Archive for February, 2010

Critical Mass

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Critical Mass is not just for cyclists.

© 2004 Peter Marshall
Ten Years of Critical Mass – Cyclists show their strength in London. April 2004

Critical Mass is a program about exposure and community” says Photolucida, an arts non-profit based in Portland, Oregon, USA which runs this competitive programme. It’s a fairly simple and not too expensive way to try to get your work seen by a lot of people in the world of photography.

The initial stage costs $75 and gets your 10 submitted images seen by a group of around 20-25 jurors, many connected with Photolucida and Portland which makes a selection of the top 175 from each year’s crop.

These finalists then pay another $200 and their work gets sent to a fairly impressive list of 200 jurors, mainly from the USA, but with a sprinkling from around the world. These jurors get a CD-ROM containing the pictures and “a hard-copy thumbnail image index of all the artists with contact information.”

These jurors then select their top 50 photographers, who get the opportunity to have their work in a Critical Mass Top 50 show at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, USA, and Photolucida will publish monographs for 2 or more photographers from among the top-scoring finalists. Their work is also shown on the Critical Mass pages on the Photolucida web site – and you can now see the 2009 Top 50 there, as well as those from the previous five years.

All entrants get copies of that year’s monographs – though they may take a couple of years to come out – as well as a CD containing all of the submitted work.

If you are thinking of entering you have a few months to get your entry ready, as registration for Critical Mass takes place in late summer. $75 isn’t a great deal of money and you are going to get two or three decent photo books in return. The publicity for the top 50 must be worth the extra $200, and the chance of publication. So if you think the world is ready for your work it is certainly worth thinking about.

© 2006 Peter Marshall
May 2006: Brian Haw lectures Critical Mass cyclists, asking where they were on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, back in London, Critical Mass continues to happen on the last Friday evening of every month

The Future for Photography?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Last night’s meeting of the London Photographers Branch of the NUJ was an interesting one, with the union’s General Secretary Jeremy Dear asking for our thoughts about the looming threat of orphan works legislation in the Digital Economy Bill and a panel debate with Martin Argles, Kelvin Bruce and John Harris, chaired by Jess Hurd.

The two subjects are of course linked, in that the present clauses in the Bill currently being considered in Parliament very much threaten our future ability to control copyright and make a living.

One body that thinks we are making a fuss over nothing is the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) a part of the government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills . Their grasp of the subject is clearly demonstrated when, according to a report on page 4 of this week’s British Journal of Photography (BJP) by Oliver Laurent, told him that any photographer could opt out of imaging licensing schemes  that would allow usage of “orphan images” by phoning or e-mailing the licensing body.

The rather obvious flaw is that we are talking about images where by definition the photographer who created them is not known to the licensing body, so there is no way that they can exclude the images of any particular photographer. The only thing you could opt out of is payment for images that have been used through the scheme!

The IPO also think that any licensing scheme would not apply to images found online, whereas it seems fairly clear that this is by far the main source of such images and one that is most unlikely to remain untapped for any length of time by image users.

Although the proposal as it stands is a disaster, the idea of a body such as the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) being able to licence the use of images whose copyright owner has not been determined is actually a good one, and could actually be a useful source of income for photographers. But there do need to be proper safeguards to protect our interests. Here are some of the points I think are vital:

  • there needs to be a clear and proper definition of the kind of ‘diligent search’ that has to be made before any image can be treated as an orphan image;
  • fees charge for usage of orphan images need to reflect the going commercial rates for the usage (which would be passed on to the claimant if a claim is made), plus an additional fee to cover the expenses of the licensing body;
  • all images licensed for use need to be displayed in a suitable way on a web site published by the licensing body so that photographers may readily search this to find when their images have been used so they can make a claim;
  • that firm action should be taken against any bodies which remove metadata from images as a matter of course when putting work on line;
  • that attribution for photographers should become mandatory for all printed and electronic media.

I think that legislation should also look again at the problem of photographers getting redress for any use of images without consent, and provide simplified processes and some greater sanction against unauthorised usage. At the moment there actually is probably little or no incentive for publishers to bother to licence orphan images.

The panel debate brought up some interesting points (and it was recorded and is now available on the London Photographers Branch web site) but I think failed to grasp the magnitude of the changes that are currently happening.

Martin Argles did tell us that the”official” line for The Guardian management was that print is dead and that the future is on the web, and we all know that the local press has already effectively disappeared in many parts of the country (there are still a few real local papers.) But I don’t think that the discussion really took these changes on board, nor the growth of citizen journalism and blogging.

But so far the web has failed to generate the kind of revenue needed to support the press as we know it, and in particular the kind of fees that we know are needed to keep photographers in business. The real problem with the web is also one of its great strengths, that content is almost entirely available free.

Some sites of course make money through the sale of goods, and others through advertising, traditionally the support for print newspapers and magazines. It’s proved hard to make enough, though I worked and made a reasonable part of my living through an advertising-supported commercial site for around 8 years.  It isn’t a model I particularly like as it does very much distort what gets published – as we’ve seen in our newspapers and magazines over the years, driving us into the yards of drivel dribble over celebrities and sport that passes for news in most papers.

I’m not sure that the kind of subscription model that some newspapers are now advocating will succeed – there are too many free services, often providing more up to date and more accurate information. At the moment there isn’t a news equivalent of ‘Wikipedia’ but I suspect it may be a matter of time, and there are many detailed news reports appearing on various citizen journalism and other sites.

At the moment we pay our telecoms company (via our ISP where they are not the same) for providing bandwidth but make no contribution to those providing the content on that bandwidth. I hopethis is a situation that may change, although the charge could well be so low we would hardly notice it. Content providers – even this blog – would then have the option to register and claim their share.

But whatever happens I think there will in the future be very few still photographers able to make a living from photojournalism. There were a couple of interesting statistics that came up in the discussion last night. One that the number of staff photographers – I think in Britain – is now only around thirty, and the second that the number of photographers that graduate from our colleges each year is roughly the same as the total number of people making a living from photography.

Most of those people – and many of us currently in the business in various ways – will have to find other ways to make a living, and this isn’t really a new thing. Many of the photographers whose work I admire never really made a living from it, or did so only for a part of their working life. Some relied on partners or family to keep them going, others taught or worked at other jobs.  Some lived on weddings or other social photography while pursuing their real work as a personal project.

Earlier I mentioned the BJP, and that is also changing. Established in 1854 it has been a weekly magazine since 1864, but this week’s issue is the last in the current format. The new version the magazine will now be on sale from the first Wednesday of every month for £6.99. I’ve yet to be convinced there is a point in the kind of monthly publication it intends to be, but it certainly has become much less important as a weekly publication, the print version lagging behind on-line sources of photography news. Because it was a weekly publication I’d often not only read the news that interested me but also written about it here before BJP had a chance to publish. But I’ll miss it as a weekly. Something I read with my lunch most Wednesdays.

If you are a photographer living or working in London, if you haven’t already joined the London Photographers Branch of the NUJ I’d suggest you consider it now. It’s good to be able to talk to others and discuss the problems and challenges we face on the job. It’s often good to know that you have a union that will give you support if you need it.

An Anti-social Act in Accrington

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Photographing Santa Claus, people in fancy dress and a pipe band marching through the town constitutes suspicious and anti-social behaviour according to Lancashire police. The story and video taken by one of the two photographers stopped by police in Accrington a week before Christmas was published by The Guardian last Sunday.  He was arrested and held for eight hours before being released without charge.

The two photographers taking pictures in the town centre were initially approached by a young police community support officer who stated she was questioning them under the Terrorism Act – obviously in direct contradiction of the advice issued to all police by the Home Office.  The two men concerned could almost certainly have avoided a confrontation by telling her what they were doing rather than standing on their rights, but they took the latter course, and the situation escalated in a rather predictable way. The acting sergeant she brought in to back her up perhaps realised that the suggestion of terrorism was ridiculous, and instead came out with the accusation that taking photographs was an anti-social act.

It was a situation that was nothing to do with law and everything to do with saving police face, as the sound-track of the video which Bob Patefield kept running throughout the confrontation until after his arrest I think makes clear (the photographer accompanying him finally did give his name and address and was not arrested.)

The really disturbing part of the story for me is the attitude of the police authority. Rather than admitting that the officers concerned had made a mistake and apologising, Lancashire police, according The Guardian, issued a statement which said ‘”they and members of the public were “concerned about the way in which [Patefield] was using his camera”. It said police felt they had “no choice” but to arrest him because he was refusing to co-operate.’

I don’t actually think it generally makes sense for photographers – or citizens generally – not to cooperate with the police, although I think we do need to stand up for our rights to take photographs. If people – whether or not in uniform – ask me why I’m taking pictures I tell them, and if appropriate shown them some ID or offer them my business card.

Things are a little easier because I have a UK Press Card- for some years through the PPA and now from the NUJ – though it isn’t always a great deal of use and on several occasions police have simply refused to accept it as genuine. I also carry a copy of a letter from one of the libraries I put work in, confirming to “whom it may concern” that I work for them and giving a name and a phone number for any queries. In the past with some projects I’ve found it useful to carry some examples of my work to make it easier to explain to people what I am doing.  Just because the law says I have a right to photograph in public places doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes a good idea to explain what I’m doing to anyone who is concerned or even just interested in what I’m doing.

I photographed on the streets for more than 20 years before I had a proper press card, and particularly during the IRA campaign was stopped by police quite a few times while taking pictures. Usually our exchanges were short and polite and both police and I soon happily continued on our ways getting on with our work. Actually I think they were often rather glad to get away as I do tend to go on a bit about photography.

Mr Patefield was almost certainly acting within the law in standing up for his rights, and appears to have been wrongly arrested. He may even be able to take a case against the police and get some compensation for what happened to him – as has happened to some others. I rather hope so.

Freedom to Film – Worldwrite in Hackney

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Last October I went to Hackney to join education charity WorldWrite in their protest against the interference with the right to film in public places that they have faced, mainly by officials working for Hackney council. I wrote about it in Worldbytes Defend the Freedom to Film, which included a few pictures I took in Ridley Road market, one of the places where they had been told they could not film.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
I’m filmed by the Worldwrite crew in Ridley Market.

You can now see the film ‘Freedom to Film‘ they made on that day, and – health warning – one of the people they interviewed is a rather maniacal looking photographer called Peter Marshall. Apart from that it’s a well made film that states many of the issues clearly.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

One of the points made on the film is that we are all being watched all the time by CCTV – as the notice above makes clear, though I couldn’t quite follow its logic. Though I do seem to remember someone being convicted of a lewd act with a bicycle last year.

But seriously I’m pleased that WorldWrite are making a stand and promising to record and make public every interference with their filming in public places. The flier they were handing out during the filming gave a clear statement of the law:

There is in fact NO LAW against filming or taking photographs in public places and permission or a licence is NOT required for gathering news for news programmes in public spaces.

I hope Hackney Council are listening and ensure their employees get the message.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
God is Able Salon

Just a few yards away is God First Hair Do and you can see a picture and a few more pictures from Ridley Road on My London Diary.

New Documentary- Jon Lowenstein

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Thanks to DVAphoto for Worth a Look: Jon Lowenstein in Haiti which as well as pointing to the pictures also raises some points about them. It mentions Jon’s comment about one image:

Haitian National Police gather a group of ‘looters’ or ‘salvagers’ and confront them. In some of these instances the looters are shot, but in many cases they are let go, especially when Western media are present.

The presence of the media clearly does have an influence on events and surely there can be few photographers who cover them who haven’t realised this. We’ve all watched how demonstrators react to a TV crew, becoming noisier and more active for the camera, and it happens if to a lesser extent for still photographers, however discrete we try to be.  But in Haiti things are more extreme and many people have very little to lose and no way to exist or for their families to exist except by taking advantage of whatever they find. ‘Looting’ certainly isn’t a term I’m happy with in this situation.

You can see the set of images on the NOOR web site and also on Lowenstein’s own site, although I couldn’t get the captions to display there, and they help to understand more about these images. But there are a number of other projects also worth a look; in general I find his black and white work considerably stronger than the colour.

Lowenstein is a fine example of what some call the new documentary photography, and not surprisingly he put in an appearance on Verve Photo, Geoffrey Hiller’s site devoted to “The New Breed of Documentary Photographers” and well worth browsing through when  you have time to spare – as it will certainly detain you for some time.

Also on NOOR you can view Jan Grarup‘s fine colour images from Haiti – he arrived there 4 days after the quake and provides some vivid images of life there.

Copying, Co-incidence or Cliché?

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

I’ve written on this site before about allegations of plagiarism in Copycat Images? which included an example from my own work which I know to be simply a coincidence, but a couple of posts on PDNPulse  send me back to the subject.

Copycat or Not? posted Feb 16 looked at the similarity between landscape images by David Burdeny, a Vancouver-based photographer and earlier work by photographers Sze Tsung Leong and Elger Esser. Leong and his New York gallery owner, Yossi Milo have objected and got their lawyer on the case.

I’m very unsure about this on several grounds. Perhaps most importantly that one of the basics of copyright is that it is not concerned with ideas but with their execution, which I think are, in the examples given on PDNPulse, significantly different (and generally I prefer Burdeny’s; he does seem to be a rather better photographer – which just could be why Leong and Milo are so worried!)

This is a feeling that is reinforced by the follow-up post,  Copycat or Not, Part II: A Case of Nothing New Under the Sun? where – at least at the small scale we see it on the web, Leong’s four pictures seem to me rather like any tourist snaps (though doubtless on the gallery wall they are considerably larger) while some of Burdeneys have a little more presence.

Both photographers work with large format, but to me that doesn’t in itself make their work any more interesting. And, as one of the comments on PDN points out, both have similar backgrounds, having trained in architecture, so perhaps similarities in their work are not surprising.

But frankly I don’t find either of their work of particular interest, and when Burdeny is reported by PDN as saying that “the similarities arose because he happened to shoot from some of the same tourist spots” I think it is only too true – and about both their work. I’ve almost certainly got images in my archive rather similar to the two pairs of images of Paris included in the posts, though I doubt if I’d ever want to show either of them, even on the web. There are images you take just because you are there with a camera, and images you take because you have something to say, and on the evidence neither of these guys have grasped this. One of the comments on the second feature points out that you can find very similar pictures to these on a popular stock web site.

Burdeney also provides a number of other examples of pairs of very similar works, in some of which I think there is a far clearer case of copying involved, while others are simply coincidental.

Whether the actual concept of the show involves copying is also not entirely clear, and in a kind of vague way there would seem little doubt that the Vancouver gallery has tried to produce something in a similar vein to the Milo gallery show. But it would be hard for anyone to claim a copyright on a show of large format somewhat boring images of well known tourist sites around the world – there is far too much prior art. What neither piece tells us is how many works each photographer had in their exhibit and how many of those were of the same places. A pair of photographs is used to suggest a great similarity, but to me fails to do so, as it only includes two pictures from Burdeny’s exhibit which are not particularly similar to those from Leong’s. It does show that both galleries framed the work in white frames and – surprise, surprise – both hung them in straight lines on a white wall. But the two photographers print to different formats and Leongs prints have white borders while Burdeny’s fill the frames. The images seem evidence of a different presentation rather than a copycat show.

Another comment points out the similarity of the two artist’s statements, but my problem here is that neither seems to show much originality. However each does includes the identical phrase “each image offers a finely grained density of visual information, rendered in the broad range of tonality made possible by“and while the content is pretty much a cliché of any show of large format work, it seems likely that this exact expression may well have originated with Leong or Yossi Milo. But although I’ve not been able to locate a prior source there may well be one.

I find it hard to see that Leong has a case so far as the photographs are concerned. Most of the commenters agree with me, although Leong does have his champions, one of whom writes “his work is not merely about landscape, but has greater conceptual goals. His locations, and the use of very precise form and dimensions, are done with great thought, reason and research.” In which case I have to say he has fooled me completely – or perhaps his conceptual goals have little to do with the actual photographs?

It’s also worth looking at the set of pictures, Sacred and Secular on Burdeny’s own website, where you will find that the contested images are probably the least interesting among those shown.  Comparing this to the ‘Horizons‘ series on the Yossi Milo site you see a very different show. The case I think is closed.

Chatsworth Lion

More on my own example:

© 1984, Peter Marshall

taken by me in 1984 and click on this link to see  Fay Godwin’s taken completely independently three years later. More tightly cropped to a square format but otherwise pretty well identical.

In fact my own picture was a copy, of this image:

© 1980, Peter Marshall

which I made in 1980 in a way that is perhaps even a little closer to Fay’s picture, taken like hers later in the year so the ferns have grown. And if Edwin Smith or any other photographer walked past there a few years earlier than both of us I’m sure he would have taken a very similar picture.

I’m fairly sure that when I took the lion again in 1984 I remembered my earlier photograph and was trying to improve on it (though I don’t think I did – the earlier image is perhaps clearer as a few small images in the interior of the building weaken the later image. I also prefer it to Fay’s as the addition of the male head at the left is I think significant, but others may well prefer hers.) But quite often I have looked at pictures taken elsewhere when I’ve visited the same area after a longer gap of time and have been surprised to see almost identical images.

There are some places where there really is little choice of the best viewpoint.

Chinatown Celebrations

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

I’m not sure when I first went to Soho to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but the first pictures I’ve been able to find are from 1998, when I took pictures in both black and white and colour.

© 1998, Peter Marshall
China Girl, Chinese New Year in Chinatown, Soho, London, Feb 1 1998

It’s quite likely to have been my first visit there, as for the previous ten years or so I was spending most of my time photographing the buildings of London, and the relatively rare days of good light during the winter were especially important in visiting some of the more suburban and leafier areas of the capital, which in spring and summer get hidden by a screen of green leaves.

In summer too the sun is higher in the sky and often the lighting is less interesting for these pictures – although I tried to avoid pictures that were just about lighting.

So in those years my photographs of events were largely around those in the summer and  the warmer weather does seem to make people more outgoing.

Not that I gave up my pictures of London buildings for summer, but tended to work more in the central areas where trees were less of a problem. And there were more days where the weather was favourable.

If you want to see what the web looked like in 1996, the site I built then with some of these London Photos is still on line (I added some pictures the following year and sorted out the code a little later when HTML and browser changes made it necessary, but essentially it remains a vintage 1996 web site.)

© 1995, Peter Marshall
This Victorian pub in Barking with a splendid frontage  closed on 11 Oct 2009
when landlords Rita & John retired and Youngs sold it. Photo  August 1995.
© 2006 Peter Marshall
And the pub much the same in 2006 – though the area around it had changed.
More pictures from Barking and the River Roding in 2006

The scans I made then sometimes look rather poor now – they include some excellent examples of moire and have a rather ‘dotty’ effect. Scanners have improved and software too, but the big difference is in download speeds. The 466px by 303px jpeg above was trimmed down in size to 34Kb but still took a few seconds to load. Nowadays I’d happily make it 80Kb and it would load in a fraction of the time.

Most years since 1998 I’ve gone back to photograph Chinese New Year and the celebrations had a considerable growth when Ken Livingstone was Mayor. Chinatown was crowded in 1998, but now an even larger area of central London heaves with people making movement difficult.

But my main reason for not going today isn’t the crowds but that the pictures that I’ve taken more recently seem just to repeat those I’ve taken in earlier years. As I wrote last year (and illustrated with a few pictures)

It’s certainly a spectacle worth seeing, but I’ve seen it before and photographed it many times and don’t feel a need to repeat the experience.

So I’ll spend the day at home, making some new black and white prints of old work and perhaps on the several web sites I’ve been promising to update for some years.

Street Party

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I often think London serves its tourists rather badly so far as it’s well-known landmarks are concerned, and as it happens I was taking pictures in three of them on the same day, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Trafalgar Square was improved greatly when the north side of it was closed to traffic, and at least makes a try with the column, lions and fountains, and the National Gallery along the whole of its north side is an impressive building (though its new block is uninspiring – thanks to Prince Charles we didn’t get a “monstrous carbuncle” that by now we would admire and love, but instead later got the unusually timid and rather bland post-modern Sainsbury Wing by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The square’s south end is still a traffic scheme, with poor old Charles isolated on his horse, and again St Martins to the east is on the other side of a busy road. It’s an area that cries out for a more radical approach, particularly to traffic movement.

Parliament Square is frankly ridiculous. Traffic flows around all four sides and there is not even a crossing for pedestrians to get to the central area – you need to study the traffic lights and take your chances when they stop the cars.  Understandably one of the constraints on the area is the need for security, but rather than ugly tank defences above ground we could have some nice landscaping – perhaps even a moat…  And of course redirect traffic around the east and north side only, with proper pedestrian crossings.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
A ‘Reclaim Love’ t-shirt, dancers and Eros. It wasn’t posed

But Piccadilly Circus is just a mess. A rather shabby pedestrian area around Eros, and its main feature a wall of advertising, but again traffic is the real problem, and the congestion charge doesn’t seem to have helped much. Perhaps one problem is that it is a flat rate charge, and that once you’ve paid it for the day it acts as an incentive to drive around more. Perhaps road pricing that charged for the actual time spent on the road  would be more efficient – and have a built in incentive to avoid congested areas.

I don’t have a lot to write about last week’s Valentine Party at Piccadilly Circus. Of course as well as photographing the people involved I wanted to show where it was happening, and make use of that aluminium statue  (after all Eros was particularly relevant to an event about love) and also all that neon – as it was an event opposing commercialisation.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Historic Annual Earth Healing Circle at Piccadilly Circus
This year’s party was perhaps too popular, making it too crowded for there to be a great deal of dancing, and also often too crowded to take pictures.  The 12-24mm did come in handy, though as usual it was often just a bit too wide. But I enjoyed taking pictures and meeting people. More about the event and a ridiculous number of pictures on My London Diary.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Getting the right speed (1/125) for a hula hoop was a matter of luck

Iran Opposition

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Last Saturday’s Iranian demonstration in Parliament Square was in several ways an easy event to photograph, not least since the organisers were very keen to have the press take pictures and had organised the event in a way that made it easy for us to work.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Working in Parliament Square gives you a very obvious way of showing where you are in your pictures, with the gothic clock-tower of Big Ben instantly recognisable around the world. I’ve taken many images with it in over the years, sometimes having to perform some fairly extreme contortions to do so, but  here it was easy to satisfy my desire to include it in some images.

Most of the pictures were taken on a Nikon D300 with the Nikon 18-200mm lens, (27-300 equivalent) and it was a pleasure to be working with this again and not to have to change lenses to zoom in to a tight head shot. I really do prefer the D700, but lenses for that are rather more conservative in zoom range (and considerably more expensive.)  I was using the D700 for the more extreme wide-angle view, with the Sigma 12-24mm. Its a nice lens, and still going strong after six years of my normal abuse; though it did need a facelift when the front element got a few small craters in it – the element is too bulbous to allow you to protect it with a filter.

The 12-24 is a very useful lens on DX format – where it becomes equivalent to 18-36mm, but on full frame it is just a bit too extreme at the wide end. The distortion at 12mm is almost always a noticeable problem, and I really need to avoid the last few mm of focal length. So it’s useful zoom range is really only something like 16-24mm. I hope soon to replace this by Nikon’s latest 16-35/4 VR zoom – supposedly available here from Feb 19, though I don’t know yet when my dealer will get supplies.

Given the 1.5x factor with the DX format it really makes more sense to use this with longer lenses. If Sigma manage to sort out my 24-70mm that would become a 36-105 equivalent on the DX body, useful whenever I need it’s f2.8 aperture, but otherwise the 18-200 is just so versatile.

Back to the demo – as usual more about it and more pictures on My London Diary – in the end it’s people that make pictures interesting for me, and sometimes it’s just a matter of expression and fitting them in to the overall picture. But who could fail with this face?

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Although getting the right combination with the placard of Maryam Radjavi did take a little bit of doing – and this was probably about my twentieth attempt.

Here’s a slightly less obvious picture of Big Ben, along with some street theatre the protest organisers had laid on for the press.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

This was quite tricky to photograph, mainly because a dozen or more photographers and a couple of guys with video cameras were also trying to get the same picture. You have to learn to pick the right place, get there before the rest and stay there until you are sure you have your picture. Sometimes in situations like this the very wide angle of the 12-24 does come in handy, because if you move back with a longer lens someone is almost bound to jump in front of you.

Oily Olympics

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

The start of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics provided a great opportunity for protesters against the Canadian Tar Sands and they took it. Trafalgar Square was celebrating the event with a giant screen and an ice sculpture and I think they had hoped this would attract the crowds. Unfortunately it didn’t.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
It will soon all melt, just leaving a mess

But at least the Canadian Tar Sands Oil-ympics provided an hour or so of interest, next to Canada House – and you can see the pictures I took of the events and the medal ceremony on My London Diary, along with a little more about why people are protesting against the tar sands – and the companies who hope to profit from this environmentally disastrous project.

 © 2010, Peter Marshall
‘Shell’ get off to a good start in the relay

Perhaps it was rather better as an idea than in the actual execution and I found it hard to produce pictures that really satisfied me. Perhaps it didn’t help that the 24-70mm I’ve mainly been working with recently was in for repair (again after a couple of weeks.)

One of the first things I photographed seriously was sports, though I soon got bored with it.

© Peter Marshall 1974

A couple of the canoeing images I took around 35 years ago now did quite well at the time. The only reason I took them was really that I’d just bought a new lens, one of the first of a new generation of zoom lenses, a Tamron 70-220mm Adaptall, introduced in 1973.

As well as the novelty of the zoom (really only common on movie and TV cameras before – I’d used one working in the educational TV studio where I really started learning practically about photography a few years earlier – these lenses also incorporated a rather clever idea that in theory enabled you to use the same lens on cameras with different mounts. The lens came with its own mount, and you then bayoneted a slim adaptor on to that suit the camera you were using. Lenses were rather simpler things then, and apart from actually holding the lens in place, the only other linkage that cameras provided was a mechanical one, indicating the lens maximum aperture and stopping it down to the taking aperture when you pressed the shutter release.

© Peter Marshall 1974

It wasn’t a really bad lens, but unlike now, there was still a considerable gap in optical quality between prime lenses and zooms such as this, and after a year or two I sold this lens second-hand and bought a couple of superb primes (a 105mm and 200mm) that actually together weighed slightly less than the zoom.  I think it was almost 20 years before I bought another zoom lens. Now I take perhaps 95% of my pictures on zooms.