William Neill is a renowned nature and landscape photographer and a recipient of the Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography. Neill's award-winning photography has been widely published in books, magazines, calendars and posters, and his limited-edition prints have been collected and exhibited in museums and galleries nationally, including the Museum of Fine Art Boston, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Vernon Collection and The Polaroid Collection. Neill's published credits include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History, National Wildlife, Conde Nast Traveler, Gentlemen's Quarterly, Travel and Leisure, Wilderness, Sunset, Sierra and Outside magazines. He is also regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer with his column “On Landscape”.
Articles by William Neill
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 4×5 field camera, and for the next 20 years, I photographed mostly with 4×5 transparency film. I continued to concentrate on photographing landscape details, as well as broad views and dramatic light.
The most challenging aspect of teaching landscape photography is that of helping students find a creative voice. One way to think about improving your creativity is to ask yourself, “What do I want to say with my photographs?” It’s important to have something to say, to have a theme or concept within which you can organize the imagery about which you’re most passionate. Think of your favorite photographers, and I’ll guess that you can immediately recall what they’re trying to say with their work. As regular readers of this column know, I’m passionate about the subject of pushing ourselves creatively.
Sometimes it seems that the world moves too fast. When did all my photographs become an underused reference library? It wasn’t that long ago that my 4×5 chromes and 35mm slides, mostly in repro dupe form, were actively being sent out to clients. I’ve spent hundreds of hours cataloging my images, with captions and keywords and bar coding, to make them easily accessible and ready to submit.
When I first started making photographs, I was an avid backpacker. I was energized by my explorations and the beauty I saw and wanted to share my treks with friends and family. As with anyone starting out, my photographs were beginning efforts. My subjects were the mountains of Glacier National Park, which are full of photographic potential, but my enthusiasm for my subject matter far outweighed my ability to convey the emotions of my experiences in the images.
I’m always looking for the next step for my photography, asking myself, “Where can I take it from here?” I’m a big Tiger Woods fan, and one thing I admire in him is his constant desire to improve, no matter what level of greatness he has achieved. He seems to genuinely take pleasure in his hard work and training. The question, specifically for landscape photographers, is how can we take our own technique and creative vision to a higher level?
Let’s suppose you’ve worked hard to build a beautiful portfolio. Well, it’s time to reap your rewards. There are few things more rewarding to a photographer than seeing an elegant presentation featuring one’s own art! I’ll be practical and list different types of presentations to help illustrate your options. Among your choices are a book, a slideshow and prints for an art show or an exhibition. The presentation you select can be an important starting point for marketing your photography and developing a career.