3 Minutes with Photographer William Neill

3 Minutes with Photographer William Neill

William Neill has long been an iconic nature photographer with work spanning classical landscapes to contemporary nature abstracts. A long time contributor to Outdoor Photographer magazine and an active blogger on William Neill’s Light on the Landscape Photoblog his photographic roots go back to working with Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park. Deeply knowledgeable and inspirational he is today’s guest on “3  Minutes with…”

Describe your photography in 100 words or less.
I am a landscape photographer concerned with conveying the deep, spiritual beauty I see and feel in Nature. I have been a resident of the Yosemite National Park area since 1977, have been widely published in books, magazines, calendars, posters. I worked as a staff photographer at The Ansel Adams Gallery for five years. My 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. I received a BA degree in Environmental Conservation at the University of Colorado. In 1995, the Sierra Club honored me with their Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography.

Aspen and approaching storm, Conway Summit, California 2010
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 1/45 sec at f / 16, ISO 400

What gear/software do you use?
For twenty years, I used a 4×5 view camera and transparency sheet film. Currently, I use a Canon 1DS Mark III with an assortment of lenses. My favorites are the 70-200mm zoom and 90mm Tilt Shift lenses. I also used Canon’s 24mm TS, the 16-35mm and 24-105mm zooms and the 50mm Macro. I carry LowePro camera bags and use a Gitzo Carbon 6X tripod. Using filters has never been a big part of my approach to nature photography, but I do use Singh Ray’s Vari-ND filter often for long exposures and the creative blurs in my Impressions of Light series. In terms of software, I primarily use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. I occasionally use HDR processing and Nik software. I edit and mange my files in Lightroom, make global adjustments there before making any local adjustments and masking in PS.

Almond Trees in Bloom, Kern County, California, 2011
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 1/4 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 100, FILTER: Singh Ray Vari-ND

What’s one quick tip that you’d give people interested in Nature photography.
Photograph those subjects or locations about which you feel most passionate. Trust your instincts to find a creative vision. The world is full of repetitive imagery, and it takes hard work and experimentation to rise above the ordinary.

Sunrise surf, Carmel, California 2010
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 10.0 sec at f / 32, ISO 100, FILTER: Singh Ray Vari-ND

What Photography Sites or Photoblogs do you Recommend?

View more of William Neill’s work at on his web site and in his latest iPad app William Neill’s Yosemite Volume One.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Jim Goldstein is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension - Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

Some Older Comments

  • Erik Kerstenbeck@yahoo.com June 19, 2011 04:50 am

    Sometimes the vision leads one to precarious places like this geothermal pool in New Zealand


  • Warren June 17, 2011 10:02 pm

    I have the new Tamron 70-300 lens and have found it to be an excellent buy. The Tamron is extremely sharp at both 300mm tele usage ranges as well as 300mm in tight for close-up imaging of detail.
    I have no regrets with it purchase. The one carp that I can register is that it will zoom creep to longer ranges as you carry it with the lens shade installed . . . minor complaint.

  • Lovelyn June 17, 2011 09:09 pm

    Great interview. I love these photos.

  • Paul June 17, 2011 07:46 pm

    Lovely photos, I wish I had more time to devote to this kind of photography? :(

  • Jim Dabler June 17, 2011 07:17 am

    I personally like Street Photography, Wildlife and Landscape photography are my second favorite. Any suggestions you might give would be appreciated. Your web site is very good. thanx for any advice you can give me and have a great day. JIm.....................

    P/S I have a Canon 20D with a 28/135 tele photo lenses. I want to buy a 70-300 lenses. I have looked into the Canon and the Tamron on the internet and according to Bob Atkins and others the Tamron is better in many respects and cheaper and the warranty is also better. Any thoughts on this? thans Jim

  • Arturomar June 17, 2011 04:06 am

    The picture.[eimg url='' title='GuayabitosMayo_13.JPG']

  • Arturomar June 17, 2011 02:32 am

    This article make me remember a workshop I took with a prestigious local photographer. We went to a place that looked very antique, with and old church and old trees, I went inmediatly to take a picture of the temple but the photographer stopped me and asked me "when you entered here ¿what do yo feel?

    After failing to give him a proper response he finnaly said to me: "Don't take te postcard, take your own picture".

    He later said that he felt a lot of sadness when entered the place, our guide then confirmed that the place was a cemmetery many years ago.

    I'm starting to succeed taking that teaching: last time I went to my favorite beach, when I walked out of the hotel and get into the beach I stopped and allow myself to feel the joy of the people and birds, after a while I took a picture than represented all that.

  • THE aSTIG @ CustomPinoyRides.com June 16, 2011 08:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing the insights! That was a lot of useful information for 3 minutes time.

    I do car photography for my website http://CustomPinoyRides.com.

    As with what you said about nature photography, I can also relate it to car photography when you said it takes hard work to rise above the ordinary because the world is filled with repetitive images. So I try to be different when I shoot like during events like car shows. People lug around huge gear and strobes and all, but me, I just bring along my kit lens, and a tripod. Works like a charm! And I get sharp photos from headlight-level as you'll see on my site.

  • ScottC June 16, 2011 01:33 pm

    Great images, interesting interview, and a worthy bit of advice. There are no new subjects, but perspectives are endless.


  • Mei Teng June 16, 2011 10:44 am

    I love all the photos...especially the first one. Beautiful work.

  • Rachel Owens June 16, 2011 09:29 am

    Great images! I especially appreciated the last part about the tip. It's so true, 'There is nothing new under the sun." You just have to find a new way to photograph it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck June 16, 2011 07:36 am


    I really enjoyed this interview, especially about trusting your instincts and following your passion. I have often been to places that are jam packed with photographers shooting the same scene, same lens, bracketting, filtering etc and I can just imagine millions of well executed pictures of basically the same thing. I am guilty of this as well, but when I do have a chance to find something truly unique, I immediately know it! For example, this geothermal stream - when I saw it and spent some time studying and looking from different perspectives, I knew that this would be awesome! I just wish these opportunities would present themselves to me more often...maybe I need to look harder!