One of the best things about being a photographer is that you get to do some pretty odd things. Sometimes you climb to the top of a tall building and have a look at the view. At other times you get to meet interesting and amazing people and take their pictures. At other times you have to get up early on a bleak winter's day, go to the beach, wade into the water just after dawn to get the tide and the picture. It all adds to the fun of the job.


I shot this commission a while ago and I have been meaning to write it up since then. The story was about a school head teacher who owns a horse that she keeps in stables near the sea. She refers to her horse as her "work life balance" - something that we all need, but few of us have quite such a visible symbol of it!

Being a teacher, she is at school most days. During the holidays she gets away to the coast and rides whenever she can and if the tide is right she can ride on the beach. It was an October morning and we met at dawn in the car park near the stables. My brief was to get a double page spread for a magazine which showed her enjoying herself.

Of course photographers rarely get to choose the weather and it was raining with a reasonably strong wind. The tide was just right (we checked the tables in advance) and so we started to shoot some pictures of her riding on the sand. It's a stretch of coast that I know well and I knew that there was a high chance of poor weather. There's nothing that you can do when the deadline is tight except to shoot the best pictures that you can.

The picture above was taken towards the end of the session and by this time it was getting lighter. The exposure was up to 1/500th of a second at f3.5 on a 24-70 f2.8L lens. We had started at 1/125th at f2.8 and the light was doubling every twenty minutes or so. Unusually for me I shot this job without lights, without flash - just good old ambient. Had there been any sunshine, there would have been the complicating factor of having to shoot almost directly into the sun if I wanted to stay on the beach.

Most of the pictures were taken on a 70-200 f2.8L lens and I made use of a monopod whilst the light was low. I shoot on beaches quite a lot and I always take a large piece of plastic to sit my camera bag and anything else that I put down onto. If the plastic sheet is big enough, you can also use it to wrap everything but sand still gets in and salt still seems to coat everything.

I always try to give picture editors a lot of choice and to give them small "drop-in" pictures to use if they need a second or third image for an article. The wider the variety of magazines and papers that i work for, the more I find that the drop-in picture gets used in unusual and creative ways. Magazine clients appreciate choice.

The reason that I wanted to mention this job was the combination of the early start, the poor light, the wind, the rain and getting absolutely soaking wet wading knee deep into the sea. Maybe it was because of all of these factors that I enjoyed it - who knows.

I wrote a while ago about my addiction to Timberland boots and I was very grateful for them on this job. My jeans were wet but my feet stayed dry.

Words © Neil Turner April 2009, images © TSL Education October 2006

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