Conrad L. Hall, 76, a cinematographer for some of the most riveting films since the 1960s and who received Academy Awards for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "American Beauty," died Jan. 4 at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He had bladder cancer.
Mr. Hall, who accumulated nine Oscar nominations and a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers, was praised as one of the finest cameramen of his time.
Most recently, he helped director Sam Mendes create the clean, surreal tone for "American Beauty" (1999) and the shadowy atmosphere for "Road to Perdition" (2002), about a Depression-era hit man.
Mr. Hall secured his reputation by the late 1960s, when his bleak black-and-white camerawork (including a murder sequence by flashlight) for "In Cold Blood" gave punishing life to Truman Capote's book about the slaying of a family in Kansas. He then used a soft-hued tint to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," capturing the film's wry re-imagining of the legendary gunfighters.
He collaborated with some of the most powerful directors in Hollywood -- including Richard Brooks, Robert Towne and John Huston -- and experimented with overexposure and color palettes to create the mood for several landmark films.
Besides "American Beauty" and "Butch Cassidy" (1969), his Oscar nominations were for "Morituri" (1965), an espionage tale with Marlon Brando; the adventure film "The Professionals" (1966); "In Cold Blood" (1967); and "The Day of the Locust" (1975), based on Nathanael West's gothic story of fame and Hollywood.
He also was nominated for "Tequila Sunrise" (1988), an action film with Mel Gibson; "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993), about a chess prodigy; and "A Civil Action" (1998), a law drama with John Travolta.
Mr. Hall, who said he was inspired by the visual freedom of the French New Wave in the 1950s and early 1960s, told a reporter last year that he still felt the excitement of his evolving trade.
"Cinematography is a brand-new language that is still developing," he said. "It's as complex as music, I feel. . . . We can be poetic, we can be beautiful, we can be gritty, we can be ugly. We can elevate the acting. There are so many things we can do to make the story wonderful."
Mr. Hall was born in Tahiti to James Norman Hall, co-author with Charles Nordhoff of "Mutiny on the Bounty," "The Hurricane" and other South Seas adventure stories.
He studied cinema at the University of Southern California and then started a filmmaking company with college friends.
Among their jobs was shooting footage for Disney's Oscar-winning documentary feature film "The Living Desert" (1953).
Mr. Hall later had cinematography credits for "Harper" (1966), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969), "Hell in the Pacific" (1968), "Fat City" (1972) and "Marathon Man" (1976).
"Filmmaking is not so tough," he once said. "It's all about problem-solving. It's not about standing on your head and doing tricks."
His marriage to actress Katharine Ross, a star of "Butch Cassidy," ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Susan Hall; three children; and a sister.