Interview With William Neill

William Neill is one of USA’s leading professional landscape and outdoor photographers, writers and a resident of the Yosemite National Park area since 1977. He is the author of several books and countless magazine articles

You have been a resident of the Yosemite National Park area since 1977. Can you describe your feelings about living near the park and to what extent this has influenced your photography?

Having been here so long, I can be selective about when and where I photograph. When you get to know a landscape, you can read the weather and know better where to be and when. I have learned how to avoid clichés, and to see the place with my own vision. Learning this lesson in Yosemite has helped me tremendously when photographing other locations, and to believe in myself as an artist.

You were using a 5x4 large format camera for some time, but I see that you have moved to digital these days. How did you find the transition and do you still use your large format gear?

I feel that using my view camera was a tremendous experience for 20 years, teaching me to slow down, to compose precisely, and to create the sharpest image both technically and conceptually. I only used three focal lengths, which helped me to practise very controlled compositions, using my feet rather than depending too much on a zoom. For example, creating good spacing between objects is largely affected by camera position, not focal length. The transition to digital was not difficult, in part because of the discipline learned with large format. The biggest issue was exposure, but I learned to understand how to use the camera’s histogram, which is a great leap in technique. I find the LCD previews are an amazing tool for creative feedback during photographic sessions.

You have written a series of books and ebooks already. Are you working currently on a new book?

I am working on an ebook collection of my essays called “Light on the Landscape”, based largely on my writing for Outdoor Photographer’s “On Landscape” column over the past fifteen years. I have others in mind also, which include images of collected objects, mostly photographed in a “still life” manner. Another theme is called “Morning Light”, which is a collection of early morning photographs made in my area of the Sierra Nevada foothills near Yosemite.

Can you describe your current gear and why you chose it?

I have been using the Canon 1DS Mk III since it was introduced, and it is a tremendous tool. Now I am ready to move up to the higher resolution in the new cameras, especially since many clients are asking for mural-sized enlargements. My primary lens is the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, and the next most used lens is Canon’s 90mm Tilt Shift lens. I love to isolate sections of the landscape, so I gravitate to longer focal lengths. I use the 90mm TS-E for many nature detail subjects.

One of your portfolios is called “Landscape of the Spirit”. Can you describe the philosophy behind this title?

This title relates to how I feel when I photograph the natural landscape, how it nurtures my spirit and my soul. The collection represents ...

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