Archive for March, 2013


Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

As I’ve often noted, it is rare to find serious writing about photography that actually looks at photographs, so don’t miss Joerg Colberg’s Meditations on Photographs: Riverfront by Curran Hatleberg which does just that. And admirably.

Certainly there is more that could be said about this particular picture, and having started with this kind of largely formal analysis I would want to locate it in both a social and political context and in a photographic one. Colberg in his final three sentences instead goes off on in what is to my mind a tangent about staged versus street photography.  It’s a subject about which I have my own views, but I don’t think one that particularly relates to this image, but most photography in any case exists somewhere between these two extremes, and in most of my own pictures although not staged there is some degree of interaction between observer and observed.

But don’t stop when you come to the end of Colberg’s post (though you could perhaps omit the last three paragraphs), follow the link in either his post or here to the work of Curran Hatleberg, new to me. There are two sets of pictures on his site, and ‘Riverfront‘ comes from ‘The Crowded Edge‘. Scroll through the images and after the / you came to the second series, ‘Dogwood‘.

Click on his name and you find the information “Curran Hatleberg was born in 1982 in Washington, D.C. and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of the University of Colorado and the Yale School of Art, his work has been shown in galleries both nationally and internationally and is included in multiple collections. He currently teaches photography at the International Center of Photography and Norwalk Community College.” You can also find a set of his pictures on the Yale University School of Art site, some of which perhaps relates more directly to Riverfront.


Vauxhall: Digital Strengths Part 2

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

As my previous post explains, I’d gone to Vauxhall to photograph a protest by cleaners at Capgemini who were calling for the London Living Wage and an end to racist discrimination at work, as well as fighting the threat of redundancies. I’d arrived early, taken a short walk and digitally re-photographed a panorama I’d taken on film almost 14 years earlier.

Usually on the digital cameras I work with auto-exposure in P mode. The Nikon exposure system is generally smarter than me and also allows a flick of the thumb to give me a different shutter/aperture combination while keeping correct exposure. Almost the only time it doesn’t work is with flash, where it almost works with flash fill (and will work with a little tweaking) but fails when you want flash as the main light source and generally shutter priority (or occasionally aperture priority) is your best bet.

The other exception is panoramas. Although the PtGui software can cope with frames with different exposures it is still best to decide on a suitable manual exposure and take all the frames using that – and with a fixed manual focus. So I’d put the camera into manual mode, with the correct exposure for the light in the open area by the river.

I’d been surprised to find the cleaners in the bus station, and rushed to join them and take pictures, and in the rush left that camera at those same manual settings. The end of the bus station was in fairly deep shadow, and I think the day had become even gloomier, with the result that – until I noticed a few minutes later – I had taken pictures that were perhaps 3 or 4 stops underexposed.

I’m not a fan of ‘chimping’, as looking at images on the camera back while taking pictures disturbs the connection with the subject which for me is vital. Few things too are more annoying than photographers who stand in the way of others (or rather of me) looking through the images on the backs of their cameras. But just occasionally it makes sense to stand back from the scene and at least have a quick view at the histogram, and when I did I got something of a shock.

If I’d made the same mistake working on film, I would simply have had to write off those pictures – and might well have gone on for much longer until I’d finally noticed the error in the viewfinder, either by spotting the little ‘M’ or noticing that my exposure values weren’t changing. I’m generally so engaged in the image that I just don’t notice such things.

Also on colour negative film, it would have been difficult or impossible to really recover those images. If I’d realised, changed films and marked the underexposed roll, pushing development was never really much of an option with colour neg, and with transparencies a 2 or 3 stop push generally produced interesting graphic effects rather than pictures.

Lightroom does a rather better job, although for the first time ever I wished that its Exposure slider went past the +10 that I used for this image.

Lightroom’s exposure slider at +10 for this underexposed image.

It isn’t perfect, but doesn’t really stand out as being too much different from the pictures I took with the other camera body which got the exposure correct – such as this example:

A correctly exposed image developed with Lightroom’s exposure slider at 0.

It is possible to see the difference, even in these small versions, but probably most viewers wouldn’t notice it unless it were pointed out. Digital copes much better with underexposure than film.

Where film – and particularly black and white film – does better is with over-exposure. Although digital cameras have improved a little over the years (and RAW processing software too) it’s still fairly easy to produce completely washed out highlights.

I have most problems with flash, which seems occasionally simply and randomly to deliver rather more than it should, but it isn’t unusual to get a problem in other images. The occasional peek at the histogram (or a ‘flashing highlights’ image display) can be useful, and I generally work with a third of a stop exposure compensation to give me just a little more headroom – and you need it to get that fill flash right, with the flash set at around -2/3 or -1 stop, as the camera seems to ignore the contribution from the flash in its exposure calculations.

The cleaners want Justice.

More pictures and more about the protest at Capgemini Cleaners Demand Living Wage.

Vauxhall: Digital Strengths Part 1

Monday, March 18th, 2013

My trip to Vauxhall showed two real advantages of digital over film. I’d gone there to photograph a protest: Capgemini Cleaners Demand Living Wage – but when I got off the bus at the stop just across the road they were nowhere to be seen. I was a few minutes early, and from experience I knew they didn’t always start their protests on time, so I wasn’t too surprised.

But rather than just hang around, I went for a little walk, starting off by going to the riverside, where thing had changed a little since I was last there. South of Vauxhall Bridge used to be the Nine Elms cold store, a vast concrete slab from the early 1960s, demolished in 1999, having been disused for some years – it enjoyed a brief afterlife as a recording studios in 1990. Part of this St George’s Wharf area was fairly quickly redeveloped as rather quirky expensive riverside flats, certainly not to everyone’s architectural taste (if taste is the right word for them), but the 185 metre tall cylindrical Vauxhall Tower took some time to get planning permission (a GLA folly along with the Shard) and has yet to be completed. One of the objections was I understand that it might be a danger to helicopters coming along the Thames to land at nearby Battersea Heliport, and in January this proved only too true, with two men being killed when a helicopter hit one of the cranes at its top in fog.

I made a panorama here in 1999, in which the remains of part of the cold store are visible above the green diamond of grass to the right of the trees (see detail below.) To its left the St Georges Wharf site is clear and you can see past to the MI6 ‘Spook’s Castle’ immediately north of Vauxhall Bridge.

I decided on the spot to make a digital panorama from what I thought was the same position. Working from memory, I went about a couple of meters too far south, but it wasn’t too bad a guess. The whole panorama is too wide to sensibly show  in this blog, but I have included it on my London Diary in Vauxhall Images. Here is a crop from the centre of the image, taken in light that made the most of the view:

Vauxhall: Crop from centre of panorama taken in 1999. © 1999, Peter Marshall

Had Vauxhall Tower been there in 1999, I think I would have only have recorded the lower 13 or 14 of its 52 floors on the film image, taken with a 26mm lens on a roughly 56mm length of 35mm film – just over one and a half times the length of a normal 35mm negative. The horizontal angle of view was roughly 120 degrees, and the camera had a ‘swing’ lens that rotated to project the image onto a curved film, avoiding the ‘wide angle distortion’ which makes images with a horizontal angle of view  of more than around 90 degrees impossible on normal rectilinear lenses. The result uses a cylindrical projection, which takes a little getting to grips with.

Here’s roughly the same area from a picture taken in poor light when I was waiting for the protest a week or two ago:

Vauxhall: Crop of same area from centre of panorama taken in March 2013. © 2013, Peter Marshall

Even from the crop you can see that the film image is a better picture, mainly because of the lighting, but also because of the changes in the scene. I also took rather longer thinking exactly where to take it from, and the small difference in position does make a better picture, particularly since moving forward a little gave me a slightly better view of the river and a better angle on the patch of grass – which was then unfenced.

With digital, there are no real limits on the horizontal angle of view – you just take more pictures to stitch together – and really very little on the vertical angle. Using a focal length of 16mm with the camera in portrait orientation didn’t quite allow me to get the top of the tower in view, so I simply took another row of images with the camera angled up, and let PtGui (with a little help from me in masking some images) put the whole lot together. As you can see in Vauxhall Images I decided to stop at around 180 degrees horizontal, and I’ve also included there a section of the digital image cropped to the same angular dimensions, in Vauxhall Images. Had I set out to produce something more like my original picture I would have worked with a different lens with a less wide view and would only have needed a single row of images.

Although digital allows much more freedom in making panoramas (and the results are technically better in almost every respect too) it is can be more time-consuming, having to make the dozen or so exposures needed, and gives problems with subjects that move. But stitching the images together is often faster than scanning a film image to make prints.

In terms of technical quality, the digital image, produced on the D800E wins hands down, enabling considerably larger prints. So although I still like using film for panoramas in cameras such as the Horizon or the Hassleblad X-Pan, and they do have the advantage of giving a decent idea of the finished image in the viewfinder, in most respects digital wins hands down.

A few minutes after taking these images I walked along towards Vauxhall bus station, where I found the cleaners were gathering to start their protest. But more about that in my next post.


Tortured to Death

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Sometimes its a problem trying to find a different picture when you are photographing a protest. Although the protesters themselves sometimes seem happy with just a lot of people behind a banner or holding up placards, pictures like that seldom have a great interest for those who weren’t there.

It helps if there are some interesting placards, whether because of the words or images on them, and a little animation in the people taking part often helps. People shouting or blowing horns or whistles often attracts attention and gets passers-by to look, but although it tends to attract photographers too, it often adds little to a still photograph – unless you are careful to ensure you capture it at a suitable moment. But protests where people just stand and talk to each other are often tricky to cover. Even worse if they turn away from the cameras when they do so.

Protesters tape up a poster of Arafat Jaradat

I don’t set things up to photograph, though if others set things up it sometimes provides opportunities, though I still try to take different photographs. But more often I’m looking out for things that are happening – like these two people putting up a poster on the wall.

The poster shows Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian who died after being tortured in an Israeli jail, and whose death was the reason for the protest, outside the main London office of the security firm G4S who provide the security systems for the jail and interrogation centre – you can read about it and see more pictures in Tortured to Death in Israeli G4S Prison on My London Diary.

The placard and its message were a powerful graphic black and white statement, and I tried to present it a little differently by taking an image of one woman holding it, with intensely coloured blue headscarf and purple gloves. I thought it worked well with the dull orange of the office foyer behind (a very different colour temperature and less bright than the pavement outside.)

Posters and a banner outside the G4S offices in London

I tried to improve on the simple row of people holding up posters and the banner by including at left the face on the poster. With the 16mm there was perhaps an awkward empty area of pavement at the right, and the best picture came when one of the protesters – dressed in black and white to echo the poster – walked into frame. She apologised for getting in the way of my picture.

Uncorrected view from the 10.5mm semi-fisheye

The protesters were actually scattered over quite a wide area and it was hard to include more than a fraction of the over 20 people there in any one image. When I made a picture from a similar position with the 10.5mm fisheye I was careful to crop so as not to include the whole of the banner at right. I knew that I would get a curved arch above the line of protesters, which I think helps the image.

On My London Diary you can see several other pictures made with the 10.5mm, which often provides a different view. In most of them I’ve corrected the images to cylindrical perspective – as in this example. Particularly when there are people close to the edge of the frame they otherwise look distorted.

10.5mm image corrected – otherwise the woman at right would look very distorted.

But my main problems covering the event were to do with temperature, and this seemed to be one of the coldest places in London, with large buildings around perhaps channeling the bitter east wind through the area. Even though I’d dressed for the weather it was still too cold for me to stand around in one place for very long; I’d been outside taking pictures for several hours and I had to leave halfway through the protest.


Feb 2013 Summary

Friday, March 15th, 2013

As usual, here’s a summary of my posts on My London Diary for last month, with some pictures from some events I’ve not written about here:

Hillingdon Marches Against Cuts
Vulture Funds – Claws off Argentina!
Reclaim Love Valentines Party
Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock
Defend the Union Flag
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK

Supporters of President Asad from the CPGB(ML)

Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali
Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open
Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues
Ash Wednesday – Ministry of Defence

Meeting outside London Met protests at discrimination against staff

Victimisation at London Met
and the good news is that the staff have now been re-instated.

Prison officer with placard and Union banner at Old Palace Yard

Prison Officers Protest Against Cuts
Shaker Aamer – 11 Years in Guantanamo
Great Spitalfields Pancake Race
Poulters Pancake Race
Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration

The start of the procession in Leyton

Waltham Forest Milad-Un-Nabi Procession
Cleaners Protest at Barbican
Save Chase Farm Hospital


Lensculture March 2013

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

I’m always pleased to get news from Jim Casper of a new edition of Lensculture, though I’ve not yet had time to look through all the material on it.  Of what I’ve seen so far, the highlight is a set of work from Michell Sank,  In My Skin, work from her project about “young people under 25 in the UK who are challenging their body image “, though I find it hard to understand why some of those she has photographed have any problems with what seem to me perfectly adequate  forms.  I’ve managed to live with all my own imperfections for a very long time without getting too worried.

I’ve also enjoyed looking at Gloriann Liu’s essay on Long Term Refugee Camps in Lebanon and several other pieces on the site, though as always Lens Culture covers a wide range of photographic practice, including a few things that do nothing for me. But there is plenty that does.

The Royals – 1984

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The Royals – as every Londoner at least used to know – are not members of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family (or Windsor as they prefer to be known since 1917) but docks in London’s East End, the Royal Victoria, Albert and King George V, stretching between them from Canning Town to Cyprus – not the Meditteranean island but North Woolwich. Like the rest of London’s inner docks they closed long ago, back in the 1970s or so.

© Peter Marshall, 1984
King George V Dock, 1984

I never saw them at work, but started to photograph the area two years after the final closure of the in 1981 (they had been running down for some time), but before the area around them was in part developed.  It was a huge area – together they were said to be the largest enclosed docks in the world, with around 250 acres of water and a total area of over a thousand acres, almost 5 square kilometres.

It’s now the home to one of the UK’s cheapest and most expensive tourist attractions – cheap for the cost of the cable car ride from the terminal at the west end of the Victoria Dock and across the river to North Greenwich.  I had to be in docklands to give a talk yesterday lunchtime, and had planned to take a rather leisurely route home across it, but the weather defeated both me and it.

The ‘Arab dangleway’ isn’t a serious form of transport, but a modern ‘folly’ (and like that horrid  red metal tangled mass on the Olympic site and the new Routemaster example o what you get when you elect a clown as mayor.) According Darryl Chamberlain, the auuthor of the local  Greenwich 853 blog (named for the former telephone area code and definitive reading if you want to know what’s happening in the area) it has a total of 16 regular commuters; for most the Jubilee line to Canning Town and the easy change to the DLR are faster, more reliable and cheaper. As a visitor attraction, the cost for those with an Oyster or Travelcard is certaiinly cheap compared to most, but this is the most expensive cable car system ever built, and so far has cost taxpayers over £24 million (with around £30m from private finance) with another £8 million from the European Regional Development Fund.

On looking at the advance weather forecast I’d realised that my plans were to be dashed, with snow and high winds forecast – snow would obscure the views and the cable car doesn’t run when it’s windy, and I walked around Canary Wharf in a blizzard taking a few pictures on the coldest day in London for years finding it at times difficult to keep upright and clutching on to hand rails for support. The pictures weren’t much but if I hadn’t taken them I would have worried later about the opportunity I’d missed! But I had similar problems to our railways – it was obviously the wrong type of snow. At least I wasn’t bothered by security who were probably busier trying to keep warm than worrying about photographers, and the snow probably made the CCTV hard to follow.

But my talk was about my photographs of Docklands, to a small audience who knew more about the area than I did, but I had the advantage of having been there before them and could show a little of how things were in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was showing only black and white work I’d made from when I started photographing London around 1974 until around ten years later. Much of that time my main photographic project was in Hull, but I’d also done a fair amount along both of London’s major rivers, the Thames and the Lee, including the former dock areas. And one of the more organised projects was on the Royals and the surrounding area.

I’d walked around the area, getting there by the train service that then ran from Stratford to North Woolwich, stopping at Canning Town and Silvertown (it would have been easier though probably not faster for me the following year when the service in May 1985 ran all the way from Richmond to North Woolwich) or taking a train to Woolwich Arsenal and then walking under the river or taking the free ferry to North Woolwich. Transport in the whole docklands area has certainly improved since then, with the Jubilee Line extended to Stratford and the DLR. Even the bus services are generally better.

Although shipping into the Royals had stopped, the two eastern docks – Albert and George V – were still mainly fenced off with gates closed and security men at the main gatehouse, with a few small businesses still operating on the site. So although I could take some pictures around them – and in an area close to the dock entrance where some of the fences had gone, I had to write to the PLA and ask for access to take photographs, getting permission to work on the site for two days. (To the west the Royal Victoria was privately owned and I was unable to get inside.)

© Peter Marshall, 1984
King George V Dock, 1984

It was a strange feeling, wandering around the largely empty dockside, the only person in a vast area full of semi-derelict buildings. There were still a few signs of life, with washing drying on one small vessel and a car parked outside a small office at one edge of the site – and another small business stil operating in one corner of the site. And one solitary rower training on the mile and a quarter of open water in the Royal Albert – other than him I saw only one other person during two days there. As I wandered around, there were many signs of those who had worked there, particularly the Lascar seamen who, according to  FamilySearchmade up perhaps 20 percent of the British maritime labor force in the early 20th century, with their total exceeding 26 percent by 1938.”

© Peter Marshall, 2009
Ashura procession, London, 2009

From various largely Muslim areas of India, Pakistan and other points east, they crewed many of the engine rooms, galleys and other areas of British ships, and when in docks such as the Royals continued their religious celebrations. On what our dockers referred to as ‘Hobson-Jobson days’, the held religious processions inside the docks. The name, best known as the title of the Anglo-Indian lexicon by Yule and Burnell produced in the 1870s, came from the British soldier’s version of the cry ‘Ya Hasan! Ya Husayn!’ (O Hassan! O Husain!) in the annual Shi’ite Ashura processions mourning the killing of Imam Husain in the Karbala massacre of 680 AD.

© Peter Marshall, 1984
King George V Dock, 1984

The planning enquiry into the building of London City airport had already begun, and demolition on the site for it started not long after I took my pictures, with the airport opening around 3 years later. For noise reasons it was allowed on the basis it would be usede by a very limited service of special planes that could take off and land at a steep angle, but a dozen years later the airport operators got permission to extend the runway to allow a wider range of planes to use it, and more recently part of the airport has been extended over the water of King George dock to enable even more flights and greater noise and pollution for the many residents in the surrouding areas of London. Like Heathrow, it’s an airport that was allowed in the wrong place and has grown by a process of deliberate misleading of the public and authorities. Like Heathrow further expansion is impractical. Unlike Heathrow it has a reputation for being a good place to travel from.

© Peter Marshall, 1984
King George V Dock, 1984

Some of the smaller offices and other buildings had been left as if those working there had just gone out to lunch, with part drunk cups of tea, the odd coat hanging on a peg, and paperwork and rubber stamps on the desks. There were notices and posters still on the wall, along with the odd drawing and fading pictures from pornographic magazines.

© Peter Marshall, 1984
King George V Dock, 1984

This is a project I’ve shown little work from over the years, partly because I had great problems printing some of the images, but more because I moved on to other things. I hope shortly to bring out a body of the work in another book, and possibly also on the web.



Saturday, March 9th, 2013

An interesting interview in Mother Jones Never Before Seen Photos From Legendary Street Photographer Garry Winogrand with Mark Murrmann talking to Ted Pushinsky, a San Francisco street photographer who got to know Winogrand in his later years and at times drove him around Los Angeles as he hung out of the car window taking pictures, as well as walking the streets with him.

And I think there are eight or nine of the “never before seen” photographs that I’ve never seen before, though they do include one or two I never want to see again and which I don’t think do anything to enhance Winogrand’s reputation. It’s good to hear of a new show, but I’m not sure it will add much to the 1988 MoMA show – and you can see some of his work in their collection. There is a good selection of links on American Suburb X,  and pictures at various galleries including Kopeikin and Fraenkel.

More about the new retrospective show – the first for 25 years – which opens at SFMOMA today and continues until 02 June 2013 (press release here) and later travels to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (March 2 – June 8, 2014); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 27 – September 21, 2014); the Jeu de Paume, Paris (October 14, 2014 – January 25, 2015); and the Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid (March 3 through May 10, 2015).

What a shame that London apparently has no gallery interested enough in photography (or considered important enough) to put it on here!

Bill Wood’s Fort Worth

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Thanks to a Facebook link by Rina Sherman for reminding me of the work of Bill Wood Jr (1913-73), a commercial photographer in Fort Worth Texas from 1937 to 1970 when he retired because of ill health. Most of the pictures in the collection that was bought by actress Diane Keaton, who has a great passion for photography, date from the 1950s on, when Fort Worth was a rapidly expanding city, and Wood provided the images that represented the new citizens as they wanted to be seen.

I don’t know how representative the book and show at the ICP in 2008 was of his work as a whole; a search in the ICP collection on his name brings up 348 objects, most of which are photographs by Wood, and most of which have an image on line. Although not all have a great interest, they are almost all carefully composed, straightforward images, clearly made for a particular purpose by a skilled craftsman.  He wasn’t a photographer who took a huge number of pictures, and only made photographs for his clients, usually taking only a single or small number of exposures. The 10,000 negatives in the collection that Keaton bought are mainly from the 1950s and 1960s, and represent only an average of 500 pictures for a year – less than many photographers now take in a day. Even in the days of film, when Winogrand went to make a very different view of Fort Worth, he probably took more pictures in a few weeks than Wood in a lifetime.

There are pictures here that could well be mistaken – seen out of context – for the work of one of the photographers of the ‘New Topographic’ school, many of whom worked in similar environments on the outskirts of other US cities. And sometimes reminders of images by other well-known post-war photographers who worked in America, though Wood’s viewpoint is a very different one from any of these photographers.

You can hear Keaton and fellow curator Marvin Heiferman talking about the work on a Studio 360 public radio broadcast from 2008, and there are a number of reviews of the show and book online, including one by Ken Johnson in the New York Times and Melanie McWhorter in Fraction Magazine. There is also an article in North Texas’s Art&Seek, which includes the Pontiac/Kleenex image mentioned in the radio discussion.


Thursday, March 7th, 2013

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Perhaps the most surprising thing about my visit to Uxbridge to photograph Hillingdon Marches Against Cuts on the last evening of February were my bus journeys.

Uxbridge isn’t far from where I live, both towns on the edges of Middlesex, around 8 miles in a straight line, and perhaps 11 on a bicycle. If you’ve a half day to spare, and don’t mind some rough tracks you can even do it on a fairly pleasant and virtually traffic free route using local footpaths and just the odd bit of road to get to the canal tow-path that takes you there.

I’ve cycled it many times in the past by a more direct route, which takes you along some of the most dangerous roads and junctions for cyclists in the country, heavy with traffic to and from Heathrow, full of drivers more worried about catching planes or suffering the effects of jet-lag, and engineered without the slightest thought of cycle safety. If I’d been going for a daytime event I’d probably have done it again for this event, though I’ve never found a very good way to carry a heavy camera bag on my bike.

Public transport around London concentrates on going in and out of London, routes like spokes of a wheel from centre to periphery. Even more local routes tend to follow a part of this pattern. Drivers at least have the M25 that takes you around – and with its aid can make this journey in around 20 minutes on a good day, though often it takes rather longer. It took me careful planning and three buses and around an hour and a half from my door to where the protest was gathering.

But at least there was a protest to report on once I’d arrived, perhaps a little over fifty people going to lobby outside the London Borough of Hillingdon council meeting. It’s not particularly unusual to turn up to cover events to find nobody there at all, or just one or two people, and nothing to write about or photograph.

Again it was just getting dark as the protest gathered, and I was able to photograph at ISO 3200 with the fading daylight and a little help from fairly bright street lighting and shop windows in the broad pedestrian area. Although I now have three working i-TTL flash units – two SB800s repaired recently by Nikon and a Nissan unit – there is a limit to how much I can carry or work with around my neck, and I’ve decided I can only work with one flash for the normal two cameras I work with. Usually I put that on the D800 with the 18-105mm DX lens as I can work with slower shutter speeds with the wide angle 16-35mm on the D700, and then occasionally swap it on to the D700.

I’ve never quite worked out how flash is meant to work on the Nikons, and occasionally it seems to have a mind of its own, with random highly over-exposed frames, or refusing to allow the camera to set a shutter speed above 1/60 second despite being able to sync at much higher speeds. There are times when almost every setting on the camera or flash appears to interact in some strange way to stop me doing what I want. At one point I simply had to stop taking pictures, turn off flash and camera and try and set everything back to my normal starting settings. I’m still not sure if it was me or the electronics that have become confused beyond use. But Nikon do seem to have built some assumptions into the flash system that are not designed to work the way I work. And it would be nice to be able to set whatever aperture and shutter speed I like when working with the camera in manual exposure mode and then have the flash do its best to provide the appropriate light output in TTL mode, at least so long as the speed was within the sync range.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

But though I curse about it and am often confused by it, flash does occasionally come up with the results, often when I least expect it. I didn’t have any time to think about this image, just saw it out of the corner of my eye and swivelled around and pressed the shutter. Of course the face and fluorescent jerkin were far to bright and needed considerable burning (and possibly I could do it a little more carefully than in the on-line version) but for me it is a powerful image of an independent spirit.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

At least using flash you have a sensible colour temperature to work with, even if the auto white balance hasn’t quite done the job and my tweaking isn’t perfect in some of the results. Outside the Civic Centre it was rather like working in a black hole, and what little light there was seemed to be from sources that were rather deficient in some colours, with the results looking unnatural whatever combination of  colour temperature and tone I selected.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

I’d spent a lot of time working out the bus journey to Uxbridge, as there were perhaps a dozen different possible bus routes to take into consideration, and had decided it wasn’t worth trying to plan ahead for the journey home as I didn’t know what time I would finish. Uxbridge is in Greater London that has decent bus services, but I live in the outer regions of Surrey where they seldom venture at nights. A bus came just as I was getting to the stop and I had to run a few steps to get on it. I leafed through the bus timetable booklet sitting on the bus, and came to the conclusion I would have a long wait for a connection on the route I’d thought I would take, and it was worth trying another of the many combinations, and I got off earlier than planned to change buses. I was lucky and next connection – still a Greater London service – came within a minute. And at the next stop – Heathrow Terminal 5 – my local bus home came in as soon as I’d walked the few yards along to the right stop. Despite it taking its usual magical mystery tour around the local area, I was back faster than possible according to the timetables – and faster than I would have cycled.