Thursday Lates

I hate the early nights we have at this time of year, when sunset comes to London at around 15.52 and so many things, including most protests take place in twilight or darkness. So I look back with some warmth at my diary for May 25th, when the sun only set at 9pm, giving me some colourful sunset skies to watch from the train window on my way home.

Photographers notice the light more than others, or at least we should, though on some winter days I’ve been caught out by the falling light and only realised too late that my shutter speed in some auto mode has dropped far too low giving an unwanted motion blur to my subjects, often only noticeable when I zoom into the image. Viewing the whole image on the camera back can seem sharp even when images are unusable.

The answer I’ve now adopted on the Nikons is auto ISO. Working in Program mode and setting the minimum shutter speed to perhaps 1/100th and the maximum ISO to 6400 or even 12,800 more or less guarantees usable results except at more extreme focal lengths. Once I realise its getting dark, or have a need for flash or greater depth of field or stopping faster movements I’ll change the settings, but until then I find this works. The Nikons have an Auto setting for the minimum shutter speed, which takes into account the focal length of the lens, and does allow you to choose different settings, faster or slower, based on this, which sounds useful, but I think fails with moving subjects, where the fixed speed seems to work better.

But back in those longer days, I had no such problems. I started work at 4pm – which at this time of year is just after sunset, but towards the end of May was bright sunlight outside the building behind Harrods which houses both the Ecuadorian and Colombian embassies. A small die-hard group of supporters of Julian Assange was outside as they had been on so many occasions over the almost five years he had been holed up in there. His continuing detention is a monument to the stubbornness of Theresa May, but it is a pointless act which has cost us millions and harms us diplomatically. He should have been allowed to leave for Ecuador when granted immunity there.

Grant Assange Safe Passage


Protesting on the same pavement – and with some overlap both physically and in terms of people – were the Colombian Solidarity Campaign, demanding that the Columbian government end the use of force against the people of Buenaventura and instead tackle the social, economic and ecological problems that have led to the civic unrest there.

Photographically my problems were mainly that half of the protest was in bright sun and half in shade, giving a huge dynamic range. Even with careful exposure this still requires considerable post-processing to reveal shadow details and tone down the brightly lit areas.

Timing was also a problem, and although the protest was due to begin at 4 pm,  people only began to drip in slowly some time after that – and I had to leave before the event had really got going. South American time, as I learnt when I visited Brazil some years ago – is a rather different concept to English time.

Lift the Siege of Buenaventura

Axe the Housing Act were rather more punctual for their protest intending to make housing an issue in the snap general election which was taking place, thanks to a moment of madness on the Prime Ministers walking holiday.  Labour were still in disarray, with its centre and right MPs refusing to accept the zeitgeist that had moved the party membership to elect Jeremy Corbyn and were still acting like spoilt children who had lost their toys and encouraged and supported  by a Tory-dominated media were determined to undermine him in any way possible with a series of smears,  lies, coup attempts and party machinations.  Had they accepted defeat with any grace and got down to work for the party rather than for their own interests the election would never have been called, as Labour would have had a massive lead in the opinion polls.

But we had an election, and housing despite the effects of protesters which have put it on the political agenda, never became a major issue.  It’s an area where Labour still has a great deal of work to do, with many Labour councils still busy demolishing council estates and cosying up with private developers despite a new direction from the leadership which at the party conference a few months later called for policies based on housing people rather than realising asset values. Its a battle still to be fought, let alone won. Although the protest was called a vote for decent, secure homes this wasn’t generally a choice on our ballot papers.

The picture above shows Piers Corbyn (Jeremy’s elder brother) signing the poster-sized letter which the protesters were to deliver to Downing St, and the sun is still bright at ten to six, a time when now we would have passed through civil twilight and nautical twilight and be about to move from astronomical twilight into full blown night time.

Vote for decent, secure homes

I left the housing protesters as they left for Downing St and walked down to Tate Britain, where the PCS Culture Group were to picket the leaving party for retiring director Nicolas Serota. Staff there, many of whom are on zero hours contracts with lousy conditions from Securitas and are paid on or close to minimum wage – much less than the London Living Wage and something the Tate could not dare to justify for anyone it directly employed were asked to contribute to a leaving present for him of a sailing boat – and of course were not invited to his leaving party.

Instead they launched their annual Golden Boat Awards, naming Serota as the first recipient for his services to the cause of privatisation, casualisation and low pay at the Tate. They demand an end to this cheapskate use of facilites companies to provide staff who should be employed directly with acceptable conditions and pay.

It was around 7pm when I left the Tate, still two hours before sunset.

Golden Boat Award for Serota


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.