All Fools Day Disappointments

April started badly for me.  It was a day with demonstrations all over London and although I went to some and took some pictures, I find them a little disappointing.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Many hands make light work of putting up tents for the Climate Camp

Not that they are particularly bad pictures. Some I would normally have been happy with. But when I look at some of the pictures other people took on the day I can see that I missed most of the action, although by the time I left Bishopsgate it seemed pretty clear to me that the police were spoiling for action.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
Police squad attack protester

Really I wasn’t equipped for it. Wednesday was a day when photographers needed hard hats and shin pads to stay with things, as well as a strong bladder and a masochistic streak. The people who got the pictures were with the demonstrators, held for hours by the police, then in the middle when the police horses charged or the riot police moved in, lashing out indiscriminately.

It was a day when I felt sickened when I watched the images and the videos – mainly not yet shown on the mainstream media. Watched the peaceful Climate Camp protesters holding up their hands and chanting “We are not a riot” as the riot police stormed in, batoning everyone on the street. There was a level of unprovoked violence by police unprecedented in this country both on Bishopsgate and around the Bank of England. One man who was there has died.

It should have been headline news on the BBC. There were cameras there and video available, but they had a different agenda, losing most of the respect I still retained for them.  They reported the death as ‘unrelated’ to the events, which appears to be simply untrue.  Some of the newspapers did a little better, but not much, even those who had reporters and photographers there.  It isn’t a great deal of use having a free press if it doesn’t do its job.

I hope there will be a full and wide-ranging enquiry into the aggressive policing, although I don’t have a great deal of confidence – under our current government they seem to be able to act with complete disregard for the rule of law. If there is an enquiry it will almost certainly be a whitewash.

I wasn’t around when things went up. Partly because I went to cover another event – the official ‘Jobs not Bombs’ march through the centre of London organised by Stop the War, CND, BMI and Palestine Solidarity, which, as expected was a worthy if not particularly exciting occasion.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Then somewhere, somehow I lost my SB800 flash. It could have been stolen while I was travelling on the underground – I often forget to close my bag properly, or I may have dropped it climbing up for a better viewpoint, perhaps onto the plinth at Trafalgar Square. All I know is that I put my hand into my bag to put it back on the camera and it wasn’t there.

Otherwise I might have gone back to the City from Trafalgar Square and got a little more of the action, though more likely I would have travelled out to the Excel Centre where the Campaign against Climate Change were demonstrating with their iceberg. But without a flash, an evening demonstration didn’t seem worth going to, and I took an early night instead.

I’ve not been lucky with SB800s, which I think are a great flash unit. This was my third, and the second I’ve lost.  One was stolen from my bag. Another failed after two weeks and it took me three months to get a replacement unit – which then failed within days of the end of its guarantee and is sitting on my desk waiting for me to take it to Nikon for expensive servicing.

The SB800 is the best flash unit I’ve used – when it is working, and when powered by five 2500 millamp hour NiMnH batteries has an extremely fast re-cycle time and keeps working through a day of heavy use – more than 500 flashes. Unfortunately it has now been replaced by the SB900 which seems rather less attractive as well as more expensive.

So I’ve ordered a cheap Nikon i-TTL compatible flash – at around a fifth of the price of the SB800 – and will see how that performs. I must also get round to taking the other SB800 in for service. In the meantime I’m having to work with a Nikon SB80DX which doesn’t combine well with the latest Nikons.

Although Nikon’s flash units are great when they are working, they just don’t seem to have the robust reliability of the old workhorse units like the Vivitars I used to rely on.

I’d gone out to photograph the demonstrations, not police violence.  And so far as that went I suppose I didn’t do badly. You can see the G20 Meltdown with two of the four Horsefolk of the Apocalypse, the start of the Climate Camp on Bishopgate and the Jobs not Bombs march on My London Diary.

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