Photo-Op Impossible

I’m not a fan of ‘photo-ops’, arranged scenes set up for the press to take photos. Of course in a sense almost all the events and protests I photograph are arranged, and often very much with the possibility of press coverage in mind, though sometimes – for example too often with Stop the War events – you find the stewards do their best to frustrate photographers trying to get good pictures. So much so that I remember one time where we all sat down with our cameras on the tarmac in front of a march going down Park Lane.

But photo-ops are well meaning attempts to present what the organisers think will make a good picture.  Usually the problem is that they are just boring, and also many of us like to have a little more chaos and show things how they are.  Of course some of the press photographers are very much to blame – they like having things made easy for them.

There are photographers working for newspapers who like to set everything up. My heart sinks when one such decides to take charge of an event and to “set things up so we can get some good pictures” and procedes to get in the way of all of us and produce some massive cliche.  Of course sometimes you can still continue to take pictures, ignoring their concept and perhaps concentrating on smaller parts of the subject. He may want a wooden image of all 27 bishops present but you can still photograph the one who  is telling his neighbour a risque joke – and the reaction it causes – even bishops don’t respond too well to herding.

Another hate of mine is “Lets all move back boys, and we can all get a good picture”, usually coming from someone who saw a picture opportunity too late to get there. Or perhaps just can’t be bothered to change to a wide-angle lens. It’s always said when if anything I’d like to get in closer. You can be too close to people when photographing them – and when the only possible lens to use is a fisheye you probably are, though I do like my full-frame (on the D300) fisheye.

Yesterday,  a demonstration outside the Ministry of Energy & Climate Change  (from both title and policies its hard to tell whether they are for or against it) came one of those almost impossible to photograph ideas, with protesters getting down on the roadway to try to spell out the words


with their bodies. It was a scene that demanded to be photographed from around 100 ft above, and my feet were firmly on earth.

[Vestas Blades UK  are the only UK manufacturers of wind turbine blades whose owners want to move production to the USA to take advantage of government funding available there – no connection with matches or curries.]

They made quite a wide target, and even with a 12mm ultrawide on the D300 I had to stand well back to get the whole message in.  Although it was obviously hopeless I took a few frames, though with a less wide lens to minimise distortion.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Then I switched to the 10.5mm fisheye and moved in close to the people on the ground. With its 180 degree diagonal view (and 147 degrees horizontal) getting everyone in wasn’t a problem. I got as high as I possibly could by a ‘Hail Mary’, holding the camera at arms length above my head and pointing it down towards them. It still wasn’t high enough, but the best I could do. I could perhaps have gone in a little closer, but I knew that I might need plenty of subject matter around the central scene for the later work.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Then at home it was time for Photoshop, and some perspective correction and cropping and more. I spent far too long trying out various approaches that gave results like this.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Not a great result, but I think the best I could do in the situation.

More about the actual event on My London Diary shortly.

2 Responses to “Photo-Op Impossible”

  1. D300 has x1.5 or x1.6 to lens ?

  2. 1.5x

    The Nikon 10.5mm is a fisheye for this format – effectively it produces an image circle which is everything in front of the camera – 180 degrees, but the sensor is a rectangle within this circle with the 4 corners actually on the perimeter circle. So across the diagonal of the image you have a 180 degree view, but horizontally it is only something like 147 degrees and vertically around 90 degrees – I forget the exact figures.

    The equivalent for the FX format is the 16mm f2.8 from Nikon.

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