Archive for September, 2015

Mooning Around

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Seriously bad photographs were splashed all over the Internet yesterday, and Petapixel has a good selection of these moonshots in People Just Found Out How Bad Smartphones Are at Photographing the Moon.

I got as far as struggling out of bed in the middle of the night – not an unusual event at my age, and having emptied my bladder did put on a coat and wander into the garden looking for the moon, eventually finding it over the roof of the house and realising I could have seen it just by looking out of the bedroom window. I wasn’t too impressed although the moon was half eclipsed and looking rather orange in the darker segment, and went back to bed.

An hour or so later I woke again, and rolled out and took the few steps to peer through the curtains at the now fully eclipsed circle for a second or so before returning under the covers to sleep soundly until my radio alarm came on at the normal hour. As I listened the the news of the eclipse with a woman astronomer waxing lyrical about the experience, it did occur to me that I might have found it slightly more spectacular had I bothered to put my glasses on in the middle of the night.

Several photographer friends did post their moon images on Facebook in the morning, and they were reasonably impressive, certainly standing out among the amateur efforts, some of which were even worse than those featured on Petapixel. But I hadn’t thought it worthwhile trying to photograph the event myself.

Of course I have photographed the moon on various occasions, but it’s always been disappointing. What looks large and bright always comes out small and dull in my photographs. We seem to always see the moon as much larger than it is, due to some curious feat of mental image processing. That tiny speck in one of my holiday pictures above really did seem quite large in the sky, but on an image this size just looks like some nasty little blob.

But here is one I took earlier. During one of last year’s three ‘supermoons’ I went out into the back garden and took this hand-held with my 70-300mm lens on the Nikon D800E. The lens isn’t at its best at 300mm, but I stopped down to f8 to give it a chance. Even at ISO 200 I still only needed a shutter speed of 1/1000.  For sunlit scenes, the ‘Sunny 16’ rule says 1/ASA at f16; 1/200 f16 gives the same exposure as 1/800 f8, pretty well spot on in this case. The sky wasn’t as dark as it is in the picture – but was a sodium orange from all of the street lights around, and I cheated by darkening it in post-processing.

Even at 300mm, the moon isn’t very large on the full frame, but I cropped it drastically for the above image. It’s hardly exciting, but it does show the difference between using a camera and a phone. And if you want it red, you can ask Photoshop:

Of course the interesting photographs of the eclipse show the moon in a landscape or frame of some sort; one friend set up his tripod and tried to track the various phases of the event – and by far the most interesting was as it half disappeared behind the chimneys of the house across the road. I think the more dramatic images were probably taken with lenses in the ultra-long range, perhaps 1000mm, and will often have involved making two exposures, one from the moon and a longer one to get detail in the scene and combining the two. Perhaps you could use the HDR mode that some cameras provide.

But for a rather more interesting ‘moon’ photograph, here’s one I took 15 years ago outside Buckingham Palace, at a protest by the anarchist Movement Against the Monarchy. They had hoped to have a “2000 bum salute” at their Moon Against the Monarchy in June 2000, but a huge police presence intimidated all but a determined half dozen or so into keeping their backsides covered. Shortly after this picture was taken, a group of police rushed into the crowd and arrested an innocent French tourist, who had the misfortune to be wearing the same style of John Lennon glasses as one of those who had dropped his trousers.


Yet More on Capa

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Those few images that Robert Capa managed to take on Omaha Beach in the morning of D-Day continue to attract attention from researchers, with a second guest post in the series on Photocritic International by amateur military historian Charles Herrick (in two parts, Part 1 and Part 2.)

From careful examination of the ten images that we now know were all that Capa took, Herrick shows exactly where on the mile long beach he landed, and is able to pinpoint his position as “just a few yards east of the Roman ruins on Easy Red.” The posts also contain much detail about the military operations which I’m content to leave to military historians, but clearly seems researched in depth.

This was a critical area of the landing, at what Herrick describes as “a seam” in the German defences which enabled the US troops to make rapid advances at this very point. By the time Capa arrived with the second wave of landings they had made considerable progress and the area was only under “light” fire, enabling the engineers that Herrick earlier identified in Capa’s pictures to get on with the work of destroying the beach obstacles.

As Herrick, with the benefit of his 26 years in the US army followed by a career as a defence contractor comments, ‘“Light” is a relative term when describing fire, especially if you are on the receiving end.’ And he goes on to comment “Perhaps we can partially excuse Capa for his elaborations; Omaha was his first opposed assault landing” and states:

Omaha Beach must have come as a shock. In the grip of that shock, he undoubtedly registered false impressions, impressions that easily morphed into the further exaggerations of Slightly Out of Focus.”

Capa’s first reported account of his landing on D-Day morning was an interview three days later which was published in a book rushed out by September 1944 was quoted in an earlier post in the series by A D Coleman and he began it by stating ““It was very unpleasant there [on Omaha Beach] and, having nothing else to do, I start shooting pictures. I shoot for an hour and a half and then my film is all used up.

Herrick comments that by the time Capa brought out his own book , Slightly Out of Focus in 1947, the story had become “far, far bloodier“:

“Capa apparently lifted the carnage that occurred elsewhere on Omaha Beach and superimposed it on his own much less deadly experiences. One only has to take a fresh, unbiased look at his photos for proof.”

To look at them at least with the trained military eye of Herrick, and also in the light of what the research by Coleman and his colleagues in the Robert Capa D-Day Project has revealed.

Capa was a photographer and not a soldier, and clearly and as Herrick says, understandably, he panicked, reacting to his false impressions of what was happening, and he took the first opportunity to get out, even though he knew he had only taken a few pictures – ten frames. Herrick tells the story of the military surgeon who landed with Capa and had a similar reaction; he was shortly given orders by the regimental commander to follow him up the beach. But as a photographer, Capa was on his own on the shore, with no one to tell him what to do.

Herrick also mentions and links to the similar detective work of another military historian who by studying the pictures has come to similar but not identical conclusions about Capa on D-Day. Coleman also notes that Herrick’s account differs in details about the timings on the day from that advanced previously in the series by him and  J. Ross Baughman, but that all of them conclude that Capa only spent “15-30 minutes at most photographing on Omaha Beach; and made only the ten surviving 35mm negatives while there.”

Although there is still room for minor differences between accounts (and Herrick’s researches throw yet more doubt on the identification of “The Face in the Surf” as Private Huston Riley), the overall picture now appears very clear.

Though not apparently to some French commentators working for Le Monde and Télérama who are apparently still to firmly under the influence of the myth to believe the evidence. It’s perhaps a matter of national pride; although Capa was not French he was adopted by them, spending a great deal of his life in Paris, and Magnum very much is.

Harder to explain is the Wikipedia article on Capa, and the separate wildly inaccurate article on his D-Day images, The Magnificent Eleven, which after recounting the myth as gospel does mention that perhaps there were never more than eleven exposures, managing to give the credit for this suggestion to John Morris, the man who invented the whole now discredited fiction in the first place.

Shaker Aamer to be freed

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

I’ve never met my DAD. London, Jan 2006
Shaker Aamer’s youngest son, now almost 14 was born a few months after his capture

At last, the news we have waited too many years for. Finally, Shaker Aamer, the last UK prisoner in Guantanamo is to be released.

Joy Hurcombe of the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, June 2015

I’ve long lost count of how many times I’ve photographed and written about protests to free Shaker, including many of the regular protests by the London Guantanamo Campaign and the Free Shaker Aamer campaign.  The first I remember covering was in January 2006, when a protest march called for the release of nine people with British citizenship or right to remain where still held there, Shaker Aamer among them.

Those orange jump suits were soon a familiar sight at protests. London, Jan 2006

Those jump suits caused be no end of photographic problems, which I’ve written about over the years, because they were so bright – and often fluorescent – and in an area of the spectrum which often causes difficulties.

Battersea, Nov 2013

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign has been coming to stand opposite Parliament every week while it is in session for several years, and I’ve photographed them many times, as well as at other protests they have had outside the MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall and in Battersea, close to where his family lives.

Vauxhall, Aug 2013

Amnesty International protest at US Embassy, Jan 2007

Every year since 2007 I think I have photographed events to mark the anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, some outside the US embassy, others elsewhere in London. There have also been protests on the anniversary of Shaker’s illegal rendition to Guantanamo from Bagram, on St Valentines Day, Feb 14th, 2002.

Aisha Maniar, organiser of the London Guantánamo Campaign speaks at Downing St, Feb 2015

It was news that was welcomed by almost everyone, including politicians of all the main political parties who have supported the campaign for his release. Almost everyone, except perhaps someone in the BBC, who invited a spokesperson from the US right wing Henry Jackson Society to come on and spread some unsubstantiated lies about him, telling anonymous rumours that the US authorities were unable to find any evidence for as if they were facts. Had their been any real evidence they would never have cleared him for release, even for Saudi Arabia, as they did first eight years ago in 2007 and again two years later.

One of the many protests by the Free Shaker Aamer campaign every week Parliament was in session. Feb 2015

Its hard to understand why, and it certainly can’t be explained by their usual ideas about balance. Perhaps the only credible explanation is that it was the start of a campaign by MI6 and the US security services to discredit the eye-witness evidence that Shaker may give about torture and their part in it, both at Guantanamo and before that at Bagram. Shaker too when in Guantanamo stood up for the other prisoners; one of few there among detainees and jailers understanding and speaking both English and Arabic, he became both a translator and an advocate. The BBC claims to be above such things, but unfortunately often bows to political pressure, as we have seen in the past week in their failure to cover #piggate.

Two posts on the protests in June:

Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer
New MPs Stand with Shaker

And too many more on My London Diary to post them all.


175th Birthday

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

In case you missed it, an interesting post by Larry J Schaaf, To the Calotype: Happy 175th Birthday! points out that it was “during this week in 1840 that Henry Talbot made the tremendous breakthrough that was to propel his negative/positive photography into the wider public arena.”

The discovery was that of the latent image, and the calotype process which utilised it was the first practical negative/positive process, the true forerunner of almost all photography that followed, at least up to the advent of digital. Schaaf’s discussion is an interesting one, pointing out that Talbot in that week realised the potential of the latent image, while both he and Herschel had previously seen the phenomenon as an annoying anomaly rather than something to be exploited, and that its significance in the daguerreotype – the mercury from the broken thermometer that revealed the image – had simply been accepted as a part of the process.  It is of course chemically very different, whereas the reaction of gallic acid – a substance that seemed to react in so magical a way that Talbot cut its name from his notebook to keep its secret – is essentially the same as that of metol, hydroquinone, phenidone and the other developers we came to rely on in later photography.

Schaaf also clarifies an issue that still foxes many who write about old photography, making clear that there are no calotype prints. The calotype was a process for making negatives, which where then printed as salt prints. There were good practical reasons for this. Some have to do with appearance, and calotype negatives seldom have the qualities of a good print, generally lacking something in contrast and maximum density as well as seldom having clean highlights, and often the colour is not attractive, but it was also a matter of practicality. Hand coated photographic materials lack the consistency of factory made products and required to be printed by inspection (with experience needed to judge the changes that processing would make.) You cannot inspect a latent image, and test strips are of limited use when one sheet may differ in speed from the next.

It wasn’t long before some factories began making materials in a more controlled fashion and when works were set up to produce prints in quantity the increase in speed made the use of the latent image and print development a great commercial advantage. By 1851, when Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard founded his Imprimerie Photographique in Lille, the albumen paper he made was consistent enough to allow development, enabling them to make several hundred prints in a day from a single negative rather than the handful – perhaps even only two or three – possible through printing out. But these developed prints were a rather cold grey and rather less attractive than those printed out which had finer silver grains which gave a warm brown, often slightly purplish tone. Gold toning improved their appearance somewhat.

It was only around thirty years later that print development came into more general use, with some of the new gelatin coated papers, and many photographers continued to use printing out papers, particularly for proof prints, well into the twentieth century.  They have of course more recently enjoyed something of a renaissance with the rise of interest in ‘alternative processes‘ in the 1970s and 80s, with which I dabbled for some years. But in the end I found photography far more interesting.

The State of News Photography

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

World Press Photo, the University of Stirling and the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently surveyed news photographers around the world and have just published the results of the survey.

There is an clear article on Petapixel giving some of the key findings (based on the report’s ‘Executive Summary’), and it also contains a link to the full report – all 76 pages – released by World Press Photo yesterday, so I won’t go into details of the report here, but simply make a few comments.

The photographers sent the survey were  the over 5000 from around the world who submitted work to the 2015 World Press Photo, and about a third of these responded. There were some problems because many of the submissions are made by agencies and the actual photographers were then less likely to get the survey, and non-English speakers were probably less likely to respond as the survey was in English only, but there were still responses from photographers in over a hundred countries; the largest from any country came from Italy with 143 respondents, and just over half came from Europe, with only a perhaps surprisingly low 142 from North America.

Of course only a particular section of working photographers sends in work to WPP, not least because of our perceptions about the kind of work that is successful in these annual competitions. In North America too there are perhaps other annual competitions which attract greater attention than the European-based WPP.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the report for me was on journalistic ethics, where photographers were asked whether they ever staged, manipulate or enhanced their images.

Perhaps surprisingly, only just over a third of news photographers stated they never stage images, with around half saying they sometimes do. As the report comments “This is certainly contrary to codes of practice at most news organisations and indicates an important gap between the codes and what happens in the field”. Unsurprisingly North American photographers were far less likely to do so (56.5% Never) than their European counterparts (29.4%). My own experience in working for a US company in the past certainly suggested a much greater emphasis on journalistic ethics – and not just in photography – than in the UK.

While over three-quarters of photographers agreed that the addition or subtraction of material content (manipulation) in images was a serious issue, only 9.4% stated in this confidential survey that they never did so, with 28.9% claiming they always did! It certainly suggests that such practices are far more routine than I had every suspected, and I think casts serious doubt on the whole practice of our profession.

The whole report contains much more, with a whole section of quotations from the 300 photographers who replied to the open-ended question “so what is important to you?” making particularly interesting reading. The ‘Conclusions’ at the end of the report also make interesting reading, and deserve greater prominence – they seem a little hidden, starting on page 66 of the report. Don’t stop at the ‘Executive Summary’.

A New Magna Carta?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

A police officer comes to tell protesters they need permission use a megaphone to speak in Parliament Square

On June 15th 1215 King John met the Barons at Runnymede and put his seal on Magna Carta, which several hundred years later began to be touted as the basis for our legal system and the “foundation of our liberties”. John immediately then went off and wrote to the Pope, Innocent III, and got him to declare it “null and void of all validity forever” on the grounds that he had signed it under duress.

There were later versions of Magna Carta that reinstated the important parts of the treaty so far as our law and liberties are concerned, and we might have been better to wait to celebrate until 2017 or 2025, but in perhaps the whole thing is misguided, as the rights and freedoms involved were not novel, but date back certainly to before the Norman conquest; Magna Carta was their reinstatement rather than their genesis.

What we need now is not a celebration of Magna Carta, but a new Magna Carta, to replace the rights and freedoms that we have lost – and which if our current government has its way we will lose more of, with proposals to repeal Human Rights legislation, bring in corporate control under TTIP, further restrict trade union rights, close down freedom of information requests and more.

Of course it isn’t just the current Tory government who are responsible, not just them and the ConDem coalition. The two previous New Labour governments brought in an enormous number of new laws, many of the impinging on our freedom, and of course governments both Tory and Labour before them. But it does seem to have taken on a new impetus since the last election.

Police prevent people coming to celebrate Magna Carta at the Runnymede Eco-Village

It isn’t just laws, but also the way that the state and authorities act, often using the police and security agencies and abusing the laws. And a very clear example of this was over the suppression of the Magna Carta festival planned at the Runnymede Eco-Village, which I’ve written about here earlier. A huge police operation took place to stop just several hundred people celebrating peacefully close to where the charter was signed.

The Eco-Village was evicted and their homes destroyed around a week ago, following a court decision a few days earlier, which privileged the rights of property owners above those which were important in the thirteenth century charters. The villagers were looking after the forest rather better than the owners, and were not in the way of the development at the top of the hill.

On the anniversary of Magna Carta, I began at the Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice by the Campaign for Truth & Justice. While there were – as my account I think makes clear – some rather odd characters and views among those taking part, it is hard to doubt that there is something rotten at the heart of our society.

From there I went to another rather odd group, Voice for Justice, with whom I felt rather less empathy. It really did seem to me that these people were protesting for the freedom to be a bigot rather than standing up for the kind of values which I feel important. Though some of their placards said ‘Magna Carta – Equal Rights for All’ they seemed firmly opposed to equality laws.

Protesters wore yellow rubber gloves like cleaners might wear

Not far away, the PCS were protesting for a true living wage for all governent workers on the 25th International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards outside the Treasury. Fine I thought, but why just those who work for HMRC. All workers deserve a living wage – something even the government now seem to believe in, though their idea of a living wage is far too low.

Selma James

Back in Parliament Square, another protest was taking place, Close Yarls Wood, End Detention! with the All African Women’s Group leading a rally in the International week against detention centres, calling for the closure of all immigration detention centres to be shut down. And up came a police officer to tell them of the restrictions on protest outside Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn MP

I’m pleased to say that they more or less ignored him, with Selma James and another speaker being followed by 3 MPs, Jeremy Corbyn, Kate Osamor and John McDonnell before the protesters marched to Downing St to deliver a report on rape and sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood.

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Downing St was convenient for me, because the next event in my diary, Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer was taking place on the opposite side of Whitehall. Speakers there again included Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.


Hine and the Empire State

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

A short note in L’Oeil de la Photographie (The Eye of Photography), one of series by former LIFE picture editor and photographer John Loengard, based on his 1994 book and current touring show Celebrating the Negative, set me thinking about the life and work of Lewis Hine, and in particular his images of steelworkers made during the building in 1931 of New York’s Empire State Building.

At the bottom of the piece in L’Oeil there are links to several other posts in the series by Loengard, on negatives of celebrated images that he photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Wynn Bullock, Edward Weston, Joe Rosenthal, Robert Capa, Man Ray and Richard Avedon.  (It should be noted that the short quote on Capa rather perpetuates the myth around his D-Day images that has been so effectively researched and demolished by A D Coleman and his collaborators in the Robert Capa D-Day Project, though of course their in-depth research does nothing to diminish the power of  Capa’s images.)

Loengard in his note on Hine states that that the new art director of Survey magazine which had used his work over the previous 20 years “found his pictures old-fashioned“, wanting more graphic images.

You can see more of Hine’s work on the Empire State in various collections, including that of George Eastman House. There appears to be more on their older web site than in their new image licensing website (search for Empire State.) There is another good collection online at the New York Public Library.

You can read more about Hine on various sites. I’ve written only fairly briefly about him in various places, including in a longer essay on the New York Photo League, which inherited some of his work as well as his being influenced by his work. This piece, written in 2001, is still available (though slow to load) from the web archive, and includes this paragraph:

Hine occupied a special place in this pantheon of the League. His campaigning work from around the turn of the century, fighting for protection for children in the workplace (and the enforcement of existing laws designed to protect them) was the epitome of the type of photography the League existed to promote.

It goes on to state that “When Hine died in 1940, his collection of pictures and negatives was presented to the League” and gives some further information. You can learn more about what happened to his work in an earlier article by Vicki Goldberg in the New York Times about a show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In it, Goldberg writes of Hine’s “daring and daringly designed images of men and steel and sky” which seems to match better what I see in the work than the opinion of the Survey art editor.

Goldberg goes on to write “Hine’s work sharply poses one of the crucial questions about photography: how much does esthetics count in documentary?” It remains a crucial question though my answer has been that aesthetics must be the means rather than the end. It was a conclusion that decisively altered my own work 35 years ago.

And Hine’s own end also perhaps has lessons. Goldberg writes that in his last years no one wanted his work; “he lost his house, stopped photographing and applied for welfare. He died as destitute as anyone who ever sat for his lens” and later in the piece, “Hine could scarcely sell a photograph at any price.”

Apparently at his death, “the Museum of Modern Art was offered his pictures but did not want them; George Eastman House in Rochester did.” Hine’s work wasn’t entirely lost from sight, and I first met him in the pages of the two early popular histories of photography, by the Gernsheims and by Beaumont Newhall, but the attitude of MoMA is still reflected in the art world today.

We saw it recently in the Arts Council England’s treatment of Side Gallery here in the UK, which lost its entire ACE funding in 2011, and Photofusion which lost funding in 2015. Side, like the Brooklyn Museum of Art which Goldberg states “put Hine squarely in the spotlight with a retrospective in 1977 after a nearly 40-year hiatus“, also exhibited his work in 1977.


Monday, September 21st, 2015

Coal Wharf at Bell Wharf, Swanscombe. A ropeway took coal to the factory

I’m still working on my North Kent book with images from the 1980s that I’ve mentioned here before, and looking at some of the images from back then made me want to go there again, especially since parts of the area are changing.

Of course I have returned occasionally over the years, and published and exhibited some later images, such as those in Estuary and my book Thamesgate Panoramas (as always those with UK addresses can order the print version more cheaply direct from me, though I recommend the PDF from Blurb at £4.99.)

Where the Eurostar emerges from under the River Thames

One particular area under threat is the Swanscombe Peninsula, a triangular area of Kent that juts out towards Essex a little to the west of Gravesend. It’s both an ancient and a modern crossing point, where pilgrims crossed the river on their way to Canterbury, and where enormous pylons, 623 ft high, carry the National Grid across, while the HS1 Eurostars dive into a a tunnel at high speeds close to Ebbsfleet station (where just a few stop) though the more local Javelin services reduce the journey times to central London to 18 minutes for the wealthy. There are plans for what sounds like a particularly tacky theme park based on films and TV programmes which has government backing to cover the whole area.

Pilgrims Road – and a giant pylon in the distance on the opposite side of the Thames

I took the slow route to Swanscombe station on a Gravesend train. The time difference for me is minimal, as the fast trains go into St Pancras, to the north of London, and I can catch the slower trains far more conveniently at Waterloo East, and get there about as quickly but with much less climbing up and down and walking in stations. This was important as I was taking my Brompton with me and together with my cameras it adds up to quite a weight. Best not to carry it at all – and I didn’t need to on the marginally slower route.

This kind of consideration makes me wonder about the calculations presented to justify prestige transport projects, such as HS2 against the less sexy options of increasing traffic on existing routes. Shaving a few minutes off the time from Birmingham to London isn’t a big deal if you end up in Old Oak Common – or at the other end you come into Curzon St when your onward journey is from New Street station.  Changing the London terminus for Eurostar from Waterloo to St Pancras might have cut the Eurostar journey times, but had no effect on my overall journey times for that matter.

When I first visited Swanscombe it was in parts a desolate wilderness, with heaps of waste from the former cement works, which was still standing. Disused rails led to fenced off piers. Everything now is rather more overgrown, but otherwise much of the peninsula has a similar feel.

Bell Wharf: coal and clay came in, and cement was sent out. Taken standing on the Brompton

I didn’t find Broadness salt marshes in my early explorations of the area, taking a more inland route and missing it. One of my favourite landscape pictures was taken there in 2006, but I’d never fully explored the area, and this was just one of the things I set out to do.

And I took a similar view to the one, that I’d made 9 or so years ago, though then the tide was rather higher, with the creek filled with water.

The creek is at a dead end – probably why I’d not bothered to go to it in the early days. Then I always went on foot, slow, sometimes exhausting, but still the beast way to see the country. Taking a bike enables me to cover more ground and in areas like this can be ridden along footpaths as well as roads, It means I’m happy to go half a mile down a dead end knowing I’ll just have to ride back, whereas on foot I might well decide not to bother. From here I came back and cycled to another dead end, opposite the Tilbury Docks, before returning and going back by Botany marshes, now rather more domesticated as a nature reserve.

The bike is also useful for photographing over walls and fences. Several images in the Swanscombe set were made with the Brompton leaning against a wall or fence and with me standing one foot on the saddle and the other on the handlebars. There is a tendency for it to roll away dangerously but it does add a useful couple of feet to my stature.

Rather than a normal camera bag, I was using a Brompton bag which fits on the front of the bicycle, and working with two cameras, the Nikon D800E with the 16mm full-frame fisheye, and the Fuji X-T1 with Fuji X 10-24mm (15-36mm equiv) and 18-55mm (27-82mm equiv.) The Nikon images have been converted into a cylindrical perspective with horizontal angle of view around 146 degrees.

For most of the day both cameras worked perfectly, but on the way back to the station I stopped briefly to take some pictures looking south from the main road, which runs along the narrow spine of chalk left between two large quarries. I wanted to be sure to get good detail so I turned the ISO dial on the Fuji X-T1 down to 200. Unfortunately the dial below the ISO dial, the Drive dial, turned as well, into the so-called ‘Advanced Filter’ position, with disastrous results.

Fuji’s ‘Advanced’ filter uncorrected. I’m not sure whether this was ‘Toy Camera’, ‘Minature’ or ‘Pop Colour’

The Advanced Filter selection is a clear case where more is less, a capability the camera would be better without, though presumably marketing don’t think so. There are perhaps people who want a setting that destroys your images in camera rather than leaving that to Photoshop, but I’m not one of them.

A near identical frame after considerable general and local work in Lightroom

Worse still, not only do the ‘Advanced filters’ mess up  your pictures with silly effects, they also switch from Raw to jpeg. I was left with garish images, all subtlety of colour lost, and because they are jpegs it is impossible to get back to the original image. I’ve done my best with the image above, but the sky in particular remains impossible, with all cloud detail absent and some vignetting still visible. You can see the difference if you compare it with an image taken at more or less the same place using RAW with the Nikon.

Nikon D800E, 16mm fisheye. From RAW file

The default settings on the X-T1 actually make it very easy to select the filter in error, simply by pressing the Fn1 button to the right of the lens mount.  It’s one of several defaults it makes sense to change to something innocuous.

On My London Diary you can see more of my pictures of Swanscombe and the adjoining areas and also read more about the area, my ride around it and the pictures.


July 2015

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Al Qud’s Day march in London

It seems to take me a long time to get anything done. But finally I’ve finished writing and uploading the diary entries and images for July to My London Diary. July turned out to be rather a disappointment for me in various ways, not least in my Nikon D800E suffering what I think is a terminal breakdown.

Jul 2015

Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2
BBC protest over Palestinian Hunger Strikes
National Gallery Leaving Party
Loddon & Thames

Kurds blame Turks for Suruc massacre
Make seats match votes
FreeSteve Kaczynski from Turkish Jail
Festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
10 years since Iran hanged gay teenagers
Ecuadorians support ‘Citizen Revolution’
Eritreans Vigil for Peace?

Falun Dafa vigil against Chinese Atrocities
Whitecross Street Festival
Justice for Tyree
Reinstate the Sotheby’s 4
The Jurors

Surround Harmondsworth
Al Quds Day march
IWGB protest at Royal College of Music

Sotheby’s 4 sacked for protesting
Save Shaker Aamer weekly vigil
Joint Strikers Budget Day Rally
DPAC Parliament Square Budget Day protest

DPAC blocks Westminster Bridge
DPAC ‘Balls to the Budget’
Darent Valley Path & Thames

Ahwazi crash secret UK-Iran business meeting
Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest


Gibson’s Political Abstractions

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

A post in the L’Oeil de la Photographie sent me looking again at the work of Ralph Gibson,  who has a show which opened a few days ago at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York, Political Abstractions. The show, which continues until Oct 31, 2015 consists of diptychs, pairs of images sometimes in colour and sometimes black and white. I’ve read the text in L’Oeil and in the gallery press release without getting a great deal of enlightenment, but you may do better than me.

One of the things that inkjet printing makes easier it printing a black and white and a colour image on the same sheet of paper, and most of the images on-line pair colour and black and white, though some use two black and whites, and I think one – on Gibson’s own site – has two rather similar colour images. But mostly the pairs seem fairly unrelated, with a few showing a similar line or shape (or pattern or shadow, according to the press release, which also has nice summary of Gibson’s signature “everyday objects isolated, strongly shadowed, and cropped so that they become potent and mysterious.”)

I fail to understand why Gibson terms these works ‘Political’, though the release states: “The subject of the work
becomes not the individual images, or their juxtaposition, but the act of looking” which may be behind the use of the term.

Early in my time as a photographer I became something of a fan of Gibson, and certainly made a few images that (for me at least) recalled some of his in the early 1970s, and my copies of his Lustrum trilogy, The somnambulist (1970), Deja-Vu (1973) and Days at Sea (1974) are dog-eared and falling to pieces. Though I’ve also been impressed at more recent shows and publications it sometimes feels that there is little new in his work. There is perhaps only a short divide between a style and a rut and sometimes I’m unsure which side of that distinction the newer work lies. But there are still images that Gibson produces that have a powerful resonance. Whether or not that is increased by pairing them I leave – like Gibson – to the viewer.


Kensal Green, 1988. Peter Marshall, from Café Ideal, Cool Blondes & Paradise

Ralph Gibson certainly encouraged my photography through his publications (including the other books from Lustrum as well as his) and also in person on the one occasion I showed my work to him, I think in 1988 when he had a London exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery. Not just to him but at a public criticism to a crowded space in the gallery where I took up my portfolio with some trepidation, after he had been fairly tough on the work of a previous photographer. I’d taken colour prints – from the body of work that produced (among other things) my ‘Café Ideal, Cool Blondes & Paradise‘ and he spent some time looking through the book as I stood there shaking.

Shoreditch, 1986. Peter Marshall, from Café Ideal, Cool Blondes & Paradise

His comments and questions were fortunately both perceptive and positive and it was a great encouragement to me to continue that work.

Poplar, 1988. Peter Marshall, from Café Ideal, Cool Blondes & Paradise