Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

Million Women Rise 2018

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Like so much more in London, the annual ‘Million Women Rise‘ march against violence against women is greatly enhanced by presence of many from our migrant communities, such as the Latino feminists in the picture above.  It takes place in central London on the closed Saturday to International Women’s Day.


2008

I first came across the event and photographed it and its founder Sabrina Qureshi (below) in March 2008, which was I think the first mass march, though the numbers then were about 2-3,000 and seem to have remained roughly constant since then – and most years I think I have taken at least a few pictures. Looking back at the two here from 2008 I can also see how much raw processing software has improved over the last 10 years; Lightroom was then in version 1.4, and many of us were still smarting at the loss of the then superior Rawshooter when Adobe bought up Pixmantec. I’m still unsure how much the acquisition was for the technology or simply to remove a better competitor, but it took a few more versions for Lightroom to really catch up – and perhaps only now does it really enable us to do a better job, though, as in the top picture here it is rather easy to overdo the colour saturation.


Sabrina Quereshi, 2008

Although I had no problems on that occasion (and later allowed the organisation to use some of my pictures), being a women-only march has sometimes caused some difficulties in covering the event, with a few over-zealous stewards some years who have objected to men being anywhere near the event.  Although some years there have been some of the women’s groups who have insisted that their male comrades march with them – leading to some fierce arguments – I’m happy to stay on the sidelines during the march (and have never tried to attend the rally) despite this often making my normal photographic close approach impossible.  So you will see in the pictures from these events rather fewer extreme wide-angle views and rather more work with the telephoto.

This year things seemed a little less rigid than some earlier occasions (and I did see a few men actually marching) and there were just a few occasions when I put at least one foot on the roadway to take pictures during the march without getting attacked. But generally, since I know that it is important for some of those on the march that it is a women-only space, I keep well out of it. Things are a little less defined before the march starts, when marchers in any case spill over onto the pavement.

Of course it isn’t just Britain’s migrant communities on the march, but looking at my pictures it is surprising to me what a great proportion they make up, though my pictures may well not reflect the march as a whole. As a photographer I’m obviously attracted to the more visual of the protesters and the more interesting of the posters and placards.

There are other individuals and groups that stood out for me, including these women from Mother World.

Million Women Rise

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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US Embassy

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

I made another visit to the new US Embassy in Nine Elms, and the picture above I think gives a good example of the strengths and some weaknesses of the wide-angle panoramic format. This image would be impossible with a rectilinear lens, as the horizontal angle of view is around 147 degrees.  My maths is a bit rusty but I think on full frame that would need a 5.3mm focal length (and have just checked this with an on-line calculator.)

The widest full-frame rectilinear lens I’ve ever used is a 12mm, which gives a measly 113 degrees, and stretched out objects at its edges to an often ridiculous extent. Even the 16mm of the 16-35mm (currently in a broken state on my desk) with it’s 97 degrees had to be used with extreme care. I sometimes miss the extra width now with my 18-35mm, (90 degrees) but it is a lot easier to use.

Looking at the edges of the image above, buildings and plants, including the slender tree trunk have retained their natural shape and size, even right into the corners of the image.

Holding the camera absolutely level enables the horizon to be kept straight, but has the disadvantage that it is always exactly across the centre of the image, often where you want it, but with a whole series of images it can become rather monotonous. This is one reason I often crop from the 1.5:1 format in which I make these images to 1.9 or 2.0:1. A second reason concerns horizontal lines away from the image centre.

Although the image is corrected to make vertical lines straight, other lines away from the horizon become increasingly curve. While this does not often show in a sky area, it can create unnatural-looking curves in the foreground. Cropping some of this can often remove the most glaring effects.

The ‘moat’ creates an almost perfect subject for the treatment, being curved. The lens perspective enhances that curvature, appearing to wrap it more around the building than is truly the case. It could be seen as a problem, but it does improve the picture.

Where things are less happy is with the building itself, which is basically a cube with some added decoration on three sides (only one of which is visible from this viewpoint.) To me this picture clearly makes the corner shown look less than the 90 degrees it actually is.

Even with a rectilinear lens, working close to the embassy doesn’t really show it as a cube – this picture is with the 18-35mm at 18mm. From the other side of the road it perhaps looks rather more the shape it really is – as the picture below shows.

But for various reasons I feel it is a building better viewed from a distance – as I do most days when I’m travelling up to London. Though since the trains on this route no longer have windows that open it is hard to avoid reflections and the view is seen through often scratched and dirty glazing.

More pictures around the embassy at Embassy Quarter.

The protest I had gone there to photograph was the regular monthly Shut Guantánamo protest by the London Guantánamo Campaign, which have been taking place outside London’s US Embassy since 2007. This was there first protest at the new location, which some had problems with finding and only arrived after I had to leave. They intend to continue these monthly protests until all of the 41 still held there have been released and the illegal prison camp closed down.

Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Reviews and Real Life

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Before I buy a new camera, I always spend a long time reading through the various reviews available on the web, both the highly detailed ones such as those by Digital Photography Review and those by photographers who have spent some weeks actually working with the cameras and give a more personal evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses.

Of course they have there uses, and are certainly a lot more reliable than the opinions posted as reviews by some popular Internet figures or those user comments collected on some sites. Most internet reviews are not worth the bits they are written with – which come more or less free.

While it’s relatively easy to get the technical details right – it usually just means transferring them from the manufacturer’s data sheet – what is usually more important in practice is how the camera and user interact. Harder to quantify or even describe, and something that in the end is very individual.

I currently use two Nikon bodies, a D810 and a D750, and the differences in specifications are not great. The D810 is heavier and has better weather protection, and the shutter sounds smoother – and of course it costs rather more. The placement of buttons on the backs are different and the D750 lacks a separate ‘OK’ button, using instead the centre of the four-way controller. It’s a minor nuisance.

The D810 produces larger files, but normally those from the D750 are perfectly adequate and the D810 merely serve to fill up your backups faster. I do prefer the larger files for my panoramic work, where the D810 also scores with tilt indicators for up and down as well as for left and right. But apart from the relatively small increase in image size, the image quality is more or less the same.

The two most significant differences for me are actually things I’ve never seen pointed out in reviews. On the D810 it is possible to lock the aperture (and I think shutter speed) when using the camera on a manual setting. This means you can decide you want to work at – for example – 1/500th f8 and you can do so, allowing the camera to alter the ISO to give correct exposure – if possible on its auto-ISO setting. Unless you choose an aperture and shutter combination which is outside the range you have set for auto-ISO but with a little photographic nous this is unlikely.

You can use the same technique with the D750, but there appears to be no way to lock the aperture or shutter speed in manual mode. Whichever you leave on the primary command dial (in my case aperture) gets readily knocked around as you (or at least I) use the camera. The command dial doesn’t have sufficient resistance to movement for a clumsy fumble-finger like me, and I can suddenly find that I’ve taken a few frames at f45 rather than the f8 I’d intended, which can easily result in considerable underexposure even if I’ve set a maximum ISO of 12,800.

I’ve tried various ways to counter this. The most successful seems to be to tape over the command dial, but then sometimes you do want to change aperture, and have to peel back the tape which then often falls off and gets lost. The black masking tape I used also gets uncomfortably sticky.

My latest attempt to ameliorate the problem has been to reverse the direction of travel of the aperture control, which hopefully will mean that I get f4 instead of f45 when things go pear-shaped. Since I normally work with a wide angle at f5.6 or f8 this will only mean a two stop difference so perhaps less of a problem, and the depth of field with a wide angle will usually still be sufficeint. I’ll also reduce the maximum ISO when using the technique, perhaps to ISO3200 so the risk of overexposure will be less. It’s only very special conditions that need a higher value.

The second annoying difference is when using an FX lens in 1.2x or DX mode, which is a cheap way of effectively getting a longer telephoto. On the D810 there is a well-hidden way to get the viewfinder to display a greyed out area around the actual image, so that details outside the frame are visible but it is very clear they will not be recorded.

Quite why this should be obtained by setting Custom Setting a6 AF Point Illumination to OFF is a mystery only known to an inner circle of Nikon Illuminati, who may also be able to tell you (though they may have to kill you afterwards) why the equivalent CS a5 does not give the same effect on the D750.

Of course you do get a viewfinder frame to show the reduced image area. But as I can tell you from too frequent experience, it isn’t always easily noticed. It wouldn’t matter if it were not for the D750 to occasionally decide to spontaneously change the image area. It is possible to map the change to one of the function buttons or pressing the command dials, which could easily lead to such a mysterious event, but I’ve certainly never done so.

Modern cameras are simply too complicated, giving too many options. Both these cameras have instruction manuals with over 500 pages and there are just too many interdependencies, with one setting affecting another. Back in the old days you could just pick up almost any camera and just use it. Perhaps it’s time for a campaign for real cameras that real people can use. Or are they called phones?

Free Education

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Students marched through London calling for an end to all tuition fees, for living grants for all and an end to the increasing marketisation of the education system that is resulting in cuts across university campuses and a dramatic reduction in further education provision.

They say that the Teaching Excellence Framework which was supposed to ‘drive up standards in teaching’ is intensifying the exploitation and casualisation of university staff as a part of the marketisation agenda.

The march was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Shakira Martin, NUS President, was elected on a manifesto which included her promise to “Fight for a Minimum Living income for all students and securing the return of Grants” but somehow that didn’t include supporting this march. And although she was criticised by the other candidates for her failure to actually get involved in the fees campaign, she was easily re-elected for her second term this year.

As usual now for student and some other protests, the march was accompanied by liberal pyrotechnics, as show in quite a few images on My London Diary. The one at the top of the page is a little unusual, but only in its aspect ratio. For some reason the RAW file produced by the Nikon D750 is only 6016×3376 pixels rather than the normal 6016×4016 pixels, corresponding to 16:9 ratio rather than 1.5:1. I didn’t know the camera could do this.

Looking at the D750 manual it would appear that this is possible when taking pictures with the camera in Movie Live View, if Custom Setting g4 is set to ‘Take pictures’, and pictures use whatever Image Quality setting has been made in the photo shooting menu.

So my mistake was having the Live View selector on the camera back in Movie rather than Still mode and putting the camera into Live View. It works in much the same way on the D810 as well.

I find that Live View is often a problem for still images in any case unless you use manual focus, as managing to get focus is sometimes a major problem, with some lenses momentarily giving a green rectangle to show focus, then going off to whirr away again. It’s one aspect where Fuji – where the view is always live – really does so much better. Perhaps there is something wrong with they way I press the shutter?

Many more pictures at: Students march for free education

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Falls and files

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Last Thursday I tripped over a cable while taking pictures and fell, landing on my right arm on grass in Russell Square, but wasn’t hurt and my cameras seemed OK. I hadn’t fallen heavily and the cameras seemed OK. But I couldn’t understand why I kept filling up cards using the D810; I was taking quite a lot of pictures, but not that many. Sometime later I remembered I had switched from my now usual 1.2x to full frame earlier in the day as I was using the fisheye and had forgotten to change back, and I switched the image size. Since I was now working on smaller capacity spare storage cards going down to 1.5x.

I still seemed to fill a CF card rather quickly, but thought I’d just got used to having 32Gb cards rather than these older 4Gb and 8Gb ones. But working on the pictures later in Lightroom I found that many of the images were not my normal raw files but TIFs. And a 7360×4912 px TIF is 106Mb, three times as large as my full-frame NEF files. Even switching to 1.5x, the tiffs are still 46.5 Mb. And since a typical 1.2x NEF (6016x4016px) is around 21 Mb, I was still using up space at over twice the normal rate.

Worse still, TIF files produced in camera are only 8 bit files, so image quality is reduced despite the larger file size, and the difference does show. though most of the TIFFs were perfectly acceptable. There were a few where highlight detail was burnt out that I think would have been recoverable on a raw file and I couldn’t quite get the images to match those the colour quality of those from the D750 still working on raw files. I cannot see any reason for having cameras able to produce 8 bit TIF files. I imagine it is a hangover from the early days of digital imaging, and that the marketing department have stopped common sense prevailing to remove this ‘feature’. There might just be a justification if the cameras could produce 16 bit files, but these would be truly huge – and wasteful as the sensor can only produce 12 or 14 bits.

Since they are only 8 bit files, I’m thinking I might convert all those TIFFS to high quality jpegs, just to save space on my computer storage.  There are over 300 of them taking up 21.5 Gb.

I’ve also been trying out working on manual shutter and aperture settings and allowing the cameras to alter ISO to get correct exposure. I’ve come to two conclusions. The first is that its great in normal daylight, usually giving a lower ISO than the standard settings that I would normally choose. But I’m not happy about using it in low light, as if the light falls below that which needs the maximum ISO you have selected for the shutter speed and aperture you have set the camera simply underexposes (and it will also over-exposure in the light is too bright for the minimum ISO and shutter and aperture you have chosen.)

And there is the problem of the main and sub-command dials, both of which can be inadvertently moved by fidgety fingers or with the main command dial possibly simply by knocking against clothing while walking. In normal use of the camera I seem to shift the main control dial most, and so on the D810 have used Custom Setting f9 to change the shutter speed to the sub-command dial, and then have put Custom Setting f7 onto the top of ‘My Menu’ and locked the aperture setting. You don’t seem to be able to lock the setting on the D750, so I have a little bit of black tape over that. It’s ons of several little ways I find the D810 a better camera.

This means I can easily change the shutter speed – when for example I’m photographing a faster moving subject, but cannot change the aperture without accessing the menu. If all my lenses had aperture rings I could use CS f9 to assign aperture to the ring only, but often I’m using lenses without an aperture ring.

It’s a pain having to go into a menu or peel back the tape to change the aperture, but I think I can live with that.  Generally I change aperture only when I’m thinking about depth of field and  for most of what I do there isn’t time for that, especially with no depth of field markers on modern lenses.  In good light I’ll mainly work around f5.6 or f8 and hope. If I forget to lock the aperture it’s too easy to find that I’m working at silly small apertures like f22 and ISO 12,800 when I should be at f5.6 at ISO 800. And at f22 it’s easy to underexpose even at ISO 12,0800.

So there are two advantages to changing to manual auto-iso mode. It beats simple use of auto-ISO settings, which result in too many pictures being taken at the lowest shutter speed you have set, rather than that you would be happier working at. So long as the light keeps in a reasonable range I avoid the occasional descent into huge under or over exposure with missed frames until I get time to review images, and rather than having to choose a relatively high working ISO for a session, when the light is there I’m getting higher quality with many images taken at lower ISOs.

So I’ll keep trying it out, and perhaps find other ways to improve what I’m doing, and to see if I can adapt the method to working in low light with and without flash.

Thursday Lates

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

I hate the early nights we have at this time of year, when sunset comes to London at around 15.52 and so many things, including most protests take place in twilight or darkness. So I look back with some warmth at my diary for May 25th, when the sun only set at 9pm, giving me some colourful sunset skies to watch from the train window on my way home.

Photographers notice the light more than others, or at least we should, though on some winter days I’ve been caught out by the falling light and only realised too late that my shutter speed in some auto mode has dropped far too low giving an unwanted motion blur to my subjects, often only noticeable when I zoom into the image. Viewing the whole image on the camera back can seem sharp even when images are unusable.

The answer I’ve now adopted on the Nikons is auto ISO. Working in Program mode and setting the minimum shutter speed to perhaps 1/100th and the maximum ISO to 6400 or even 12,800 more or less guarantees usable results except at more extreme focal lengths. Once I realise its getting dark, or have a need for flash or greater depth of field or stopping faster movements I’ll change the settings, but until then I find this works. The Nikons have an Auto setting for the minimum shutter speed, which takes into account the focal length of the lens, and does allow you to choose different settings, faster or slower, based on this, which sounds useful, but I think fails with moving subjects, where the fixed speed seems to work better.

But back in those longer days, I had no such problems. I started work at 4pm – which at this time of year is just after sunset, but towards the end of May was bright sunlight outside the building behind Harrods which houses both the Ecuadorian and Colombian embassies. A small die-hard group of supporters of Julian Assange was outside as they had been on so many occasions over the almost five years he had been holed up in there. His continuing detention is a monument to the stubbornness of Theresa May, but it is a pointless act which has cost us millions and harms us diplomatically. He should have been allowed to leave for Ecuador when granted immunity there.

Grant Assange Safe Passage

 

Protesting on the same pavement – and with some overlap both physically and in terms of people – were the Colombian Solidarity Campaign, demanding that the Columbian government end the use of force against the people of Buenaventura and instead tackle the social, economic and ecological problems that have led to the civic unrest there.

Photographically my problems were mainly that half of the protest was in bright sun and half in shade, giving a huge dynamic range. Even with careful exposure this still requires considerable post-processing to reveal shadow details and tone down the brightly lit areas.

Timing was also a problem, and although the protest was due to begin at 4 pm,  people only began to drip in slowly some time after that – and I had to leave before the event had really got going. South American time, as I learnt when I visited Brazil some years ago – is a rather different concept to English time.

Lift the Siege of Buenaventura

Axe the Housing Act were rather more punctual for their protest intending to make housing an issue in the snap general election which was taking place, thanks to a moment of madness on the Prime Ministers walking holiday.  Labour were still in disarray, with its centre and right MPs refusing to accept the zeitgeist that had moved the party membership to elect Jeremy Corbyn and were still acting like spoilt children who had lost their toys and encouraged and supported  by a Tory-dominated media were determined to undermine him in any way possible with a series of smears,  lies, coup attempts and party machinations.  Had they accepted defeat with any grace and got down to work for the party rather than for their own interests the election would never have been called, as Labour would have had a massive lead in the opinion polls.

But we had an election, and housing despite the effects of protesters which have put it on the political agenda, never became a major issue.  It’s an area where Labour still has a great deal of work to do, with many Labour councils still busy demolishing council estates and cosying up with private developers despite a new direction from the leadership which at the party conference a few months later called for policies based on housing people rather than realising asset values. Its a battle still to be fought, let alone won. Although the protest was called a vote for decent, secure homes this wasn’t generally a choice on our ballot papers.

The picture above shows Piers Corbyn (Jeremy’s elder brother) signing the poster-sized letter which the protesters were to deliver to Downing St, and the sun is still bright at ten to six, a time when now we would have passed through civil twilight and nautical twilight and be about to move from astronomical twilight into full blown night time.

Vote for decent, secure homes

I left the housing protesters as they left for Downing St and walked down to Tate Britain, where the PCS Culture Group were to picket the leaving party for retiring director Nicolas Serota. Staff there, many of whom are on zero hours contracts with lousy conditions from Securitas and are paid on or close to minimum wage – much less than the London Living Wage and something the Tate could not dare to justify for anyone it directly employed were asked to contribute to a leaving present for him of a sailing boat – and of course were not invited to his leaving party.

Instead they launched their annual Golden Boat Awards, naming Serota as the first recipient for his services to the cause of privatisation, casualisation and low pay at the Tate. They demand an end to this cheapskate use of facilites companies to provide staff who should be employed directly with acceptable conditions and pay.

It was around 7pm when I left the Tate, still two hours before sunset.

Golden Boat Award for Serota

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Business as Usual

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

One of the reasons I post here about my work on My London Diary earlier in the year is to check up on that web site. In some ways its a rather primitive site, a throw-back to the early days of the web, entirely hand-coded, though usually with the aid of an ancient version of the best WYSIWYG software, though now that outdated description ‘What You See Is What You Get’ no longer really applies, and what I see when I’m writing the pages is very different to the web view.

I first designed the site back in 2001, and even then it was somewhat archaic, reflecting my views on simple web design at at time when flash bang and wallop was infecting the web, largely running on our relatively slow connections that weren’t ready for it. Designing image-loaded sites like this that were reasonably responsive was something of a challenge, and needed relatively small images carefully optimised for size, with just a small number on each page.

Although the site still has the same basic logical structure, times and the site have changed a little to reflect the much higher bandwidth most of us now enjoy, with several re-designs and many more images per page, as well as slightly larger and less compressed images. Size is now more a problem of controlling use (or abuse) of images than download time, and new images are now always watermarked, if fairly discretely. The latest small changes in design have been to make the pages ‘mobile friendly’ without essentially changing their look.

I suspect that My London Diary is one of the largest hand-coded sites on the web – with over 150,000 images on over 10,000 web pages. But the simple site design means the great majority of the time involved in putting new work online isn’t actually the web stuff, but editing the images and writing the text and captions, so there is little incentive for me to move away from hand-coding.

But I’m not really a writer of web sites (though I have quite a few as well as My London Diary) or this blog but a photographer and though My London Diary is important in spreading my work and ideas, it has to fit in with that. Often the web site gets written late at night or when I have a little time to spare before rushing to catch a train, and often I have to stop in the middle of things to run to the station – or fall asleep at the keyboard. So while in theory I check everything, correct my spelling and typos, make sure all the links are correct and so on, there are always mistakes. And just occasionally my ISP has something of a hiccough and puts back an earlier version of a page or loses or corrupts an image (though they deny it.)

This morning I opened the pages on End homophobic bullying at LSE , the first protest I covered after returning from Hull, only to find I’d not put any captions on them, not even adding the spaces between pictures for them to go in. So before I started to write about them I had work to do.

Otherwise I might have had more to say about the pictures. Yet again how useful the fisheye can sometimes be, or about reflections in pictures or to fulminate against homophobia, the failure of LSE management to live up to the pricinciples the instituion espouses, the inherently evil nature of out-sourcing and the need to treat everyone with dignity and respect and to pay a proper living wage. But today you can relax and take that as read.

The pictures are workmanlike, they serve a purpose, do the job, but it wasn’t one of my better days. Dull weather perhaps didn’t help, but sometimes the magic just doesn’t happen. The following day was perhaps a little better (I’ll let you decide) and certainly much busier, with pictures from five events.

I started with Shut race-hate LD50 gallery, a crowd outside the place which they say “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade” ,  but didn’t really offer a great deal to photograph. The gallery itself was on the first floor above  a shuttered shopfront, and had clearly had a brick through a window, and there were a couple of arguments outside, but mainly it was scattered people standing in small groups on the street.

Trying to do too much, I arrived late and left early for the Picturehouse recognition & living wage protest in front of the Leicester Square Empire.  There’s a pleasant symmetry in the picture above, but I missed the scrum later when Jeremy Corbyn arrived to give his support.

It’s always difficult to know when to leave (or arrive) at events, and photographers spend many hours standing around waiting. But I’m impatient by nature and sometimes miss things. Other times I find a place to sit and read a book, and if its a decent book have been known to miss the action.

But I was in Brixton, meeting Beti, a victim of gentrification and social cleansing, not in her case by one of the mainly Labour London councils but the Guiness Trust, formed by a great-grandson of the brewery founder in 1890 to provide affordable housing and care for the homeless of London and Dublin and now as The Guinness Partnership owning 65,000 homes in England.

Betiel Mahari lived in one of these with her family on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton for ten years, paying a ‘social ‘ rent but was never given a secure tenancy. Guiness demolished her flat in 2015, giving her a new flat a few miles away in Kennington – but at a hugely increased ‘affordable’ rent, going up from £109 per week to £265.  The move meant too she was unable to keep her full-time job as a restaurant manager, and is now on a zero-hours contract as a waitress and facing eviction as she cannot pay the increased rent.  DWP incompetence meant that her benefits were suspended completely for three months (and on zero hours contracts the benefits have to be re-assessed every three months in any case) and Guiness were taking her to court over rent arrears.

The case was heard around 10 days later and as thrown out by the judge who ordered the Guiness Partnership to pay Beti’s court costs, but the struggle to get this rapacious ‘social’ Landlord to treat her and others in similar straits continues. I was pleased to be able to support her, though not entirely happy with the pictures at Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness, which also include some of Brixton Arches.

I arrived back in Westminster just in time to meet the Khojaly marchers coming down Whitehall to end their protest in front of Parliament.  Few of us will remember the massacre on the night of 25-26 February 1992 when Armenian forces brutally killed 613 civilians in the town of Khojaly, including 106 women and 83 children, but the name Nagorno-Karabakh  may prompt some memories. In 25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre I try to give a little background to the still unresolved situation.

But I was on my way to an event marking the shameful failure of Theresa May and her government to take the action demanded by Parliament to bring the great majority of the refugee children stranded at Calais and similar camps into this country. By passing the Dubs Amendment, Parliament made its view clear and it reflects a failure of our constitution that there seems to be no legal mechanism to force the Tory government to carry this out. This is truly a stain on our country’s history and May and her cabinet deserve to be behind bars for this crime against humanity.

Dubs Now – let the children in

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Hull at Night

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Most nights Hull goes home early, and much of the centre seems deserted. Presumably at closing time people stagger out of the pubs, but until then the streets are eerily empty. Certainly on a Thursday evening when I was taking these pictures, though things liven up a little at the weekend.

There is one car in my picture of North Bridge, though I think about the only one we saw as we crossed it, and that solitary figure appears in several of my pictures as she was walking around with me.

You can see her again in Humber St, the centre of Hull’s ‘Fruitmarket’ area, which no longer sells fruit but is touted as “Hull’s modern, vibrant & unique cultural quarter, open all day every day“. It may be open all day, but it was pretty deserted at night in February.

You can see her too reading the plaque under King Billy. And in the background there is a single cyclist and just a few distant cars. The square in front of Holy Trinity was deserted (though there was a regiment of orange barriers) as was Prince St and Posterngate, and it was only as we came to Trinity House Lane that we saw the first pedestrian, scurrying quickly away.

Whitefriargate was empty too, with just one or two people around Monument Bridge, and I didn’t have to wait to get pictures of Queen Victoria Square without people – I didn’t particularly want to have the square empty, but it was, apart from some large object that had been left across it.

This wasn’t taken in the early hours of the morning – when I was fast asleep in bed. This was early evening, around 7pm. Where was everybody? You can see a few more pictures from this walk, and see these larger – at Night in the Old Town, though you won’t find many more people.

Obviously, these are panoramic images, though the format isn’t extreme, quite a good fit to my wide-screen monitor with just a small empty strip at top and bottom. I don’t much like extreme panoramic formats, though I do like panoramic images. These use the same cylindrical perspective that I’ve used since I bought my first swing-lens camera in 1990 – an expensive Japanese model.  And although I’ve admired some of the more extreme angles of view used in some images, I’ve seldom wanted to use them myself. These pictures have a horizontal angle of view of around 145 degrees, a little greater than my old Widelux.

Despite being taken at night, I didn’t use a tripod – all are handheld. Tripods are quite useful with panoramas; you need them not to hold the camera steady, but to hold it absolutely level. Even small deviations can make some images unusable. But I’m an impatient man and like to keep things as simple as possible, concentrating on the image rather than technicalities. So though I own several tripods of widely varying size and utility I seldom disturb the dust on them; worthwhile tripods are always too heavy to carry.

A tripod would have enabled me to use a lower ISO and reduce the noise in the images, but I quite like a bit of noise in night pictures, it adds to the mood.

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Nigerian Flights

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

On Wednesday Jan 11th I joined Movement for Justice at their protest outside the Nigerian High Commisison in Shaftesbury Avenue, always one of London’s gloomiest streets, lined with tall buildings and large trees. Darkness was falling anyway as the protest began in late afternoon, and I set the D810 on Auto ISO with a minimum speed of 1/100th to take some pictures without flash. Working with the 28.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens the pictures were taken with the lens wide open and then the ISO went up to 4500 and then my maximum setting of 6400 and then the shutter speed began to drop. When it arrived at 1/40th I decided I had to use flash as these protests are fairly lively events.

I kept the ISO fairly high, generally around ISO2500 to keep a decent amount of exposure in the background and avoid a typical bad flash look, and changed to shutter priority (Nikon’s flash gets some crazy ideas in P mode, using the ISO setting to stop down the lens, which to me makes absolutely no sense.) I began with a shutter speed of 1/160, but as usually happens that slowly crept up as handling the camera jogged the main control dial.

On the wideangle images taken with the D750 and the 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 I’d forgotten to move the dial from ‘P’ to ‘S’ with the result that the first few images I took were at f11 (see above) and gave a typical background gloom with closer figures far too light. I could compensate partly by some burning in with the RAW files in Ligthroom, but it wasn’t ideal.

Fortunately I soon noticed the error and switched to working in A, aperture priority, mode. With the wide angle I’m less worried about shutter speed and decided I would get sufficient depth of field working more or less wide open, occasionally taking it down a half a stop or so. The 16-35 is a good performer wide open, but improved by just that little stopping down.

The Home Office arranges charter flights to Nigeria every couple of months, and to help with its figures isn’t fussy about who it decides to forcibly deport. Many are people who have been in the UK for most of their lives, with parents, partners and children here, as well as students who have not yet finished their courses, some are still in the course of making their claim for asylum, others people with serious health problems and carers for elderly and disabled relatives and some those who will face violence on their return, particularly if gay.

People don’t matter to the Home Office. They are just numbers in their racist ‘numbers game’.  The protest called on Nigeria to refuse to accept these flights

End Deportation Charter Flights to Nigeria

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Another Saturday

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

It was getting close to Christmas and I’d been expecting people to be too busy getting ready for the festival to be out protesting, but there were still protests happening in London.

It was apparently Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday and she was still in jail serving a 35 year sentence for espionage, theft and other offences. She had twice attempted suicide in the previous six months, the second time in November while in solitary confinement as a sentence for the first attempt.

Both a formal petition and one with over 100,000 signatures had been made earlier in the month to President Obama for clemency, asking him to reduce her sentence to time already served. Most commentators thought it unlikely to happen, although the protesters were hopeful – and a month later Obama did commute all but 4 months of her remaining sentence, saying it had been ‘very disproportionate’. President Trump said that she was an ungrateful traitor and should never have been released, but despite this, she was set free in May 2017.

This was a static and more or less silent protest on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields – all that is allowed there – and I was pleased to be able to produce quite a variety of images – and of course to have another opportunity to photograph Bruce Kent.

Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday

Kurds can always be relied on to be colorful, and I have a great deal of sympathy for them, particularly in Turkey where they have long been oppressed by the Turkish government. But this was a protest by Iraqi Kurds who have enjoyed some autonomy in Iraq since 1970 and more so in recent years, in support of the Peshmerga (or Peshmarga), the military force of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraqi Kurdistan, established in 1992 with the protection of a US no-fly zone after the first Gulf War.

The Peshmerga stood their ground when ISIS invaded Iraq, while the Iraqi army fled and were the most effective fighting force in the area. But ISIS captured a great deal of up to date US equipment left behind by the Iraqis and are better equipped than the Pershmerga, who need more support – and this protest was calling on the UK government for help.

The UK and other western nations have been reluctant to give much help to the Peshmerga, and the scarf worn by the woman on the right , with its map of Kurdistan explains why, including as it does a healthy chunk of the territory of one of our allies, Turkey, as well as parts of Iraq, Iran and Syria (and I think some of Armenia), all of the territory where Kurds are in a majority.  Having the Kurds fight and help defeat Da’esh is a good thing, but Kurdish nationalism and the establishment of a Kurdish state, which the protest was also for,  would not suit the UK or USA, or for that matter, Russia. It might not even suit the Kurds, as the constitution of Kurdish Syria (Rojava) currently a de-facto autonomous region thanks to the civil war, while inspired by the Turkish Kurd leader ‘Apo’ (Abdullah Öcalan) from his Turkish jail is a rather different politics to that of the Iraqi Kurds.

Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan

Syria was the subject of a very different protest a few hundred yards away in Old Palace Yard, where healthcare workers, including some who had volunteered in Syria,  held a die-in at Parliament in solidarity with the Syrian people, calling for an end to the bombing by Russia and Assad of hospitals and for the UK government to pressure the Assad regime to allow the delivery of medicines and other aid.

Since the protesters were on the circle in the pavement I thought it would be good to photograph them from directly above. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought my helicopter with me, not even a drone or a monopod, and the best I could do was to stand on the edge of the circle and stretch up my right arm forward and up as high as possible, holding the camera with the 10.5mm fisheye on it. I couldn’t see the viewfinder or the screen on the back of the camera, so had to do my best and then bring the camera down and look to see how I’d done. It took only one frame to decide it looked better without the camera strap in it, but quite a few to get the framing right.

There was still one problem. Because I hadn’t had the camera above the centre of the circle it was definitely not a circle in the image. So I’m afraid I cheated, turning what had been a 1.5:1 image into the 1.31:1  image you see here and making that circle look much rounder.

Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria

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