on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

e-Books – William Neill

eBook reviews

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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William Neill assisted at Ansel Adams' studio in Yosemite and has worked with many of the top photographers in the world and in the process has himself become part of the group he studied with. His work has been published around the world and, living in Yosemite, he has formed an intimate relationship with the land and the seasons.

We took a look at four of William's books that he was gracious enough to contribute to us.

William Neill's Yosemite - Volume One

I have downloaded a few e-books to my iPad and in the most, I have to say I've been a little disappointed. Most of them seem like they have been bodged together quickly in order to 'get stuff out'. William Neill's book, based on an ebook technology developed by another photographer Jim Goldstein is something a little different though. The content is eloquently written, the pictures beautiful and the interface is simple and yet allows you to browse the pictures in detail whilst having easy access to supporting information. The panels below show a few pages so you can see how you can see either snippet of the description, the full description or just the image on its own. You can also zoom in to expand the image to double size, effectively viewing images approx. 2000px by 1500px - a very generous size that allows you to see some of the fine detail recorded by William's 5x4 camera and also appreciate some of the great images shot on his 35mm Nikon FE.

Each image has a small story associated with it which gives you some insight into his working practise and life. I would buy this even if it were just for the images but the associated text lifts this above your usual e-book fayre.

The book is also available as a PDF and QT Luong also reviewed the book and noted some colour issues between the iPad app and the PDF (and the online images). Personally, I think the iPad has got the colour right and there is an issue with the PDF and website. Looking at images such as the water lilies where the website and PDF show green cloud reflections which I'm not totally sure about whereas the app shows neutral clouds and tints of blue sky (whichever is right, I much prefer the iPad versions). All of the images on the iPad app look better than their online counterparts. My only issue is that the full size version because it is reduced from the larger version, shows sharpening artefacts that I find a little over the top - just a taste thing though.

In all though, I think the current iPads are great devices for browsing images. The transmissive nature of the device makes images look like transparencies on a lightbox. Hopefully, the next iPad will have the same resolution as the iPhone which would allow browsing images at 300dpi or a full screen image would be 2400x1800 pixels. This would take the devices from a nice to have to an almost essential image browsing device. Let's keep our fingers crossed. (I think we'll probably end up with a HD Ipad 3 at 1920px but you never know).

Impressions of Light

William Neill was one of the first people to play with the 'Intentional Camera Movement' (yuk! I hate that phrase) and even he admits that he was inspired by Freeman Paterson and Ernst Haas. I'm generally not a great fan of the technique, although exponents such as Chris Friel and Ted Leeming hit some high notes on occasion. William's work has an organic nature that still holds a connection with the subject, a painterly aspect that doesn't lose a photographic connection. It doesn't always work but there are a few pictures that really draw me in, particularly the snowstorm trees (which I've included in my extracts).

Meditations in Monochrome

I don't think you could work as an assistant to Ansel Adams without having some interest in black and white photography; although expressing a preference for colour, William appreciates the work of photographs such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Wynn Bullock, Minor White, Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Michael Kenna, John Sexton, Jerry Uelsmann, Bruce Barnbaum, Chris Rainier, Huntington Witherill. Working in black and white is another world but, for a tourist, he seems to know his way around :-) It's only recently that he has had a chance and the motivation to work in black and white in a combination of scanned film and digital capture and the results are perfectly acceptable and there are a few very good pictures. However, there is something missing and I think it may be that so many of these pictures are (published) colour pictures that have been converted to black and white. The best picture for me is a wonderful high-key shot of Aspens at June Lake Loop.

Landscapes of the Spirit

This is an older e-book and contains some of the images in the Yosemite book. However, there are many images that don't appear in that book and the good news is that all for of the books I've written about here are available for $30 (approx £22) and I think any landscape lover will get a lot out of spending some time with these books.

The highlight of this set of e-books is undoubtedly William Neill's Yosemite and I shall be looking out for Volume Two with anticipation. Anyone interested in the 'Intentional Camera Movement' or more experimental side of photo capture, 'Impressions' is well worth buying also. And if you find yourself impressed by what you see, the additional images in 'Spirit' (each with a short text associated with it) will be a worthwhile addition.

Furthermore, the iPad app is a great example of how the device can be used to present a well balanced portfolio.

You can buy William's books from his website on the e-book page.

Thanks to William for letting me review these books.

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