Archive for February, 2013

Watermarks & Copyright

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

What if The Masters of Photography Used Horrendous Watermarks? by Kip Praslowicz, a photographer from Minnesota, had the ‘idle thought … it seems like many amateur photographs spend more time putting elaborate watermarks on their images than they do making images worth stealing.‘ So he took some famous pictures and put over them the kind of watermarks he was thinking about, and you can see the results.

As you can see on his page, it generally makes something of a mess of them, although I think I prefer his version of the Gursky, certainly it seems somehow more honest to have the image covered with dollar signs.

His post also links to a few other amusing posts on other sites which also amused me at least slightly.  But I wasn’t entirely convinced with the premise behind his post, as there are plenty of examples of professional photographers and agencies which have covered their images with obtrusive watermarks (though perhaps quite at the level of his made-up examples.)

Paranoia about the use of images from the web doesn’t only affect amateurs, although it’s good to see that many photographers are getting over it, and at least one major agency that used to splatter it’s name over everything on-line has now abandoned that practice.

But visible watermarking remains quite a good idea, so long as it isn’t obtrusive, particularly with the kind of copyright legislation the UK government is trying to stealthily push through – read more about it in The Copyright Fight on the BPPA site and on

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK

I got a little fed up with the rather frequent unauthorised use of my images from the web a few years ago and decided to add a fairly discrete copyright message to every new image I put on the web. It’s very easy to set this up in a Lightroom preset – though I see I haven’t yet got around to changing the year to 2013!

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Nine Ladies, Stanton Moor, Derbyshire.  Feb 2013

Lightroom watermarking isn’t perfect – and the example on this snow image from Sunday is virtually invisible – but it actually now reads ‘Copyright © 2013 Peter Marshall’.

It took me around 30 seconds to produce a new watermark file to get the year correct, selecting File, Export and my web export preset (it’s called Diary – for My London Diary), scrolling down and clicking on the name of the old watermark preset – pm2012 – and then choosing Edit Watermarks, changing the 2012 into 2013, clicking on the old name at the top left of the Watermark editor, selecting ‘Save Current Settings as new Preset’ and naming it pm2013.

I don’t take many pictures in the snow, so choosing a light grey for the watermark and a fairly high opacity makes it reasonably legible on most of my images. Of course the images on the web also have my name, contact details and copyright information in the metadata. My camera is set to add it automatically into the EXIF data as I take pictures, and the import preset which brings the images from the card into Lightroom adds it to the IPTC. But often these are routinely stripped from images. The watermark takes a little more effort to lose.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images


Reclaim Love 10th Anniversary

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

© 2013, Peter Marshall
At the 10th Reclaim Love under Eros at Piccadilly Circus, 2013

Unfortunately covering the protest by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network in Whitehall had taken longer than I had anticipated when I was planning my Saturday afternoon – I hadn’t realised it would only start after the Fuel Poverty rally. But it meant that I was late for this year’s Valentine Street Party at Piccadilly Circus

According to the t-shirt, the first Reclaim Love / One In Love / Operation Infinite Love street party organised by Venus CuMara took place in 2003, but that year I was in hospital waiting for an operation after a heart attack and unable to pay much attention to what was happening on the streets.

In 2004 I spent the Valentine weekend in Paris with Linda, though we didn’t actually go to the club in this picture:

© 2004, Peter Marshall
Paris, Feb 2004

but I don’t think there was a Reclaim Love event in London that year. The Wikipedia entry on the event (which mentions my site and includes several quotations from it both first and secondhand) doesn’t give a clear account of the history, nor is their one on the Reclaim Love site.

The first event that I attended – and photographed was in Piccadilly Circus in Feb 2005 and appears to have been the second ‘annual’ event, and that in the following year, 2006,  was Reclaim Love 3.

© 2006, Peter Marshall
At Reclaim Love 3, 2006

Other than that first occasion, I’ve attended every year since, and you can read my accounts and see the pictures for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 on My London Diary. This year, 2013, my ninth set of pictures was of the 10th anniversary event, and probably the last that Venus CuMara, who founded the event, will personally organise.

The central point of each year’s celebrations takes place at exactly the same time – 3.30 GMT – at the sites around the world (in 2010 there were around 40) which take part in the event.

At 3.30pm be in the circle. Let everyone know that they are being joined by many other people across the world at this time to meditate on world peace as we repeat the words together. Let people know that we are meditating together in order to help effect a loving shift in consciousness for the good of All beings.”

The words repeated, from an ancient Sanskrit prayer, are “May All The Beings in All The Worlds Be Happy and At Peace” and you can read more about the event on the Reclaim Love site. Whatever we think of it, the circle of several hundred with joined hands and minds is quite a powerfully moving event.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The Circle in the grove at Green Park,  2011

In 2011 Piccadilly Circus was in rather a mess with much of the pavement being relaid and everyone paraded down to Green Park and the circle was made around a circle of 13 massive plane trees there. But Green Park is a Royal Park and the park police were not happy at this incursion into their sacred space, the only occasion where there has been any problems with the police. Here’s my account of what happened:

Everyone present, except for a few photographers, linked hands in a great circle joining the 13 trees and repeated together “May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy And At Peace” for around five minutes, and then, still carefully avoiding the growing daffodils, began to party and dance in the centre of the tree circle.

At this point, two vans full of police drove up, and Venus rushed across to talk to them. Apparently the event was contravening a number of the by-laws of the Royal Parks, and it did not have the permissions needed. After Venus had talked to one of the officers for some time, explaining what they were doing and inviting them to join in, she gave him a hug (a picture I missed as I’d moved away to talk to a friend) and they eventually came to an agreement that the group would move out of the park by 4pm and make its way back to continue the party at Piccadilly Circus – exactly in fact as had been intended. As Venus walked away, treading carefully between the daffodils, the police turned towards their van and the officer who had been talking with Venus said to his colleagues: “I really thought I was in a parallel universe there” and indeed he had been.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

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More on World Press Photo

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Rather than write in detail about this again, let me just direct you to a piece on PDN Pulse by David Walker, World Press Hits Pellegrin with Wet Noodle (And Other Contest Scandals) which gives details of the complete failure to take any action over the recent problems with work by Pellegrin and others I mentioned in the recent post Magnum Failure.

As the title of his post suggests, WPP are basically trying to say it doesn’t really matter that a photographer wilfully misrepresents the subject. The PDN piece also links to another good post by  photographer Kenneth Jarecke on his Mostly True blog, which discusses the case and also Pellegrin’s reaction to it.

There is a lot of discussion on Mostly True, and again much of it worth reading, but in the end I think the issues are simple.  What Pellegrin did simply was not acceptable for a documentary project; he should not have misrepresented it as documentary work.

I hope that both WPP and POYi will reconsider. Magnum will lose what respect it has among photographers – and the informed public – unless it puts pressure on both Pellegrin and the organisations to get the project withdrawn from the contests. At the moment they are all just trying to defend their backs rather than to correct the error.

And it was an error, and Pellegrin needs to admit it rather than blustering against everyone involved in bringing out the true story. It certainly isn’t enough to say “Looking at the presentation on the World Press Photo and POYi sites, I do regret the formulation, ‘where these pictures were taken’ in the background text in relation to Shane’s picture.” Of course there is nothing wrong with taking portraits in a documentary context, but this was a picture that was out of context in the actual story he was attempting to cover. Pellegrin attempts to plead innocence but his response pleads ignorance, which isn’t a defence. If he didn’t know it was because he didn’t ask the right questions, and having a good picture certainly doesn’t absolve you from this essential part of the job.

And I’ve just come across another post worth reading – Is it Lying? by Samuel Corum.

Direct Action Network Roadblock

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

© 2013, Peter Marshall
The protesters move away from the rally and on to the road

This isn’t the greatest picture I’ve ever taken, but it shows an interesting moment in the protest by the  Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network at the end of the Fuel Poverty Action rally in Whitehall. The text about both actions is at Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock.

Earlier in the day I’d missed an attack on a photographer by a group of those marching with the South-East Alliance,  but this time I was wide awake when others had failed to notice the start of the move by protesters to block Whitehall, as the small group of wheelchair protesters had moved quietly a few yards along the road and the woman closest to me had just eased two wheels of her chair onto the road.

At the back of the picture are the police, seemingly quite oblivious to what is happening, with a Forward Intelligence Unit looking rather backward. Closer to the action, but in a small group talking to each other rather than alert to what was happening are three photographers – and there were others around mainly equally oblivious.

Had the other photographers been close enough for me to reach out and touch to alert them to what was happening I would have done so, but it was important to me not to do anything that would interfere with the action that was proceeding – my job was to report it.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Disabled protesters move out into the road and stop the traffic

I moved in front of the protesters as they moved out into the road and stopped the traffic, keeping  slightly out of the way so that it really was them stopping the traffic and not me.

We had all been given a hint in advance that some kind of direct action would be taking place, but hadn’t known exactly what, where or when. I’d been watching carefully for hints, clues or signals and had spotted and read them more or less correctly and was in the right place at the right time. There are times – and this is one – where you need to try and read situations rather than simply respond to them, though at times I have read them in a disastrously wrong way.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Wheelchair users and pensioners block Whitehall in protest against cuts and fuel poverty

Where there is a choice I seldom want to work with groups or speakers head on.  It’s usually better to be a little to one side, particularly if people are using microphones. So when the road was blocked, I moved a little to one side, while the main crush of photographers was directly in front.

Looking from the side concentrates your view on those closest to you, while a head on view leaves everyone at the same distance and thus scale. Later I went further to the side and was then able to move in close without blocking the view of other photographers when an officer came to talk to two people he had identified as leaders of the protest – one was holding a megaphone.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
An officer tries to persuade the protesters to move
Even when I moved around to the other side to get a better view of the exchange it was the officer rather than me who was blocking the other photographers.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Protesters argue with police

But then I had to move back to allow another wheelchair user came up to join in the conversation. After taking a few more pictures the officer moved and I then felt that I was perhaps getting a little in the way of others. I went down on my knees top take a few pictures from a low angle and be less in the way before moving back a little. Once I’d got the pictures I wanted it gave others a chance to get theirs.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Protesters discuss whether it is time to move

Of course we all get in each other’s way from time to time, and, like the photographer in the image above, we get in each other’s pictures. It’s inevitable when more than one or two photographers are covering an event.

But most of us realise the problem and try to work in cooperation with other photographers. It’s mainly the amateurs, often using their phones who walk in front of other photographers, though a special place in hell is reserved for those few video crews who think they are more important than the rest of us because they work for one of the big media companies.

More pictures at Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images


Defend the Flag

Monday, February 25th, 2013

There are some events I cover where I have little in common with those taking part, and the ‘Defend the Flag’ march organised by the ‘South East Alliance’ (SEA) was one of these. The SEA is a group that has emerged from various people who have become dissatisfied with the EDL, where there has been a considerable amount of falling out over the activities of a few of the leaders, particularly ‘Tommy Robinson’, particularly since some spectacular failures such as the march at Walthamstow last September. Many others in the various ‘patriotic’ or right-wing movements have long expressed dissatisfaction with the EDL for various reasons both personally to me and in the various right-wing forums on the web, and I’ve reported some of these when covering events on My London Diary.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Union Flags and Unionist Flags on the march

I’ve always tried to cover events in a fair and unbiased way, to show clearly what happened at them, and to convey the views of those taking part. Partly because I think it the duty of a journalist, but also because I think it is the most effective way to expose extremist views for what they are. It doesn’t mean not making my own views clear, but I try to separate these from the accurate reporting.

At this march,  I noticed that as well as those taking part from organisations linked to Northern Ireland, including men wearing the tie or badge of the Somme Association , there were also several wearing British National Party ties and badges. This isn’t something I’ve previously noted at recent right-wing marches (where dress has tended to be more informal) and I mentioned both in my account and the captions to photographs – as you can see in Defend the Union Flag on My London Diary.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Members of ‘Friends of the Somme’, with at right a man wearing a BNP tie

This upset another of the BNP badge and tie wearers enough to make him complain to the agency that originally carried my pictures for the event.  Of course there were no grounds for any complaint. If you protest on the streets you do so in the hope of getting publicity for the cause you are supporting and are encouraging people to report on  your actions and publish photographs of them, and you can certainly have no expectation of privacy. If you don’t want people to know you are a member of the BNP then don’t wear the badge or tie.

Along with the other photographers I had been asked by one of the organisers to keep out of the actual march, and although I felt it was an unreasonable request I didn’t make an issue of it. There were just one or two pictures that I could only take from inside the march, and I went in briefly and did so without problems, but the rest of the time I worked from one or other side.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Jim Dowson, Britain First’s Northern Ireland organiser, who once headed
fund-raising for the BNP, speaking

To me the march and the rally which followed appeared to be a peaceful and reasonably well-ordered event. Unlike at some previous right-wing events I didn’t get abused, threatened or spat at by anyone, though there were a few personal comments but the worst thing I was called was a ‘commie photographer’ who worked for ‘Searchlight’.

I’m a socialist who has never belonged to any of various communist parties around and never worked for Searchlight, but don’t take being accused of either as an insult, just a symptom of the paranoia some on the extreme right suffer from. And if Searchlight would pay the agency they could use my work just as the Guardian, Sunday Times, Jewish Chronicle and other publications around the world have done. So far the only sale I’m aware of for any of my pictures from this not very newsworthy event has been in Brazil.

Later I learnt from other photographers that my impression of the march as peaceful was not entirely true. While I was photographing the front of the march opposite Parliament, just down Parliament St a hundred yards of so away, a small group of marchers threatened several photographers and attacked one of them.

It’s always a problem that you can’t be everywhere and can’t see or photograph everything, even at a relatively small event like this, with a little over a hundred people taking part. I hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to the other photographers about it as I’d rushed away shortly before the event was due to finish to another event. But once I knew I posted a correction to the story.

I’m unhappy with any group that tries to annex one of our national flags for its own purposes – whether in Northern Ireland or in the rest of the United Kingdom. It seems to me that a national flag should be something that unites a nation rather than divides it.  It should be a national flag and not a tribal or factional one.  And of course our national flag is the Union Flag. I was no fan of the Olympics, but it was good to see it being proudly carried by teams which reflected the great wealth of diversity in our country.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

There was a certain irony too, when watching the solemn laying of wreaths by the representatives of the Somme Association at the Cenotaph commemorating the brave Ulster men who died fighting for their country to think that this monument, designed to commemorate the military dead of the First World War from all across the British Empire, was unveiled for a second time in 1946 to remember those who died in the war against fascism to know that among those watching in the march behind the barriers were those who belong or have belonged to fascist organisations.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images


Greenwich Riverside

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Many years ago, more or less by accident, I came across the riverside walk north from Greenwich on the south bank of the Thames. This was before there was an official ‘Thames Path’ and there were few books containing routes of walks, certainly very little written in any way about areas such as North Greenwich, then a mix of industrial sites, some derelict and other waste land. Of course the footpaths were familiar to locals, many of whom used them on their way to work. But those people who walked for leisure made their way to the greener heights of the North Downs or the wooded areas around London, rather than the grimier regions.

Few of the people I showed the pictures I was taking then appreciated them. At the camera club the judges would largely scratch their heads and wonder why anyone had bothered to take photographs in such places. But I was very aware that we were in a time of rapid transition, moving from being a country based on manufacturing to one depending on services, and that was being accelerated by government policies, and wanted to photograph the process.

The result of this was a project called London’s Industrial Heritage, which became a web site of the same name towards the end of the 1990s. The web design was by my elder son as a surprise birthday present, and generated the site from a set of images and a database file of their captions and locations. It was an ingenious solution, relying on some very long strings in the URLs, but also visually simple and elegant. You can use the interface to select pictures in various ways, and one is by area; of the 23 pictures now on the site, around a dozen are from the riverside walk between Greenwich and the dome at North Greenwich.

© 1982, Peter Marshall
Riverside silos at Greenwich

I had been taking pictures at Lewisham at lunchtime, and wasn’t due in central London for another event until 5.30pm, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to visit the riverside walk again, as I’d heard that a part of it which had been closed for some time had reopened. So I took the bus from Lewisham to North Greenwich. Walking down Drawdock Rd to the Thames, it became clear that the section south from here was still a building site, and the path still closed. I took a little walk along the path around the Dome, until I could get a view of London’s most expensive river crossing, the ‘Dangleway’ or cable car service between North Greenwich and the Royal Victoria Docks.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

I’d decided I didn’t quite have the time to take a ride across (and without my Oyster or a Travelcard it would have been a bit expensive) so I turned around and took the Thames path back into Greenwich – around 3 miles. From Drawdock Rd going south there is at the moment a fairly dull detour by road until you reach a footpath leading back to the river, still helpfully marked as closed by the local authority. Fortunately I had more up-to-date information, and was also able to confirm from a couple walking out of the path that it was now open all the way south to Greenwich.

© 2002, Peter Marshall

In 2002 the area had already become a curious landscape of sand and gravel, and the only change over the next 11 years seems to have been the weather, as you can see from the picture below.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

This image seems somehow to have got a little darker than I made it – but you can see it and the others from the walk on Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open. One recent edition to the path are a number of works by Greenwich Guerillas Knitters.

© 2013, Petr Marshall


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images


Magnum Failure

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

I’ve written several times over the years admiring the powerful black and white images of Magnum’s Paolo Pellegrin, and wasn’t surprised to find one of his stories, on an area called ‘The Crescent‘ in Rochester, USA awarded second prize in the recently announced 2013 World Press Photo.  So it came as a shock to read in EPUK News that one of the images included in this was not quite what the photographer had alleged it to be, and that a large section of the text of the story had been taken almost without alteration from a New York Times story published ten years earlier.

EPUK News linked to a feature When Reality Isn’t Dramatic Enough: Misrepresentation in a World Press and Picture of the Year Winning Photo by Michael Shaw, the publisher of the BagNews Notes web site, which gives full details of how and where the picture was made and the various errors in the caption and use of the image – including some comments by the subject of the photograph, Shane Keller.

Briefly, the picture was taken after Pellegrin had asked a student who was assisting him during the Magnum project in Rochester if he could find someone to be photographed holding a gun. It wasn’t taken in the Crescent area, and the man holding the gun was a student with no connection with violence or drug-dealing in the area. Nor, as the caption asserted, had Keller been a Marine Corps sniper – and the gun in the picture is not – as stated – a rifle!

And although the man in the picture offered the photographer his details for captioning, the photographer wasn’t interested – which would appear to imply that he had already decided that the picture was going to be used in a way that did not reflect what it actually showed. The title of the BagNews Notes article suggests that it was the pressure to make stories more dramatic – particularly for the prize contests – which led him to decide he needed a picture that went beyond what reality provided and to set this up.

The article publishes the material from the New York Times together with  that submitted by Pellegrin, and the two are essentially identical. It seems a clear case of copyright infringement let alone plagiarism, and taken with the misuse of the image, it makes clear that what otherwise might have been arguably (if hard to believe) simply a matter of a careless approach to facts and journalistic ethics was a matter of deliberate pre-meditated deception. Not only is it a serious offence by the photographer concerned but it casts doubt on the whole integrity of the Magnum Agency.

Most surprisingly, the same story also won a second place in the Pictures of the Year International Awards, with the particular picture concerned winning first place in the Freelance/Agency category, but the controversy over it did not come into the open following this.

The case seems clear, and certainly demands investigation by Magnum, World Press Photo and POYi. Unless they take appropriate action they too will be sullied by the photographer’s failure, and public confidence in photojournalism and documentary photography will be further eroded.

I’ve never been a great believer in ‘awards’ whether in  photography or other areas. It’s always seemed to me that the real award for making a fine image or a great film is intrinsic in the thing itself, and certainly the kind of awards ceremonies for the Oscars and similar events are both embarrassing in the extreme and actually demean all those involved – whether they win or not. Few of the greatest films have done well at the Oscars, and if the satisfaction of making great works isn’t in itself enough, you probably are not making great works.


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

© 2013, Peter Marshall

The government has decided to sacrifice Lewisham Hospital as a token gesture over NHS costs, although it seems likely that the costs of closing it will in the longer term be greater than the short-term profit. Lewisham is a successful hospital clinically and financially, and serves a large population in south-east London and it is hardly surprising that the closure plan – removing its essential A&E and Maternity services along with some other children’s services – has caused local outrage, with many thousands on the streets for two major demonstrations – see Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital and Save Lewisham Hospital – as well as many smaller events.

The losses of the local heath area are  nothing to do with Lewisham, but arise from the decision to use private finance to build hospitals in neighbouring areas. The contracts negotiated under PFI reflected the lack of commercial nous in the public sectore, exacerbating what was in any case a disastrous policy, and now the pigeons hatched in Woolwich are coming to roost in Lewisham, at a time when government policy is rapidly privatising our National Health Service.

Around 150 people came to a lunchtime rally at the War Memorial opposite the hospital, where there were short speeches by a large number of people. I scrabbled around in my pocket for my notebook to record their names, only the remember that I had taken it out to write up a protest a couple of days earlier and had left it next to my computer at home. The only paper I had to hand was the small A6 rectangle of scrap paper I’d used to write down my directions for the day – times and places of events, bus numbers etc. I’d written these on the back of a piece of an old letter, and had covered most of the blank side with my pencilled directions.  I had to write the names of the roughly 20 speakers over these in biro.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
One of the speakers was the Mayor of Lewisham

Even when I remember my notebook, writing while taking pictures isn’t too easy. It would be rather easier and a better solution to be able to attach short audio notes to pictures – as you can on some phones. I do carry a small audio recorder, but it’s too fiddly just to record the odd note, and slow to have to look at the frame numbers on the camera back to use them in the recordings. Sometimes I do record longer audio tracks , but then having to search through and hour of audio to find the names takes too long.

You can add audio notes to images on some cameras – and with software on camera phones – but not on the Nikons. Theoretically I can use the buttons on the back to add a message, but it takes ages – and I type in one a year as a copyright message.

© 2013,n Peter Marshall

Taking the pictures of the crowd gave me the opportunity to include the older hospital building in the background, but for some of the best opportunities this also meant pointing my camera directly towards the sun. Being Winter, the sun even in the middle of the day was low, so hard to avoid even using a moderately wide angle.

I think even the manuals that come with Nikon’s professional cameras tell you to take pictures with the sun behind you, but of course this is neither always possible or desirable, and I like working towards the sun. It used to be considered a specialised aspect of photography, contre-jour, but hardly now qualifies as anything out of the ordinary.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

In several of the pictures I was able to make use of the placards that the protesters were holding up as lighting ‘flags’, thus avoiding excessive flare and ghosts, and for some pictures other protesters served the same function.  Digital makes this kind of thing easier, first because you can see immediately if you have got the results but also because it makes the post processing simple – just a quick dash with the adjustment brush in Lightroom to add a little brightness and contrast to the faces and other significant areas in shadow.

The problem with using people as ‘flags’ is that they will move unpredictably  while you are taking pictures. Just as I don’t normally direct the people I’m photographing, I don’t direct those I’m using  to control the lighting.

More pictures on Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images



Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Police question and take down details of two protesters who have marked the
Old War Office with charcoal crosses and supporters stand in solidarity.

I’d arrived just minutes late to get a picture on Ash Wednesday when two Christian peace activists were  being questioned by police after having scrawled charcoal crosses on the pillars of the Old War Office in Whitehall. More pictures of the whole event at Ash Wednesday – Ministry of Defence.

I’d come down by bus from North London, where I’d been photographing a protest  Victimisation at London Met on a cold pavement outside London Metropolitan University where two employees have been suspended on very dubious grounds. After an hour standing on a cold pavement and another half hour on a bus travelling to Trafalgar Square I needed to pay a brief visit to the toilets there before rushing down Whitehall.

Had I not paused I might have got pictures of those writing on the wall actually being stopped by police. But more likely I would have hurried past just before it happened, on my way to the main body of worshippers at this regular Ash Wednesday event around the Ministry of Defence.

I could instead have travelled by Underground – the earlier protest was very close to Holloway Road station – and would probably have shaved ten minutes off my journey time – and certainly missed this particular part the Ash Wednesday protest. But so long as I’ve time I prefer to travel by bus. The upper deck of a double-decker gives you a great view of London, and on many occasions I’ve seen things happening and got off to take pictures. It’s sometimes frustrating that it’s difficult to get drivers to let you off the bus except at stops (the old Routemasters, now only on a couple of ‘heritage’ routes had a great advantage in this respect.)

It’s even possible to take pictures from the bus, though reflections in the windows are often annoying. But on many journeys buses are about as quick, and they reach places untouched by the tube, often taking you more or less to the door. And a particular advantage for me is that I have a pass that gives me free travel on the buses but not on the Underground or Overground rail. Public transport in London is relatively expensive compared to most cities around the world.

But back to Ash Wednesday, the ritual marking of the buildings is an annual ‘cat and mouse’ game between police and protesters. You know it will happen, but not exactly where and when, with around a third of a mile of wall on three streets and an hour and a half or so.  There are police spaced out at intervals, spread thinly all along the walls, but large gaps allow the protesters to at least start the marking, though I don’t think this year any of them managed to complete the word ‘Repent!’ after making their crosses.

Ash and water on the pavement – impossible to claim it causes any damage

Charcoal – like chalk also often favoured by demonstrators – is easily removed, and this makes charges of ‘criminal damage’ hard to sustain and the costs of the removal miniscule, but is of course chosen because of its connection to Ash Wednesday. Most of the protesters are there to make a completely legal protest, with a service of worship at various ‘stations’ around the Orwellian-named Ministry of Defence, which includes the marking with water and ash in large letters of the word REPENT! on the pavement in front of the main entrance (in some previous years they put their own sackcloth on the pavement to do so.)

© 2013, Peter Marshall
The writing is under the name plate at right – but I failed to photograph it properly

Previously one protester had managed to leave his charcoal mark next to the name plate for the ministry, but it was now surrounded by barriers and police. I didn’t have a long enough lens to get a good picture, and had thought about going back on my way home as the protesters were dispersing and asking to go inside the barriers to take a picture. But I stopped to talk with a police officer a little down the road and then forgot all about it.

Placards also spelt out the message ‘No Trident – Repent’

At the very end of the protest, I missed another protester who had vaulted over the low fence and rushed across the short stretch of grass to write on the wall. She did it while my back was turned as I was photographing the final service a few yards away, and again all I could photograph was the police talking with her. They released her after a few minutes and she vaulted back over the fence to rejoin her friends.

In some previous years I’d experienced just a little hostility photographing this event, being angrily reminded by one person at one point that this was an act of worship. Of course I was trying hard to cover it in a suitably reverent fashion, but my actions had still upset her. A few years on, with now so many of those taking part also taking out their digital cameras and phones and taking pictures, often in a rather more intrusive way than I would have chosen, I had no such problems. Just occasionally there are advantages for photographers in everyone having a camera.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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Shaker – 11 Years

Monday, February 18th, 2013

On a bitterly cold morning for London – around zero with a noticeable wind, I put on an extra layer and went to photograph in Parliament Square, where around 20 people were holding up banners facing the House of Commons, reminding MPs that London resident Shaker Aamer had been held without trial at Guantanamo for 11 years. You can read more about the protest and see more pictures in Shaker Aamer – 11 Years in Guantanamo on My London Dairy.

The same day we’d had an e-mail from one of my wife’s old school friends in which she’d mentioned the weather where she was living in Canada – where they were having something of a cold spell, with the temperature at 50 degrees below zero. I’m thankful not to be working there, as I was having problems keeping warm in London.  Fortunately it doesn’t get cold enough here to have to worry too much about equipment, which all seems to work OK around zero. I get cold standing around, not so bad if I can keep walking, but I felt for these guys standing holding banners and placards in orange jump-suits, not as warm as the fleece and jacket I was wearing – and black hoods are not as warm or wind-proof as my Polartec hat. Some weren’t even wearing gloves, and I can’t work in cold weather without them, though I can’t find anything really very warm that still lets me work a camera without problems.  My current solution is a pair of thin silk gloves with a second pair of close-knit wool gloves on top, reasonably warm and I can do almost everything with both pairs on; for anything really fiddly I can take off the wool, and the silk still keeps my fingers a bit warmer. Silk gloves on their own are good for when it isn’t too cold, but it doesn’t take long for the shutter release and other controls to make a holes in the tip of the finger. The wool is a bit tougher, though I’ve already got through one pair this winter.

Apart from keeping warm – and at least unlike the protesters I could walk around a bit – I had two main problems. The first is that I’ve photographed so many protests with people in orange suits that it’s hard to find anything new to say, and the second is with the way that the camera reacts to saturated orange and red.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Even in this small reproduction I think it is clear that there is something wrong with the orange, while the rest of the image looks about correct. Cutting down the saturation would help a little, but the better solution I’ve found in the past is to use an ‘untwisted’ camera profile in Lightroom (or Adobe Raw.)  And I do that with images from the D700, such as the picture below.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

I think the difference is clear, though you can’t assume that the two orange suits were equally intense, there really was quite a range. The lower image was taken on the D700 for which I have ‘untwisted’ profiles which I downloaded several years ago, but I can’t find any for the D800E (there are some on line for the D800, but I can’t get Lightroom to use these.) I’ve tried downloading software that untwists the standard profiles (created because the free Adobe profile editor doesn’t), and it runs to create new profiles, but again I can’t get these to show up in Lightroom.  Having wasted and hour or two I gave up trying to make my own profiles – but if anyone has succeeded for the Nikon D800E I’d like to have copies.

But there is still something that Lightroom can do. In the Camera Calibration panel of the Develop module there are hue and saturation sliders for the Shadows and Red, Green and Blue Primaries.  Here is the result of setting the Red saturation to -20 on the top image.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

On my screen the improvement is very marked. I think there are other small improvements from choosing the Camera Portrait rather than the normal Adobe Standard profile, and also perhaps a very slight tweak of the Red Primary hue.

For this image, the shadows, such as they are, are generally fine, but having discovered the Shadow slider which shifts along a green – magenta scale, I think I may have a solution to a problem I found working in mixed lighting a couple of days later.

Future versions of Lightroom may well omit these controls as Adobe people have stated that the job can be done better by using specific profiles. But for the moment they are still there even if we seldom need them. I’d rather be out making pictures than having to fiddle so much with them.