As an industry, photography has undergone significant changes in technology and in sales, so Mark Turner has adapted. He once focused on nature photography that attracted interest from magazine and book publishers, but he's now known for his family and pet portraits.
Turner made the transition because of the drop in sales from companies willing to pay for his nature photos. With portraits, he discovered his gift for getting people to relax while they pose.
The portrait business is solid, he says, because no matter how good the camera or timing device, it's difficult to take your own family photo.
"I've discovered that problem myself," he says, noting that it's hard for someone to relax for a photo while trying to get the camera to work correctly.
Turner, who has had his photography business since 1993, moved to his current location in Fairhaven two years ago. Before he shifted to portraits in 2008, most of his clients lived outside of Bellingham. Now the majority are local.
"I like it this way," he says. "I can have a direct relationship with the customers, who then become friends."
Turner is on an adventure tracking down and photographing about 600 species of trees and shrubs in the Pacific Northwest for a book he's putting together. The project has taken him down backcountry roads, from Shelter Cove in Northern California to desolate sites in northwest Nevada.
The field guide, which Turner is co-writing with Ellen Kuhlmann, is scheduled to be delivered to the publisher in February 2013. He co-wrote "Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest" six years ago with Phyllis Gustafson.
With more than 450 trees and shrubs already photographed by mid-June, the last ones are particularly difficult to locate. Turner does a lot of research online, mapping hard-to-find plants and figuring out the best time to catch them in bloom.
He has logged a lot of time in his pickup. One 54-hour trip netted him two flowers. In May, he put 6,000 miles on the pickup. It's a ton of time and energy, but it's something he enjoys.
"It's a chance for me to explore parts of the Northwest that I wouldn't normally get to see in more than one season," Turner says. "I love being out where no one else is."
In his case, Turner's "play hard" is tightly interwoven with his "work hard," which can make balancing his time difficult. It also means less time for other activities he enjoys, such as bicycling and kayaking.
"Some of the 'playing' has fallen by the wayside," he says, "but after the book is done I want to get back to those."
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269.