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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Impressions of Light


Using the capabilities of a digital camera and embracing a desire to experiment, William Neill is producing a body of unique images that go far beyond literal landscapes



This Article Features Photo Zoom
DogwoodsDogwood Blossoms, Yosemite National Park, California, 2007
I photographed these dogwood blossoms along the Merced River in Yosemite one evening last spring. I immersed myself intensely for two hours, creating 648 images! Although this may sound excessive, I knew from the previews that it would be difficult to blur this type of subject. Without the clearly defined lines of a horizon or tree trunks, the dogwood required more subtle and varied motion in order to maintain their shapes clearly while still creating an impressionistic effect. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L with a Canon Extender EF 2x, ISO 100, exposed for 1/5 sec. at ƒ/5.6

I’ve been a photographer for 35 years. I started out with my first camera in 1974, a 35mm Pentax Spotmatic. I most often photographed natural patterns and other details in the landscape. In 1982, I acquired a 4x5 field camera, and for the next 20 years, I photographed mostly with 4x5 transparency film. I continued to concentrate on photographing landscape details, as well as broad views and dramatic light.

My intention in using a large-format camera was to render nature with great detail such that the amazing textures and eloquent light on my subjects became extraordinary. I currently use a high-resolution Canon D-SLR, the EOS-1Ds Mark II, to create most of my images, and will soon upgrade to the EOS-1Ds Mark III. No matter the tool, my goal has remained the same: to inspire passion for the natural world and convey my emotional response to the subjects I photograph—that of awe and wonder.

My most recent work is entitled Impressions of Light. About two years ago I discovered a new way to convey such an emotional response I give credit for this inspiration to students taking an online course I teach, which is offered by BetterPhoto.com. They had picked up some blurring or "painting with light" techniques from other instructors. I had a visceral response to their images. I tried it out myself in the summer of 2005 and have been immersed in creating this body of work since then.

I’ve long been intrigued by the motion studies of the great color photographer Ernst Haas. Freeman Patterson also has use camera motion as a technique, as well as other methods for creating impressionistic photographs. Patterson had even written a book on the subject, along with Andre Gallant, entitled Photo Impressionism and the Subjective Image. Since I was a boy, I’ve loved impressionistic painting. My mother was a docent at the National Art Gallery when we lived near Washington, D.C., when I was a teenager. I was inspired by the en plein air approach of Monet and the pointillism of Van Gogh I viewed there.

For me, the motion studies seen in my Impressions of Light work are simply another way to depict the deeply moving beauty I see in nature. The technical aspect of sharpness or softness of focus doesn’t matter to me ultimately.


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