The Old Ways

For the avid reader in search of a great book, I highly recommend The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane.

The Old Ways explores the role of walking—or wayfaring—in seeing the world aright.

That is, in realizing a straight path is never only linear.

But before you can earn such insight, you’ve got to log some trail miles first.

So without further ado, I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes—and Neilson landscape photographs—from The Old Ways in the hopes of piquing your interest.

“The eye is enticed by a path, and the mind’s eye also. The imagination cannot help but pursue a line in the land—onwards in space, but also backwards in time to the histories of a route and its previous followers.”

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“Humans are animals and like all animals we leave tracks as we walk: signs of passage made in snow, sand, mud, grass, dew, earth or moss…. Most of our journeys now occur on asphalt and concrete—and these are substances not easily impressed.”

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“Paths are the habits of landscapes. They are acts of consensual making. It’s hard to create a footpath on your own.”

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“An hour later I went for a walk with a flask of whisky to keep me warm.” Now that’s a gorgeous landscape photo!

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“For pilgrims walking the Camino, every footfall is doubled, landing at once on the actual road and also on the path of faith.”

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“Old paths are mediums in two senses: means of communion as well as means of motion.”

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“Paths need walking.”

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“Footpaths are mundane in the best sense of that word: “wordly,” open to all. As rights of way determined and sustained by use, they constitute a labyrinth of liberty, a slender network of common land that still threads through our aggressively privatized world of barbed wires and gates….”

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“The compact between writing and walking is almost as old as a literature—a walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.”

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“Paths run through people as surely as they run through places.”

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Of Time and the River

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In the heart of Los Padres National Forest, the Big Sur River is carving steep gorges and sharp-crested ridges. Sykes campground—where I captured the image above—is a 10-mile hike through untamed canyon wilderness. It was a challenging destination to reach even when there was an established trail. But now in the wake of fires, road closures, and erosion damage, this lovely little spot is next to impossible to reach.

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Fields of Gold

Meaghan had a straightforward request.
Shoot my family, she said.
Not that kind, the other.
I chuckled to myself.
I admire a woman who’s direct.
To the point.
Like this.

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It’s a gorgeous image.
Matt wondered about his role in the affair.
How does the back of my head look, he asked.
Splendid, I said.
He almost certainly smiled.
But I got his point.
So we turned Matt round.
And then it happened.
A hush fell.
The trees glowed.
And Meaghan’s hair went electric.

neilson family photography photographer outdoors bay area cupertino mcclellan ranch couples backlight

With chemistry like that,
Matt and Meaghan are bound to have kids, right?
Well, they do.
They’ve got two of them:
Logan and Lexie.
Lexie may be Logan’s little sister.
But she’s got big-time affection for him.
Just look at that reach!
What a handhold!

neilson family photography photographer outdoors bay area cupertino mcclellan ranch couples kids brother sister

Before long, Lexie put her generous athletic gifts to use.
She free soloed the center of the tree climbing universe in record time.

Neilson family group photography photographer outdoors bay area cupertino mcclellan ranch daughter tree fun

After she safely descended,
We hung out in a field of green and gold.
And we—including, me—smiled for the beauty of it all.

Neilson family group photography photographer outdoors bay area cupertino mcclellan ranch

Thank you, Matt and Meaghan!
It was a joy and a privilege to photograph your family.

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The Great Untried

Creativity is hard. Self-criticism is easy. And slumps are inevitable as a result.

To challenge this dynamic, I’m doing something different.

When I’m on a shoot—whether it’s corporate or family photography—I do the thing that comes easily and naturally to me. It yields predictable results in a style and aesthetic clients expect.

Like this image of an executive on Maiden Lane in the City, snapped a few weeks ago.

neilson corporate photography bay area san francisco san jose executive portrait chime maiden lane

After I’ve done the easy thing, I force myself to do the hard thing. Something I haven’t tried before. Something new. Different. This, for instance.

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Not bad. In fact, pretty good, all things considered.

You might be surprised to learn that I made the image outside. Just ten yards from the spot where I snapped the first image. Both were taken on Maiden Lane, bustling with colors, shapes, and motion.

Can I experiment, I asked my subject.

You bet, he said.

He sat in a chair in the middle of Maiden Lane at high noon.

I stopped down till ambient light went black on my camera sensor. Then I placed an off-camera flash directly in front of him. Next I slowly dialed up the flash power till his silhouette magically appeared, and I got my shot.

Will the client use the image on their company website? No, probably not. But it’s an arresting effect, which I can now produce in the future with confidence.

I eagerly await the next, great untried!

Contact me for kids, teens, family, and corporate photography in the Bay Area.

New Yorker Abroad

I’ve shared photos of this NY ballerina before. At the top of the year, we kicked off a half-day collaboration, working deliberately to achieve certain effects. Here are some of my favorite images from the collection, each introduced with a verbal cue only:

Atlas Slave

teen family photography bay area santa clara university ballet ballerina san jose photographer

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

teen family photography bay area santa clara university ballet ballerina san jose photographer

Color is Black and White

Curves and Lines

teen family photography bay area santa clara university ballet ballerina san jose photographer

Living Green Frame

teen family photography bay area santa clara university ballet ballerina san jose photographer

Life without Beautify is Empty

teen family photography bay area santa clara university ballet ballerina san jose photographer

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

teen family photography bay area ballet ballerina san jose photographer portrait headshot fine artteen family photography bay area ballet ballerina san jose photographer portrait fine art

Determination

teen family photography bay area ballet ballerina san jose photographer portrait headshot

Thanks for visiting, hope you enjoyed!

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Cast a Spell

Not long ago, a man met a woman.
He fancied her, and she returned the favor.

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As often happens, one thing led to another.
Poof! just like that—two became four.

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And a happy four, at that.
How happy?
THHIIISSSS happy.

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Big sister agrees with little brother.
You can see it in her eyes.

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Happiness is a joy and a wonder.
Especially when you can share it with someone.
Like a cousin who drops by for a visit.

neilson family photography photographer bay area san jose san francisco vasona park campbell cousins

As awesome as cousins are, mom still has a magic touch.

neilson family photography photographer bay area san jose sanfrancisco vason park campbell mother daughter

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Dance Like Everybody’s Watching

Melody.
That’s her name.
It describes her laugh, too.
And her movement.
She’s a ballet dancer, after all.
And every ballet dancer needs a portrait.
Well, portraits—one is never enough.
Of course, they have to be worthy of a dancer’s art.
So while I played with light, Melody played with expressions.
Lots of them, endlessly inventive ones.
We made for a great collaboration.
I hope you enjoy.

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