A Year Without Shelter

Barbara Tucker has now been just over a year in Parliament Square without shelter – police removed her tent on 16 Jan 2012.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

The peace protest on the pavement facing Parliament was started by Brian Haw on 2nd June 2001 and has continued 24/7 since then; Barbara was one of those who joined Brian in the early years and has continued his protest since his death in 2011, and on those occasions where she has had to leave the square – various arrests, court hearings and two spells of imprisonment – others from the campaign have ensured it continues.

It’s a truly remarkable protest, and still continuing, though Barbara’s own future is under threat. On December 27th she began a hunger strike and as I write is on day 22 (you can see the current position on BrianHaw.tv, the campaign web site.)  A few days ago I was passing by and had time to stop briefly to see her. Then she looked cheerful and well but was too busy working on a statement to meet a deadline to talk. Although I would have liked to have talked with her – as I’ve done on many occasions in the past – I wasn’t quite sure what to say to her in the circumstances, and it was easier  being able to walk around and photograph her as she was working with a colleague.

I was on my way to a photographers meeting, and although I’d brought the D800 with me, with the 28-105mm lens, I hadn’t remembered to put in the flash, and it was pretty dark in Parliament Square. I set the camera to ISO3200 and to underexpose by one stop (otherwise it tries to produce pictures that are too bright, looking like they are taken during the day), but underneath the large umbrella where she was sitting it was pretty dark.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

It must help that the 28-105 is a VR lens, because otherwise my chances of getting a reasonably sharp image at 90mm equivalent focal length with a shutter speed of 1/5 second would have been slim. Of course I took several, and only a few were sharp enough to use. At shorter focal lengths things were a little easier as the maximum aperture is larger; f3.8 rather than f5.3 makes the lens roughly twice as fast. Taking a wider view was also easier as there was more light outside the umbrella, and with a wider subject I was getting shutter speeds of around 1/20th – seldom a problem with a wide-angle lens. The main light source for the pictures under the umbrella was the computer screen, which also changed slightly at times as they worked.  In most of the pictures I needed to use considerable ‘dodging’ particularly on faces, brightening and adding a little contrast, while there were often other areas that required burning. As almost always I took RAW files, which are considerably better for post-processing .

The D800 does have a built-in flash, but with many lenses you get a shadow at the bottom of the image if you make use of it. To my surprise it does seem to manage without doing so with the 28-105 at all focal lengths except for very close subjects at or very close to 28mm. I didn’t consider using it on this occasion as it would have have been too much of an intrusion, disturbing the two people at their work.

There are just a few more pictures on My London Diary in Parliament Square Hunger Strike. It’s freezing here as I write, and a terrible night for anyone sleeping out, even those not on hunger strike and denied shelter and not being harassed by police.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

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