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Back on Flickr

Screen grab of my new Flickr account

An important client recently asked me to do some preparation work ahead of a project with which I am involved. One part of that preparation was to find out all I could about sharing some of their content on Flickr. I decided that the best way to learn about it was to do it and so I established a brand new personal Flickr account and started to post some of my personal work.

Now, when I get five minutes to spare, I’m uploading new pictures, joining groups and generally playing around with the various options that the site has to offer and I’m getting close to the point where I can go back to the client and tell them what I know and get ready to set up their account ahead of the project.

Those of you that are using Flickr; what do you think? Have you got any hints or tips for me? I have the iPhone and iPad already set up to upload images and I have a new IPTC template for photographs so that the correct information gets placed into the right fields for the Flickr system. Please come and have a look at my pictures on the site, exchange “follows” with me and let me know what I need to do next.

You can find me at neilgavinturner .

The story behind a picture #2

© Neil Turner. Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company stage a spectacular demonstration of their vehicles on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier.

© Neil Turner. Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company stage a spectacular demonstration of their vehicles on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier.

Back in 2013 the Bournemouth Arts By The Sea Festival was getting bigger and better and I was asked to come along and shoot some of the events. The climax of day two was to be a spectacular show on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier by Joe Rush and The Mutoid Waste Company who build and drive fantastic vehicles made from scrap. The organisers had penned off a large area of beach, put up a large public address system and once night had fallen the vehicles and their crews came onto the beach.

I had been there earlier in the festival when some of the vehicles had driven through the town and so I knew roughly what to expect. I got there reasonably early and staked out what I thought would be a good position with the sea and the pier in the background. I had two cameras with me – one with a 70-200 f2.8 and the other with a 24-70 f2.8 zoom lens. I had a couple of Canon speed lights and a high-voltage battery pack, plenty of memory cards and then waited for darkness and the start of the show.

Half a dozen vehicles sped onto the sand and I started shooting away without flash. It was pretty dark, despite the arc lights that had been positioned at various points around the perimeter. These vehicles weigh several tons and one or two of them got caught in the soft sand but that made for great pictures because the people who ‘crew’ them are artists and showmen and they gave the most amazing static display whilst waiting to be hauled free.

© Neil Turner. Audiences watching Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company  on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier to close day two of the third annual festival.  Photo: © Neil Turner

© Neil Turner. Audiences watching Joe Rush and the Mutoid Waste Company on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier to close day two of the third annual festival.

The edit of the pictures was done in rapid time and sent to the client ready for the next day’s papers and any number of websites and social media platforms and accounts.

The 2015 festival takes place in October and I’m looking forward to seeing some of it up close.

Technical stuff: Canon EOS5D MkII cameras with Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS and 24-70 f2.8L lenses. Top picture 1/100th of a second at f2.8 on 2000 ISO with white balance corrected in Adobe Camera RAW. Bottom picture 1/25th of a second at f3.2 on 2000 ISO.

The story behind a picture #1

Young England cross-country runners posing for a photograph in Winchester. © Neil Turner/TSL

Young England cross-country runners posing for a photograph in Winchester. © Neil Turner/TSL

Even after nearly thirty years shooting photographs I can almost always remember something about ‘being there’ on the job when I look back at the pictures. There’s also a story to be told about why a particular picture was shot, lit or composed in a certain way.

A while ago I was posting a “photography word of the day” on Twitter and one of the first was compromise. This photograph of two rising stars of cross country running is a classic example of compromising to get a decent shot.

When I arrived at the college where they were both studying neither of them had their kit with them to do an action shot. Luckily their England team tracksuits had arrived and so I had to manufacture an action portrait of them that left one important part out of the frame – their feet. Neither of them had suitable footwear to be photographed in action and so I had to find a way to shoot them without drawing attention to their lack of running shoes.

In front of the college was a large banked area of grass and playing fields. I realised quite quickly that I could get the best of the light (dusk was fast approaching), lose most of the buildings and hide their feet by getting down low and using one of the banked grass areas to fill the foreground as they ran towards the low angled sun whilst shooting on a long (ish) lens.

So that’s what I did. The two runners were amused by the lengths to which I was determined to go to get a decent shot. They had been photographed two days before but just wearing their street clothes and standing by the college sign and they had assumed that I’d do the same. They did about ten lots of the ten yard run that had them in the right place and I shot some of them horizontally and the others vertically to cover the possible shapes that the newspaper might use. I also shot it using a range of aperture and shutter speed combinations to get the depth of field right.

I did some static upper-body photographs as well as having them pose with their trophies (feet hidden) on the grass.

Technical stuff: Canon EOS1D MkII with a 70-200 f2.8L IS lens. ISO 320, 1/1000th of a second at f6.7

Anyone remember the “old dg28”?

Starting in 1999 I posted over fifty technique samples on my website. These days, hardly a month goes by without a photographer telling me that they read them over and over again and that they learned to not fear using flash by experimenting with some of the ideas that I talked about. Those technique pages used to get some serious traffic!

I’ve been looking back through them in connection with another project that I’m working on and I picked (almost at random) one of the old pieces to post here. It was originally posted in the summer of 2001 and I find it quite interesting that agree with everything I said. I clearly remember the shoot as well; the subject was the same age as me (37 at the time) and he was retraining as a plasterer. I’m now 49 and my career has also changed. Looking at this set of pictures I wonder whether plastering worked out for him. The words are unchanged and all I’ve done is to upload a new version of the picture.

©TSL/Neil Turner. 37 year old retraining as a plasterer  in July 2001.

©TSL/Neil Turner. 37 year old retraining as a plasterer in July 2001.

When most people tai their first steps using lights they try to make the photographs shadowless. The ability to do this is very useful, but sometimes it’s better to place your own shadows exactly where you want them. Some subjects need to be given a distinct treatment.

This portrait of an award winning student was crying out for an unusual image and it was obvious that he would do pretty much anything I asked. The college where he had been studying plastering was a large space divided up into small rooms that the students then practiced their craft in. It was dark and dull coloured with no reflective surfaces so it was pretty much an ideal location for me to work in (apart from the dust).

I quickly spotted a whole series of arches and windows that would serve as a perfect frame to the photograph and set a Lumedyne light up inside the small room.The beauty of working with battery powered kit is that you don’t have to find power points, which were few and far between in the workshop area.

I first tried to shoot with a softbox on the flash unit, but the dull colours and the subjects plain T-shirt made it a pretty boring shot so I decided to shoot without any form of light modifier and removed the softbox in order to get the hard shadow.

The flash exposure was f5.6 at 200 ISO with the softbox in place, but this leapt to f13 with just the metal reflector in place. There was so little available light that everything not lit by the flash was in total darkness. This effect was perfect for the shot. The subject had turned up with few tools and the shot needed a prop or two so we borrowed some plasterers tools and got him to hold them in a way that seemed to relax him. When you are photographing people that are not used to having their picture taken professionally you often need to work as hard at relaxing them as you do in getting the technical bits right. Having some familiar props (teddy bear substitutes) to hand can make all the difference.

I worked hard with this image at getting the composition right by using the arched frame, I tried a couple of other shaped holes too, but this was the best. Getting the shadow in the right place is nothing more or less than trial and error, but using the LCD on the back of a digital SLR helps to shorten that process. I started the shoot working with a 28-70 lens but graduated to a 17-35 pretty quickly. Getting closer to the arch gave me a larger area inside the room to work with and having a six foot tall man, his shadow and some plasterers tools I needed that space.

I think that this photograph helps to demonstrate just how useful adding extra elements into a portrait can be. The props and the shadow help to tell the story as well as making the whole image that little bit more interesting. In the end the picture ran in the newspaper in black and white and the contrast provided by the shadow really helped.

©TSL/Neil Turner. July 2001

©TSL/Neil Turner. July 2001

2013 update and technical footnote:

The camera used was a Canon/Kodak DCS520 with 1.9 megapixels with a Canon 17-35 f2.8L lens. The lighting was a Lumedyne Classic flash system with a 200 w/s pack and a basic head. The DCS520 was great for certain jobs and this kind of lit work suited it down to the ground. The Kodak software was really good and it made it easy to interpolate (upsize) the images by a substantial amount – sometimes as much as 400%.

I used to shoot between 8 and 10 commissions a week and that involved driving an average of 30,000 miles a year. I had an Apple Powerbook G4 and I filed my pictures either using the ISDN line at my flat or using a PCMCIA card with a mobile phone modem built into it. The files that came out of the camera were a native 5.7Mb and generally compressed down to somewhere between 300K and 600K.

I hope to post a few more of these on the blog soon.

Archive photo: Special needs school, March 1990

Following on from the March 1990 Conductive Education picture that I posted earlier in the week I remembered another special needs picture that I shot a short while later. As it turns out, exactly four weeks later. This shot isn’t as technically sound or as well composed as the previous picture but it does mean a lot to me – because there is a real story to go with it.

© Neil Turner | 30 March 1990 | Southampton

This boy had a target of learning to do up his own zip and was determined to succeed for the camera. I was touched by him and his determination and so I stayed with him whilst he kept trying. After nearly ten minutes he succeeded and I was very nearly in tears. One of the staff had been watching and she was in tears. I have never forgotten that moment.

For the geeks out there, the camera was a Nikon F3P, the lens was a 24mm f2 Nikkor and it was shot on Kodak Tri-X film.

Street photography 1989 style

“Street photography is back” was the title of an email that I received today. Funny, I never knew that it went away. Having said that, the current exhibition taking place at The Museum of London has given the genre a bit of a boost. There are so many great exponents of street photography working in London today that even I have to admit that it isn’t so much back as resurgent. This got me thinking about some of my own work from early on in my career. I remember sitting in my office one day and a very old friend rang me and asked if I have any pictures of street markets that his younger sister could borrow for a school project. I had a few but, in the absence of anything better to do, I went off to Leather Lane market and shot a couple of rolls of film.

©Neil Turner

At that time I was part of a small agency and we had a rapidly growing library of images that was starting to make us some money. Stock photography was a good marketplace back in the late 1980s and early 1990s and I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to add a few market pictures.

This was my favourite frame of the lot. Shot on a Nikon FM2 with a 35mm f2 Nikkor lens and Kodak Tri-X film – a copy of this print made on old-fashioned bromide paper still hangs on my own office wall. The reasons that I like it are many and varied but the fact that it was born of a simple request from a very good friend (in fact, two years later he was my Best Man at my wedding) gives it extra weight for me. The fact that it has made me quite a bit of money as a stock image certainly doesn’t detract from its appeal but the other thing that makes me love this picture is that it reminds me just how simple photography can be. A mechanical camera with a fixed focal length lens, no automation whatsoever and time. Street photography is all about opportunity and patience.

Waiting for the moment to happen is part of the way that I shoot anyway but I also spend a lot of time looking around trying to anticipate good compositions, watching for the way that light hits surfaces and people. I have a very clear recollection of how this picture was made. I had seen the man walk up through the market and grabbed a couple of frames of him as he walked and shopped. Then I saw this nice gap between stalls and concentrated on framing it and I have the same composition with at least five different people passing through. Finally the interesting person that I really wanted came back and I clicked one frame of him (no motor drives on my FM2s that day). The little black border around the print is the rebate of the film which means, for those of you who are too young to have shot much in the pre-digital era, that this is the whole frame as it was shot – no post production cropping.

When I scanned the print this morning I noticed that this was one of a short edition of hand-prints that I made of this frame and you can see the stamp and date that were on the back with my pixelated signature.

©Neil Turner

Simple and happy days but I don’t particularly want them back. Opening a box of prints brought back the smell of the darkroom and the associated cough rather too vividly. I haven’t made a black and white print in a traditional darkroom since January 1994 and I don’t miss it one bit!