I still don’t like working in the dark, but at least digital cameras now make it a lot easier and enable us to get images that don’t look as if they were taken in a black hole. This image from a march by Unite the Resistance and UCU to Downing St in protest against Osborne’s Budget Cuts announced that day in his autumn statement in jobs, services and education which will unfairly impact on the vulnerable was taken on a well-lit street in central London, but I still needed a fairly high ISO (ISO 2000.) Although I think the marchers had actually paused, they were still moving around quite a bit and I needed to use a reasonably high shutter speed to avoid any blurring and I took it at 1/200s. Although they were stopped I think it still has a pretty dynamic feel to it, and there was certainly a high energy in this group. At 16mm on the 16-35mm even wide open at f4 gives a reasonable depth of field and the lens is pretty sharp even at full aperture.
Flash has provided the main light source on the people in the picture – with considerable burning down of the close figure on the left, though I may have twisted the flash head slightly away from her when making the exposure. I’ve also taken the figure at the right down a little, though she still stands out a little from the rest. There is enough ambient light to give some detail in the surrounding buildings, but the sky is still black. There is still a little bit of luck in lighting at night, and I often get it wrong, but there are also times like this when it works really well. To get that kind of result back in the old days would been impossible outside of a film set.
Later in the evening at the rally that these protesters held together with CND and Stop the War opposite Downing St I was finding it a little difficult to get the kind of lighting I wanted on the speakers, until I realised that the open gazebo under which they were speaking (like most days at this end of the year it was raining if only slightly) was more or less white and made a perfect surface for bounce flash. I cursed myself for not realising it immediately, but it’s something that is seldom possible out of doors.
This is the moment during UK Uncut’s Visit to Starbucks on Conduit St, just off Regent St, when the police walked in to the store, roughly a minute after the occupation had begun, and a statement about Starbucks’ avoidance of UK tax was being read. It’s one of a whole series of pictures taken over the roughly ten minutes I was inside the crowded shop, all with the 16-35mm on the D700 (this at 16mm.) At first I was working without flash, as I was worried that the shop management might ask me to stop taking pictures, and though I would have told them it was in the public interest and ignored them I prefer to avoid confrontations, but later I used it when photographing people with their backs to the window. None of the pictures I took here or at the protests against Starbucks in Vigo St and Euston Rd were spectacular, but perhaps that reflects the nature of UK Uncut, who make their point firmly but generally politely, direct action with intellectual rather than physical confrontation.
Among the other images I might have chosen is one from the Euston Rd branch, where a father is reading a book with a young child as the police walk in. The low viewpoint and the change in lighting from the warmth inside the shop on the father and child to the cold daylight flooding in from the front of the shop making the officers cold and blue add a little sinister drama. You can see it in Starbucks Euston Road.
When a finger gets that close to the front of your 16mm lens it is just a little worrying, particularly when a fairly bulky security guard is behind it and making physical threats. After all you don’t want to get any fingermarks on your lenses. You can read more about the protest against workfare in Brixton – here outside Superdrug who are using unpaid forced labour – work for nothing or lose your benefits – in Boycott Workfare Surprise Party in Brixton.
There was more of a Christmas atmosphere around as a small group visited banks and branches of Starbucks around the City of London to make their protest in song. A few places locked their doors in time to stop the carollers entering, one or two places didn’t seem to notice them, and there was no trouble, with a couple of police officers calming the staff and letting them know the protesters would leave without trouble.
At the NatWest in Poultry, a few yards from the Bank junction, the high circular hall had a fine acoustic and the choir sounded pretty good, having practised a little on the way around. Some staff came out onto the balconies to listen and it would not have surprised me if the manager had come out with mince pies and mulled wine and implored them to return next year.
Royal Exchange, shown in the picture above, made a good backdrop for the picture, but out of doors the sound was lost. I had to leave before the protest finished at St Paul’s Cathedral, to go to another Christmas event. It wasn’t until December 27th that I was able to drag myself away from the festivities having eaten and drunk too much (and more to come at the New Year.)
Four years ago, on Dec 27th, Israeli forces began their attack on the people of Gaza. By the time Operation Cast Lead came to an end 22 days later, around 1,400 Palestinians, mainly civilians had been killed. Israeli deaths totalled 13, three of them civilians. These bare facts, from UN and independent sources, give a clear indication of the imbalance of terror and power. The UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission (with which Israel refused to cooperate) documented 36 specific cases of alleged breaches of international law. There were numerous documented instances of the illegal use of white phosphorus incendiaries on populated areas including attacks on at least two hospitals.
The picture I took that got most attention – it was widely shared across the net – was of two young protesters both wearing t-shirts with a Google front page in which someone had type the word ‘israel’ and had got the response ‘Did you mean: Palestine’. You can see both of them in the picture above on the left, holding up a Palestinian flag and shouting towards the Israeli embassy, calling on them to end the siege of Gaza. I think this is a better picture, even though you can’t really read the t-shirts.
Well, that was more or less the end of the year for me, though I did take a few family pictures and local landscapes in the next couple of days – and you can see some of those landscapes on My London Diary.
All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.