Syria Again

Stop the War organised another protest against David Cameron’s motion to allow bombing of Syria on a weekday evening, with a rally opposite Parliament and a short march around Westminster via the Conservative and Labour Party HQs.  Like their previous protest, what struck me was the absence of views from Syrians, although there were some supporters of both the Assad regime and the Free Syrians at the rally.It was also noticeable that there was no condemnation of the Russian bombing of the Syrian opposition as well as Daesh.

Of course I wasn’t the only person to notice this and to comment on it, and Stop the War were forced into issuing  ‘For the avoidance of doubt‘ by John Rees, which makes seven points, the first of which begins “The STWC has never supported the Assad regime.” As I commented:

Well, it’s good to make that clear, because there have been many protests by Stop the War which Assad supporters have attended and appeared to be welcome, and by refusing to let Syrians opposed to the regime speak at this and other protests STW have certainly given that impression.

Photographically it was a night where I had a lot of problems. For a central London location, Parliament Square is remarkably dark, and working without flash was perhaps a little beyond the capabilities of the D700 and D810, though I did manage a few images. Things were a little better on the march, which at times went through some fairly well let junctions.

But perhaps the most challenging situation was when a large group of red-flag carrying protesters let off red flares. The image at the top of this post was taken without flash and an exposure which held the highlights, but they were really too extreme, and I needed to let these burn out.

Increasing the exposure showed up at least some of the background, and using a little flash let me bring people in the foreground up from the shadows. But I still don’t really have a solution for situations like this.

After the march there was another short rally, with rather a crush of photographers. I took a number of pictures working very close in to those speaking with the 16mm fisheye – including that above. With the wide view of that lens, flash isn’t generally an option – unless you are aiming for powerful vignetting – and I was working by available light, in this case augmented by someone’s video light. As usual changed to cylindrical perspective.

After the end of the official protest there were still hundreds of people milling around in Parliament Square and wondering how to continue their protest. But I was having a very bad case of wandering finger, somehow managing to shift the shutter speed on the D810 to ridiculous levels – it had reached ISO2500 before I finally noticed it. It’s quite remarkable that the flash continues to synchronise at these speeds, but most of the results were not usable. I knew things were going wrong, but in the dark and heat of the moment couldn’t immediately sort things out. So I went back to working without flash and changed to 1/50th second, but it was a little late, as police were approaching and people climbing down from the plinth.

ISOs really become pretty irrelevant under these conditions. This image was taken with the camera set at ISO2000 but with -4 stops of exposure compensation.  Which I suppose you could call ISO 32000.

Within seconds I had the flash and camera working together again, and was able to photograph the police questioning one man who had been on the plinth and then telling Focus E15 that they were not allowed to use a megaphone in Parliament Square. They were deciding what to do, but I’d had enough and decided it was unlikely much more would happen and went home.

More at Don’t Bomb Syria.


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