Independence Day

July has finally arrived for My London Diary, after some delays due to computer problems and pressure of work. I’ve already posted a couple of times about my visit to Hackney for a book launch, so the first new event in the month was SOAS Cleaners’ Independence Day at the University of London.  It was a fairly large protest for what is a relatively small institution, with a good crowd around the steps leading to the main entrance, but there wasn’t really a great deal to photograph, simply a crowd with various speakers, banners and placards.

The cleaners at SOAS get support from the students and academic and non-academic staff, with a long-running campaign for them to be directly employed by SOAS. There seems to be a very clear conflict between the principles and ethos of SOAS as an institution and the dubious employment practices involved in outsourcing work which is vital to the running of the place.

The slogan at SOAS is ‘One Workplace – One Workforce’, and the principle is that those who work there should all be treated with dignity and respect – not cheated over sick pay, pensions and holiday pay by employing them through a contractor.

My pictures are mainly about the people taking part and their placards, and there were plenty of both to add some interest. The one above had an interesting message, but a slight difference in viewpoint presented a visually more interesting picture, but one that provided me with a dilemma. Here are the two versions of it that I produced within seconds of each other:

Right face sharp

Left face sharp

Both images were taken using an equivalent focal length of 147mm in DX mode on the D800E, and at ISO800 the exposure was 1/200 f7.1. With a long telephoto like this there was insufficient depth of field to get both faces sharp – I had to choose one or the other (though with these rather small images the difference is less obvious.) At the time I couldn’t decide which was better, so I took both. But I still can’t decide.

I could perhaps have tried increasing the ISO, giving myself a couple of stops more at ISO 3200, but even then I don’t think both could have been sharp. The image with the sharp face at left ends up probably as my choice, both because it somehow reads better from left to right going from sharp to unsharp and because the gesture with the hand makes that face more interesting. In favour of the other image, having the ‘Unison’ on the poster sharp (and more complete) is a plus.

Of course it would not be too difficult to combine the two images in Photoshop (despite a small difference in viewpoint and framing) and get both men sharp, but I think that would certainly be cheating if I did it as an afterthought. But perhaps if it was implemented in camera it would feel acceptable, but having done a quick job with a quick select, copy and paste, the result is actually less powerful without the differential focus.

Composite image to get both faces sharp – which I wouldn’t use

Focus stacking (or focus bracketing) at the moment for Nikons is so far as I’m aware limited to using specialised software with the camera tethered to a computer, and its obvious applications are for macro work. Canon DSLRs can use the cracked ‘Magic Lantern’ firmware. Getting it to work with the camera off-tripod even for relatively static subjects such as this would be tricky, and perhaps the occasions where it would be of use would not justify the effort.

You can see the rest of the pictures from the protest at SOAS Cleaners’ Independence Day.


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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.