They Owe Us

I’ve photographed Canary Wharf on and off since the mid-1980s when the old West India docks were being demolished. On the ground during building the new area, and even  from the top looking down in the late 90s, when the office space in the tower was mainly still empty.


Canary Wharf station and Cabot Square

Since then I’ve been back various times, taken several photography workshops there as well as going to take pictures, and although I’ve got stopped a couple of times by security while taking pictures not really had a great deal of trouble.  I’ve photographed several protests there, most recently with the cleaners, and not been troubled by security while doing so.

So although I know people have had problems photographing on this huge private estate with its own security force impersonating police, I didn’t share the fears voiced by some that the ‘They Owe Us’  “creative civil disobedience”  there “in one of London’s economic power centres” was likely to end in trouble, though they were promising “an element of surprise that will be revealed on the day” though of course you can never be sure what will happen.

At least it was a nice bright sunny day, though rather windy, but perhaps the heavy-handed policing on Tuesday had put people off, and numbers were rather fewer than I’d expected.  Things eventually began to happen in the area in front of the tube entrance, with two adjacent areas with public address systems, one with some political speeches and performances, and the other more serious workshops and lectures, though visually neither was hugely interesting.

There were some seriously large banners, and in a creative area two large tripods were erected to fly the main banner – with the event’s title ‘They Owe Us’ – between.  Ultra-wide lenses were useful for these big banners, and in particular the 10.5mm fisheye let me not only show the banner but also in some pictures the tops of the high buildings to the south and north of the area.  The pictures with this seemed far more satisfying to me than those taken with longer lenses. With all those buildings with their rectangular arrays of window around almost all the fisheye images looked better after processing using the Fisheye-Hemi plugin,  which straightens the vertical lines (I’ve looked at alternatives to this, but it remains the best I’ve found.)

Of course not everything can be straight, and the sweep around of the paving slabs clearly shows this – and the buildings at left and right of the picture actually face each other.

A bit of tilt was needed to get the tops of the towers in the picture, and I was perhaps just a little too close for this picture – stepping back a few feet would have let me see more of the tripods, but I had to be more or less where I was to get the background ‘Power to the People’ banner in the image as well.

The two images above show the difference between a normal ultra-wide and the fisheye. The lower image was made with the 16-35 zoom at 23mm, about the widest for a rectilinear lens before the edge elongation becomes noticeable – the horizontal angle of view is a little over 75 degrees.  The upper image, taken from just very slightly to the left and a few second apart is almost half as wide again and gives a better impression both of the event and the surroundings.

But of course there are times when you do want to want to concentrate on a smaller part of the subject, and here is a third image taken a short time before the previous two. I was possibly just slightly closer, and moved down onto my knees to put the display of exchange rates and share prices which was travelling around the building behind the speaker.  The equivalent focal length using the 18-105mm DX lens was 120mm, and at f14 the rate is almost sharp – and you can count the speaker’s eyelashes, although theoretically diffraction is dragging the performance down a little it doesn’t seem to show on the original.

Finally, a reminder of what the protest was about. Canary Wharf, Pig Trough of the 1%, is in one of London’s most deprived boroughs, stolen from it and given over to the ultra-rich greedy pigs. In Tower Hamlets outside this private fiefdom, 1 in 4 children are living in poverty.  Getting balloons to point the right way on windy days wasn’t easy, as you can see in some of the other pictures on ‘They Owe Us’ G8 Protest on My London Diary.

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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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