Archive for May, 2016

April 2016

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

My work from last month is now on-line. It seemed a busy month and I think there are 42 stories, including a family wedding and a walk. There are some of the pictures I took while travelling around London at the bottom of the list. as well as an entry showing a little of the incredible development going on at Vauxhall and Nine Elms, which I’m afraid will probably offer little to Londoners.

Jane Nicholl of Class War stretches out ‘Crime Scene Do Not Enter’ incident tape in front of the police in a protest against victimisation of cleaners

Apr 2016

Save Aleppo, Stop Airstrikes
Save Upper Norwood and all Lambeth Libraries
Stop Air Pollution Killing Cyclists
Downing St rally for Junior Doctors

Doctors & Teachers march together
Windsor Great Park Walk
St George in Southwark Procession
Peace Garden at War Museum

St Georges Day in London
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Tiffany
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Selfridges
Stop Refugees Drowning

Drax AGM Biomass opposition
Cleaners in-house now, not later
Family Wedding
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest

UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

Vauxhall and Nine Elms
Make Tips Fair
End Killings in Colombia
Party against Cameron
Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland
Stop Grand National horse slaughter
Cameron must go!

March to Save Lambeth’s Libraries
Carnegie Library Occupation Ends
Bursary or Bust Die-In & Rally
Bursary or Bust march to Dept of Health
Support for Junior Doctor’s Picket
Immigration Bill – racist attack on human rights
International Pillow Fight Day
Butterfields Won’t Budge
Ban Canned Hunting of Lions
Christians protest Lahore bombing

Act Up protests Gilead’s naked greed

London Images


Pyramids & Postscript

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Find yourself 10 minutes, get sitting comfortably, click on the Vimeo link to In the Shadow of the Pyramids and then the icon to make it full screen, sit back and enjoy.

I’ve written before about Laura El-Tantaway and her book and web site In the Shadow of the Pyramids, and I think advised you all to buy a copy of the book while the edition of 500 was still available.

Published at around £50, copies are now selling second-hand for £300, though I think will soon be more. But you can still get a copy of her ‘Postscript‘, with images from the same project produced to coincide with the exhibition of her work as one of those shortlisted for the Photographers Gallery Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016. It’s a rather shorter work, a 32 page double-sided fold-out postcard book featuring 15 images in an edition of 750 signed and numbered copies and a video on the link shows it off. Currently it is still available at £15. I don’t think it will appreciate in value at the same rate, but is still worth considering.

Tickets appear to be still available for Laura El-Tantawy in Conversation with Max Houghton at the Photographers Gallery on May 25th, but I’d book soon if you want to be sure of a place.


Thursday, May 5th, 2016

I was relieved when I checked in our slang dictionary to find that there was as yet no definition for the term ‘osborne‘ or ‘osborned‘; otherwise it might have been confusing for me to propose a new usage.

An osborne is clearly a kind of fraud or confidence trick, based on the use of dodgy statistics, false assumptions and long-winded speeches, and aimed at benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the poor. And on Nov 25th last year we were clearly ‘osborned‘. The letters at the protest on the previous night spelt out clearly (at times) that it was a N I G H T M A R E.

It was also something of a nightmare to photograph, as the area where the figures were standing was probably the darkest point in Trafalgar Square, with most of what light there was falling on the back of the figures – as you can see from the shadows they are casting on the paving in front of them. I’d taken the 20mm f2.8 and it was only wide enough to encompass the group when used from one side – had I moved back you would have seen a pack of around 20 people with cameras and phones all trying to photograph the same group. The few pros possibly had lenses wide enough to encompass the whole group, but on most of the phone images it probably said GHTMA.

I didn’t need to use flash, as there were several people with lights on video cameras – who could pan across the group to reveal the whole word, though I did see one who appeared to be reading it as ERAMTHGIN.  Annoyingly sometimes their lights went off or turned away just when I wanted to make an exposure. With their lights I was able to work with the D700 set at 1/60s, f/4 and ISO 3,200; as usual to get things looking like night I needed to dial in an exposure adjustment – this time -0.7Ev.

Then someone had the idea it would better fit a still image if the word was split into two and the two put one above the other. I think it made a better picture, but now there was someone shining their video light at me from the edge of the frame. As normal I preferred an oblique view, and for this image I did use flash, working with the 28-200mm on the D810 at 42mm in DX mode – equivalent to 63mm.

Later the protesters marched down to Downing St for a rally opposite and  there isn’t a great deal of light, so most pictures needed flash, particularly for the speakers, where you need a relatively fast shutter speed to capture gestures and avoid subject movement. It didn’t really need the 1/640s that I appear to have used for this image – I was working in S mode and my random wandering finger appears to have shifted the main control dial backwards and forwards rather a lot.

It was perhaps a little fortunate – because as a slower speed – such as the 1/125 I probably intended, that pointing hand might have shown more blur, and the windows behind in the Ministry of Defence would have bee more of a distraction.

Back in the old days of course, flash sync at 1/640th with a focal plane shutter was simply impossible; most cameras were limited to 1/50 or 1/60s, and setting a higher speed resulted in only a part of the frame being exposed. Now with the Nikon D810 if you have custom setting e1 set to Auto FP High-Speed Sync you can use flash at any shutter speed.

I took some more pictures of people in the blackness of the crowd without flash, including some I felt were perhaps just a little to noisy – like the one above. Taken with the camera set at ISO3200, it had a ‘grainy’ effect, which wasn’t unpleasant, but was very noticeable in larger versions of the image than web size. Writing this, I thought this was a good example to try out using the noise reduction of the now free Dfine in the Google Nik Collection

I applied the filter in automatic mode on the full size file, and the difference was pretty remarkable, with the noise virtually entirely removed, and Photoshop’s ‘Despeckle‘ filter cleared it a little more. I can only just see the difference even in the two reduced size jpegs in this post, but on larger images the difference is very apparent.

There very little apparent loss of image detail in the treatment, and removing the noise makes what detail there is clearer. After I made the small jpeg to use in this post, I did clean up the larger file using Photoshop’s ‘Dust and Scratches‘ filter, with a radius of 2px and a threshold of 5px. The resulting image is remarkable for an image in such poor light.

It’s a shame that the Polaroid ‘Dust and Scratches’ filter which often worked rather better than the Photoshop equivalent is no longer available and doesn’t seem to work in Photoshop CC. It will still run as stand-alone software under Windows 7 and can be used to produce even smoother images when applied to the results from Dfine2. But it does so at the expense of a little detail

A double pass can remove both white and black specks, but you need to convert images to sRGB before using it, and it does lose some detail, so need to be used with caution. And of course such processing is time-consuming and largely unnecessary. The Polaroid filter is best kept for use with scanned images where the dust is usually rather larger.

More about the event and more pictures at Osborne’s Nightmare Cuts.

The following day as George Osborne got to his feet in Parliament to deliver his speech I was outside his family interior decoration business on the King’s Road in Chelsea with Class War – as you can see and read at Class War at Osborne & Little.


Gear Sense

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

One post I’ve read on Petapixel sums up many of the things I’ve often said or thought about photographers and gear. The 11 Stupidest Things Photographers Say About Gear is worth a read, as is a series it refers to on fstoppers.

They compared the same scene photographed on leading Canon, Sony and Nikon cameras and asked people to rate the 3 images and say which camera they came from. And the results showed that there was very little difference between whether they photographed the studio scene on a Canon 5DsR, Sony A7RII, or Nikon D810.

Not only was there no real difference in detail, resolution etc, there was an almost identical colour to the three images. I still think there are differences in colour between the images produced by the three cameras, but these are down to differences in how the auto white balance works rather than anything inherent to the camera. And the differences are easily corrected in post-processing.

But the main differences between the three marques are in handling. How convenient is the control layout, and the menus. Which way do zooms zoom? and where do you have to line up the dots when changing lenses, and which way do you turn them. I’ve used Nikon for over 12 years now, and I still find it much easier and faster to change lenses on a camera that works the same way as Leica does. But the buttons etc on Nikon seem so much better than the interface on Canon. And so on. My ideal SLR camera would still be the Olympus OM4, but no one has ever made a digital version of that – and of course I’d like some updates such as auto-focus and high speed flash sync.

Of course the publication of their results was greeted with controversy, and some valid points were made, in particular about the lens used for testing with the Sony, So this led to ‘We Tested the Sony A7RII AGAIN for All the Sony Fanboys‘ and the results were more or less the same: Most People Cannot Tell The Difference Between Nikon, Sony, and Canon High Res Files. And most of those who tried and mainly got it wrong were photographers.

Perhaps I should be pleased that one of the cameras I use came out marginally top on the test, but quite frankly I could not tell the difference and suspect it was probably not statistically significant. But at least it does reinforce my own feeling that the extra pixels in the 50Mp Canon EOS 5DS R are of no significance.

I’m actually thinking of going back to DX format for my next camera – I’ve always thought there was – as Nikon for some years maintained – no real advantage in the larger FX format. It wasn’t that the results were any better, just the larger sensor meant the cameras had a better and brighter viewfinder.

My ailing D700 is still taking good photographs – at least when I manage to point it in the right direction at the right time with the right lens. But its days are surely numbered (and a service that would address its current faults would cost more than its worth.) I’ll probably replace it by another Nikon, but can’t at the moment decide whether to buy a D750 or, when they get into the shops, a D500. Or perhaps by the time I’ve made my mind up there will be something new available to change it!