Mark Turner has always been passionate about photography. He got his first camera at the age of six and never looked back. His career took a turn into television and interactive media for a time, but when he was laid off from his job at Western Washington University in the early 1990s he found his way back to his first love.
He started Turner Photographics by producing a line of notecards with landscapes and flowers and, while he sold some, he wasn’t getting the reorders he wanted. He regrouped and began photographing gardens, selling his images to book and magazine publishers. Turner’s work has been published on covers and inside magazines like Sunset, American Gardener, Organic Gardening and Birds and Blooms, as well as in numerous garden and local feature books. Turner eventually shifted his focus to family portraiture, aiming to showcase people’s personalities through their photographs.
Turner has explored all corners of Whatcom County, and when he’s not photographing people, gardens or wildflowers, he is an active outdoors person. Through his travels he’s developed a long list of favorite places, which also happen to be beautiful settings for family and high school senior portraits. He’s sharing his favorite places in his monthly email newsletter but he agreed to share a few of his most popular spots with me.
“Most of these locations are places people can walk and enjoy time with their family without a whole lot of effort,” he shared.
“If we’re doing a beach portrait, we consider the tide,” shared Mark. His featured shot of a high school senior was taken at sunset on the beach during high tide. “Low tides are generally better, except at Birch Bay. If you don’t want the mudflats, then you need a high tide.”
When the tide is out, Birch Bay beaches are large enough to accommodate large, multigenerational families in one picturesque shot. “You get all the grandkids out there and have them jumping in the mud on the tide flats, and it’s really a lot of fun,” said Turner. “Whether it’s at the state park or somewhere else along the beach, there are lots of possibilities on Birch Bay.”
Hovander Homestead Park & Tenant Lake Park
“Hovander Homestead Park and Tenant Lake are very popular places for portraits and there are lots of ways you can work those spaces,” said Turner. A few years ago he was working with a high school senior who was reluctant to take his senior photos. The teenager’s mother wanted the photos taken, so Turner asked what spots were special to him.
“What he really liked was this spot down on the banks of the Nooksack,” Turner said. “We walked a half-mile down the path to the spot where he and his friends liked to go hang out. It’s a spot I had never seen.”
Others prefer the rustic feel of photos taken around the barn or in front of the other homestead structures. Sometimes Turner can incorporate the views of Mount Baker or natural beauty of the slough into his photos as well.
Larrabee State Park
In 1913, Governor Charles Lister suggested to Charles X. Larrabee that he should establish a state park along Chuckanut Drive. Larrabee agreed to deed some of his waterfront land to the state, but died before the transaction could be completed. His wife, Frances, ensured that the sale went through, thereby making way for the first Washington State Park to be opened in 1915.
The 2,682 acre park is known for its beach and water recreation, as well as scenic hikes such as the Fragrance Lake and Chuckanut Ridge trails. It’s also a great location for portraits.
“Larrabee is always a popular place,” shared Turner. There is a wide variety of settings within the park, so there are plenty of options for taking stunning photos. “You’ve got the beaches with really cool rocks which are good for families, or you can go up to the Cyrus Gates Overlook up on the ridge with some grand vistas, or just be in the woods. There are lots of choices.”
North Shore Lake Whatcom
The interpretive signs at the North Shore trailhead explain how the trail follows part of what was once the Bellingham Bay and Eastern Railroad (BB&E), built in 1902. The railroad was built to service the forestry and mining industries, including the former Blue Canyon Mine just south of the lake.
“There are some beaches along the trail, there’s a waterfall way out there,” said Turner. A recent high school senior took advantage of the old dock pilings in the water, which add more interest to an already beautiful setting.
For more information about Mark Turner and Turner Photographics, visit his website or call 360-671-6851.