Archive for February, 2013

Nour Kelze

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

We Brits (though I don’t think we ever think of ourselves as Brits) often like to pride ourselves on our BBC, in some ways the best broadcasting company in the world, and sometimes I think there is some truth in this, also increasingly I find myself turning to other news services to find what is really happening in – for example – the Middle East, and deploring the BBC for its inaccuracy in reporting some UK events which I’ve attended, and its tendency to pitch for the status quo. Often accused of political bias by Tories, its real and utterly consistent bias is to the established order, even if a few of its journalists sometimes try hard to overcome this.

But one thing it’s never done well is photography. It’s too soaked in a logocentric culture to have any real idea about an essentially visual medium, but really it doesn’t try too hard since it just isn’t regarded as of any importance.

Much more often I find myself looking at and listening to features about photography at another public service broadcaster, the USA’s NPR. The latest is a report about Syrian teacher Noor Kelz, an English teacher from Aleppo who has become a war photographer. She started taking pictures on her mobile, but her career was transformed last Autumn by a meeting with Reuter’s photographer Goran Tomasovic.

He “spotted Noor shooting pictures with her cellphone. He trained her for a week on how to use a professional camera, then gave her a few of his cameras to keep. She’s been sending pictures to the agency ever since.

Noor (or Nour) Kelze was wounded in Aleppo a couple of weeks ago, suffering  a broken leg and shrapnel wounds when a tank shell exploded near her and is being treated in hospital in Turkey, but she hopes to be back at the front lines shortly. There are two pictures of her, one with her leg in plaster, on the PetaPixel post about the NPR show.

She appears in a film ‘Not Anymore, A Story Of Revolution – Nour Kilze – Noor Kelze‘ made by Matthew VanDyke who she worked with to raise funds for the Free Syrian Army which is due for release shortly – all I can find at the moment is a short CNN feature on it.

You can see Goran’s work on a blog on the Reuter’s site, where there is also a fine  slideshow of his work from Syria.

WPP Time

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

It’s the time of year for the usual criticisms of the winning images in World Press Photo. if you’ve not already done so, rather than wade through the whole lot on the official site you might like to look at a slide show of the 18 top winners on Lensculture. And of course you can learn something more about some of them on PDN and the British Journal of Photography site with a stories about Paul Hansen‘s winning image from Gaza City and Spanish photographer Bernat Armangué‘s series of images also from Gaza as well as several other stories.

Paul Hansen was also the winner of  the 2012 Newspaper Photographer of the year in the 70th Pictures of the Year International (POYi), with a portfolio that as well as Gaza covered the mass murders on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.

I usually go to the the WPP show when it comes to London, but always with a heavy dose of deja-vu, though usually there are pictures that stand out for some reason or other, though often not the major winners. But most of the main themes that produce the most shocking or startling images repeat themselves event if the massacres, famines, floods and earthquakes happen in different parts of the globe, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the images are often similar.

Duckrabbit quotes a Gary Knight ( Chair of  2013 World Press Photo Contest – before he stepped down) quote from ‘A Photo Editor’  and a comment from that site by Mike Moss in a post entitled Cliché on cliché?  But what I found more interesting is the comment made on duckrabbit by Tobias Key on the lighting in the winning image.

As he suggests there is something that seems over-produced about it, as if it was lit by a large soft-box fired by a radio-trigger on the camera. It would have been a powerful picture without the added drama of the lighting, because of the subject matter and viewpoint, but to me the lighting makes it into a film set, or a hyper realistic painting, and for me it weakens the raw impact of the image. I have a suspicion that the effect is partly or mainly from post-processing rather than lighting. Perhaps there is a clever Lightroom pre-set you can buy to do this to your images?

Don’t get me wrong. I admire the photograph and the undoubted courage and skill of Hansen and others who make such images. It’s something I could never do. But perhaps this – and others – work would be better if they turned down the techniques a little and let the subject speak for itself. Of course that way they would almost certainly not win prizes.

Sports Illustrated etc

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Sports Illustrated isn’t a magazine I ever read, nor for that matter is Jezebel, so thanks to
(Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography for drawing my attention to the feature in it,
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Goes to 7 Continents, Finds Exotic People to Use as Props, which made me both laugh and despair about the abuse it documents. Hard to believe that such pernicious and stereotypical nonsense gets published but it does reinforce the view of those interested in sports as retarded. If it wouldn’t be unfair to Neanderthals I might even employ that term. Seriously I thought stuff like this went out of use years ago, but perhaps I live in a sheltered environment.

It’s also evidence of some pretty poor Photoshop, and reminded me of another page of ‘
17 Mesmerizing Before & After Photoshop GIFs (and again I apologise in advance for exposing you to some poor taste puerile images of women) almost all of which I think qualify as Photoshop disasters. I don’t think there are any that actually improve the images, but most are beyond saving except by throwing a blanket over the model in the studio.

I’m not a prude, and would readily admit to enjoying looking at images of the nude human body and have written about them, but there is something unnatural about the whole of what is misleadingly given the name ‘glamour’. Come to that, much ‘erotic’ photography leaves me uninterested and certainly un-aroused, except occasionally to laughter at the more preposterous examples. It’s certainly hard to take the work of some of those well-known French photographers taking ‘photo de charme’ seriously event when their work sells for high prices in the art market.

Last week too I followed a link to some newly produced commercially available Lightroom pre-sets.  More curious than anything about why anyone would want to buy pre-sets when you can set up your own for free – it’s one of the essential features of Lightroom and easy to do. It led me to a video part of which took a wholly healthy looking woman’s face and turned it into a decidedly unnatural glowing porcelain. I’ll spare you the link.

Gabriele Basilico (1944-2013)

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico who died on Wednesday in Milan where he was born was not as well-known in the UK as he should have been, perhaps because the area in which he worked, the urban landscape is not generally highly regarded in this country. Although I went to several exhibitions of his work in Paris (for example Vertical Moscow), I can’t recall having seen one in the UK.

There is a good introduction to his work at Studio La Città, which also has a list of his solo and group shows around the world since 2000 – and none have been in the UK. His pictures from Palermo were shown in Cardiff in 1998 and work from a war-torn Beirut at a private gallery in London the previous year, but seem not to have featured in any of our major London galleries. It’s a shame that we’ve never really had a major space in London devoted to photography – and in particular that the Photographers’ Gallery which gets so much of the photography funding that crumbs down from the opera-dominated Arts Coucil has failed to step up to the mark in this and many other areas of photography.

You can see more of his work online at the Amador Gallery (New York). Although best known for his black and white work, there is an interesting colour series, Roma, on the Galerie VU website, which presents a rather different view of the city. There is a fine collection of his work at the Galerie Anne Barrault, which includes one of my favourite of his images in the 1984 series bord de la mer.

Basilico trained as an architect and had his first important photographic show in and on Milan in 1983. The following year he was the only Italian of the 36 photographers commissioned by the French government for their major DATAR project to ph0tograph the natural and built environment of France. Among the other photographers involved were Lewis Baltz, Raymond Depardon and Robert Doisneau. (A full list is in the French Wikipedia article, and there is a history of the project, La France vue du sol, by Vincent Guigueno published in 2006 in études photographiques and available online – if your French is up to it.)

Several if not most of those photographers whose work is featured on the urban landscapes web site I run with Mike Seaborne were impressed and to some extent inspired by the work of Basilico, and by his success. We would have loved to have featured his work on that site, but never quite got around to contacting him, overawed by his reputation.

Pancake Day

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Shrove Tuesday in England means one thing – pancake races. Starting (as I was reminded in the Lady Mayoress’s speech at the Guildhall today) in Olney in 1445 when a housewife late for the Shriving service ran down the High St clutching her frying pan and wearing her apron, in recent years the observance has grown exponentially, and is now observed in shopping centres and other venues across the land.

I could indeed have stayed home and photographed such an event in one of the local shopping centres ten minutes walk from my house, but there were other races around central London that I was sure would be of great interest.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

There are five that get into our main listings online and in print, starting at around 10.15 next to the Houses of Parliament. Here teams from the House of Lords, House of Commons and the Parliamentary Press battle it out on a course in Victoria Gardens. I photographed this in 2008 and haven’t felt moved to return since. It involves just a little of a rush for me, as the first train I can get to London without paying excessively high fares gets in at 10.04. If it gets in on time (and often it is just a few minutes late) this gives me 11 minutes to cover the almost a mile to the venue in Victoria Tower Gardens. Easy if I take my bicycle, but a little of a rush on foot.

Today it wasn’t great cycling weather, with a temperature in the early morning at home around zero, and I wasn’t feeling like rushing, so I opted to start at the Guildhall in the City of London, where people were gathering at 11.30 for a start to the event at 12 noon. A train and a bus got me there nicely in time.

It was hard to choose what equipment to take. The more interesting pictures are the kind of thing that a Leica would be great at, drifting easily around more or less unnoticed, and a 24mm or 28mm would have been fine. But the M8 unfortnately just isn’t up to the job (or at least not in my hands), and though the Fuji X100 would have been good in some ways, its fixed 35mm lens is just not wide enough. And I did also want to be able to photograph the actual races, where a longer lens and an SLR would do much better, and there are also situations where something wider than 24mm helps. So in the end I went with my standard camera bag, the two Nikons and a few lenses. Actually the cameras – and particularly the 16-35mm lens –  did do a pretty good job but having the largish bag on my shoulder did restrict movement through the loosely packed crowd.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Looking at my three favourite images there, they were taken at focal lengths (35mm equiv for the DX lens) of 22mm, 42mm and 25mm and I could have worked quite happily with – for example – a 24mm and a 50mm lens.

I’d decided to leave the Guildhall event early to cover a very different pancake race in Spitalfields. 1.14 miles is not a great distance to cover in 15 mins, though doing so in part through pedestrian clotted streets, with a number of major roads to cross and carrying a heavy camera bag makes it just a little more of a challenge, and I was just a little out of breath when I got there, just as the races were about to start. Ideally I like to be at events early, as often the best opportunities for photography come before the actual start – and that was certainly true with the Guildhall event, where the actual races were hardly enthralling.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

But at Spitalfields, with its lighter touch organisation (which threatens at times to become chaos) and people very much more prepared to let their hair down, there isn’t really the same problem, and there were plenty of opportunities between the races and probably the most interesting part of the event is the prize-giving ceremony.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

I didn’t do very well at photographing the actual races. Dray Walk is a fairly narrow street between some tall buildings, and on a truly gloomy day like this was, is pretty Stygian in terms of lighting. Being close to the action as I was requires a pretty high shutter speed or flash to avoid blur, and I just hadn’t thought enough about it. Or at least had just somehow thought that ISO1600 should have been good enough in the middle of the day. But with the 18-105mm even with the the ISO at 3200 I managed to get some things unsharp. It’s a while since I’ve really done much real action photography and I wasn’t in any case interested enough to really think about it.

More on the two events at Great Spitalfields Pancake Race and Poulters Pancake Race.


London Photographs

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Some years ago I registered the domain name with the aim of setting up a web site called ‘London Photographs’ that would display my archive of images of Greater London taken since the 1970s, and it still provides a ‘front end’ to much of my work on the city, although I think all of it can also be reached through other domains that I also have.

Looking at the weather this last weekend I decided to use the time to work on another project for ‘London Photographs’, related to the book London Dérives that I completed a week or so ago.

The web site London Dérives isn’t the same as the book, although I think it includes all of the 73 images from the book (or near duplicates) but has almost 200 images. It includes the key text from the book related to the project.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
My caption says John Jackson & Pub Mirrors, London 1978, but where was it?

What took most time was going through the images again and adding captions. I’ve never been too good at keeping records of what I’ve photographed or where, but from around 1986 on I began to carefully annotate my contact sheets with things like Grid References, street names and other information while it was still fresh in my mind. But prior too that, it often involves a little detective work, looking at the series of frames for a particular walk, hunting for clues in the images, resorting to maps (on and off-line), Google searches, and sometimes even satellite images, StreetView or Bing’s rather nice Bird’s Eye views. But finding places can be pretty tricky as many buildings have been demolished and others built.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
This was near Brick Lane, but exactly where?

Looking at some pictures, even from 35 years ago, I get a very clear impression of where I was and exactly what I was thinking when I took them, though these are not always entirely accurate. One image I was convinced was made close to the British Museum turned out – when I examined the evidence closely – to have been made around 6 miles to the north.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
And this wasn’t far away from Brick Lane either – but which street?

The site is now on the web, but I’m sure I’ll make some changes to it. But I’d be pleased to get any comments and suggestions on it and to get more accurate captions for some images. I haven’t put a comments form on the individual pages of the site, but I’d be happy to add suitable comments at the bottom of the pages.

Here’s a final small mystery – a disused pub, possibly in Hoxton or Haggerston (an image taken a frame or two further on is from Haggerston and on later frames I was in Hackney.)

© 2013, Peter Marshall

On its top is a rather fine (if damaged) coat of arms with the motto ‘Sapere Aude’ – dare to be wise – which is apparently that of both the Wise and the Whittington families. Whittington seems more likely to be the connection. Obviously the building is in a poor state, but has a certain distinction, and might well have been renovated – or it might have been replaced by offices or flats. Looking at the image full-size doesn’t really yield any more clues other than making the motto just legible. Anyone?

Most of these pictures were taken either on a Leica M2 with a 35mm lens, and Olympus OM1 or one one of a series of Minox 35 cameras I owned. For some of them I was trying to get a feeling of glimpsing the sites on a walk and deliberately framing slightly oddly and sometimes with the camera not level. Some of these I’ve tidied up a little with cropping or rotation, and with a very few some correction of the verticals, but most I’ve left as I took them.


Lens Culture Deserves Support

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I first came across Lens Culture in the year that it started, 2004, when I was still writing for, and immediately appreciated that here was another site that really cared about photography and was doing something about it on-line.

Since then I’ve regularly written about and linked to content on the site, and also met and talked with Jim Casper, its founder and editor in Paris a few times.  We don’t always share the same views about particular photographers or aspects of photography but we do have a shared passion for the medium.

Since then I’ve moved from being someone who made a respectable amount by writing for a commercial site – that for most of my time with them gave me a free rein to promote photography around the world – to a fairly penniless photographer who runs a blog and various websites largely to share his own work and his views about photography with a wide audience – and with some success, with currently just over 40,000 visits a week to  my various sites including this blog.

Perhaps because of my previous incarnation, where at times my posts were difficult to read as adverts floated around over some of them or flashed annoyingly at the sides, I’ve deliberately kept all of my sites both advert-free (just one small commercial link in a single one of the over 97,000 pages) and also deliberately simple.  My aim was to produce a site that was very personal, although I’ve had a few contributions by others, and almost the only ‘cost’ is my labour. It takes considerable amount of time, perhaps twenty or thirty hours out of the sixty or seventy I work a week, but much of that involves thinking about my own photography and that of others which I enjoy, and at least some of it is time when I could otherwise be earning money. But I get by, though support by using my images in publications or by buying my prints or books or PDFs (direct from me or from Blurb) is ever welcome.

Jim with Lens Culture had far wider aims, although when he started it was simply “a magazine published 3 times a year in my spare time” it has grown into a much larger enterprise, and one that has set out to be and to look far more professional than >Re:PHOTO, My London Diary and the rest.  Back in 2004 there was very little serious writing on the web about photography (and it still isn’t plentiful) or exposure for good photography, and the magazine has since stepped firmly into that arena, as well as increasingly going in to other activities. All this has led to much greater expenses than I have and it even gets a few more visitors than my sites – around 50% more and a little over twice the visitors on this blog.

Here’s what Jim says about Lensculture’s activities:

Last year we organized screenings of great new contemporary photography on two continents, hosted our 3rd annual international portfolio reviews in Paris, awarded 9 prizes and 27 honorable mentions for the International Exposure Awards, and the UK Guardian called us “one of the most authoritative and wide-ranging sites” on contemporary photography.In the past 8 years we’ve published 35 issues of Lens Culture, including more than 40 original in-depth video and audio interviews with photographers, lots and lots of photobook reviews, and shared our discoveries of photographers from more than 50 countries worldwide. We’ve stayed up all night working on high-resolution slideshows, editing captions, revising translations, linking out to other sites that we find interesting. We’ve lost some friends and family, welcomed newborn babies, published 750,000+ photos (last count), written 2,500 photography-related tweets, and helped to launch dozens of new careers.

We love what we do, and apparently a lot of you do too. We appreciate your support, and we rely on your generous donations to continue our work. We’ve never cluttered our site with commercial advertising, and we think you appreciate that as much as we do.

So today we’re asking you to donate just $10 (or more if you can afford it) to keep us running.

It takes 200 hours per week to do everything we do. Many of us volunteer a lot of of our time, but we have real costs that include high-speed web servers, a dedicated part-time editorial staff, software, computer upgrades and video production.

If everyone who reads this donated $25, we could keep running for two more years.

You can read more on the Lensculture site, where there is a handy button for donations, although unfortunately it doesn’t take PayPal.

Library Victory Celebrated

Friday, February 8th, 2013

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Library campaigners celebrate their victory over Barnet Council

One of the most pleasant events I’ve photographed was this weeks official re-opening of Friern Barnet library, something that may become to be looked back on as a pivotal moment in the history of both the Occupy movement and left opposition, if not in democracy itself, in this country and the start of a real and powerful localism, with squatting activists from Occupy and usually conservative residents associations coming together with campaign groups and local opposition politicians to defeat the local authority.

The library, which Barnet council had closed and locked up in April 2012 was occupied at the start of September when, a couple of days after the act making squatting in residential property, activists climbed in through a convenient ‘open window’ and made their home there. Within days with the help of the local campaigners they had reopened the library and it was soon stocked with 10,000 books donated mainly by local residents.

You can read my account of  the celebrations and how the battle with the council was won at Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration, and see my pictures from the event. There is more detail about the role of Ugo Hayter and others from Leigh Day & Co (“a highly distinctive law firm who is not afraid to take on challenges that would daunt many others”) on their web site. The occupation meant the council had to go to court, and the legal arguments led to Barnet negotiating a lease for a newly formed Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL) company.

I felt rather bad that despite several personal invitations I hadn’t made my way up to the library during the five months of occupation. (It has been a busy time for me and although it is in London, it isn’t the easiest place for me to get to and my journey on Tuesday morning took a couple of hours with three trains and a fairly long bus ride. Coming home the trains didn’t quite connect as well and it took a little longer.) So I went hoping to make up a little for my lack of effort by taking a set of pictures that captured something of the atmosphere of the event.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
Occupy hand over the keys to FBCL as the central part of the celebration event

I think I was fairly successful, despite a few problems. Contrary to the weather forecast I’d heard early in the morning the sun came out and gave some extreme lighting at times, particularly inside the library, with patches of bright sun on relatively dimly lit shadow areas. The library ceiling was just a little high to effectively use bounce flash – and it with the flash needing to fire at full output, recycle times on my Nissin unit of 3-4 seconds were too limiting. Direct flash fill that made a difference also gave nasty shadows, so I decided to work without flash and try to even things out a little in post-processing, setting my usual one-third stop of underexposure which I thought would be enough to prevent the highlights burning out. When it came to process the RAW files, I found that in some pictures it hadn’t been quite enough, and perhaps a full stop would have been better.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

After a few speeches and the handover of the keys, people from all the groups involved who had worked together to save the library joined in a long chain holding hands and walked around the two small green spaces at each side which they also hope to preserve from development. There were some great shadows of the human chain across the grass, but I had to work more or less directly into the sun to use them, and the inevitable flare and ghosting wasn’t too kind to me. But in some ways my favourite images of the day were of them dancing past the front of the library.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
I thought of this picture as a panorama as I was taking it,  I’m not sure which works best
© 2013, Peter Marshall

Afterwards the local councillor who had been closely involved cut a ribbon stretched across the door (the only part of the proceedings where I couldn’t really find a good position with TV crews and other photographers having lined up while I was busy photographing the walk around the greens) everyone went inside for more speeches, and the cutting of two celebration cakes, one a long ‘bookworm’ cake with a long line of candles. It took half a dozen people to light them all, and I felt their cooperation and the glowing candles was a good expression of the cooperative effort that was involved in the saving of the library.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

There had been so many opportunities for pictures during the event that I was surprised when one of the occupiers said to me as I was leaving that some of the press weren’t happy with the pictures they had of the actual handover of the keys and wanted to stage another picture outside the library.  I submitted  a picture of this clearly captioned as a re-staging of the handing over of the keys for the press outside the library, but other photographer’s pictures of this same staged tableau were published in the press as if they were the actual event. The pictures almost got taken with a large brass key from a photographer’s key ring rather than the actual library keys, but fortunately the right ones were produced just in time. But I felt it was a false and clichéd approach, although one of the press photographers there has argued emphatically that this was a display of professionalism. Not in my book.


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

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Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Friday, February 8th, 2013

I last wrote about the work of Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen a couple of years ago, when the BBC had just broadcast a radio programme about her work. I bought her book ‘Byker‘ when it came out in 1983, and even the rather dull reproduction (standards really have improved greatly) couldn’t hide the power of her work on this area on the edge of Newcastle in a period when it was being completely redeveloped.

It was a subject that appealed to me as well as fine photography. The redevelopment of Byker in the 1970s showed how planners had learnt at least from some of the mistakes of the earlier decade that had taken me into political activism on the streets of Manchester before I became a photographer.

Born in Finland, Konttinen had come to London to study film at the Regent Street Polytechnic and there with like-minded fellow students had formed a collective to make documentary films. Amber Films had a commitment to documenting working-class life, and though they had started in London soon found that the capital was too expensive to live and work and moved to Newcastle, a city 300 miles to the north, where the older industries which it had depended on were in severe decline. She fell in love with Byker, moved in and lived there for 11 years, getting to know the people. Being a foreigner and being a young woman was almost certainly an advantage as she went round getting to know people and taking pictures, and as she writes “The first night I sat alone in the ‘Hare and Hounds’ I was taken under the collective wing.” And over the years she really did become a part of the community she was photographing and she goes on to write of her neighbour pointing “out proudly: ‘When she first came in our street, she couldn’t tell hello from tarra, and now she speaks Finnish with a Geordie accent.'”

I mention her again because her work  is featured on the New York Times Lens blog  Byker in Black and White and again today in Bringing Color to Newcastle The mention comes with a show in New York at the L. Parker Stephenson Gallery from 15 Feb until 18 May 2013 and a lecture by Konttinen at the International Center for Photography on Feb 13 which should be streamed live (and at some point make its way into their archive on the same page.)

Although the BBC programme linked on my page no longer has the audio available, the text does perhaps give a slightly different view (as too do my comments), and the other links on my page still seem to work, taking you among other places to Konttinen’s page on Amber Online, where as well as work from ‘Byker’ and ‘Byker Revisited‘ you can also see pictures from eight of her other projects.

On the Side Gallery page of the Amber website there is some more about her trip to New York, including a link to a short film on making her ‘spacehopper’ print.

Cleaners at the Barbican

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

I couldn’t stay in Enfield with the Chase Farm protest because I wanted to cover the Cleaners Protest at Barbican. At least it was an easy journey, as trains from Enfield Chase run into Kings Cross, and though the Circle Line was suffering its New Zealand inspired closure so I couldn’t get the underground to Barbican, I could still jump onto the Northern line to take me to Moorgate, from where it was just quarter mile or so walk to the main entrance of the Barbican Arts Centre, a prestige arts centre owned by the City Corporation of one of the richest cities in the world, where the cleaners are paid less than the living wage.

So I was easily there at the time advertised for the protest. But there was nobody else there. I wasn’t all that surprised. Most of the cleaners are from Latin America. When I was in Brasilia, people told me that if they wanted people to actually arrive on time for an event they said “3pm English Time“.

So I didn’t assume that the protest had been cancelled and go home, but told myself I’d give it a half hour. It was too cold to stand waiting, so I went for a walk to look at an area nearby where I’d photographed some buildings and see if anything had happened to them. It was now an empty block. There were a few pubs I could have gone in, but none looked very inviting and I walked a bit more mainly to keep warm before making my way back to the Barbican. Twenty minutes after the advertised start there were now three people waiting to take part but soon a few more arrived, and 40 minutes late the organisers of the protest turned up. So perhaps I could have marched to the hospital in Enfield after all and not missed the cleaners.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Once they had arrived things got pretty animated, with lots of banners, placards and noise, including some new air-horns with pumps attached, along with a few whistles and some seriously large and loud drums. And of course a megaphone so that people going into the Barbican Arts Centre could be told why there was a loud protest taking place.

The sun we had seen in Enfield had long been replaced by thick cloud, and as the protest got under way around 4.15pm it was beginning to get pretty dark. I turned the ISO up to 1600, and working with the 16-35mm was able to work at around 1/50 f4 in the dimmer areas, going up to around 1/80 at f4.5 further away from the buildings. But people were generally pretty active although this was a static protest there was a lot of movement, and I should have used a higher ISO to get a faster shutter speed, as quite a pictures were not usuable as some of the people were blurred. The cleaners and their supporters generally protest in a very active way, with a lot of waving and shouting, and today probably jumping up and down to keep warm. The 16-35mm isn’t a very fast lens at f4, but it is usable wide open, and usually I need the depth of field that f4 gives.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

With the longer 18-105mm on the D800 I was struggling even at ISO3200; I don’t like to go higher than this as the results can get noticeable noisy, but it might have been better to have done so. Both lenses do have VR, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective as it should be, and can’t deal with subject movement. Both lenses also seemed to be having occasional focus problems in the low light.

I’m still not used to the focus settings on the D800, which only has a 2-position focus switch at the left of the lens for AF-M, rather than the 3 position C-S-M of the D700, which seems much better. It’s far more difficult to change from single focus to continuous focus, and much harder to tell which of the two you are using. I can’t understand why Nikon made this change. And the three-position switch on the back of the camera was also much easier than pushing in the AF-M button and twiddling the front command dial, though this does give more options, even if I don’t know what they mean. I need to find time to study the manual again.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Eventually as it got darker still I finally had to get out my flash – still the Nissin. The results just aren’t as good, even though I was still working at high ISO to pick up as much ambient light as possible and avoid the worst effects of flash. I decided I’d done all I could and in any case it was time for me to leave and send in my stories for the day.

I’m still not sure if I prefer the Nissin to Nikon flash units. At the price it certainly does a pretty good job most of the time, and as with the Nikons I also occasionally get pictures that are ridiculously over-exposed. None of them work too well at close quarters.

I took in three Nikon flash units into Nikon for servicing thirteen days ago (I was sure I had a fourth somewhere but couldn’t find it.) The two SB800s are now repaired and I’m awaiting their return. The SB700 which I thought only needed a new flash shoe fitting –  I’ve just told them to re-cycle as the estimate was close to what I originally paid for it, and slightly more than I could get a new one for on eBay. I should have tried Araldite!