August is a strange month

Throughout my 32 years as a photographer August has been something of a “silly season” with little freelance work on offer and very small editions of the papers where I was employed and because of that there has been a lot of soul-searching and career planning done in the height of the English summer.

As July turned into August this year I had been really busy – mostly with editing work but with the odd commission here and there too but as soon as we passed August 1st it all turned quiet again and the annual time for career reflection had begun. This year the plan is a very simple one: to continue to get fitter and to make sure that my regular clients are kept up-to-date with that progress.

One year ago in August 2017 I was in hospital having had some major spinal surgery. Whilst in hospital I spent a lot of time trying to work out what I was going to do for the rest of my career. Of course there was really only one option and that was to get back to freelancing as quickly as possible.

Ten years ago in August 2008 I was on “gardening leave” as I was negotiating the deal to end my time as a staff photographer at the Times Supplements. I got fitter by walking everywhere and spent a lot of time trying to work out what I was going to do for the rest of my career. Of course there was really only one option and that was to become a freelance photographer again – fourteen and a half years after the end of my first spell of self-employment.

Eighteen years ago I was at The Times Supplements and Jane Harper, our Picture Editor, was about to retire. She told me that despite it being August, she wanted her last edition of the Times Educational Supplement to have a cover photo of which she could be proud – she wanted to “go out on a high”. I was sent to photograph a summer school for gifted and talented students near Brighton and I was struggling until I saw that there was a drumming workshop going on.

© Neil Turner/TSL. August 2000. Drumming workshop at a summers school for gifted and talented students in East Sussex.

Followers of my blogs will have seen this picture before but I think that its worth another look. I needed to be a bit creative with the lighting because it was in a drab school hall with drab coloured curtains but, once I had explained what I was looking for, the young lady who was playing the drums on stage helped me to create this picture. Every time I think about August and it being a strange month I remind myself that on the 4th of August 2000 the strangest of months in the silliest of seasons presented me with a picture that I’m still very proud of.

Technical stuff: Kodak DCS520 camera with a Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens. Lumedyne flash hidden behind the drum and fired with a Wein remote trigger. 1/200th of a second at f5.6 on 200 ISO.

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