Archive for July, 2007

Pride & Climate Change

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

London carries on, despite the terrorist threat with two car bombs left close to gay nightclubs which fortunately failed to explode early on Friday morning. Saturday’s Pride Parade was much the same as last year, and if there were more police present, it was only noticeable in the several groups of officers actually taking part in the parade.

Despite the publicity and high figures given in the media (which perhaps relate to the whole festival) the Pride parade itself is now a relatively small event, a fraction of the size of the major political marches that make their way through London largely unreported by the press perhaps half a dozen times a year, although considerably more organised and more colourful. It seems to attract considerably fewer marchers than it did a few years back, with many more simply turning up for the events in Trafalgar Square and Soho.

Ten years ago, taking part in the Pride march was an important personal and political statement for many, sometimes marking their going public about their sexuality. Now it’s largely a fun event, although a few individuals and groups still attempt to get a more serious message across.

Much of the event has now settled into a pattern, with many of the same floats and costumes as in previous years, but there are some changes, and I tried to concentrate on these. Its an event where it is hard to get away from the stereotypes, because so many of those taking part embrace them whole-heartedly.

Pride 2007 (C) 2007, Peter Marshall
Many, especially from minority ethnic groups, use Pride as an occasion to stress their British identity as well as their gay identity

I seldom pose people for pictures, but at Pride, everything is a pose. Certainly as soon as people see a camera, most play to it, and its a game you can’t avoid, something you need to work with. Getting below the surface is often a problem, but at least the surface often fascinates.

What was new was ‘Bird Pride’, describing itself as a “Queer Femme Carnival”, organised by the Bird Club, whose aim is to “celebrate femininity on the queer scene”.

Pride 2007 (C) 2007, Peter Marshall
Bird Club ‘Specialist Warblers – Femme invisibility, so last YEAR’

More pictures from the Pride march on My London Diary shortly.

The two car bombs were on the route of the parade, and there were rumours that it was a badly failed attempt to attack the parade itself, but they didn’t appear to have put the marchers off. The crowds watching the event in Oxford St did seem rather lighter than normal for a Saturday, but this could have been more a matter of the weather, light rain interspersed with heavier downpours, which at times made taking pictures tricky, but some of the best opportunities were in pouring rain.

Photographing in the rain is a problem. In the old days, mechanical cameras such as my old Leica M2 carried on almost whatever hit them, and the standard lens at least had a lenshood that was a fairly effective rain shield. Keeping it under your coat when not in use, and an occasional wipe with a handkerchief kept you going through rain, hail and snow.

Digital cameras are more of a problem. I gave up on the Nikon D70 as unsuitable for London weather, but the D200 is much hardier. My main problems are with lenses. Larger filter sizes, more glass – in zooms in particular – mean more rain drops and more condensation inside lenses with changes in temperature and humidity. Zoom mechanisms pump in damp air, and also draw in moisture from the damp lens barrel. Increasing use of wide angle lenses is also a problem, as their lens hoods offer little or no rain protection – and the same is true of zoom lenses that start at wide angles.

Nikon’s 18-200mm VR lens is a great and very flexible lens, but becomes useless when there is even a hint of moisture in the air. Sensibly, I’d left it at home and was shooting with a Sigma 18-125 which holds up rather better. The Sigma 12-24mm has the problem of a large front element open to raindrops, but if you can keep it clear, also works well in wettish conditions. Handkerchiefs aren’t really a good idea, and in a special, otherwise unused pocket of my jacket I had a large, clean microporous cloth that saw frequent use to wipe both glass and other surfaces of lens and camera.

Sometimes I’ve improvised a plastic cover for camera and lens from a suitable bag, but such things get in the way. But these – or specially made camera rainwear – can keep you shooting in really bad weather. Unfortunately they don’t stop condensation inside the lens, which is often a problem – and all you can really do is wait for it to clear, or change lenses. ‘Pumping’ zoom lenses can sometimes help.

I decided I couldn’t face more rain to photograph the Pride rally in Trafalgar Square or the cabaret performances elsewhere, and in any case I had a mermaid to photograph.

Rising Sea Levels (C) 2007, Peter Marshall
Lucy warns about the perils of global warming – her arrow indicates sea level in 2012

The climate change event was designed as a reminder to Gordon Brown that this is still the most urgent problem we face. Without a planet that is livable on, none of the rest will matter. So far the politicians have largely stayed on the edge of the pool, hanging on to ideas of technology or carbon offsets to avoid taking the real action that is needed, talking about cuts in carbon dioxide emissions while these continue to rise.

Effective action is vital, before it is too late (and we hope it is not yet too late.) Energy saving that means more than turning off the odd light or buying a more fuel-efficient car.

More pictures on My London Diary now for Pride and Climate Change Rally
Peter Marshall