Camera timeline & nostalgia trip

A colleague of mine, Edmond Terakopian, put a post on a Facebook groups a few days ago talking about the Nikon FM2 cameras that he has owned for many years. From there lots of people agreed with what he had written and a few others moved the conversation on to some of the kit that they’ve owned through their careers.

Most of the comments were about how good and how reliable the earlier kit was and how bodies and lenses from the 70s, 80s and into the 90s are still working and still able to run out quality pictures. Lots of nostalgia for the way things used to be!

Personally speaking I wouldn’t want to go back the shooting and processing film – even if that meant you could get a complete professional kit (two FM2s, two motor drives, 24mm, 35mm, 85mm and 180mm lenses and two flashes) for under £2,500. I was never as big a fan of the FM2 as so many of my colleagues were. The much more expensive and robust F3P/MD4 combination was my favourite of all of the manual focus film cameras but the arrival of the EOS1N made me realise that auto-focus was the way to go.


A fourteen year old technique post

Between May 1999 and June 2008 I posted a large number of technique examples on the original taken from my daily work to show how I used light in an era where digital cameras were pretty poor at ISOs over 800 or even 400 in the case of the venerable Kodak DCS520. These days flash is a creative choice rather than a technical necessity but the techniques still stand up. From time to time I re-post one of these old examples just to remind myself how life used to be. This one was first posted fourteen years ago and for a very long time it was amongst my favourite pictures that I had posted.

©Neil Turner/ TSL, November 2000.

©Neil Turner/ TSL, November 2000.

At the time it felt as if I spent every evening answering follow-up questions about the pictures and techniques that I’d described. These days there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people publishing ‘how-to-do-it’ photography blogs but back then there were only a small number of us. It was such an exciting time in our profession. Anyway, here’s the post as it appeared back in November 2000:

Arriving at the job is usually the best times to start having ideas about locations for a portrait. Buildings often have features that lend themselves to use in a photograph, and the grounds can be just as inspirational.

When I arrived at the Suffolk farmhouse of journalist and author Simon Barnes, he and his wife were busy chasing one of their horses around the yard. By the time the mare was back in one of the stables it was all but dark, but I had seen just how wonderful the other stable looked lit by the 60 watt bulb inside it. 

This image called for the mixing of available light and fifty joules of Lumedyne flash. The flash head had it’s diffuser cap over the standard reflector at an angle of 60° from the lens axis and at a height of about six inches above Simon’s eye level. I had to use the flash a lot lower than I would have done because I wanted him to keep his hat on and the if the flash had been higher his face would have been in shadow from it’s wide rim.

Cut down to it’s minumum 50 joules at a distance of seven feet the flash reading on 200 ISO was still f6.7, which was a lot more than I would have liked. At f6.7 the inside of the stable needed an exposure of about 1/3rd of a second, and the sky needed 1/2 of a second to get some detail in the lighter areas. The discrepency between the two exposure requirements was only half a stop, so I went with the longer exposure because a little over exposure inside the stable would be fine. 

With a 28-70 f2.8L series lens on a DCS520 I started shooting pictures of the upper half of his body and a little of the stable roof and sky. Without changing the exposure I changed lenses to the 17-35 f2.8 and moved back. As I moved back the sensor floodlight came on and the light shining into the lens gave some strange pink flare (bottom right) and the floodlight made an excellent element in the composition. By this time I was hand holding the camera at 1/2 second, which meant that there would be some camera shake so I shot about twenty frames at the same exposure in the hope that a few of them would be still enough to work. 

I shot some safer images as well with the inside of the stable lit by another Lumedyne head complete with a warm up filter to simulate the tungsten glow. The image worked really well, and I am more than happy with it. It shows that light and location are the most important factors when planning a location portrait.

Footnote: Immediately after this job I started to carry a sheet of -2 stop neutral density gel in my bag. I have learned lots of lessons the hard way since the beginning of my career in 1986 and, whilst they are fewer and farther between, I still learn plenty of things that way.


©TSL. July 2004. Nine years ago this week Canon delivered my first EOS1D MkII. I shot for the first time with it on a job where staff were using acupuncture in a Sussex school to help boys with their behaviour.

©TSL. July 2004. Nine years ago this week Canon delivered my first EOS1D MkII. I shot for the first time with it on a job where staff were using acupuncture in a Sussex school to help boys with their behaviour.

I woke up this morning to the headline news that it was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. It is also my next-door-neighbour’s 50th birthday and my nephew’s partner is having her birthday celebration this evening as well. I started to think about things that had happened on (or near) this day over time in my life and I came up with a few:

  • 18th July 2012: I was working as a member of the Photo Operations team at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. I have written before about just how exciting, tiring, inspiring and memorable it was but with the first anniversary athletics event about to happen those memories are coming back as strongly as ever.
  • 18th July 2011: I was coming to the end of the very first cycle of the NCTJ Photojournalism course that I help to teach at Up To Speed in Bournemouth whilst shooting a wide range of both editorial and corporate commissions. That was also an exciting time but for very different reasons.
  • 18th July 2010: I was shooting mostly corporate photography and things were starting to go quiet for the summer months. Really quiet as it turned out.
  • 18th July 2008: I was still employed as a staff photographer at TSL and I spent the day shooting a lovely set of pictures at a school in Hertfordshire that had spent a small fortune making their new building and the grounds as environmentally friendly as possible. I was still unaware that two weeks later I’d be called into a meeting with the Editor and the HR Director to be told that they were making me redundant.
  • 18th July 2003: I had been using my Canon ESO1D cameras for over a year and I was in love. The CRW file format was something of a revaluation and I really enjoyed using it.
  • 18th July 1999: had just been born – I started to publish samples of my work and a few bits of technique advice on my own website for the first time.
  • 18th July 1997: I was starting to experiment with borrowed and rented digital cameras before getting my own DCS520 in late October 1998.
  • 18th July 1995: A month previously I got my own scanner (Kodak RFS2035) and Mac laptop (Powerbook 160c) with Photoshop (v2.5) and began the long journey to digitisation
  • 18th July 1994: Having become a staff photographer at The Times Supplements in January 1994 I had just swapped from shooting with Nikon F4s to Canon EOS1n cameras.
  • 18th July 1993: Life was fun, fast and decidedly unpredictable. One day I would be shooting for a newspaper and the next it was a glossy magazine. On the third day it might be a PR job and you could lay money down that every week would be different from the last. I was shooting with a mixture of Nikon F4, F801 and FM2 cameras as well as having Leica M6s. Some days it would be black and white and some days it would be colour transparency. Some days I’d be using lights and others required nothing more than a fast lens.
  • 18th July 1983: I was working for Jessops when they only had five shops, offered great deals and great service and everyone knew the Jessop family. I was using Olympus OM1n cameras at the time and had acquired an awesome 35mm f2 Zuiko lens.

My career has (so far) failed to stand still for more than a couple of years. Technology changes, my employment status changes and I change. All of that adds up to excitement and that triggers a feeling of keeping it fresh. My style constantly evolves and the client base also evolves. A lot of my colleagues spend a lot of time bemoaning the disappearance of the ‘good old days’ and I am also prone to a bit of nostalgia but we are where we are and just under five years ago I wrote this line:

“It’s an exciting time to be a photographer with new challenges being presented every month and I am on record as saying that I am a very lucky man to be doing what I do.”

Today I’m shooting a nice mixture of editorial and corporate work as well as doing some teaching, writing and consultancy. I spend a lot more time on the beach and I’m constantly looking forward to the next exciting development… whatever that turns out to be!