a new azimuth

the website of john l. neel  www.neel505.com

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"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 it.

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

I'm getting back into film as part of the retirement plan.  I use a Canon A-1, for 35mm, and a Mamiya RZ-67, and a Mamiya 6 for 120mm.  For Digital, I just picked up a refurbished Nikon D850, a truly amazing camera.

 I'm certainly no artist but, sometimes, I get lucky.  Here are a few images when the stars were aligned:

Kady in available light, Izmir, Turkey


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.

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.

Goodbye VMI

My last photo of BMI. 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 on the Mall, Charlottesville

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.

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

Son 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 ans take photos of that," for about ten years.  One day, I just 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 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.  Really, 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.

She's wearing my Glasses.

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.

Orchard Breeze

Friend and former Cadet, Nohe, in a dress of her own design, made of wool from discarded Cadet uniform items.  I took this in digital as a gentle breeze blew through the Bushong Orchard and painted it a bit with Autodesk on my Galaxy Note 5.

I like the soft tones and peaceful feel of this photo, taken on the epicenter of the New Market Battlefield.

No, I'll Do THIS!

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

Cfn at the Battery, Charleston

It is as if all time had never been, nor Universe or Sun or Moon

The title is from the Ray Bradbury poem by the same name, the first thing I saw when I saw this photo.

The wonderment in the eyes of one of the most intelligent people I know speaks volumes.  She smart on just about anything because she pays attention and has amazing recall.  Watching the last season of Lost with her was Amazing. 

Those green eyes take in everything.

Taken at the Battery in Charleston...after Sushi.

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 fro, 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 with Ilford.

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

Ryan at McKethan

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 to do?

I took my friend and incredibly beautiful girl, in heels and a dress, to a farm, with a great view, and a split rail fence.  Worked, as you can see.  Honestly, I'll take photos of this young lady anytime she calls.

Taken in color, filtered in blue, turned to B&W in Picasa, then adjusted slightly for contrast with Gimp....all on a day I was supposed to be at work.


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

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

DJ at Antietam

Antietam Reflection

Taken on Antietam Battlefield in 2010, friend DJ takes a Wuthering Heights pose.  Always include wind effects in your photos.  I've often wondered what she was thinking when I captured this.  Since it is one of the last shots of the day, maybe she's wondering when she can go home.

Shot with a Sony DSC-HX1, one of my favorite camera...until the card slot broke.  Not Economical to Repair.  Kady gave me her Nikon.  Winner.

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 262CE.

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

LC on her last day in town.

Leaving Lexington

We had often talked about doing a photo session together.  On the day before she moved away, off to the big world, she and I drove to her favorite road.  The session went well, my photos of her amazing, but it was such a sad day.

This my favorite photo that I have taken, of any person, ever.  Credit the girl.

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.  Kinda looks lonely, doesn't it?

Val at Rest

My running partner when I taught ROTC at VMI, Val had me running races all over Virginia, capped by the Charlottesville 10-miler.  Former Army Captain, she worked a while as VMI's protocol officer;

This photo is from the last series of portraits I took solely in film.  Canon A1, Ektachrome, I think.  Probably with my 70-200mm lens, it was my favorite portrait lens.


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 of taking on for a while.  I have about a bazillion photos of the Institute.  It was my whole life for far too long.

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.

What a Creeper.


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