Shaker – 11 Years

On a bitterly cold morning for London – around zero with a noticeable wind, I put on an extra layer and went to photograph in Parliament Square, where around 20 people were holding up banners facing the House of Commons, reminding MPs that London resident Shaker Aamer had been held without trial at Guantanamo for 11 years. You can read more about the protest and see more pictures in Shaker Aamer – 11 Years in Guantanamo on My London Dairy.

The same day we’d had an e-mail from one of my wife’s old school friends in which she’d mentioned the weather where she was living in Canada – where they were having something of a cold spell, with the temperature at 50 degrees below zero. I’m thankful not to be working there, as I was having problems keeping warm in London.  Fortunately it doesn’t get cold enough here to have to worry too much about equipment, which all seems to work OK around zero. I get cold standing around, not so bad if I can keep walking, but I felt for these guys standing holding banners and placards in orange jump-suits, not as warm as the fleece and jacket I was wearing – and black hoods are not as warm or wind-proof as my Polartec hat. Some weren’t even wearing gloves, and I can’t work in cold weather without them, though I can’t find anything really very warm that still lets me work a camera without problems.  My current solution is a pair of thin silk gloves with a second pair of close-knit wool gloves on top, reasonably warm and I can do almost everything with both pairs on; for anything really fiddly I can take off the wool, and the silk still keeps my fingers a bit warmer. Silk gloves on their own are good for when it isn’t too cold, but it doesn’t take long for the shutter release and other controls to make a holes in the tip of the finger. The wool is a bit tougher, though I’ve already got through one pair this winter.

Apart from keeping warm – and at least unlike the protesters I could walk around a bit – I had two main problems. The first is that I’ve photographed so many protests with people in orange suits that it’s hard to find anything new to say, and the second is with the way that the camera reacts to saturated orange and red.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Even in this small reproduction I think it is clear that there is something wrong with the orange, while the rest of the image looks about correct. Cutting down the saturation would help a little, but the better solution I’ve found in the past is to use an ‘untwisted’ camera profile in Lightroom (or Adobe Raw.)  And I do that with images from the D700, such as the picture below.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

I think the difference is clear, though you can’t assume that the two orange suits were equally intense, there really was quite a range. The lower image was taken on the D700 for which I have ‘untwisted’ profiles which I downloaded several years ago, but I can’t find any for the D800E (there are some on line for the D800, but I can’t get Lightroom to use these.) I’ve tried downloading software that untwists the standard profiles (created because the free Adobe profile editor doesn’t), and it runs to create new profiles, but again I can’t get these to show up in Lightroom.  Having wasted and hour or two I gave up trying to make my own profiles – but if anyone has succeeded for the Nikon D800E I’d like to have copies.

But there is still something that Lightroom can do. In the Camera Calibration panel of the Develop module there are hue and saturation sliders for the Shadows and Red, Green and Blue Primaries.  Here is the result of setting the Red saturation to -20 on the top image.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

On my screen the improvement is very marked. I think there are other small improvements from choosing the Camera Portrait rather than the normal Adobe Standard profile, and also perhaps a very slight tweak of the Red Primary hue.

For this image, the shadows, such as they are, are generally fine, but having discovered the Shadow slider which shifts along a green – magenta scale, I think I may have a solution to a problem I found working in mixed lighting a couple of days later.

Future versions of Lightroom may well omit these controls as Adobe people have stated that the job can be done better by using specific profiles. But for the moment they are still there even if we seldom need them. I’d rather be out making pictures than having to fiddle so much with them.

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