I recently ran across two nature photography books that are true works of art: William Neill's "Impressions of Light" and Joel Curzon's "Light Fading: Reflections on the Imperiled Everglades." I highly recommend both for different reasons. Neill's "Impressions" feature's a new body of work from this long-time master of the landscape photograph. His large format, tack sharp images of American landscapes have been a staple of the Ansel Adams Gallery and the pages of Outdoor Photographer magazine for more than two decades. However, in this collection of masterful abstracts of form and color you won't find a single pixel in focus. Forests, dunes, seascapes, and even Half Dome are blurred into painterly, impressionistic interpretations of nature that capture Neill's love of the natural world in abstract and simplfied, yet powerful ways. His technique for capturing these images is simple (just move the camera during long exposures) yet requires determined experimentation and knowledge of light and form to pull of successfully. In the book, he describes the reason behind this new body of work this way:
"My goal is to remove context within a landscape, distilling down its essence in order to convey the energy of a subject or scene in a fresh way, much as snow simplifies the land. For me, these images deflect the mind's tendency to dwell on the concrete issues of place and name when viewing a subject. The spirit of place or an object can be more strongly conveyed."
The fact that Neill created the 69 photographs in this book during only the last five years shows his determination in exploring new ways to make photos and grow as an artist. In the book he mentions that he became interested in this style of photography when reviewing the work of his students who had learned this technique from Brenda Tharp and Tony Sweet. I've had a similar experience, but just recently got around to trying this out after being inspired by "Impressions" (the photo accompanying this post is one of my first attempts at this.) For this shot, I used a shutter speed of four seconds and slowly moved the camera from the tops of the trees towards the bottoms. There were lots of exposures that I didn't like, but I'm excited to keep using this technique as a way to tell my nature stories in different ways.
The hardbound edition of this 13" x 11" book comes with a signed 6" x 9" print and retails for $150.00. If you have a more modest budget, you can download a digital version in pdf form for only $10.00. Both are available on his website here: http://www.williamneill.com/store/books/impressions-of-light-hardbound.html.
In "Light Fading: Reflections on the Imperiled Everglades," San Diego-based photographer Joel Curzon applies a more traditional nature photography approach to telling a compelling story of the environmental challenges facing the Florida Everglades. At more than 300 pages in length and a large format 10.5" by 13 .5 " this is a big and beautiful book, with more than 250 superbly reproduced photographs. Most are full page or stretch across two pages giving them a weight that matches well the text Curzon has written to describe the history of the Everglades, from its pre-Columbian richness to its 20th century decline and misguided 21st century attempts to revive it.
I found this book to be a wonderful surprise, as I was unfamiliar with Joel Curzon's work and therefore did not expect to be so thoroughly impressed with the breadth of work he has created on this subject. His landscapes, close-ups, and wildlife photography all show technical skill and devotion to his craft. The diversity of images - from big sky scenes of sawgrass plains to close-ups of wildlife like eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and river otters to underwater shots of eastern mosquitofish and bonnethead sharks - is also impressive and tells his story well. I recommend this book for anyone interested in conservation and for those with a love of the nature of Florida and the Everglades.
Joel Curzon has 35 sample images from "Light Fading" on-line - check them out at: http://lightfading.com/index.html where you can also purchase a copy of the book.