versatile adjustment method. One thing I learned from viewing Ansel Adams’ prints is the value of tonal separation. I worked in his Yosemite gallery for five years, handled and exhibited many of his most famous images. His prints show a fine degree of detail in both shadows and highlights. The whites are never washed out and we can see many gradations of light grays and white. I especially love how his shadow areas show each subtle tone of dark gray and blacks. His shadows are never really black and formless, but show clear shapes and form within them.
It was Ansel’s inspirational prints that guided the B&W processing for this project. Once the images were finished in Photoshop, the printing began. Each file was sized to the final output dimensions, then sharpened for that specific size. The latest inkjet printers do an excellent job of handling B&W in their output. I used my Canon Imageprograf, and I was very pleased with the results. We shipped them off, and the client was pleased too. Job done.
Now for a little Marketing 101 - follow trends, and give clients what they want! Black and white photographs are in demand. I have noticed more and more mention of them in magazines, on commercial web sites selling photographic art, With the success from this one sale, we decided that other clients might find my newly created B&W images useful for their corporate art projects. In order to show them, we decided to put together a whole new portfolio. The fun and creative part of this process was sorted through thirty years of work, searching for images that would survive as strong images when converted. Once the editing was done, we used Lightroom’s Web module to create an online set of B&W landscape and nature images. I then sent the URL to my email client list. If they don’t know what you’ve got, you can’t sell it!
The final step in this creative journey was the making of a ebook entitled Meditations in Monochrome (…/meditations-in-mon…/index.html). I have “published” two previous ebooks, and made them available as an inexpensive downloads from my web site. My apprentice John O’Connor ( produced a beautiful layout in Adobe InDesign and created a high res PDF file. I wrote an essay for the books’ introduction. I selected 52 photographs for this digital portfolio, ranging from classic western landscapes to intimate details of nature. Locations include the coast of New England, the deserts of the Southwest and my backyard in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The selection covers a wide span of my career, with photographs dating from 1982 to many recent digital captures created as recently as 2008.
Becoming a better photographer is about building skills. It is also about following ones’ passions, and pushing oneself creatively. My Meditations project started with a business deal that opened a door that I had wanted to go through for a long time – adding a Black and White portfolio to my collection of images. I hope Ansel would be proud!
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