Kennet & Avon photographer Fiona Turnbull

Life through the lens - photographing people on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Fiona Turnbull, photographer Fiona Turnbull, photographer

All photographers are driven to tell a story and Fiona Turnbull finds her inspiration in the lives people lead on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Brought up in Glasgow, Fiona once lived in Toll Cottage, at The Wharf in Lacock, built for the Wilts & Berks Canal. She now runs a studio in the village offering courses from beginners through to masterclasses on diverse subjects.

In her walks, up and down the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath between Devizes and Bath, Fiona talks to and photographs as many canal users as she can. Dog walkers, cyclists, canoeists, boat dwellers - they all have their reasons for coming to the water.

Animals often feature in her photos and her picture ‘Captain Cat’ was overall runner up in our Spring Photography Competition, out of 140 entrants. The competition was sponsored by Jessops of Bath.

Snapped at Bradford on Avon, this rather majestic animal is framed by the bow, in a curve that sweeps your eye around the picture. Caught at eye level, he stares straight at the viewer, his green eyes contrasting with red ropes. The purple collar adds a bright note that directs your attention towards his face and he is framed in a halo of back lighting.

As for the technical bit – it was taken at shutter speed: 1/1600, aperture: f4, ISO: 200.

Of boat dwellers, Fiona says: "I was surprised at how willing they were to give up their conventional lifestyles. Canal life gives them something special that you can’t get in a house, and this is quite powerful and freeing."

This joy, contentment, call it what you will, shines out of her portraits.

Lady in blue on boat

"The lady in blue is my favourite. She fizzes with personality and liveliness. She has lived on the canal for nine years and in this photo, she seems so very happy with her lifestyle. The boat doors, patterned table and view through the window place her within her world," says Fiona.

Matt and his dog in Devizes on the Kennet & Avon

By contrast her portrait of Matt and his dog suggests the quiet contentment and contemplation of a man living life in the slow lane. The dog is happy to wait patiently, but keeps a quizzical eye out for some action beyond the frame.

Woman wearing pearls and man with a beard on a boat on the K&A

Fiona snapped this couple in Devizes. "They invited me on board and we had a cup of tea – they were so welcoming and relaxed considering I was a stranger. He had suffered some ill health and you can see how protective she is of him, placing her hand on his shoulder. They seemed very content with their lifestyle and with each other."

Perhaps boat dwellers realise that for many of them there will come a time when they must return to land, so they make the most of their lifestyle while they can.

Two girls walk a dog on the Devizes towpath

But it’s not all about the boat dwellers. Another favourite photo of Fiona’s are these two girls walking their friend’s dog on the towpath. "They wore unusual clothing and sparkly makeup and they were thoroughly enjoying this characterful little terrier."

So, what does Fiona look for in a good photo? "I have a check list in my head: point of view, curves and diagonals that lead you around and into the photo; framing the subject, lighting, pattern, textures and complementary colours."

Visit Lacock Photography if you are interested in learning about Fiona’s photography courses.

Here we share a few tips to get you started.

Here's a little more of Fiona's work to enjoy...

Last date edited: 5 June 2018