A New Azimuth  The Website of John L. Neel  www.neel505.com
Home  About  Journal  Stories  Photos  Family  People  Contact

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are just good photographs." ~ Ansel Adams

I was trained by three great army photographers during my first tour in Turkey. They made me use black and white film.

"Color takes care of you; you have to really work hard to get a good black and white photo."

I grew to love Black and White and still prefer it.

Since 2000, when Kady sent my first digital camera to Kosovo, I have worked entirely in Digital.

Now that I am retired, I'm getting back into film.  I use a Canon A-1, for 35-mm, and a Mamiya RZ-67 and a Mamiya 6 for 120-mm.  For Digital, I just picked up a refurbished Nikon D-850, a truly amazing camera.

My favorite subjects are my people.  

I am certainly no artist, that's my brother, but sometimes I get lucky.

Here are a few images taken when the stars were aligned.


One of the first photos I took with my new Canon AE-1 Program was of me, in a mirror, self-exiled from the world.  When you live alone in a strange country and you have no friends, this is what you photograph to learn how to use your camera, or the cat on the roof next door.

My first Selfie, 1985, Izmir Turkey.  Kodak Ektachrome, I think.



Taken with Kodak Plus-X Pan 35mm with my Canon AE-1 Program and developed with Microdol.  I printed this in the NATO Dark Room on a satin paper back in 1985 or 86.  It's even better in person.  Seriously, who could take a bad photo of someone this gorgeous.

This remains my favorite photo of The Girl.  I wish she'd let me take her photo every day.


Turk Sokak

Taken on a solo walk to Kidifekale, above Izmir, in an area we were not supposed to go alone.  The people there were the best, super friendly, and delighted to meet an American.  Even the older people, who I was told wouldn't like it if you took their photo, readily agreed when asked  politely.  The kids were all about posing.

At night, the shimmering lights were magical.  The  reality, a stark contrast.



This is my first ever portrait.

I was studying a little book called the 35mm Handbook by Michael Langford and it suggested I ask a friend to sit for me.  Well, at the time, I only had one friend, a guy I met on the plane to Turkey, Joe. 

I did what the book said to do, settings and such, and the shots turned out well.  This is available light, with Kodak TRI-X 400.  Joe was a U. S.  Air force public affairs NCO, so he gave me a lot of pointers.


Goodbye VMI

My last photo of VMI. taken with my new-to-me Mimiya RZ-67 on Ilford FP-4.  This was a test shot, learning the camera, and checking an app on my phone for metering light.  Seems both work just fine.


Ricky on the Mall

This friendly man entertained us all during Elise's wedding.  He's no musician, but he is a character.  I went back a couple of weeks later, hoping to catch him.  I could hear his stylized drumming from where I parked.


Ryan in Charlottesville

One of my closest friends and a former cadet, I love taking this young lady's photo.  Here she is, helping me work with my new cameras.  I tried juggling too many, which made for some pretty stupid mistakes on my part. The model was perfect.

This one is from the digital  camera.

When I told her my plan, Kady told me it would look "contrived."  I hate to disagree.


That Tree

Noticing this tree as  soon as I moved to Charlottesville, I vowed to photograph it.  This lone sentinel sits beside Highway 29, watching the traffic rush about.  in its time, It must have seen everything from Model Ts to Teslas.

I like to think it is saying to us, "Slow Down, Enjoy Life.  You are here for such a short time."

I guess I'm fixated on tress of late for their longevity.


A Southern Lady in Her Home

KS wanted a professional headshot for Linkedin.  I envisioned something a lot more interesting.  The headshots were good, but this one, when I told her what to do, is my favorite of the day.

Nikon D850, Nikon 50mm@ f/3.5, ISO 400, 1/13, available light.

You're welcome.


Eutrophic Design

So, this is what my hall window looked like on my quarters at VMI.  Then Buildings and Grounds came by and cut it all away...something about how it wasn't good for the wood, stucco, or something. 



I Will Not Go Quietly

This old warrior, damaged by wind, tornado, ice, and lightening, refuses to die.  The new limbs reaching for the sky seem to scream," You Call This a Storm?  It's time for a showdown.  It's you and me.  Come and get me" ~ LT Dan, Forest Gump

Taken in Kentucky during a Trap and Skeet Competition.



Few Come to Visit

Kady plans the best trips.  She read about this, told me to be ready to go, threw me in the car, and off we went.  It was a beautiful old mill in the middle of nowhere Virginia.

The locals looked a bit wary of us.



Kady's Barn

We must have said, "We need to stop and take photos of that," for about ten years.  One day, I pulled over, grabbed my camera, and started climbing fences.  Kady wouldn't leave the car...so I'm posting this here so she can't claim that She Took It.


Sevda in Charge

One of the most beautiful, sweetest, motivated, and conscientious people I have ever met, and I had to go to Turkiye to meet her...while playing pitch on the First Kordon.  Before long, I was spending time at her agency, photographing her events and models.

When I was shooting, she was directing, like in this shot where she is wearing my glasses..  She taught me a lot about photographing women.

Of all her models, she was my favorite subject, but I was using a first generation digital camera.  How I wish I could go back to re-do my work with the cameras I have now.



Into Maryland

The railhead at Harpers Ferry, looking into Maryland.  This small town became the crossroad of the war, changing hands about four times.

I'm a Southern Railroad kid.  I love train and rail photos, but I've taken so few.


Plate Tectonics in Winter

Taken on a very cold day, Rockbridge County, Virginia.


No, I'll Do THIS!

Taking any photo of Jk at this age was problematic, but trying available light was nearly impossible.  This lad is always in constant motion.  The lollypop helped...a bit.

I can't find these files anywhere.  If Kady doesn't have them, they are lost.  NOT LIKE ME AT ALL!



It Is As If All Time Had Never Been

The title is from the Ray Bradbury poem They Have Not Seen The Stars, the first thing I thought of when I saw this photo.

The look of wonderment on the face of one of the most beautiful and intelligent people I know speaks volumes.  Those amazing green eyes take in everything. She pays attention and has total recall.  Watching the last season of Lost with her was Amazing.

Then again, perhaps she just spotted a new sushi restaurant.

Taken at Waterfront Park in Charleston.  Shooting East as the sun went down, the lighting was perfect.


Valley Storm

I saw this shot in my mind's eye, as I drove away from the overlook, running a little late getting back home.  I had been looking for a place that looked up the Valley from up high, did a map recon, so I made a quick stop on the way back from Lexington. 

I went back and the weather in the Valley was playing its part.  This is, by far the best overlook on the Blue Ridge parkway in this area.



The Statue, The Park, and Other Things

Forsyth Park Confederate Memorial and the magic that is the Mamiya RZ-67 with Ilford.

Record them before they are gone, Southerners.  I predict it won't be long.


This Dress Needs Photos

That's how this happened.  I got a photo via text from Ryan, wearing a pretty little dress, saying, "This Dress needs photos!"  What else could I do?

I slipped out of the office and met this incredibly beautiful girl, in heels and a dress, at a farm, with a great view, and a split rail fence.   Everything worked but the lighting.  Late afternoon would have been better.

Taken in digital on a day I was supposed to be at work.  Call it compensatory time or a long lunch, they owed me. . .a lot



Savannah is one of my favorite places in the world, perfect for me, too hot for Kady, too far away from the grandkids. 

Oh, but it is a photographer's dream. Take me back.


In Situ

Taken on my first solo trip out of Izmir to Ephesus and Selcuk, while meandering in a back part of the site that few people visit. While excavating, the workmen wisely left this column resting where it fell in some earthquake past, maybe 262 CE.

This was a three day trip, walking the site the first day and studying that night, reading as I went the second day, and saving the third day for photos, mostly shot in Kodachrome.  Amazing colors that film!


Kady's Ginkos

Perfect timing, Perfect day, Perfect place, Perfect Girl. Another Kady Day Photo Trip...UVA's Blandy Experimental Farm.



Marchons!  Marchons!

Statue from the people of France to the National D-Day Memorial park in Bedford, Virginia.  If you are in the area, it is so worth a stop and a few moments of your time.



Summer at Club Crozet

The VMI mess hall, during the Summer Session, devoid of the craziness that takes place when the Corps is in residence.  Looks lonely, doesn't it?

I was there at the perfect time of day,  catching the light cutting diagonally across the floor.


Falling Out

Most parades, I was out there with the Corps.  This day, I had Officer-in-Charge (OC) duty and took the opportunity to take a few photos I had thought about for a while.

I have about a bazillion photos of the Institute.  It was my whole life for far too long. I grew old there.


London Girl

I'm not one for taking photos of random people on the streets, except at a distance when included in a street photography composition, BUT, this girl had to be an exception.  Right?

I have no clue who she was, but she was amazing.

The grain in this photo, called reticulation, is from a problem I had in the developing process.  That sounds like it wasn't my fault.  The problem was stupidity. . .hot water and  stupidity.  I tell myself that I like the effect to make it seem OK.



Where Should I Start Forgetting?

My photograph is of the Confederate Cemetery at UVA.  The title if from the little book Let's tell Our Side of it For a Change by William W. Taylor. 

The truth lies here.

"There is rancor in our hearts which you little dream of."~ Confederate General Henry Wise at Appomattox

There is rancor, still.

Taken in Ilford FP-4 with my Canon A-1, 35-70mm


Now, That's Some Texas!

Of the hundreds of Out West Photos I took on our Fall 2018 trip, I consider this simple little photograph representative of our experience.  Don't it just say, "TEXAS?"

It also looks like it is saying, "Keep OUT! Don't go in there."


Charlottesville Mall, 2018

I dig street photography.  You've seen old photos of your town with old cars, people dressed in clothes from that era, street cars, and storefront signs, all long gone.  Why?  Because people back then were less concerned with the perfect "selfie" and more interested in documenting their times.

Put your cell phone down.  Slow down, open your eyes, and see what is around you.  Photograph it.  When you're my age, you'll be glad you did.

Take a photo of the new 2020 Corvette.  One day, people will look at your photo as we look at photos of Model-Ts.

Taken with my Mamiya-6 on a cloudy day.



Atmosphere, Water Particles, and Starlight

Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico from the Keys at sunset, June, 2017.  I could do this every night.  Add a good cigar and some Sinatra Select or Makers Mark and I am even better.

Think on it.  Every photograph is unique, given the day and time you take it, the weather, the camera settings you use, the position of your camera, and your framing.  This is MY photo.  There are many like it, but this one is MINE.

No, this is not your god being an artist or proof of his existence, this is Nature.



Ruggle's Battery

"62 cannon, hub to hub, unleashing a fierce cannonade, striking across 500 yards of open field into the ranks of the Blue Line." ~ Shiloh - in Hell before Night by James Lee McDonough

Taken at the Hornet's Nest, Shiloh Battlefield, on a trip with Civil War traveling companion, COL John Brodie, Virginia Military Institute.  After a while, battlefield photos begin to look the same.  It is the bravery and valor that makes them exceptional.

Hold "at all hazards." ~ U. S. Grant to Benjamin Prentiss



The Broom Shop

Everywhere you go in Turkiye, there is a photographic opportunity.  Be polite, smile, point at your camera.  This is the easiest way to ask permission.  Usually you get a slight non.  A quick tilting back of the head and a "tik" sound made with the tongue is an emphatic "NO!"

The dashing fellow in the flat cap gave me the nod.  The other guy just ignored me, but struck his pose with lifted chai glass.

Such were my times in Turkey.



Heavy Traffic

After my photographic failure of October 1983, I learned to carry a camera whereever I went.  For military operations I had a Canon AF-35, a great point and shoot camera.  I would throw it and a few rolls of film in my rucksack and jumped it in as part of my basic load.  The longer we were there, the more film I carried.

This shot is from Cyprus in 1989, a trip with B Company, 1 Para, by far my best military trip ever.  I'm glad I captured it in photographs.

Now, for light travel, I have two small digital cameras, a Samsung TL240 which goes in the car and a Nikon Coolpix S9100 which goes on hikes and long walks, both great little cameras.  Of course, the camera on my phone, a Samsung S10+, will do in a pinch.


Digital Ilford

If you are looking for a phone application for black and white photos, there is a good, free British app called Vignette Photo Effects by ratatoskr.co.uk.  Set it on Black and White and Ilford and it does a fantastic job, even at night.

I took this while out walking.  I've made no adjustments to it except to crop it and add my watermark.  You can click on it to see a larger version.


Get Out Your Real Camera!

Once, I berated people using their cell phones to take photos, believing that quality was far better than ease or quantity in photography.  I would tell them, "Someday, you'll wish you had taken that with a Real Camera."

Now, phone cameras are getting so good that it is hard to tell the difference.  I took this with my Note-5 back in 2018.   Not bad for a phone camera.


Sunrise in Arizona

During Fall 2018, SS, Kady, and I went out West.  We traveled Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, ending up in Kansas for Christmas and New Year's Day.  I sequestered myself in the back seat, earning the name "Junior" for my constant questions, complaints, and requests. 

The morning we left Arizona was one of the times when I should have asked for a photo stop.  Look at this.  I think about how it would look had I not taken it through a car window, from a moving car, with a phone camera (S-9).

Moral of this story: Take the time to stop, set up, and be a photographer.  If it is worth taking, it's worth taking correctly.


Charleston's East Bay Street

Charleston has great streets.  This photograph  has been manipulated a bit with Photoshop, more lighting, less contrast, less saturation, and such.  I just re-discovered this in my photo files and this is how I remember it.

Insert beautiful girl here.


Savannah's East Bay Street

Taken from the Savannah Convention Center on a cold, cold, cold and windy day, I was reminded how film photography should be a warm weather endeavor.  I was a bit miserable, but the momentary suffering paid off with this roll.

Mamiya RZ-67 with Kodak T-Max 400

Did I mention it was cold?


Lonely Post

Interior Guard Post Number 2, Virginia Military Institute.  The school is guarded twenty-four hours a day while school is in session.  This was taken during a football game when the entire Corps was out of barracks.


And arches; God wants more Arches

Mission San Jose on the San Antonio Mission Trail.  This was a really beautiful old building and I imagine the architect used these as buttresses to shore up the walls of the mission.  I could have also called this, "Get Out of my Photo."    The guy at the far end watched me setting up and though I waved for him to move, he stayed.  Maybe he was the perspective guy for the day.  It ends up that I'm glad he's in the photo.


On a Boat!

Shot while taking a boat ride on the River Walk in San Antonio.  Nice place, good food, too crowded in most places.  Every town should have a river walk.



Kady and I were on a nice drive in the country when we ran across this.  She spotted it, had me stop, and we walked up to this old mill, cameras in hand.  After only a few snaps, the tenants came roaring down the hill in their car, pissed.  We apologized, and got the hell out of there.

Meth Lab?  Probably.

Photography in Virginia can be dangerous.


The Regimental Drummer

I took this photo at New Market Battlefield during a battle reenactment.  It is cropped from a much larger photo.  It stood out as a photo of just the drummer boy only after loading it onto my computer.

The young lad reminded me of a song from the stage musical Civil War by Gregory Boyd and Frank Wildhorn, a body of work that speaks of the war in some of the most beautiful poetry and music I have ever experienced.

"But, In his eyes I'd sometimes see the boy that I used to be; for a moment I could leave this all behind.  All at once the boy was gone, lost on this road we're on, just another fallen brother." ~ Jack Murphy


Me and Birmingham Don't Have a History of Working Out*

Birmingham has a really bad habit of destroying the city's history, the destruction of the Terminal Station, one of the most beautiful buildings in the South, being their most egregious act.  But, the sad little city sometimes gets it right.  It took a grant od $120,000 to re-furbish the iconic 1927 Alabama Theater sign.  Now mostly aluminum with LED lights, the new sign went back up over the marquee on 3rd Avenue North in September 2019. 

This was taken in February, 2019 and is the replacement sign for the old 18th Street sign which stood over the stage door from 1927 until 1957.

Maybe one day I will g0 back home and get a shot of them both, standing again, historically accurate.

*from Runnin' Just In Case by Miranda Lambert


Sloss Furnace

This is the industry that built the city, the iron smelting furnace off of the 1st Avenue Viaduct in Birmingham.  I remember going to the Transportation Building , Downtown, with Dad, and seeing the yellow smoke pouring into the air.  Sometimes the smog was so thick that we couldn't see the skyline a few blocks away.

The air quality improved greatly when this plant shut down, though it heralded the decline of the Magic City.


Photograph Everything!  This is a quick snap I took on the Chessie Trail in Lexington, VA, Summer 2003.  Once a rail bridge over Chalk Mine Run, repurposed for foot traffic, it was washed away by Hurricane Ernesto on 1 September 2006.

Home  About  Journal  Stories  Photos  Family  People  Contact