A Red Line

Photography is often largely a matter of solving problems. It isn’t just a matter of pointing a camera, thinking ‘I like that’ and going snap, though occasionally that works, but there are acres of images on Facebook and other online sites that show you the success rate is fairly low. Even where the camera or phone has looked after the technical stuff (and if only more would, but too many people manage to make ordinary scenes as if they were taken in muddy underwater locations) many images simply fail to convey what the person taking them wanted.

Of course they may still convey it to them, and obviously do, or they would not have posted them, but too often they fail to communicate to others.

But photographs also benefit from an openness, trying to leave room for interpretation rather than determine what viewers think, and also trying to avoid cliche; they need a freshness that stimulates.

Viewpoint – angle, distance, angle of view – depth of field, lighting, timing, duration etc are some of the tools we have, and perhaps what distinguishes the truly professional photographer is taking into account the other bits of the picture apart from what they see as the ‘subject’. As I used to tell students, you are responsible for every pixel of our photograph – even those over which you had no control over at the moment of taking.

Some of the trickiest problems come when other people create ideas that may sound great, and may even look great, but are impossible, or virtually so, to photograph. And the thin red line on Westminster Bridge was a good example. Campaign against Climate Change‘s idea of carrying a red line three hundred metres long across Westminster Bridge as a protest against the inadequacy of the COP21 Paris decisions was a good one, but not the easiest of things to photograph.

An object 300m by 1m doesn’t nicely fit the 35mm frame, even if there had been a suitable viewpoint – perhaps hovering far below the legal height in a helicopter mid-Thames – and my budget certainly didn’t run to that. The closest I could have got would have been at the top of the London Eye, and from there I think the line would have been too insignificant. Better in any case to draw it by hand on an image from Google Earth or some bird’s eye source, along with a few little dots for the people holding it.

It could have made a long tracking shot on film or video, hoping not too many people got in the way as you dollied along, perhaps with the camera attached to a bicycle. But as always I was making still images.

It was too a fairly fast moving event, and with other photographers trying their own way to photograph it – and so far as possible I tried to keep out of their away and to avoid getting them in frame. It was important in at least some frames to show clearly the location – with the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Considering everything I don’t think I did too badly, as you can see from the few frames here and more at Climate Activists Red Line protest on My London Diary.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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