Umbrella Parade

June 20 was World Refugee Day, and came at the end of a week where there had been various other events connected with refugees, although I’d not managed to photograph them though at the start of the month I had photographed a couple of events in the rather more radical European Week of Action to Stop the Deportation Machine. But the demonstration today was organised by the Refugee Week partnership, which  includes groups such as the UNHCR, Red Cross, Oxfam and Amnesty International.

Together they had ordered large numbers of white umbrellas,  rather more than the number of people who turned up for the protest, and others had brought their own decorated version, all to give the photographers something a little different to take pictures of. Unfortunately there weren’t many photographers, or at least not many pros, in evidence. Refugees aren’t news for our media unless they can manufacture some scandal or scare story about them flooding into the country in hordes, overburdening our social services, living a life of luxury thanks to our bountiful handouts. Unfortunately the truth – which is so very different – doesn’t get much of a hearing.

I don’t generally pose pictures, though I do often talk to people while I’m taking them and rather too often they pose for me when I do so, and I spend a lot of time asking people just to get on with what they were doing. This young girl really was just standing next to the road sign showing a man putting up an umbrella and I didn’t get her to pose :

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Probably the best opportunities for pictures came at the start of the parade and later when it was passing the Houses of Parliament, where Big Ben has the advantage both of representing the government and also meaning London to almost everyone around the world. At the start I was pleased to be able to take a view showing not just the street filled with people and umbrellas, but also to capture the full text around the umbrellas in the three most prominent”ECRE For the Protection of Refugees‘. It was just a little bit of luck, although had I been organising things I might have preferred it reading better left to right across the image. But this way the word ‘refugees’ gets more prominence.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Incidentally, just after I’d taken the picture the woman on the left helpfully stepped out of my way, but by then I’d taken the picture. It was a ‘Hail Mary’ shot, holding the camera with the 16-35mm as high as I could reach, at 16mm, 1/500 f11.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Some of the marchers had transparent umbrellas, so it seemed a good idea to shoot up through them at Big Ben.  Again nothing set up, I was walking along beside this woman, very close with the 16-35 at 17mm focal length, focus on the spokes of the umbrella and at f11 most of it is pretty sharp. As I noted in my previous post, I was having problems with flash, and only the top half of this frame received any flash exposure. Fortunately I needed it on the woman’s face and most of it was in that top half. I haven’t quite got the correction this image needs perfect (I did it in a rush to get the story on Demotix on the day) but I think it works well enough.

There are quite a few more examples of umbrella pictures in the set on My London Diary (which also tells you more about the event),  including some taken with the Nikon fisheye. Here’s just one more I liked with the 16-35mm, at 16mm:

© 2010, Peter Marshall

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