Archive for December, 2014

Looking Back on 2014 – Part 2

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Continuing my choice of favourite images from 2014.

It’s hard for any photographer to choose his or her best images, and impossible to really view one’s own work objectively. I can’t divorce these images from the people and events and feelings when I made them. There are also some things I photograph out of duty rather than love and which I really don’t want to remember and have avoided selecting.  So these are my personal favourites. Others might make very different choices.

In making my selection – limited to landscape format pictures for the slide show – I also decided against including the portraits of politicians and others well-known to the media, though one or two have crept in. Others who appear here are well-known to those who regularly attend protests that the media usually ignore. I also have not chosen more than a single image from any event.

Today I’m posting the images I’ve chosen from the middle of March to the early in June, in date order:

People’s Assembly Budget Day Protest – Downing St, London. Wed 19 Mar 2014

Stand Up to Racism – Westminster, London. Sat 22 Mar 2014

Teachers March on NUT Strike Day– London. Wed 26 Mar 2014

Probation Officers Strike for Justice– Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 1 Apr 2014

Axe the Bedroom Tax at One Hyde Park– One Hyde Park, London. Sat 5 Apr 2014

Bill Gates end support of Israeli child torture– Cardinal Place, Victoria, London. Thu 17 Apr 2014

G4S Occupied on Palestinian Prisoners Day– Victoria St, London. Thu 17 Apr 2014

May Day March for Bob Crow & Tony Benn– Clerkenwell, London. Thu 1 May 2014

IWGB Cleaners at Royal Opera– Covent Garden, London. Sat 3 May 2014

Support Harmondsworth Mass Hunger Strike – Harmondsworth, Middx. Mon 5 May 2014

Bin British Gas– QEII Centre, Westminster, London. Mon 12 May 2014

Save Independent Living Fund– Dept of Work & Pensions, London. Mon 12 May 2014

Gove “Read-In” protest in DfE– Department for Education, Westminster. Fri 30 May 2014

Indian Gender/Caste Violence Victims– Indian High Commission, Aldwych, London. Wed 4 Jun 2014

G4S AGM Protest Against Human Rights Abuses– Excel Centre, Victoria Dock, London. Thu 5 Jun 2014

You can find out more about the events and the people in the pictures by clicking on the links below the pictures.  As almost always on this blog you can also see the pictures a little larger by double-clicking on them when they will open on their own in this window – use the browser back button to return to this page. See below if you want to reproduce or obtain copies of any of the images.


Looking Back on 2014 – Part1

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

I don’t usually go in for reviews of the year, but I got a message a few days ago asking if I wouldn’t mind sending a selection of my favourites from the pictures I’d taken in 2014 for use on a web site slide show, and I agreed to do so.

So last night I sat down and went through my work. Until some time this year I did actually keep every picture I took – except for those obvious errors, like the many I take by accident when one camera bumps on top of the shutter release of a second, or those when I grab a camera and hit the shutter release by mistake, or those that were clearly out of focus or ten stops over or under exposed…. But this was getting to be far too much as the times got busier, I got more trigger-happy and file sizes increased to the ridiculous when I used the D800E full frame. 32Mp is great for those pictures you really need to print large, but for sending to agencies is overkill. So usually I use the D800E as a DX camera, which gives much more sensible 16Mb files. But for some purposes I need the full 32Mb and then go on to produce a 16 bit tiff file. Each pixel then needs 6 bytes, ending with 192Mb, although lossless compression can reduce this somewhat.

But dealing with large numbers of large files was slowing me down too much, as well as eating up hard disk after hard disk, and finally in October I turned over to a policy of only loading the files from any set I would be happy to publish onto the computer, and where possible weeding out duplicates and near duplicate too. I still end up with more files than I want or need, but the numbers are certainly down, with perhaps typically only a quarter of what I take making it to hard disk.

I had several arguments against this kind of editing. First that I’d never done it with film, and often when I go back to old work find that I had failed to use some of the pictures I find more interesting in retrospect. Finally I decided that this was more an argument against too tight editing rather than against editing at all.

Perhaps more important was that editing was time-consuming. But as the number of exposures increased, so was importing them all. I turned over to using FastPictureViewer Pro, a piece of software that lives up to its name. I’d tried viewing and selecting pictures from the cards in my USB3 card reader in Lightroom’s import dialogue and found that although this worked for small groups of pictures, with larger groups it soon slowed to a standstill.

FastPictureViewer takes a few seconds to load, but then lets you go through them with never a hold up, pressing the ‘K’ key for those you wish to keep. It copies them to a folder I have set up on one hard disk as an ‘Input’ folder with no hold-up to the viewing process. When I’ve been through the card or cards and selected the files, Lightroom will quickly rename and copy them according to my preset to the correct folder (and make a backup on another hard disk), much faster than working from the card. Overall there is a time saving, and the only drawback is that I have to sit there selecting the files at that point, when I often want to eat dinner before working on them. But it’s a fast process and I can wait.

So far the savings in disk space and file numbers haven’t been quite as large as I had hoped, I still tend to press the ‘k’ key rather too frequently, but I’m working on it. Over the year as a whole I covered around 360 stories, with an average of around 250 images kept for each of them, making a total of around 90,000 image files on disk (next year I  hope the average will be rather smaller.) Far too many to look through individually in any sensible amount of time – even with FastPictureViewer, which says “4,000 images per hour is is realistic, with zero upfront time.” Incidentally I don’t get free copies of software, but $50 seemed reasonable for a licence to install and use on up to 3 computers, and it can do a few more things other than simply view images, without being in any way bloated.  When I get time I may well investigate it for keywording.

So I went to the lead images of the 360 stories on My London Diary, and selected my favourites mainly from these. In some cases when I saw these I remembered I’d taken other images that I might prefer and I went and looked through the story on My London Diary. I had two rules, firstly not to select more than one image from any story, and secondly to select only landscape format images, as this was for a slide show, and vertical images don’t really fit. This was a shame as some of my favourites would undoubtedly otherwise be portrait format. And the third, slightly vaguer rule, that I would only choose images from protests.

I ended up with 69 images, which seemed to be rather too many to send, though perhaps I’ll post all or most in a series of posts here. I sent off a dozen for the slide show, and received a request for another one, not on my list. Here are the first nine:

Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction – East Thames Housing Assn, Stratford, London. Fri 17 Jan 2014

‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus– Senate House to Parliament Square, London. Tue 28 Jan 2014

Hungry for Justice For Fast Food Workers – Oxford St, London. Sat 15 Feb 2014

Atos National Day of Action, London. Wed 19 Feb 2014

Focus E15 Mums at City Hall – City Hall, London. Fri 21 Feb 2014

Against Worldwide Government Corruption – Trafalgar Square & Ecuadorian embassy. Sat 1 Mar 2014

Stop Hospital Killer Clause 119 – Parliament, Westminster, London. Tue 11 Mar 2014

Syrians March for International Action – Hyde Park and Downing St, London. Sat 15 Mar 2014

Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered – Hyde Park and Downing St, London. Sat 15 Mar 2014


Poor Doors Special

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Saturday night was a special protest outside One Commercial Street against their separate doors for the rich and poor tenants of flats in the prestige block. A mile or so down the road there had been a large anarchist book fair taking place, and Class War had called on people to march from there to show their support for their campaign against ‘social apartheid’.

So this was expected to be a rather larger protest than before, and this turned out to be the case, with the wide pavement outside getting pretty crowded most of the time. It was also a more musical protest than most, with samba from Rhythms of Revolution and songs from Cosmo.

It wasn’t one of my best nights photographically. Some anarchists don’t much like being photographed, and it was dark, particularly when a group of those present went into the dark alley to look at the poor door. and I was having problems getting my SB800 flash to work consistently. I still don’t understand what the problem was, but flash often seems like that. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times you think you are doing exactly the same thing, but nothing goes right.

I’ve found over working with flash at these and other evening protests that the most reliable way with flash at protests is to use the Nikons on manual exposure, setting the aperture and shutter speed to get as much ambient exposure as possible. This generally means working at full aperture and speeds around 1/30s, or perhaps 1/60s for longer focal lengths with the 18-105mm. The flash seems then to work OK in TTL A mode. But there did seem to be intermittent problems in communication between camera and flash – and later I gave the hotshoe contacts a good clean which seemed to help a little. But whenever I test the flash at home it works, then when I’m out I have problems.

The crowding was also a problem, and when I green flare was set off, I was in the wrong place and couldn’t move to a better position quickly enough to get the pictures I would have liked.

You’ll see if you look at the pictures that some the flash has more or less worked, but quite a few exposures were either completely over or under-exposed and were deleted. Towards the end of the event, the protesters decided to block the road as a part of the protest, at which point the flash was so inconsistent that I soon gave it up and worked mainly by available light.

Most of that came from the headlights of the cars that were stopped by the protest, and car headlights work mainly at knee height or below. So quite a lot of dodging and burning was needed to even up the lighting.

I also found myself cursing my lack of fast lenses for the Nikons. Usually the f4 maximum aperture of the 16-35mm zoom isn’t a problem – just means using a higher ISO than a faster lens. But on this occasion it would have been nice to have a 35mm f1.4 on the camera.

The other problem with car headlights is that of colour temperature. Car headlights seem to vary somewhat from each other and this gave some problems colour balancing the images. But I was reasonably happy with some of the images despite the problems. You can see quite a few of them at Poor Doors Saturday Night Special.

Read Democracy Now

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want and author of The Poverty of Capitalism

One thing that recent events have made clear is that our establishment does not play fair. We may officially laud our great traditions of freedom and justice and the rule of law and be given to thinking of Britain as the mother of democracy, but underneath this veneer is a system by the rich for the rich, who when they see their interests in any way threatened are prepared to lie and cheat in any way possible to protect those interests.

We’ve seen it revealed a little in the content of the Wikileaks and the curious treatment of Assange and later Snowden, in the snooping of GCHQ and the malware they have introduced into some major computer systems, and, at a more local level in the responses to the relatively trivial scratchings of the Occupy movement, most recently over Christmas over the ‘Love Bank’ on the Charing Cross Road, when police defied a High Court order openly obtained by the protesters while enforcing two obtained by a rather doubtful and secretive company.

And we saw it too in October, with the excessive over-reaction to a smallish group of people who came to debate and hold workshops on a neglected area of grass in the middle of Westminster. I’ve long regarded Parliament Square as a national disgrace, in a World Heritage Site, surrounded by some truly iconic buildings, for many years it was only possibly to access by taking one’s life in one’s hands and dashing across three or four lanes of rather unpredictably moving traffic.

Even now, the access to the central square is poor, and those who don’t know the traffic lights and lanes well – including the many tourists who come there – often find themselves having to run for their lives as they try to get on or off it. We should long ago have had a great competition for the redesign of the square, which could well have incorporated suitable anti-terrorist measures for Parliament in a far less obtrusive and even attractive way than the ugly black metal structures the currently impede movement by visitors around Parliament.

For more than ten years, the front of the square was enlivened by the presence of one man, peace protester Brian Haw, who, along with a few friends kept up a constant presence their as a reminder of the human results of some of the policies pursued by the Parliament opposite. It wasn’t always a pretty sight, though it – or rather a reconstruction of it – did for some months occupy space in the Tate Gallery – but it was always thought-provoking, perhaps why it upset our establishment so deeply. They ordered the police to bend existing laws and carry out raids on the small camp, even drafted a law almost entirely aimed at Haw’s removal (though they made a mess of it), made numerous arrests, sent round thugs and variously otherwise persecuted Haw and his fellow protesters. After stress and cancer killed Haw, they continued the persecution against Barbara Tucker, who came close to death after they removed her ‘sleeping equipment’ and protection against the winter weather.

There must be something more than meets the eye about Parliament Square. I have a small suspicion that there is something under that always poorly kept grass that we don’t know about, some secret bunker or dark and grisly secret that our authorities are in constant fear might be discovered by anyone staying there overnight. Though having once spent a rather uncomfortable night on a bench there (they have now removed them all in case anyone should follow my example) I can assure you that neither Churchill nor Mandela come alive at dead of night and walk around.

A day before the event was due to begin, the grassed area of the square – which had been neglected all year – was roped off and notices put up by the Greater London Authority (GLA) ‘Area closed for repair – Please keep off’. It was a notice that fooled no one, and there was not even any attempt to make it in the slightest convincing by having any groundsmen or gardeners working there. A month later, well after police boots had churned up the muddy surface thoroughly I could see no indications of any action to repair the area.

The policing at the start of Occupy Democracy was not particularly unreasonable, although police liaison officers did hand out notices about the unreasonable Parliament Square Garden Byelaws 2012 and Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which make it a criminal offence to use “any amplified noise equipment”, to erect  or use tents or other structures designed or adapted for the purpose of facilitating sleeping, or to bring into or use any sleeping equipment in the square for the purpose of sleeping overnight.

Where things started to go wrong at the beginning was when the private security guards who are provided by a company who have a contract with the GLA – misleadingly titled ‘heritage wardens’ – began telling police they should start taking rucksacks and sleeping bags from people in the square, even though at that point they were not attempting to use them in the area. And that police, rather than behaving as they should and deciding for themselves whether an offence was being committed, simply acted as the enforcement for the warden’s whims.

People rightly objected, argued and peacefully resisted – and eventually, for the moment, the police backed off, and the entirely peaceful event took place – and was still proceeding an hour or to later when I left for home.

The next morning when I arrived, people were still on the square, some having spent the night not on the main grass area but on some areas around the edges, following some negotiation with police. People were still more or less keeping off the main area of the square, and most had left to join in the large TUC ‘Britain Needs A Pay Rise’ march, with a small group holding banners and placards and chalking on the pavement facing the Houses of Parliament.

I returned after watching the march leaving the Embankment  – it took over and hour for everyone to start on their way to Hyde Park, and went back to Parliament Square. Soon things began to heat up a little, especially when a Heritage Warden and Westminster Council officials attempted to seize a small amplifier playing music that some protesters were dancing to.

Martin Tuohy Senior Westminster Warden at Westminster City Council and another council employee grab the system

Although the bylaws prohibit “any amplified noise equipment”, it isn’t something that is generally enforced in the area and certainly not against groups that are causing no problems – as in the case of these dancers, who were unaware of the prohibition. Eventually after much argument, police intervened with the council officials and the people concerned were told to take the equipment away and not bring it into the square.

Russell Brand speaks in Parliament Square

Around half an hour later, the main group of protesters arrived, and simply ran onto the square in numbers sufficient to make it impossible to stop them. A rally then began with speeches by Labour MP John McDonnell, Occupy’s George Barda, environmentalist Donnachadh McCarthy, Russell Brand and others, while more and more police arrived and stood in blocks of twenty in various positions around the square, apparently just waiting for the order to charge. One large group of officers in blue caps seemed very much to be looking forward to a fight.

To my surprise, nothing happened. At least not while I and the rest of the press were there in force (particularly as Russell Brand was there. Suddenly I saw the officers getting into their police vans leaving the square. Where there had been perhaps 200 officers, there were now around 20.

When I left (to go to a protest elsewhere) the rally was continuing. I expected the police to take action in the middle of the night to try and remove the protesters from the grass area.

You can see more pictures from the Friday Evening and Saturday at Democracy Camp starts with rally and Democracy Camp takes the Square.

Banner Drops

Friday, December 26th, 2014

I’m never sure that ‘Banner Drops’ are ever really worth the effort. Used by protesters as a dramatic device, displaying a banner on some iconic building they may sometimes help to draw attention to a cause,and do seem to be reproduced far more often than they deserve. I suppose they are a simple idea and the editors who choose the images seem generally to be pretty simple.

I suppose the first essential is to choose an iconic location, either for the actual display of the banner or as a background. Tower Bridge yes, Chiswick Bridge probably not. Unless perhaps it is somewhere related to the protest; Trenton might have saved himself a few months in the Scrubs by doing a banner drop there rather than jumping in and swimming on boat race day. And while it certainly wouldn’t have got him quite as much press, there would have been fewer negative comments and no vindictive establishment judge.

Obviously the practicalities of actually displaying the banner are important, but also to be taken into account are the problems of photographing it. The event isn’t really the actual dropping of the banner, but the press pictures and TV footage of the banner in situ.
Nikon D800E, 16mm fisheye

I’d photographed the three banners that made up the message ‘#noTTIP‘ ‘Hands Off‘ ‘Democracy‘ earlier on Parliament Square. They spread more or less across its full width and it was hard to get the whole message in, and even harder to get the whole area between camera and banners clear of people.

When they took the three banners onto Westminster Bridge, I realised I needed to run to get the picture I wanted. None of the photographers knew exactly where the message was going to end up (and certainly not the people taking it onto the bridge.) We ran across the bridge, and then through the crowds of tourists on the riverside walk in front of the former GLC building. I kept on until I was in a position I thought would work best, perhaps a couple of hundred yards downstream of the bridge.

Nikon D700, 250mm

The first position was in some ways the best, with a long lens I was able to get the message clearly

Nikon D700, 100mm

or take a wider view showing that very recognisable clock tower behind it. There were however two problems. Firstly the light, with the sun shining brightly just out of frame; flare and ghosting were hard to avoid, and because of the position of the sun it wasn’t really possible to get the wider view including the top of Big Ben’s tower. It didn’t help that I’d stupidly left the lens-hood of my 70-300 on the desk at home (the only time I’ve forgotten it), but I would still have needed to use my left hand to flag the sun and avoid excessive flare, while waiting for the moments when the wind eased off and the banners stopped fluttering up and came to rest going down from the parapet.

But the real problem was that some photographers hadn’t run far enough, and couldn’t really read the message, and were phoning for the banners to be moved further across the bridge. So before I really got the image I wanted, those banners were on the move.

Nikon D700, 70mm

The glare from the river was really making things difficult, but I took another picture and liked the seagull at the top. But then they were on the move again.

Nikon D800E, 105mm – 157mm equiv

and the #noTTIP had disappeared….

Nikon D800E, 34mm – 51mm equiv

To reappear in yet another position, and again a gull made the picture more interesting for me. Possibly I might crop a little off the top and right of the image, but I like the lamps at the left and the string of people across the bridge. Again I couldn’t move the frame any more to the left as the sun was just out of picture at top left – and that area of sky needed quite a bit of burning to get any tone. The image is essentially uncropped, though I think I’ve probably corrected the verticals slightly. But the main problem with the picture is that the wind has blown the word ‘Democracy’ to make it more or less illegible.  So here’s a final image that puts across the message more clearly:

Nikon D800E, 105mm – 157mm equiv

And it is a vital message. TTIP is a commitment to a corporate future, one that gives free rein to the giant corporations to run the world their way and for the interests of the wealthy. Democracy may not be too healthy in this country, with the two major parties (an UKIP) largely supporting corporate interests, but at least there is some hope, with just a few of our politicians still championing the needs of the people as a whole.

You can see just a few more pictures of the banner drop at #NoTTIP – Banner Drop, and a few of the protest that led up to it in #NoTTIP – Hands off our democracy, though I was also busy with other events. There is more about TTIP (and its Canadian version CETA)  on My London Diary at CETA (TTIP) Trade Deal and CETA Trade Deal Threat to Democracy.



Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Newspapers and the media are busy reviewing the year at the moment, but it will be a while before I get around to that – if I ever do. Things seem to be happening faster than ever, and I never quite manage to catch up. Some people deny that Harold Macmillan ever said “Events, dear boy, events“, but I think the denial is because he never was quoted in print, though I think it – or something very like it – was in a radio interview. I’m also fairly sure I heard him joking “We are all Marxists Now” though he will have known he was quoting J K Galbraith, if not that Galbraith was quoting Ernest Belfort Bax.

But rather than listen to that rather boring speech after your Christmas lunch (and I think she will only abdicate over her dead body) you could do worse than have a look at some of the events I covered in November.

Nov 2014

Neo-Nazi ‘Free the Golden Dawn’ Opposed
Solidarity with Mexican students

Stop Arming Israel protest at HP
No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty
Candlelit Vigil for Michael Brown
Class War Xmas Ceasefire Special
Focus E15 Support Homeless Mother
We Stand With Shaker

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop
Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax
Justice for Shahzad & Shama
Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court
Zero tolerance for Zero Hours
NHS Vigil for Efford Bill
Don’t Let Them Drown!

‘Bye Bye Redrow’ Poor Doors Street Party
No fees, No cuts, No debt!
Shaker Aamer protests continue to shame UK
Feeding the Poor is not a Crime
Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign
Class War hunt Ian Duncan Smith
Class War Women in Red
Lambeth Walk
Shut Down Racist Immigration Prisons
IWGB protest at Royal Opera House
IWGB protest at Deloitte
Trafalgar Square Poppy Memorial

Taiji Dolphin slaughter protest
Fukushima Nuclear Protest
Brent Housing Sit-in
Guy Fawkes ‘Anonymous’ Million Mask March
Poor Doors Guy Fawkes burn Boris
Boycott Hewlett Packard – Sustainable Brands

Global Solidarity With Kobane
Revolution Banner Drop
Against acid attacks on Iranian women

PETA World Vegan Day Naked Protest

I decided to chose pictures of women that I took at some of the protests for all the pictures on this page, though you will find I photographed some men as well.


(Un)Limited Edition – Happy Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Not a Christmas image – but the one I chose for my Christmas card. Candlelit vigil for Michael Brown, US Embassy, London. Nov 26, 2014

Those who know me will know that I abhor the idea of limited editions of photographs. It’s something that to me goes against the whole grain of our democratic medium, one that has reproducibility at its very heart.

When I made a few screen-prints, these were truly limited editions, starting with a pile of perhaps fifty blank sheets of paper. Usually rather  fewer as quality paper isn’t cheap and I was never rich. The first screen image went on every sheet, often just a background colour, but as the print was built up over a series of up to a dozen printings, registration errors and other printing faults reduced the number of usable sheets. At most I had two screens, although one was quite large and might have a couple of the images on it, but by the time I made the final printing, some of the earlier images had been scrubbed off, and there was no way I could print more without making a whole new set of screen images from the set of negatives.   These truly were limited editions, and the finished prints more or less identical. Those that were not were scrap.

There are a handful of negatives from which in the darkroom days I made more than a dozen or so prints. But I never went into the darkroom and made more than a handful at a time, and even those were never quite the same, as each involved an individual performance of the dodging and burning and other tweaks that led to a fine print.  The only real way to print a proper edition would have been to have made a corrected copy negative and print from that.  Which of course a few people did with processes such as dye transfer. When we moved to digital printing, making editions became easy, but of course any limit was purely artificial. Digital files don’t wear out.

Limited editions are simply a marketing device and my opposition to them is one reason my work isn’t available from a gallery, though you can buy images direct. Some of those images I have sold as numbered but unlimited ‘editions’ which I think more accurately reflects photographic practice. The numbers involved have so far largely been single figures.

But I have produced a few ‘limited editions’, but only as Christmas cards, and this year’s has been printed and sent out in an ‘edition’ of 24 roughly postcard size pigment inkjet prints on Epson Watercoloour Radiant White to photographer friends, (other people get cards from one of our favoured charities) with another ‘edition’ of 50 as commercially printed glossy postcards.  Some of those postcards remain, and if any UK readers would like a copy and e-mail me – my e-mail address is on this page  – I will send my postal address for you to send a stamped addressed envelope to. Alternatively you can download the postcard file and print your own copy – for personal use only.


Fluorescent Orange

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

One of the many reasons I wish President Obama would live up to his promises and close Guantanamo Bay is that I hate trying to photograph those bright, often fluorescent, orange jump suits which have become such a part of the protest vocabularly. Of course its a very minor reason compared to the torture and human rights abuse, but one that gives me a certain amount of personal grief rather than engaging my conscience and my empathy for the suffering of others.

Bright reds and oranges have long been a particular problem for photographers, and it was certainly something I came across in the days of film – but then almost all colours were a problem with film, at least if you had any concern for accurate reproduction. Which is something many photographers don’t suffer from, and why so many long for the days of Kodachrome or wax long if not eloquent about the warmth of Agfa, or even pine for the garish purples of Orwo.  And why so many Fuji X users are excited about the new firmware that adds ‘Classic Chrome’  to the various distortions you can – if so inclined – give your colour images.

Personally I moved from chromes to negative film in the mid 1980s in the search for more natural colour, switched to Fuji when I experienced the cleaner look its colour negative films and paper gave compared to the yellow box. And realised immediately the great leap forward with Nikon’s digital files when I started using the D100, something that I think led to me soon virtually abandoning black and white (though there were other reasons too.)

But though I generally love digital colour, or at least Nikon’s version of it (and Fuji X is usually great too) there are still a few problems. Artificial light, often far removed from a continuous spectrum has its own problems, and just occasionally in natural light there are conditions where I can’t really get entirely satisfactory colour results. And there are bright oranges.

So while I expect problems at protests for the release of Shaker Aamer, a Londoner still held in Guantanamo to the shame of both US and UK governments, I didn’t expect to have to deal with the same problem when I went along to y Frack Off London’d Global Frackdown event. But I arrived to find their fracking rig workers in bright orange suits.

The files on My London Diary were processed rapidly in Lightroom before uploading them for possible publication, and I didn’t have time to think about the orange suits. I’ve done another rather quick edit (with some slightly careless burning in) which gives a rather better result to the suit, though still not entirely to my satisfaction. Apart from darkening and lightening some areas, the main change is a switch from the Adobe Standard profile I normally use to ‘Camera Portrait’ for this image made on the D800E with the 18-105mm.

For images made using the D700, I have a wider choice of profiles available in Lightroom. Changing from ‘Adobe Standard’ to ‘Camera Neutral dcpTool untwist’ with just some minor adjustments to contrast and exposure – but no burning in – gives a better result, and corrects the slight hue shift in the original oranges.

I’m sure it would be possible to get a similar profile for the D800E, but I haven’t bothered to do so yet. For almost all pictures the ‘Adobe Standard’ is fine.

You can read about the protest and see more images from it at Global Frackdown at HSBC.



Since writing this I did a quick web search and found a link to some useful D800/D800E profiles.



Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Re-enactment of the 1661 revolt goes up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral – but didn’t enter and seize it

OK, I know I’m early (for once.) Advent doesn’t end for a couple of days and Epiphany comes after Christmas on January 6th. But Epiphany the 37 minute film is here now and for free! Unlike The Interview there have been no death threats and no mysterious hacking, as the ruler who its plot tried to get rid of has been dead rather a long time, though the people the film celebrates did come to a very nasty end, with a number of them being publicly hung, drawn and quartered after their 3-day uprising in London was brutally put down.

Director Suzy Gillett has decided to give us a Christmas present, and a year after it was completed,and after several screenings this 36 minute epic is now free to share.

The cast includes a number of people I know and have photographed at other events, in particular from Class War, and the subject comes from one of the more interesting periods of English history, perhaps the last era when we really had really interesting times.

Ian Bone holds a framed print of Thomas Venner leader of the Fifth Monarchists

The seventeenth century got off to a good start in 1605 with Guy Fawkes, by 1620 things were so bad that the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to America, then in 1642 a few years of Civil War, after which in 1649 we did the only sensible thing we’ve ever managed to do too our royal family, beheading the king. Unfortunately Parliament turned down the ‘Agreement of the People’ and we ended up with a dictator, Cromwell. After his death, people thought a king would be a better idea, and we had the Restoration in 1660. Actually it didn’t work out too well (except for Charles II, the ‘Merry Monarch’ who had innumerable mistresses and acknowledged 14 of his illegitimate children) and when his brother and successor tried to make us all Catholics it was time for change again – and our so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, truly a missed opportunity as it brought a replacement Protestant King from Holland.

Probably carrying axes and a pike was banned in the City of London after the 1661 Fifth Monarchist outrage

With that background, here is Suzy’s text about Epiphany from Vimeo:

Epiphany is about the rise and fall of the mystics and anarchists of the English Revolution. The Fifth Monarchists stood up to the restoration of the Monarchy in 1661 and were hung drawn and quartered for their efforts.
The Muggletonians lasted for 300 years, keeping a low profile they had their own religious beliefs that successfully continued until well after the restoration of the Monarchy.
Celebrating these little known political and religious sects of the English Civil War, a collective of people made a re-enactment of Venner’s uprising on the 6th January where he marched into the city to St Paul’s fighting off the army in a hopeless battle.
Incarnated by contemporary anarchists, Ian Bone and Martin Wright.

On the steps of St Paul’s Catherdral. The girl with the pike is a great-grandaughter of the last Muggletonian

I became involved with the film when I went to photograph the re-enactment, not at the time realising I was going to become a very small part of the film. Most of the time I managed to keep out of the way of the cameras, but there are three scenes in which I appear in fleeting glimpses. You can see my pictures from the making of the re-enactment at Epiphany Rising Against King.

Ian Bone holds up the picture of Venner on the steps of St Paul’s

Only one of the pictures in this post appears in the selection on My London Diary, and that is developed slightly differently.


Beauty, Form, Redemption?

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Photography is democratic: it puts into the hand of everyman the means to be his own recorder. To defend its artistic pretensions is to make everyman an artist.
Roger Scruton, ‘The Photographic Surrogate’, 1989 p.178

This morning, after breakfast but before I was truly awake I heard the third of Roger Scruton‘s ‘Points of View’, talks available ‘indefinitely’ as podcasts, but I was listening to the Sunday repeat on Radio 4. It seemed to me an error in programming, with Scruton’s contributions lacking the humour that usually makes these short talks entertaining as well as interesting – as too were the weekly ‘Letters from America‘ by the late Alistair Cooke that had formerly created and occupied this slot for as long as anyone living can remember.

In these three talks Scruton was giving us his views on what is and isn’t real art, and deservedly knocking much of what currently is lauded and sells for high prices. The first talk, Faking It, was a nice sally against “Artists like Damien Hirst” who  “try so hard to be challenging, that causing shock or offence becomes their main motivation.” Then ‘Kitsch‘ looked more at the preoccupation among 20th century artists with “what they perceived as the need to avoid kitsch and sentimentality” which has led to “a different kind of fake: cliche” and the deliberate parody of “pre-emptive kitsch.

In the final piece, ‘The Real Thing‘, Scruton identified and explained the three attributes of ‘real art’: Beauty, Form and Redemption. We may have slightly different ideas than him as to the first of these but can certainly understand his thoughts on form, even if we might not accept that real art always should aim to “take modern life in all its disconnectedness and bring it to fullness and resolution“.

There seems equally a desire for rose-tinted glasses in his final idea of ‘Redemption’, with talk of “proof that life is meaningful“… “triumph of dignity” …  “restore moral equilibrium“….”the face of love shining in the midst of desolation...” and so on. Would I want to restrict art to what sometimes seems an overly positive view of the world and the human condition? He ends his piece with the comment: “Real art is a work of love; fake art is a work of deception.” I’m rather happier with the second phrase than the first.

But though much of this talk, what came to my mind was the work of Walker Evans, which seemed in many ways a perfect fit to his definition of ‘real art’, despite his views on photography. I thought perhaps I would write more about his views on photography, and began doing just a little research. But then I thought frankly I can’t be bothered.  It’s sometimes strange that philosophers can be so blinkered in particular ways, and I have more important things to do. Perhaps even in my own minute and very limited way to change the world.

But if you feel up to it, you might like to read Stefan Best’s review of his ‘Photography and Representation’ or the 2009 paper by Dawn M Phillips, Photography and Causation: Responding to Scruton’s Scepticism, or Siran Changchang’s Representation of Painting and Representation of Photography for a view from the  Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the first of two articles on the work of Gerhard Richter. And I’m sure you will find much else, but I feel a pressing need to get some real work done and leave the angels on pins to others.