More Women

 © 2012, Peter Marshall
I could recognise Cherie Blair but none of the other women at the front of the march.

Although I took these pictures just over 3 weeks ago, I’ve only just got around to adding them to My London Diary. I’d sent some off elsewhere on the day I took them and just forgot to add them to my own web site. I was having a pretty busy few days and they just slipped my mind.

Mornings just aren’t my best time at the moment, and I’d been up very late the previous night working on the pictures I’d taken at three events the previous day and hadn’t got as much sleep as I needed. It wasn’t a really early start, but I was still half asleep when things started around 10.30 am, and somehow I managed to leave the Nikon D300 on manual setting at a fairly unsuitable exposure setting for the bright morning sun – probably what I had been using in the dull rainy conditions of the previous afternoon.

Of course I should have noticed, and if I’d been properly awake would have done so, but I’d taken rather a lot of badly overexposed images by the time I looked more carefully and discovered my mistake. As usual I’d been working mainly with the D700 and the 16-35mm, just grabbing the D300 for the occasional image that needed a longer lens. And in the bright sun the images on the back of the camera looked OK, but I hadn’t checked either the exposure details in the viewfinder or the histogram.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Most of the overexposed images were beyond saving, and the few I could salvage – such as this woman with a peace symbol on her cheek – didn’t quite have the normal tonal quality. Most of the other pictures could only be turned into rather odd poster images, not the kind of effect that interests me.

It didn’t help that I was also having problems with the SB800 flash that had stopped working the previous evening, either because of the rain or through over-heating, and was now either not firing at all or giving unpredictable output (I’d been having some problems with it for a while.) There was a strong low sun and I really needed to use flash fill. b

I’ve now got two out of commission SB800s and am wondering if it is worth taking them in for repair or simply buying a new flash. In the meantime I’m working with a cheap Nissin unit that doesn’t always seem to do what I want. Nikon’s SB910 is bigger and heavier than I like, apart from being expensive and in the end I decided to go for the SB700, which I ordered today and should get early next week.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Not all my problems with ‘Women on the Bridge’ were technical. The press had been invited to a photo-call on the bridge at which some of the celebrities at the front of the march were to release white doves. But the event security stopped us from going up there, and I stood for a quarter of an hour in a slowly seething crowd of photographers muttering to each other but not quite deciding to push past security to get on with the job. Finally we were allowed onto the bridge and I ran up with the others, but we were still far too far away when the few pigeons flew up. Whoever was in charge of the event had got things seriously wrong. They had their own photographer and video there but not the press, and missed an opportunity to get the publicity they wanted. Of course it probably wouldn’t have been a great picture anyway.

Personally I also had a problem in that I could only recognise one of the celebrities who were there. I’d expected to find the names of the others on the event web site, but there was no information at all when I was writing my story. I don’t have a great deal of interest in celebrity, and don’t watch TV so there are few that I can recognise. Usually I have to ask the other photographers, but at this event I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t stay for the speeches – when I might have found who some of them were, and I suspect some were very worthy.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

And perhaps because I missed the speeches it was an event that for me seemed rather corporate and rather lacking in political edge. Held on International Women’s Day which came out of the Communist Second International, this somehow seemed too tame, too moderate, too uncommitted as a celebration of that event. Rather like getting the Chamber of Commerce to organise the events for May Day.

4 Responses to “More Women”

  1. tdar says:

    first photo: Bianca Jagger on the left in dark glasses

  2. Thanks. I should have recognised her as I’ve photographed her several times before! But I suppose I really couldn’t be bothered to think about it!

  3. tdar says:

    also photocalls on bridges sound like a good idea but perhaps aren’t – I took photos at a big Burma demo in 2007 – which included a photocall on westminster(?) bridge: monks in robes dropping flowers into the thames – the angles being limited due to railing and crowds. Also it didn’t happen when it was supposed to, turned into a melee, I didn’t get any good shots, I’m not sure that other photographers did either.

  4. Yes, can be very limiting, and the Millennium footbridge is pretty narrow and there were far too many photographers and videographers there. People who put on such things never think about such problems. And we were there shortly before noon and having to work directly into strong sunlight as the bridge is roughly south-north…

    And on Westminster Bridge at several events I remember thinking I could get a decent picture if I could levitate around three yards from the bridge over the river.

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