Students March Over EMA

Yesterday I went to photograph students demonstrating and there were very few to be found, at least in Trafalgar Square where we expected some to meet at noon, and what they were doing wasn’t very interesting. It didn’t worry me greatly as I had a couple of other events to photograph (and ended up finding a third, as well as wasting some good drinking time over a false chemical incident emergency at the British Museum which got major emergency treatment, closing the place down for over an hour.)

But the previous Wednesday, students were marching and I got a few decent pictures. They met at what I’ve always found to be one of London’s more curious tourist attractions, Piccadilly Circus. You see them all going there and wandering around trying to find out why they had bothered to come to a not that impressive statue with a bow and arrow at a busy traffic junction with an awful lot of neon advertising.

But still all the world comes there, and on this occasion that included around 500 students (and a few more joined later.)  We were there around half an hour as dusk fell and I and almost as many photographers struggled to photograph them, balancing flash and daylight to take advantage of the background features.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

So here was one using those adverts, though the screens really were rather blank at that particular instant.  At one time a major on-line agency culled all of the pictures it could find with logos on them from its collection and this would have probably have been one of the few pictures of Piccadilly Circus that would have been left standing. Of course they were wrong to do so, as there would only be real problems with a logo appearing in the picture if that was the point of the image, not for the ‘incidental inclusion’ that arises if logos happen to have been left around the street where you are taking pictures. It isn’t your fault if the copyright holders are so careless!  But I seldom see any reason to give them extra free advertising if I can avoid it.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

And this is one of many I took including Eros, (who isn’t really Eros, but his brother) a memorial to Lord Shaftesbury, a noted 19th century philanthropist who would I think have been right behind the campaign to keep the EMA, which enables many from poorer homes to stay in education.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The bronze base of the fountain was designed as a drinking fountain, with cups ” giving water to rich and poor alike at all times of day and night” but these did not last long as the site was too windswept and the water went everywhere.  Eros, unvieled in 1893 a short distance away from where it now stands, was probably the first free-standing sculpture to be made from what was then a very expensive metal, aluminium. The supporting leg is solid but the rest is hollow.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The march itself to Parliament Square was uneventful. The organisers seemed to have gone out of their way to cooperate with the police and the police made an rather greater than usual attempt to cooperate with the marchers, handing out a leaflet telling them about the march and how they hoped to police it. Everything went more or less according to plan.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

In Parliament Square (cue for photograph with Big Ben) there was really very little to do, other than stand around and wait for the result of the vote at 7pm. Most of the marchers had gone home by then, and so had I.

Photographically most things worked, but I was having quite a few problems with the D700, now almost two years old.  Occasionally in the past I’ve pushed the shutter release to take a picture and absolutely nothing has happened. Often this can be because the camera has been unable to focus, but in the last couple of months it has happened occasionally for no obvious reason, and at the same time the viewfinder and top panel displays have lost some of the characters. I first really noticed it happening more frequently just before Christmas, and found the problem usually cleared if I turned the camera off and on – and if not if I took out the battery for a couple of seconds.  During this event it happened more than ever and I missed quite a few pictures because of it.

There are some pictures where you get a second chance – and most of those above were like that, where I have several similar frames from which I could select the best. But other things, if you miss them are gone. You can’t afford equipment that is not reliable.  So the D700 is going in for repair. Intermittent faults like this can be hard to trace and soemtimes it is even hard to convince people that there is anything wrong.

And of course sometimes there really isn’t a camera fault. I had some great exposure problems with the Hexar Konica F, sent in in several times for service, only to finally realise the problem was just the second finger of my right hand, which would rather conveniently rest over the light sensor on the front to the body when my finger was on the shutter release.  I guess it could be called a design fault, either of the camera or hand.

My London Diary –  Students March Against EMA Vote – for more pictures and text about the event.

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