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Friday, 30 April 2010


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Interesting comments on the white balance (he said EXIF data shows it all set to cloudy). Now, if he was shooting RAW, the white balance set at the time is less important; but it points out something I'd noticed in the set of photos, that the white balance isn't corrected to normal in a lot of the pictures. Sometimes I thought it was maybe a bit too far from corrected, but the general idea of letting the light from the scene influence the color rendition is a good one (and very old; the warm views through windows into houses at twilight...).

I wonder if Peter would have been better served with a smaller and lighter prime lenses like 24mm f/2.8 or even the newer 24mm f/1.4 lens?

For all of the techies: Peter neutralized all of the technical variables by keeping them very simple -- and he concentrated on what was happening. He walks, looks and shoots. He's a story teller who happens to use a camera.

Think about that the next time you see someone taking a picture of a brick wall.

he might, but considering he is a working international he is probably trying to keep bulk down.. a classic kit would be 2 identical bodies, 24-70, 70-200, 50 or 60 macro, a flash and thats it.. you want to be able to keep most of your gear on you at all times.. airplanes, hotels, leaving the hotel, and so on.. if he isnt a die-hard fixed lens user the 24-70 zoom is his main working lens..

One lens and one exposure setting, he said. Ok, I thought. Then it turns out that the one lens is a 24-70 zoom which contains within it 5 standard prime lens focal lengths, and the "exposure setting" was shutter priority! Rubbish comments like that really annoy me.

This post has nothing to do with Peter Turnley.

"This post has nothing to do with Peter Turnley."

Actually, I just talked to Peter, and he thinks it's pretty remarkable how clearly Jonathan Castner was able to deconstruct the shooting technique he uses and teaches just from the EXIF information.


Two observations on Peter s techniques (which I have observed numerous times):

1. His use of background elements to add interest and context to his images ...requires great care in composition. Now consider that with a 28mm ....the lens is within 3 ft-4ft of the main subject . So he has to move several times during a series of captures. Its this element that I believe adds the depth to images .

2. Composing 6-10 captures in less than minute while moving is no simple exercise. Think about walking backwards for two hours in a crowd ..with each series requiring you to get in position .

Its a blend of artist and athlete . A few things the EXIF data doesn t reveal.


That wasn't my point. My point was that "one lens" used to mean one focal length, not a zoom with range of focal lengths available. Also, and more annoying to me, is the comment regarding "one exposure". A camera on Shutter Priority is not one exposure. It's whatever exposure the camera determines for a chosen shutter speed.

If someone is going to write about photography surely it's not too much to ask that they do so with some accuracy. Is it? To say, "one lens and one exposure" is just plain silly in this case. Perhaps someone else can mount an 18-200 zoom and put their camera on auto and claim one lens, one exposure.


Even without the EXIF reader, It is clear from viewing Peter's photos that he shoots with a wide lens very close to his subjects with a wide aperture. This can be deduced from the perspective, lack of compression of space, thin focal plane, and the degree of bokeh in the out of focus areas. It is interesting to get the technical data that confirms this. I am hoping to take one of his workshops so that he can help me to overcome my own reservations about shooting that close to people and become more fearless in those situations. I love the results, but so far I am too shy to execute things that way myself.

The two sentences you're objecting to, if I'm not mistaken, are:

"By half way through the first installment I developed the following insight into his working method for that shoot: One camera, one lens, one exposure setting and a lot of walking around. Specifically he was using a Nikon D3 with a Nikon AF-S 24-70mm set to shutter priority and cloudy white balance."

As an editor this doesn't bother me much, and I'll explain why. If I were editing the piece, I would agree with you that "exposure setting" is ambiguous, and I'd want it changed to "one exposure mode" or perhaps "one exposure mode and one white balance setting." But the reason it doesn't bother me is that heclarifies his meaning himself in his very next sentence, when he gives the specifics. So if there's any confusion over his meaning, it doesn't last long.

But I'd quarrel to a like degree with your assertion that his "one lens" is sloppy writing. It isn't--P.T. really was using one lens. If Castner had said "one focal length," then all right, I'd see your objection, but he didn't say that. Who would be okay with the formulation "one camera, five standard focal lengths..." when what is meant specifically is "a Nikon D3 with a Nikon AF-S 24-70mm"? Like it or not that *is* one lens. If you don't believe so, consider that there are many photographers now who have *never* shot with a collection of single-focal-length lenses, but have *always* shot with a zoom or zooms...your idea that there are "5 standard prime lens focal lengths" contained "within" a zoom would strike them as odd and inaccurate, I think.


Hi Mike,

As I said, I doubt it would bother too many people. True, he didn't try to be misleading at all and I wasn't suggesting that. Yes, a 24-70 is one lens but the way I read the one lens, one exposure was as a sort of testimony to his skill level (Peter's skill is not in question here). In that case, I still have a problem with it. An 18-200 is a single lens but what would you think if someone wrote, "...and he only used one lens to take all these photos", and the lens was an 18-200? As I said, one lens used to mean one focal length which was why writers thought it significant to mention but now with zooms being the standard it's become a "so what?" sort of comment. And the same goes for the one exposure comment. So what? It was shutter priority. Why even bother to mention it?

Anyway, there is no point in taking this further, it's just my picky opinion which is probably not shared by many others.

My last word is that none of this is directed at the technique or quality of Peter Turnley's photographs.


It does not matter one jot how he did or did not get the pictures, all that matters is that he got them. Photo editors don't give a rat's a#se how you got them (forgive my Aussie colloquialisms) they just care that they have them.

Mike, the dispute between Steven and you is very informative. Emotionally I am with Steve, since when I read "one lens" I think immediately at a prime (and I don't say this is correct!) and when I read "one exposure setting" I think immediately f5.6 1/125 or the like, but rationally you are absolutely right. Really interesting...

"Photo editors don't give a rat's a#se how you got them"

But other photographers are interested.


Mike - I was going to reply in a pretty similar manner to Steven. Instead I'll just confirm exactly what you said at the end : I've never shot anything but zoom lenses (and a digital sensor), and I do find it very odd to think about how many prime lengths are contained within a zoom. I have no issue at all with the "one lens" statements.

That said, thanks to you and Steven for clarifying the exposure statement. My first thought reading that was "one exposure? He meant one mode."

All confusion aside, I'm pleased to find that all along I may have been doing something right. At least since it was available to me, I've used shutter priority, a 20mm (32 in digital), a 35mm or 40mm, and an appropriate film or ISO speed. With digital I think it works well to stick with one "auto" white balance setting (as opposed to constantly setting it manually) and let the chips fall where they may. The color of light changed on film and it worked then.

Hey all. Thanks for the interest in my blog post. The last few days have been rather interesting. I've been flooded with hits from all over due to TOP posting about my little musing. I will say that it is interesting to see how I, a photographer who happens to write a bit, am scrutinized like a professional word smith in some of the above commentary. It’s as if I stumbled into a Lit Analysis class … So what was the author REALLY trying to say when he wrote “The next morning, Thomas woke up thirsty”? Wow. Good thing I’m not a writer! That is way too much pressure for me.

Then of course there is the fact that Peter Turnley knows who I am because of this. Ka-Zam! I’m the happiest girl in 3 counties. Well, maybe not quite that giddy but still.


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