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Sir Paul Stephenson becomes Commissioner of The Metropolitan Police Force - Neil Turner, 2009

10 August 2011

The Metropolitan Police has an in-house magazine called The Job and I was asked to shoot two sets of pictures of Sir Paul Stephenson for it when he became the new Commissioner in February 2009. The first set were portraits in his office and the second was of his address to a meeting of rank and file officers at the Methodist Central Hall in London the following morning.

The portraits were scheduled for within an hour or so of his officially taking over the Met, although he had been the Acting Commissioner for some time already. Once through security at New Scotland Yard I was taken to the floor where his new office was. My my brief was to get a set of pictures that could be used to accompany an interview and for a picture that could go across a double page spread with a headline and text running over it. Most of the pictures were shot against a plain beige coloured wall with even light but I was keen to offer them something a little more interesting.

Like most photographers I wanted more time and I was doing my best to get as long as I could when I hit on the idea (having packed my lights away) of using a flash gun on manual power with the zoom at it’s extreme telephoto setting to give a pool of light effect. I got the Met Press Officer to hold it for me and shot off a few frames with the light coming from different angles before settling on a tight angle from the left of the frame. Every light source has a ‘signature’ shape to the pool of light that it produces and the relatively hard-edged oblong that a hot-shoe flash produces can be very appealing.

The picture researcher on The Job called to say the images were exactly what they wanted then enquired how I’d achieved the ‘dark effect’. After I gave her a brief description of the process she said: “Wow, I didn’t know you could do stuff like that without Photoshop!”

This picture was shot at 1/60th of a second at f22 at the wide end of a 24-70 f2.8L zoom lens on a Canon EOS5D MKII body using a Pocket Wizard system to trigger the flash.

Day one went well. Day two was “no flash” inside the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. I was thankful that the Canon could handle the low light and I was amazed at the quality of the images shot at 2500 ISO – especially when one of them made the front page.

Now that Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned over the hacking scandal, will I be shooting his successor? It would be great to get the call…

More pictures from the shoot are at dg28.com.

In April 1987 Neil Turner joined with Jez Coulson and David Stewart-Smith to form Insight Photographers. Over the next seven years Neil worked for many specialist publications including the Times Educational Supplement who offered him a staff job in January 1994. Early in 2000 Neil launched dg28.com – a website devoted to showing other photographers how to use portable lighting during an era when the digital cameras were poor at high ISOs and by 2004 the site was getting over two million page hits a year. In August 2008 Neil left the TES and is now working freelance for a wide range of publications, lecturing on several higher education courses and still running dg28.com.

Photographer since 1986. EPUK member since 1999.

See more work by Neil Turner

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