Poor Doors Special

Saturday night was a special protest outside One Commercial Street against their separate doors for the rich and poor tenants of flats in the prestige block. A mile or so down the road there had been a large anarchist book fair taking place, and Class War had called on people to march from there to show their support for their campaign against ‘social apartheid’.

So this was expected to be a rather larger protest than before, and this turned out to be the case, with the wide pavement outside getting pretty crowded most of the time. It was also a more musical protest than most, with samba from Rhythms of Revolution and songs from Cosmo.

It wasn’t one of my best nights photographically. Some anarchists don’t much like being photographed, and it was dark, particularly when a group of those present went into the dark alley to look at the poor door. and I was having problems getting my SB800 flash to work consistently. I still don’t understand what the problem was, but flash often seems like that. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times you think you are doing exactly the same thing, but nothing goes right.

I’ve found over working with flash at these and other evening protests that the most reliable way with flash at protests is to use the Nikons on manual exposure, setting the aperture and shutter speed to get as much ambient exposure as possible. This generally means working at full aperture and speeds around 1/30s, or perhaps 1/60s for longer focal lengths with the 18-105mm. The flash seems then to work OK in TTL A mode. But there did seem to be intermittent problems in communication between camera and flash – and later I gave the hotshoe contacts a good clean which seemed to help a little. But whenever I test the flash at home it works, then when I’m out I have problems.

The crowding was also a problem, and when I green flare was set off, I was in the wrong place and couldn’t move to a better position quickly enough to get the pictures I would have liked.

You’ll see if you look at the pictures that some the flash has more or less worked, but quite a few exposures were either completely over or under-exposed and were deleted. Towards the end of the event, the protesters decided to block the road as a part of the protest, at which point the flash was so inconsistent that I soon gave it up and worked mainly by available light.

Most of that came from the headlights of the cars that were stopped by the protest, and car headlights work mainly at knee height or below. So quite a lot of dodging and burning was needed to even up the lighting.

I also found myself cursing my lack of fast lenses for the Nikons. Usually the f4 maximum aperture of the 16-35mm zoom isn’t a problem – just means using a higher ISO than a faster lens. But on this occasion it would have been nice to have a 35mm f1.4 on the camera.

The other problem with car headlights is that of colour temperature. Car headlights seem to vary somewhat from each other and this gave some problems colour balancing the images. But I was reasonably happy with some of the images despite the problems. You can see quite a few of them at Poor Doors Saturday Night Special.


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 taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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