A Place to Cut?

I’d not gone to Windsor to take photographs, but for a walk with my wife, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter. Fortunately the latter of which finds beards fascinating, so when I was pushing her around in a push chair all I had to do when she got a little upset was to tilt the chair back to horizontal so she could see me making silly faces and she smiled back. She even seemed to enjoy my singing and whistling, which is more than I do.

But as we got off the train at Windsor, lots of men on horses started to come past and so I stopped to take a few pictures of them. And there were a lot of police around. Apparently it was all a rehearsal for the state visit a few days later of the Emir of Qatar, paying a visit with one of his wives to the Queen.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

I suppose you can’t expect an Emir to pay for a taxi to take his suitcases up the hill, and the Queen could have sent a car down to meet him, but the scale seemed pretty obscene given the cuts we are going to have to make in other things. Keeping hundreds of horses isn’t cheap, and there seemed to be three carriages. The army are complaining about lack of manpower, so these guys could have been better occupied, as too could the police.

I’m not entirely against a little pageantry, and I’m sure it does tourism no harm, though I doubt if too many actually get to Windsor to see it, but couldn’t we make do with just a dozen or two guys and some inventive filming to create a  bit of spectacle?

I wasn’t at my best that day, and at some point managed to switch the camera to manual by mistake and didn’t notice. It’s fairly easy to do, holding down the wrong button with your first finger when trying to dial in some exposure compensation. When I’m very much engrossed in looking at the scene (as I usually am)  I can be completely unaware of the viewfinder display – sometimes I think it was better when cameras didn’t have one. Of course camera designers can’t win. Reviewers would grumble if they made changing the mode settings hard to do and I’d like them to make it harder.

When I’m going out to take pictures I always like to do a quick check through the settings for A, S and M modes and set them to sensible values before I start taking pictures (things like f8, 1/250 second.)  It’s one slight disadvantage of using Auto ISO as I was that however silly the settings you make there is a good chance of getting an image that looks OK at a glance on the camera back. On the way to Windsor I hadn’t bothered, and the manual setting I’d engaged – 1/60 f6.3 – was actually perfect for taking a few family pictures later inside the pub where we had lunch, but pretty hopeless for galloping horses, where a considerably faster shutter was needed to stop movement or a much slower one for arty blurs. At 1/60 what I got was slightly unsharp images – sharp enough for the blur not so show at a quick glance on the camera back.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

I was standing right next to the road as the cavalry came back and galloped up the hill, and it was an impressive sight. If I was an infantryman on the opposite side with only a musket and a short sword I would have felt pretty scared at the crashing of hooves and the shaking of the ground as the troop passed. But those days have gone and its perhaps time to move on too. These guys really are real soldiers, but we are still getting them to dress up as if they were fighting Napoleon, to carry swords and to shine their boots so they can see their faces in them.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

There are just a few more photographs on My London Diary.

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