composition

Imperfect Portraiture

Pascale Allotey, Professor in Race and Diversity at Brunel university in west London.© Neil Turner/TSL November 2005

I have had the title for this piece rattling around in my head for several weeks now but before I dive in I want to explain that it is about a certain style of editorial portraiture that appeals to me. It is equally important that nobody reading this thinks that I believe other forms of portrait photography are somehow inferior or are “less portraity”.

I suspect that every sentiment that you will read in this mini-essay will have been expressed somewhere on my blog at some point in time. After all, if you did a search for the word “portrait” on this site you would get hundreds of hits. From explaining the anguish of editing your own work to my definition of what is and is not a portrait. I have written about why this kind of photography speaks to me so loudly and so consistently but I have wanted for some time to bring all of those thoughts and impulses together. As always, there are two reasons for doing this; the first is to stimulate thought and debate amongst those who care to read it and secondly to help me further clarify my own opinions and, by doing so, make my own work better.

Of course there isn’t a strict set of rules about what constitutes a portrait. Back in 2011 I wrote this; (more…)

We all have a favourite lens or two

Bournemouth, Dorset. May 2018. Fisherman’s Walk on a sunny May day. ©Neil Turner

Every photographer has a lens or two that they love to use. In my day-to-day work that would be my Canon L Series zooms but when I am shooting quieter and more personal pictures I reach for a very basic and non-L series Canon EF 35mm f2 IS. I am going to try to explain what it is about this lens that makes me love it and I guess that the fact that I have had lenses of that focal length for pretty much my whole life as a photographer (amateur, student and working professional adding up to 38 years or maybe more) and that I appear to know precisely what kind of picture I’m going to get from a 35 make a good start. Canon make an L Series 35 – the 35mm f1.4L but that’s a big, expensive and heavy lens which, at f1.4, is really hard to focus. When I owned one I always shot at f2 or f2.8 even when the light was poor or even when I wanted shallow depths of field because the amount of sharp images that I could get at f1.4 was too low. That was probably due to shortcomings in my technique rather than the lens itself because so many photographers whose work I love are very happy with it. (more…)

A new compact… again

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Ground Staff cutting the grass on Court 14 at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon ahead of The Championships. ©Neil Turner, June 2018

When I’m away from home working as a Photo Editor on big sporting events I like to have a compact camera with me. My relatively recent entry into the world of Instagram has made my desire to have a camera in my pocket/rucksack/bag has grown. Regular readers of this site will know that I have owned and loved quite a few but, having sold all of my Fujifilm cameras, I felt the need to buy a new one.

The list of features that I felt that I needed couldn’t really be filled by one camera and I considered several options before finally making a purchase. Top of my list was probably the Sony RX100 MkV and the Panasonic TZ100 was also on that list but the combination of my familiarity with the Canon system meant that I want for the G7X MkII. The Sony was a little expensive (almost £500 dearer than the Canon) and the Panasonic just didn’t produce the results in the way that I wanted. (more…)

Instagram – one month into the project

#archivephoto from November 2010 showing a father and son walking the dog in the park as the mists lift. ©Neil Turner

In my last blog post I announced that I had finally decided to get on board and establish an Instagram account. Just over one month later, I have sixty-nine images on my feed and 282 followers.

Not many, I know. I am delighted by the quality of those followers though because they include at least two dozen photographers whose professional and personal work I admire along with a small number of picture editors and commissioners of photography. Sadly, the young picture editor whose comment triggered this project still hasn’t added herself as a follower but that’s probably just as well because out of those sixty-nine images only eight have the hashtag #newwork which I’m using to indicate brand new pictures shot since I established my account. It has been great going back through archives to find the others and I’ve still got a dozen or so #archivephoto options that haven’t been posted yet. (more…)

Shooting fish in a barrel

London. January 2011. © Neil Turner

In 2008 when I had just left my staff job at TSL I was asked by a reporter working for a photographic magazine about what I intended to do with my career. I pointed out that I had an enormous amount of experience working in schools and universities and that in my time working for the Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement and Nursery World Magazine I had shot pictures in over 3,000 places of learning in at least 13 countries and that it seemed like a “no-brainer” to market myself as a photographer specialising in those areas. Plenty of prospectuses and websites as well as editorial shoots later my tally of educational visits and shoots tops 3,500 and I’m still in love with the genre. The reporter asked what special skills I had that made me good at that part of the job and my response was that if you can’t get great pictures of kids then you really shouldn’t be a photographer because it was “shooting fish in a barrel“. (more…)

Best light of the year

©Neil Turner. Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall.

It is almost inevitable that when the best light of the year so far offers up a number of creative possibilities the only camera you have with you will be the one built into your phone. I don’t mind admitting that this has always filled me with dread and I have often missed the picture that I know I should have taken because the phone couldn’t do what a ‘proper camera’ can.

We were away in Cornwall last week for a few days and had just arrived at our hotel after the drive from East Dorset when we decided that a stroll along the beach before dinner was in order. We had been to Fistral Beach many times before but never really experienced the magic of the sunset there and when the light started to dip it was obvious that we were going to be treated to something rather lovely. These days I have an iPhone 7 which has a pretty good camera. I normally use it for snaps, record shots and general visual note-taking but when I needed it to produce the results using it with the 645Pro app allowed me to get exactly what I would have wanted if I’d had my Fujifilm X100S with me.

I was so pleased with the picture that I approached the man who features in it and sent him a copy whilst still on the beach. Photography is still a joy.