Archive for May, 2013

Heiferman on Winogrand and Editing

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

I think probably there has been more nonsense written about Garry Winogrand than most well-known photographers, but the Lens blog Garry Winogrand – Nonstop and Unedited by Martin Heiferman posted last week is worth reading.

Editing is a problem we all have, and increasingly so in the digital age as Heiferman notes, although there are some ways in which digital makes editing easier. Certainly there is no longer the peering  though a magnifier we had to spend so long doing – either at negatives or contact sheets, though the 4x Ohnar loupe still at my right elbow. It still costs almost the same as I paid for mine many years ago – around £70, and if you work with 35mm film you should have one. Or you can pay several hundred for one that is about as good!

Although many (including myself) have commented on Winogrand’s gargantuan appetite for film, looking at it now it perhaps doesn’t seem so excessive. Looking behind me at the file upon file of my own negatives I didn’t quite equal his volume, but was beginning to get there – and when I look back on much of the work I am usually surprised to see how little I took – and the opportunities I missed. I haven’t checked the maths, but one of the comments equates his output to a couple of 36x cassettes a day – and I think surely it must have been more. And having spent over 10 years working with digital, I have a suspicion I may now have overtaken the master in sheer quantity! The last time I checked the number of images on My London Diary it was over 60,000, and typically I post less than 1 in 10 of the pictures I take there – that’s ‘3 per film’ in old money. Although I definitely take more pictures on digital than I ever did on film (probably around 4 times as many on a typical day) I think digital has enabled me to work more carefully rather than as usually suggested encouraging sloppy image-making.

Looking back at my old work on film – something I’ve only done systematically for my work up to 1985 at the moment is interesting, and I find that much of the work that interests me most now is the more straightforward images – some of which might be dismissed as ‘record’ images (and are by at least one of my photographer friends.)  But then I think one of my great photographic heroes – Walker Evans – was very much a maker of ‘record’ images.

Incidentally one of the comments includes a link that didn’t work for me (but was fairly easy to find here) in which Norman Bringsjord shares his memories of workshops with both Winogrand and Diane Arbus.

The Lens post also has a good selection of 20 images by Winogrand that I think includes some of his best images. Winogrand hasn’t I think always been well-served by leaving the editing to others, but at least here they have made a decent stab at it. I’m still trying to find the time and energy to lift, let alone read, the vast book on him that accompanies the SFMoMA show, which closes June 2.

Cleaners Visit Canary Wharf

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Cleaners’ leader Alberto Durango in front of Clifford Chance – a portrait format might have worked better?

I was a little worried at the prospect of photographing the cleaners protest at Canary Wharf. It’s one of these large private estates complete with its own law force who dress in a way that might get anyone else arrested for impersonating a police officer, and one with a record for harassing photographers.

My own problems there go way back, with various arguments with security while the site was being redeveloped when I would find myself arguing with security men. Then I was usually able to remind them I was standing on the public highway and had a right to take photographs if I wanted, and would suggest they called the police if they had a problem with that. But now, the whole Canary Wharf estate is private property – including the highways – and you have no legal right to take pictures.

I’ve twice had problems with taking pictures there more recently. Once when I was photographing a war memorial hidden away on one of the dockside walkways and they thought I must be planning some kind of robbery (they’d never noticed the memorial) and another time when I tried to photograph a bunch of security men beating up a drunk who they’d thrown out of one of the bars. But although I’ve heard many stories of other photographers getting stopped, I’ve also taken students there and run a couple of photo workshops in the past without permission – and on rather more occasions walked around myself taking photographs without getting bothered – as do many tourists every day. Generally if you don’t go into unusual places or use a tripod and keep a fairly low profile they don’t seem to bother you.

Protest is also banned at Canary Wharf. So the cleaners’ action hadn’t been advertised in advance outside their group, and phone calls to a few photographers and videographers the group trusted had told us where they would meet up to travel to the protest.

I was only slightly worried. The worst I expected was to be escorted off the premises, so there was just a chance it would be a waste of time. In the event I had no problems at all and the whole thing went very smoothly, as you can see from the pictures at Cleaners at Clifford Chance.

There was a fairly intense confrontation between the cleaners and the man at the right, who I think is Canary Wharf’s Head of Security. I’d photographed him before in 2007 when the Space Hijackers held their ‘Suited & Booted’ May Day party there. But neither then or on this occasion was I asked to stop taking pictures or to leave. And as you can see from this extreme wide-angle image I was very close to him.

I think the rules are generally simple. Even on private land you can take pictures, but if requested by the owner or a representative of the owner of the land to stop you should do so. I would only defy such a request if there was a clear public interest involved that I felt obliged me to do so – for example to secure evidence of a crime being committed. But any pictures that I take before being asked to stop can’t be required to delete and can use.

It was important to get the name ‘Clifford Chance’ as well as some of the protesters

When the cleaners went into the building I went in with them. Had anyone tried to stop me I would have stopped, and if I was asked to leave I would leave. But no one asked me. They did ask the cleaners, and when after a short delay they left, I left with them. But events like this are certainly ones I would be doubtful about photographing without a UK Press Card.

The cleaners had been briefed before the protest about how they should behave, and they were better briefed than some of the security staff who did at times start pushing people around. The cleaners made a lot of noise, made their point clear, showed they were angry but kept calm and simply shouted when a woman was hit, telling the security they had no right to do that.

Alberto Durango speaks at the end of the protest as security look on

The Head of Security did quite a bit of shouting and pointing, some of which you can see in my pictures, but eventually saw and talked sense, telling the protesters they had to leave. Fine, said the protesters, we’ll finish our protest and then leave. It ended with a row of security men across the front of the building, standing back and watching the protest for a few minutes before they marched away for a short meeting close to the tube station entrance before going down the stairs into the station.

Photographically there were few problems, with largely good light with a lot reflected into the shadows from the tall glass-sided buildings. I didn’t need fill flash most of the time, which was just as well as when I tried it, I couldn’t get the exposure right, with burnt out highlights. It was only a problem as the cleaners marched away, with a fairly low sun right behind them – so there are no pictures from this short part of the protest in Cleaners at Clifford Chance. It wasn’t a great problem. Later, as I described in Too Much Control? I found the problem – an incorrect setting for Custom Setting e1, the flash synch speed.


Estuary Images

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Estuary,  an exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary of the Museum of London Docklands, is at the museum of West India Quay, a short walk from Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands from 17 May – 27 October 2013. The show “brings together the work of 12 artists who have been inspired by the outer limits of the Thames where the river becomes the sea.”

West India Quay in 1984

With its dramatic landscape – desolate mudflats and saltmarshes, vast open skies, container ports, power stations and seaside resorts – the Estuary has long been a rich source of inspiration for artists and writers. Through film, photography, painting and printmaking, the contemporary artists featured in this exhibition offer new insight into this often overlooked, yet utterly compelling, environment and the people that live and work there.”

The 12 art works featured in the show are:

Thames Film, William Raban
Seafort Project, Stephen Turner
Thames Painting: The Estuary and Study for The Estuary, Michael Andrews
Purfleet: from Dracula’s Garden and Dagenham, Jock McFadyen
Horizon (Five Pounds a Belgian), John Smith
Southend Pier 2011, from the series Pierdom, Simon Roberts
Medway, Christiane Baumgartner
51º 29′.9″ North – 0º11′ East, Rainham Barges, Bow Gamelan Ensemble
The Golden Tide, Gayle Chong Kwan
Jaunt, Andrew Kötting
Thames Gateway, Peter Marshall
A new film commission by Nikolaj Larsen

West Thurrock #1, 2005

and I’m very pleased to be there. I’ve not yet seen the show, but I’m told that the pictures of mine in it are:

  •  New Housing Estate at Northfleet, close to Ebbsfleet station
  •  View towards Dartford Bridge from Mill Lane, Chafford Hundred
  •  Tilbury Docks viewed from a Thames footpath
  • Gravesend and Northfleet Football Club, seen from Stonebrige Road, Northfleet
  • View of the Thames and Tilbury Docks from Northfleet Cement Works
  • Tilbury Docks
  •  Motorway and rail links, West Thurrock
  • Crossness Sludge incinerator
  • Old Sun Wharf, Rosherville
  • Swanscombe Marshes.

several of which were in my recent book, Thamesgate Panoramas, and more are on the Urban Landscape web site, either in my Thames Gateway (Essex) or Thames Gateway (Kent) project pages, although the titles are different.

The Shore, Northfleet

My prints in the show are from my work the Museum of London collection and they have added rather more descriptive (and sometimes more accurate) titles to some of the work, as well as making archival inkjet prints from the digital files I supplied. I went in to see these when they were printed and was very satisfied with the quality. You can see all the works by a search in the Museum of London collections on-line by using the titles above, or a search on my name (Marshall, Peter) will show almost all of my works held by the museum.

It’s interesting to have work in a show with a mixture of different art forms like this, and I’m pleased to be shown in such distinguished company.


In a Photographer’s Footsteps

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Although the current series on BBC Radio 4 In a Prince’s Footsteps narrated by former hostage John McCarthy is interesting, its title and the description “John McCarthy revisits sites of the Prince of Wales’s photographic tour of 1862” rather annoy me. The important footsteps (and tripod holes) are not those of some royal prince (later better known as King Edward VII) but of photographer Francis Bedford (1816-94.)

I’m not sure how long the series of broadcasts and the image galleries that accompany them will remain on the BBC web site – and John McCarthy found some interesting people to talk with – but the Prince’s diary – which he wrote apparently in his own hand (perhaps unlike the current incumbent he actually put his own toothpaste on as well) is available in full at the Royal Collection, which also has a transcription of the pages – just as well as his handwriting would not get a gold star.

The Royal Collection entitles its exhibition more sensibly Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East, and the show continues at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh until 21 July 2013, coming to the The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace at the end of October 2014. Birmingham Library and Archive Services bought a set of these pictures a couple of years ago, and used some large version on the hoardings around the Library which was being built in Centenary Square which opens in September, and he is likely to have a major show there later – doubtless cheaper to view than in the Queens Gallery. As well as the 172 pictures from this tour they have a very large collection of 2700 glass negatives and 2049 prints by him, mostly architectural and topographical views of Great Britain in the 1970s.

Francis Bedford was the first photographer to travel on a Royal tour, and afterwards the work he took was shown in what was then described “as ‘the most important photographic exhibition that has hitherto been placed before the public’.” It was certainly work that altered ideas about the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular, and led many to follow the photographer’s example and visit these lands.

Being a Royal photographer was clearly rather different in those days, and Bedford wasn’t a press photographer but a particularly fine photographer of landscape and architecture. On the tour he had to work under difficult conditions, with at times high temperatures making the wet plate process almost unbearable to perform. The photographs are well reproduced on the site, with links to his other works in the Royal collection and a handy ‘zoom’ function to see details.

Victoria and Albert had a great interest in photography, and built up a fine collection of Victorian images. I don’t think the tradition has really been carried forward, although the current monarch has a specially monogrammed Leica M6 and almost certainly used it at times. The Duke of Edinburgh used to take pictures of birds from the royal yacht with a Hassleblad and a 250mm f4 lens, as well as a using a Minox, and although I’ve never seen it’ his 1962 ‘Birds from Brittania’ (published in the US as ‘Seabirds from Southern Waters’ and still cheap secondhand) apparently shows that either he or his valet could use it! The Minox is presumably the gold-plated version the company presented him with in 1965.

You can read more about Francis Bedford – and see more pictures – in a lengthy article by William S. Johnson.


May Day Rally

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Not all of those who go on the May Day March stay for the rally, and numbers drop off fairly rapidly after the start. I’ve not always bothered with it myself, and marching a couple of miles does tend to develop a thirst for something other than standing around listening to speeches. Not that there were not some rousing speeches, but there was little novelty and it was preaching to the converted.

At the start there was the usual rush by protesters to take their flags and banners onto the plinth below Nelson, and this year there seemed to be an extra horde of photographers as well. The stewards started late to control access by the steps, but the plinth is too low for this to be effective, at least for the young and active, and even I can struggle my way up if I really have to, putting my cameras and bag up first and then scrambling after.  It’s something I try to avoid, particularly since I managed to injure a knee carefully (I thought) dropping down to the ground eight years ago. At the time I hardly noticed the jolt, but by the time I arrived home an hour or so later I could hardly walk – and it was a couple of weeks before I could work again, and several months before I could walk without any pain.

For a while there were so many people and so many banners that it was almost impossible to work, but eventually the stewards got them sorted out to leave space in front for the speeches and just about for us photographers. The ideal position for photographing the speakers there would be levitating in mid-air above the square – but failing that there are two choices – either to work from the platform to one side or to stand at ground level and look up at them. Usually I take the second alternative, but today I kept at platform level. If only the put the microphone a couple of feet back it would be much better, though as you can see I was able to get slightly in front of the speakers without falling off the plinth – though I was just a little worried I might get pushed off the edge by accident – or get so engrossed in taking pictures that I forgot where I was and just moved a little to my right…  Photographers have died falling off cliffs trying to get the composition right!

Probably the best pictures of the speakers are of them waiting to speak. Len McCluskey was in front of a Trade Union banner with the message ‘Trade Union Rights Are Human Rights’ and looking just a little sinister in dark glasses, which reflected the scene in  the square in front.

But  even with the 75-300 I couldn’t see the reflection well enough – it was better with NUT General Secretary Christine Blower who turned slightly towards me so that I could see the National Gallery in her glasses.  McCluskey took his glasses off to speak, but the sun coming from behind him made pictures a little tricky.

After his speech I decided it was time to get down, and I photographed MP Jeremy Corbyn as a groundling, when the 75-300 really made a difference compared to my normal 18-105mm. The image below was taken at 210mm (315mm equiv) with the sunlight just coming over his left shoulder, and most of his face in shadow. As usual he gave a fine speech, but is often a tricky subject to photograph, not least because he tends to close his eyes when speaking.

The march banner, with its deep red I thought made a good background. Despite being a cheap lens, the Nikon 70-300 is remarkably good, especially when used on the DX format, although above the focal length I used here it does get a little soft.  It’s also small and light for what it offers – and the f4-5.6 aperture is fast enough given the high ISO performance of the D800E.  I could easily have taken this image at ISO200, but there seems little reason for most purposes ever to use the camera below the ISO640 I had set for this day.  The aperture in use was probably unnecessarily small at f13, though I wanted to be sure all of Jeremy was sharp, and their isn’t a great depth of field at 315mm equiv, and it still gave me a shutter speed roughly twice as fast as the 1/focal length rule suggests necessary, at 1/640.

The 1/f rule is still one I find useful, even though most of my lenses – but not the 75-300 – now have image stabilisation. And the focal length I use is not the actual focal length but the 35mm equivalent. It still seems to be a useful guide, though I often use slower speeds, either by design or by accident.

I didn’t stay until the end – and nor had most of the marchers, with Trafalgar Square beginning to look rather empty by the half way mark. I couldn’t help thinking we were supposed to be celebrating and it didn’t look or feel much like it. Perhaps we should have had some socialist maypole dancing. In clogs?

More pictures at TUC May Day Rally.

Stalin and May Day

Monday, May 13th, 2013

I’m not a fan of Joseph Stalin, though my earliest clear memory related to international events was the death of ‘Uncle Joe’ in 1953 when I was still in short trousers. Back then there were still many with fond memories of the man who had led his country in the fight against Hitler, if only after the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.  Back then we remembered that Germany had lost the war in Russia and were prepared to overlook the purges, the details of which were then only dimly known.

Another event I dimly remember – it happened during my first year in secondary school – was the Hungarian Uprising three years later.  Its crushing suppression caused a re-assessment on the left with communist intellectuals criticising the Soviet actions and at the same time repudiating Stalin. Since then he has had few defenders here.

But elsewhere in many countries Stalin remained in the pantheon of the great communist leaders,  and London gets an annual reminder of this in the May Day celebrations, although I’m pleased to say that although present, Stalin seemed to be a little less at the forefront than in previous years. Here in the UK, the left have never really celebrated International Workers Day in more than a half-heated manner. The May bank holiday – not on May Day but on the first Monday in May – is a demonstration of this, and any May Day events tend to be held neither on May 1 or the Bank Holiday, but on the Saturday preceding the Monday. On May 1, we work as normal, not even wearing a sprig of Lily of the Valley or some other symbol.

But for those not at work on May 1, there is a London May Day March, organised by a London May Day Organising Committee. I’m unclear when it started but it was certainly around in the mid-80s, when it went to Wapping. Although it is “a unique bringing together of trade unionists, workers from the many international communities in London, pensioners, anti-globalisation organisations, students, political bodies and many others in a show of working class unity”, the event is visually dominated by groups from London’s international communities, some of whom still march behind banners including the face of Stalin, along with the rather small but active Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).

Although a giant image of Stalin rather sends a shiver down my spine – and I think personality cults are always a bad thing, though perhaps less so when personalities are dead rather than alive – it’s hard not to be stirred by the enthusiasm and determination of these international groups. Although some on the left have been very critical about their domination of the event, they only do so because in general the British left can’t really be bothered. There are a few stalwarts carrying the union banners, a few trade unionists and Labour MPs who come to speak – and good for them, but where are the rest? Either at work or in front of a computer screen posting put-downs on socialist and anarchist forums.

If we really celebrated International Workers Day, it wouldn’t perhaps greatly change the world, but already the relatively small London March brings a large part of London to a standstill despite the media entirely failing to report it. Perhaps if the TUC and the Labour Party and all the rest got behind it at least it would get a mention in the press who could no longer concentrate on privileged college choirs singing madrigals and the Obby-Oss. Though it would also be good to regain more of our traditional merry-making and mayhem which the Puritans put an end to.

Abdullah Ocalan was rather more in evidence on the march than Stalin

Redhack started years before Anonymous

More pictures at London May Day March.

April Roundup

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The last few days of April were busy ones for me, and it was hard to keep up with putting work on-line on my own site – hard at times to keep up with sending them to Demotix and elsewhere in the hope of sales. More hope than reality as the media move increasingly away from real news towards the manufacture of celebrity – and increasingly pay pennies rather than pounds.  And now I’m struggling with events from May, though I’m trying to take things a little easier.

Stoke Poges Walk

Ten Years of Genocide in Darfur

London Invaded by Sci-Fi Fantasy
Iranian Greens May Day Protest
Workers Memorial Day

Hizb ut-Tahrir protest Bangladeshi Regime
Lonely Vigil at US Embassy

Save Ealing Hospital & the NHS
March of the Beekeepers
Get Britain Cycling Report Launch
UK herbalists Want Regulations
Gurkhas Call for equal treatment
Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet
Bring Shaker Aamer Home
Protest the Privatisation of NHS

Stand Off at Venezuelan Embassy
Copts Say End Egyptian Persecution
Armenians Remember the Genocide
Supreme Court Nyamgiri Decision
G4S – Palestinian Prisoners Day
Don’t Hang Prof Bhullar
Outlaw Caste Discrimination
Release Palestinian Prisoners
Who wants to evict a Millionaire?
‘3 Cosas’ -Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions
Feathers Fly in Trafalgar Square
PMOI Protest Iraqi killings
No to Bedroom Tax & Benefit Caps
Vaisakhi “Save a Live” Vigil
Thames Path: Cricklade to the Source
Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade

Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot
Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident


Fred Herzog

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

One of the shows I went to a while ago but never got around to reviewing was
Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour which was the inaugural show by the Positive View Foundation at Somerset House over the Christmas period. In part I didn’t review it because I wasn’t at all convinced by it as a show; it seemed a particularly sloppy piece of curating, a rag-bag of colour photography around a less than threadbare conceit. But among the work by 15 photographers on show, there was some of particular interest, particularly by Saul Leiter, Helen Levitt, Alex Webb and someone rather less well-known to me, Fred Herzog.

Herzog was born in 1930 in Germany, where he grew up and life was pretty tough during the war and afterwards. In 1952, having become a photographer, he emigrated to Canada, settling shortly afterwards in Toronto, where he worked as a medical photographer. In his spare time he walked the city taking pictures, using Kodachrome. Although his work was included in a few mainly group shows in Toronto over the years, it was only in 2008 following a show at the Equinox Gallery the previous year that it really began to reach a wider audience around the world.

Part of the reason it didn’t become known earlier was technical. It was difficult – and expensive – to make good prints from Kodachrome, so it was hard for him to show his work. Cibachrome was the first really practical direct printmaking process from slides, and it wasn’t ideal with its high contrast added to the already high contrast of Kodachrome favouring extreme impact at the expense of subtlety. Getting truly good prints needed expensive masking or laser scanning, and it was only with the advent of high quality inkjet printing from digital scans that making good and decently archival prints from Kodachrome became reasonably cheap. And it is these inkjet prints that have made Herzog’s work available to a wider audience.

Herzog’s work interests me both because of the subjects he took but also because it shows that – like I think ther work of many other photographers – there was interesting work in colour before colour was discovered by the art photography industry in the 1970s and 80s.  Photographers who were using colour not because it was saleable and could be shown in museums and galleries, but because of their interest in recording life in colour. We now know of Herzog, but I’m sure he is the iceberg tip.

There is also an individuality about his work. Unlike that of another recently discovered ‘unknown’ photographer I don’t look at his pictures and immediately think of the work that other photographers had made earlier and disseminated widely. Herzog was making his own history, not just repeating – however well – what he had appreciated in the work of others.

You can read more about him – and about the controversy that arouse over his views about the Nazi holocaust in a couple of features, Marsha Lederman’s The collision: Fred Herzog, the Holocaust and me  in the Vancouver Globe and Mail, and Timothy Tailor’s The Way Things Are: Fred Herzog’s Art of Observation in Canadian Art.

Photoshop in the Clouds?

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Adobe have just e-mailed me with a special offer of “an amazing discount – just £17.58 (incl. VAT)/month” for their annual Creative Cloud complete plan membership. Apart from the small fact that I’m not actually eligible for this special offer – as the company’s own records should have told them – I wouldn’t in any case want to take up their offer. £211 a year is several times too much.

If you been away from the web for a few days you may not have heard of Adobe’s decision announce May 7 to end selling Photoshop CS6 and other Creative Suite products, instead moving to a monthly subscription model with what they call Creative Cloud or ‘CC’ software.

You can read more about it all over the web, but there is a useful interview on Digital Photography Review that gives Adobe’s reaction to the uproar that the announcement has sparked.

Perhaps of most importance to photographers is the statement “We don’t have plans to make Lightroom a subscription-only option“, though perhaps less reassuringly it continues “but we do envision added functionality for CC members using Lightroom.” To keep LR going, Adobe will of course need to add support for new cameras as they emerge; for users of PS6 such updates are in doubt after the already promised ACR8 in June. Lightroom 5 Beta, available for free download, adds some useful features, though I can wait until the full program becomes available. But to keep their income coming in, Adobe will need to add new features to LR with each release, making Photoshop itself less of a need. But the statement above suggests they will hobble it.

I use several Adobe products, but for different purposes, and the only one which I’ve felt a need to keep updating to the current release is Lightroom. The latest version of Photoshop I have is CS2, but I normally work with the older Photoshop 7 – I’ve got used to it over the years and it still does all I need. I used to be happy with Adobe Pagemaker too, but had to upgrade to InDesign 5.5 a while back. It is a better program, but Pagemaker was easier to use and did all I needed but others could no longer use the files it produced.

There really is very little that most photographers need that is only available in Photoshop, and I think only the rich and corporate will bother to move to CC. It’s long been a problem for Adobe that a rather large proportion of photographers who use Photoshop don’t actually have a valid licence, and a large part of the reason for this has been the high cost of the software. I can’t see that increasing the price – as CC does – is going to help them. But it won’t greatly affect me either.

As well as Lightroom – which I think can do at least 99% of what most digital photographers need from software like Photoshop and rather more in other ways – Adobe will also be continuing with Photoshop Elements, probably capable of doing all of the things that most photographers currently use full Photoshop for. Often using PS rather than Elements is more a virility rather than a functionality issue. I’m told the latest version has a choice of a better interface for professional use, but haven’t tried it.

And of course there are other image editors outside Adobe, including Picture Window Pro and  Sagelight at relatively low cost, and even free software, including the GIMP. I used earlier versions of PWP and the GIMP but never quite got to grips with them, perhaps because I was so used to Photoshop, though in some respects PWP was impressive. And unlike some photographers (and perhaps more editors) I don’t believe Adobe have some special magic that gives their jpegs something those from other software don’t possess.

Until recently I worked exclusively with Photoshop on my scans from film, but a few months ago changed over to using Lightroom. Both my two most recent books, London Dérives and City to Blackwall, have been made from a Lightroom catalogue containing my 16bit archive scans. I use ‘Ctrl-E’ from LR and load the original scanned image into PS7, then spend ages retouching and adjusting before saving it and returning to LR. I then make any other basic adjustments necessary, as well as any dodging or burning that I had not done in PS – some things are easier in LR – and then output to the book directory using my book preset. Of course I can use any of my other LR presets to output the image, such as my web one which makes a suitable size copy with a copyright watermark, for those pictures I want to include on this blog or elsewhere. I could even make books direct from LR (and LR5 offers more templates etc) but I prefer the extra flexibility of using my own designs and better text handling of InDesign.

Adobe have a full place in my current workflow, and I hope this will continue. I’ll upgrade when there is real advantage to me, or when it is absolutely necessary, but I don’t think it is ever likely to involve a CC subscription


Thursday, May 9th, 2013

The trouble with bees is that they are dying, which is a disaster for us all, but also on a more trivial level that they seem unavoidably to lead to bad puns. On the morning of Friday 26th April I sat at my computer and began to type in a status update, ‘To Bee or not to Bee...’ but I think (and hope) that I came to a decision, jumped up, grabbed my camera bag and headed to the station on my way to Westminster before I pressed the enter key.

Part of the reason why I’d been in two minds whether to go had been the huge publicity about the issue, with mentions in the daily papers and that morning on Today programme and Radio 4 news; I didn’t know if it was going to be a very big protest, but I was sure the media would be swarming over it.

My indecision meant I missed my first train (not really the first, but the first without taking out a mortgage for the ticket) as well as the next slow service, and got to Parliament Square half an hour later than if I’d not prevaricated, and had missed the first 15 or so minutes of the photo-call. I’d been right about the media scrum, with almost as many photographers and videographers as people taking part in the protest.

As usual, the picture that almost everyone was trying to take – in a line 3 or 4 deep – wasn’t of great interest – a big crowd behind the main ‘March of the Beekeepers‘ banner and behind that Big Ben, but I took a couple of frames just because it was there when I arrived, before moving away and into the crowd to find something more of interest. I tried to make use of the many placards close together, with glimpses of that clock tower between the placards, and concentrated on single people or small groups in the foreground, particularly those who had gone to some trouble with flowers or bee-keeping clothing.

Just how much Big Ben do you need in a picture?

Perhaps this much?

After a while I got fed up with the big clock, and tried playing with hiding it or almost hiding it, and then tried to forget it and concentrate on the people and their costumes and props. There was a group in full bee suits, but somehow I couldn’t quite get to grips with them – the costumes were just too overpowering.

I made one picture playing with Big Ben that I did rather like, where I was able to use several circular shapes in the image of a woman in a bee costume playing a tenor sax. It wasn’t entirely straightforward because she was swaying around as she played, but I was able to frame the clock in the bend at the neck of the instrument, with one of the two balls on springs on the top of her head in the sky just to the left of the spire and the bell of the sax (elliptical rather than circular) at the bottom right of the image. Looking at if afterwards I wasn’t sure if I should have framed it a little wider to get the ball on the second of her antennae in the image as well, rather than choosing to cut off the image at the top of the bell tower (which also has a tiny ball.)

By now I’d realised that there were several celebrities present, though I hadn’t recognised them including fashion designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett. But Katharine Hamnett was carrying the box containing the petition, a yellow box labelled ‘SAVE THE BEES’ and they were on their way to Downing St to hand it in.

Now we were in a position for one of those familiar arguments between those photographers who want to get in close and those who keep saying “lets go back, guys, so we can get a long shot.”  This got a little more acrimonious than usual when one very young lady, I think still a student, called a highly respected press photographer easily old enough to be her father, a “dirty pap“.  Anyway while the argument was continuing – and I couldn’t move back because my way was blocked by the photographers behind, I got in close to get the image I wanted, with a great feeling of movement and a four nicely placed bees, as well as the petition and the two designers with people in bee veils behind them. When I could manage to move back so that anyone who wanted a long shot had a clearer view –  a TV crew  jumped in the gap holding up the whole protest as well as greatly annoying the photographers. It wasn’t so much the camera but the large and hairy microphone on a boom that was really a pain for all the rest of us, and the interview completely stopped what was happening until the organisers broke in and said that they had to get on to meet their pre-arranged time at Downing St.

I didn’t bother to go inside through the security check at Downing St – things in there are seldom of great interest, although editors seem to like the boring pictures – and made my way back to Parliament Square for some more pictures of the bulk of the protesters who had stayed there while the small group went to deliver the petition.

The crowd there was getting quite animated, chanting various slogan, and there were a number of people taking videos and photographs. When one of the videographers walked in front of me, I decided it was time I moved in closer too, and did so, only to have another of them come and actually pull at on my jacket and tell me I had got in ‘his shot’. I ignored him as best I could while I finished photographing the person in front of me and then moved back.

These things often happen when a lot of people are working together, but it’s something you really just have to live with, and while most of us respond sympathetically to a polite request, grabbing people just is not acceptable. I hadn’t got in the scene he was taking on purpose – and was just as much a part of the event as whatever he was filming. This was an real event not something set up in a studio for his convenience.

More pictures at March of the Beekeepers.


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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