Paddling tips, tricks, news and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view

Unsponsored Q&A Series – David Turnbull

Over the last few years we have ran many Q&As with some of worlds top paddlers and manufacturers. This Q&A is a little bit different. David Turnbull isn’t a kayaker or canoeist. However David has been drawn towards whitewater like so many us and now spends a great deal of his time capturing the skill and beauty of whitewater kayaking and canoeing via the camera lens.

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David’s photography has certainly inspire me to try a bit harder and I am very grateful that David has agreed to take part in the Unsponsored Q&A Series.

How did you get into photography?

To answer this question honestly I would say only 2 or 3 years ago. That’s when I started to take photography up as a serious hobby. I purchased an entry level DSLR to learn the basics, went out photographing with a mate at work, cheers Steve. And have recently moved up to a more advanced Camera.

I try to capture what the eye sees and the camera gives you that extra bit of magic with the fast shutter speed to freeze the action for that split second.


I enjoy seeing different action shots from fast moving sports captured in different ways and that’s the challenge I enjoy.


What is in your camera bag as standard? What do you use?

A Canon 7D DSLR body.
Canon EF 70-200mm 1:4 L USM
Canon EF 24-105mm 1:4 L IS USM
Sigma 10-20mm 1:4 – 5.6 DC HSM

A great deal of your time is spent at the Tees Barrage taking photos of the kayakers there. What led you to spend time focusing on whitewater kayaking?

I didn’t really give it a thought and to be honest I had only been down a couple of times even though I only live 10 minutes from the barrage. I like taking action shots and usually went to Croft Circuit to photograph the Rally Cross or the Motorbikes. The time that I went to the Barrage with my camera there were a few people on the water and immediately it captured me. Everyone was enjoying themselves and having a great time.


A few things stood out straight away, fun, skill and how close I could get to the action compared to other sports. The skill required looked quite high, especially the balance and tricks that were being performed. There are lots of different skill levels but one thing I noticed was that everyone helped each other. So many different shots are available whether it be coming out of a roll, performing tricks or simply surfing the white water. The spray, movement of the water and facial expressions make for some exhilarating action photography.

You’ve been adopted by the NE Soulboaters who paddle at the Barrage on a regular basis. Are you tempted to spend some time on the water on the other side of the lens?

As I am reading this question I am laughing and saying to myself….No way! I think the Soulboaters whether they are at the barrage or on a river in fast flowing water, have a great deal of skill and agility. Maybe 20 years ago I might of give it a go, (laughing again) but I think the closest I would get to white water would be in a Raft. So I think I will pass on that one and stay on the camera side.

What would you say are the top 5 golden rules for being able to take good quality photographs of whitewater kayaking?

Observation – to see where the action happens
Keep the sun behind you to light the subject
Quality Lens
Knowing your kit to change settings quickly if needed, for different situations.

If you could pick three kayak related images that you have taken to showcase your work what would they be and why?

Unsponsored Q&A - David Turnbull

Capture of the water, Colours, Sharpness and Clarity.

Unsponsored Q&A - David Turnbull

Exceptional young talent, amazing skill for his age, determination to learn and always has a smile on his face! You can always see the enjoyment he gets from paddling.

Unsponsored Q&A - David Turnbull

Fast flowing water and determination to overcome the short course at TIWWC.

Unsponsored Q&A - David Turnbull

I know you asked for 3 images, but very recently I had my first trip onto the River Tees for an experiment with a good friend to try something slightly different. It was a night shoot showing his boat lit with LED’s. The one thing I wanted to capture was the flowing of the water but with Geoff also in the frame to not move. For a first time attempt I’m quite pleased and I certainly know Geoff is also pleased with the results.

Could you tell us a little about each of the images. What settings, lenses and filters were used ? Did any post editing take place? If so what.

1st – Lens 24-105mm, F9, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, No Filter. – Surfing the wave shows lots of water movement and concentration.
2nd – Lens 24-105mm, F5, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, No Filter.
3rd – Lens 70-200mm, F7.1, 1/800 sec., ISO 100, No Filter.
4th – Lens 24-105mm, F4.0, 0.5 sec, ISO 800, No Filter.

Post Editing – after capturing the shot that I was looking for I try and make it as good as possible. Mainly adding some clarity and contrast, but depending on the lighting conditions, altering the shadows and highlights.

Thanks David!

1 Comment

  1. Stu M

    Awesome shots and finally a name to the familiar face / lense – cheers for the article Stu

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