7 Questions for National Geographic Photographer Tyrone Turner

If you’re joining us on our Iceland Photo Tour in March 2018, you’ll have the great privilege to be guided and tutored by Tyrone Turner, a photography giant and all-round awesome person. A regular contributor to National Geographic, Tyrone practices a documentary style photography and raises awareness on a range of important issues through his images. And besides being an award-winning photographer, Tyrone is also an experienced photography teacher. We asked Tyrone about what drives him as a photographer, what makes Iceland a great photographic destination, and what photography tips he can share with us. He also shared some of his work.

Why Iceland?
Because it is amazing as a photo destination. I traveled there for the first time last summer and was just blown away by the contrast of volcanic rock and flaura- not to mention simply seeing steam coming out of the ground. You feel like you are documenting an emerging earth, full of power and wonder, not just in one place but all over. I loved the quality of light, painting the landscape with yellows and pinks. During our workshop in the Spring we also will be on the lookout for the Northern Lights, something not visible in the summer months. Experiencing the Icelandic landscape is as much an emotional experience as it is a photographic one, and I look forward to our return.

We have some spaces left on our photo tour in Iceland! Find out more about this opportunity.

What sparked your interest in photography?
I had an interest in photography from my youth, and I remember going to a store in New Orleans where my mom bought my first camera for me, a Fujica ST605. It shot film, was all manual, with screw-mounted lenses. I messed around with black and white photography in high school and college, but was really more interested in sports and academics at the time. In fact, I passed up the chance to be a photographer with the college newspaper because I had an opportunity to be on the springboard diving team. At the end of my college time, I had the chance to do two things- go to Peru with the Jesuit Volunteer Corp or apprentice with a photographer who was the father of one of my college friends. Deciding that I could travel to Peru later, I took the chance to work with the photographer, Balthazar Korab, one of the world’s best architectural photographers. Though I didn’t ultimately dedicate myself to photographing architecture, Balthazar was an incredible influence on my creative process. My first real experience with the type of documentary style photography that I practice was during graduate school. I had a work internship in Mexico assessing shipments of food to indigenous villages high in the mountains. Balthazar gave me a camera and film, as did other photographer friends, and I had a wonderfully immersive experience in these remote villages, experiencing life and photographing.

What equipment do you use now? 
Presently I shoot with Canon 5D Mk 3 cameras. I really love the color palette of the Canon digital images. As for lenses, I work with both fixed and zoom- 28mm f1.8, 35mm f1.4, 24-70 f2.8, 85 f1.8, 70-200 f 2.8mm.

What are your main goals with your photography? 
The stories I choose usually have to do with issues that I care deeply about. My goal is to bring the viewer into close visual contact with people and the environment that they live in – this could be in times of joy or great tragedy and sadness. I am looking for images that get at both what is happening in a story and what I feel about what is happening.

Are there any areas of photography, or any particular stories, you would still like to explore? 
Yes, I am very excited about further exploring animal photography. I have focused on it with traditional photography and remote cameras also, to show the condition of the disappearing wetlands in my home state of Lousiana, and I am very excited about the focus on large animals in the upcoming wildlife photo workshop.

Who are some of your favourite photographers (past or present)?
There are many many incredible photographers who I look to for inspiration, and I continue to seek out and enjoy new photography all of the time. However, my two favorites are Eugene Richards and Sebastian Salgado.

Any secret techniques you can reveal? 
The only secrets I can reveal begin with not getting very caught up in the equipment. That changes frequently. Know the cameras and lenses that you have so that you can be very fast and nimble with them. Second, consume lots of photography. Look at what is being produced and critically assess the pictures to learn from the intent and techniques of the photographer. Third, really work hard at building your vision and your ideas of what you can do with your photography, be that in the area of social documentary, fashion, political, environmental, travel, or animals. What story are you trying to tell?

Find out more about our upcoming Iceland Photography Workshop, run by Tyrone! 

Tyrone Turner photo

Chapman's Peak

Tyrone Turner Brazil photo

Iceland photography workshop

Khayelitsha school

Penguins Cape Town

All images by National Geographic photographer Tyrone Turner