on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

William Neill – “Light on the Landscape”

An Inspirational and Informative Collection of Essays

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

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

Flickr, Facebook, Twitter

If you ever think “what would Ansel Adam’s work be like if he’d taken up colour photography instead of black and white?” then the answer is, depressingly, pretty bad as his short trial of early colour film goes to show. We shouldn't be critical of Ansel for this, the materials weren't great and as he said quite elegantly, "I can get a far greater sense of ‘colour' through a well-planned and executed black-and-white image than I have ever achieved with colour photography". However, if he’d used colour film from a young age and developed his craft I don’t think he would have been too far from what we see from William Neill.

There are more parallels with Ansel's work, in my opinion. William worked for the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite and as much as he worked in a different medium, the location and associations definitely rubbed off on him. In general, William’s work may be more intimate than most of Ansel’s more famous compositions but he still produces wonderful classic landscapes when the subject presents itself.

Finally, just like Ansel, William is an excellent communicator and it’s the balance of his landscape photography skills and his ability to articulate his working and artistic practices so well that makes this book so special.

Influenced by his father’s career as a writer, William put pen to paper early on in his career (when it really was pen and paper!) and he contributed his first articles to Outdoor Photographer magazine in 1986. His wonderfully named “On Landscape” column has now run for over three decades (hopefully William will believe us when we say we pinched the name from Sontag, not him!). This book, “Light on the Landscape” is a compilation and reworking of some of the best of these essays and alongside them, we are treated to a great range of work from his more famous images to some lesser-known but equally wonderful works.

The articles don’t really try to be a concise instruction manual on the photography or a philosophical treaty on the art of landscape but along the way, they cover a great deal of ground. From Lightroom and focus stacking to how to engage emotionally with nature, from conservation to intentional camera movement, from dealing with different conditions in the field to the challenges of making photographs on family holidays.

This isn’t a book to be read in one sitting (although I nearly did!) but it will be better appreciated as a resource to dip into occasionally and pick out a couple of random essays to ponder at leisure.

I was trying to think of what the book reminded me of and I think it fits on my bookshelf alongside the work of Galen Rowell, Joe Cornish, Guy Tal, John Sexton and obviously Ansel Adams as an example of a great balance of the informative and the inspirational.

Beyond Words have both the softcover and signed hardcover copies of the book available and I highly recommend getting a copy before they sell out. A great addition to any landscape photographers bookshelf.

On Landscape is part of Landscape Media Limited , a company registered in England and Wales . Registered Number: 07120795. Registered Office: 1, Clarke Hall Farm, Aberford Road, WF1 4AL. Midge Specs, midge net glasses from the Highlands.