Tuesday, June 12, 2007
William Neill - Intimate Nature
World-renowned fine-art nature photographer William Neill has found a fresh direction, thanks to a new digital camera
“As I was working with the [Canon EOS-1Ds], I came up with the triptych approach,” recalls Neill. “The enlargement limitations of the camera were mitigated by doing a series of images together. That got me much more hooked on the camera. I started to think about shooting for a series, which is something I really couldn't do with my 4x5.”
In his favor was the simple fact that view camera work can make one come to feel a bit stagnant over time. The ritual of setting up a view camera might be appealing, but it's also laborious, and many a landscape photographer has moved on from a questionable scene rather than go through the task of getting a camera set up. The digital camera has the advantage of being much more compact to carry (no bag of loaded film-holders needed) and it's ready at a moment's notice.
Neill forced himself to think differently. In addition to the triptychs, he came back around to the concept of intimate landscapes. These nature photographs resonated with him and seemed to be ideal for the digital camera. Rather than landscapes in the Ansel Adams tradition, Neill's intimate landscapes offer a much more interpretive and subjective look at the natural world. These are photographs that don't so much transplant you to a place as much as they set your imagination in motion.
The digital SLR was perfect for the project. Neill found that the experimental side of creating less literal photographs left him uncertain about how a given image would look. The instant feedback from the LCD monitor gave him an idea if he was matching up his mind's eye with the photograph.
Experimenting with film can be an expensive proposition. Neill's experimentation led him to seeing parts of the landscape as elements in motion rather than single static images. When you're shooting a series, there's a natural tendency to shoot lots and lots of frames. The cost in film and processing can be prohibitive when you're not being reimbursed for those expenses—and what artist is ever reimbursed?! With the digital camera, Neill was free to shoot as many images as his memory cards could hold and then assemble the triptychs on his computer. There was essentially no cost at all.
Shooting with the digital SLR has taken Neill in new directions. The technology just lends itself to constant experimentation. For an artist, there can be no greater joy than to find a new level of creativity. Many artists are forced to overcome the limitations inherent in their tools to achieve their vision. For Neill, a new tool provided inspiration to take his vision in a different direction.
“I have a new exhibition up in Carmel right now,” Neill reflects. “The images are a mix of film and digital. That's a first for me. Image quality is paramount, and I wouldn't hang up prints that people would look at and say, Oh, that's digital, or Oh, that one is film. The show in Carmel is a sign of what's to come in the future.”
To see more of William Neill's photography, visit www.WilliamNeill.com.
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