Defend Our NHS

I hope our current General Election in the UK is going to be decided on policies rather than personalities, but I very much doubt it. So far we’ve seen Tory politicians and the media hanging on every statement by Corbyn and trying to twist it against him personally rather than argue about policies, and in terms of photographs, a Conservative Party ‘Information Officer’ (according to her LinkedIn profile) promoting a clearly Photoshopped image of a voter on the doorstep giving a ‘V-sign’ to Corbyn. The original image shows her raising her fist in salute, and the over-large male hand which replaced hers with its aggressive gesture apparently is that of George Bush!

One of the issues clearly at stake in the election is the future of our National Health Service. Under the coalition and Tory governments privatisation of this, begun under New Labour, has continued apace and another Tory administration would take it to a position that might be irreversible and on the path to a very different service, probably insurance-based and modeled on the hugely expensive US health system, advocated some years back by Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt among others.

Our NHS is clearly sick at the moment. Crippled by debts from New Labour’s disastrous Private Finance Initiative, always a bad deal but made much worse by the financial crisis which meant the government lost its gamble on rising inflation, and having to deal with an aging population alongside a population increase partly due to its success in raising life expectancy, and with higher expectations from new and often expensive treatments, it needs support and not the bleeding of resources to private providers and their shareholders.

Getting back to photography, the image above shows that my Nikon 16-35mm f4 is also ailing somewhat, giving excessive flare in difficult lighting conditions such as the low sun at this early evening protest. Fortunately Lightroom recently added a de-haze option with the adjustment brush that enabled me to reduce its worst effect.  I deliberately didn’t try to remove it entirely from the woman’s hair and the buildings behind.

Fortunately the light wasn’t a problem in most pictures, but it did perhaps mean I didn’t work so much in the sunlit areas.  Complex modern lenses like the 16-35mm have a lot of glass surfaces, and although the lens is quite well sealed these can attract condensation in wet conditions, and I suspect some mould growth may be at the root of the overall flare.

Auto-focus has also added to the complexity of modern lenses, with a need to move groups of elements rapidly and precisely inside the lens barrel. The 16-35mm is also an internal zooming lens, which helps by avoiding the pumping of damp air in and out which occurs with lenses that alter their length on zooming, but also adds to complexity. And adding vibration reduction increases that further.

So while reviewers write things like “like all Nikon professional lenses, the Nikon 16-35mm VR lens is built to last a lifetime” this may accurately reflect Nikon’s publicity, but unfortunately not my experience in real world conditions. After around four years of pretty intensive use it needed a very expensive repair, and a couple of years later seemed on its way to another – finally failing a few months after I took these pictures.

It has probably taken at least 400,000 images, so it hasn’t done badly. The cost per image works out at something below 0.4p, which doesn’t seem excessive. But lens lifetimes are considerably less than photographer’s lifetimes now unless you stick with simpler designs.

I still haven’t taken the lens in for a repair estimate, but I hold out little hope for its future and will be extremely if pleasantly surprised if it is not beyond economic repair. I needed a replacement quickly and ended up with a secondhand cheaper and lighter Nikon 18-35mm.  It seems fine, but I often find myself missing those 2mm at the wide end – the difference between 16 and 18mm is surprising.

There were a few other images where some overall flare was visible, but Lightroom generally solved the issue, and there was also some light cloud which helped at times.  But probably there were other pictures I just didn’t take because I could see the light would cause problems. Though at least with digital you can afford to take images that you probably wouldn’t chance on film.

Of course I wasn’t only working with the wide-angle, but also with a 28-200mm telephoto, in use on the D810 in DX mode – effectively 42-300mm, as in this image of Matt Wrack speaking from the top of the FBU fire engine which had led the march from St Bartholomew’s to the rally opposite St Paul’s Cathedral.

Junior doctor Aislinn Macklin-Doherty who led the march also spoke from there. It was hard to find a suitable viewpoint for photographing the speakers – and I would have liked to have included the dome of St Paul’s behind them to indicate the location, but couldn’t get the right angle or perspective. The fire engine needs the bar across in front of the speakers for safety but it doesn’t help in pictures, and my attempt at including one of the posters doesn’t work too well as in the photograph it reads ‘NHS Solidarit(y) NO’ which was not the message!

More pictures at Defend our NHS.


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

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