Griffin BBC Protest

The BNP are a pretty nasty lot who I’ve photographed several times over the years but they weren’t around outside the BBC on Thursday night, just a thousand or two anti-fascists who are considerably more pleasant to be around and to photograph.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

But I did have problems taking pictures. The biggest was me, but also there were other photographers and videographers, as well as my camera and flash playing up.

This was a very high profile event taking place outside the largest media organisation in Britain, so it was hardly surprising that there were a great many photographers there, both professional and amateur – and more guys with video cameras than I could count.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

This isn’t a great picture but it gives you some idea. It was taken very shortly after a group of demonstrators had surged through the gates at the left, and the police had grouped too late to stop about 30 or so. I was actually up with them, but decided not to go onto the BBC site but moved to one side to photograph. I’m always wary of getting into situations where I might get trapped, but here there were several photographers who were on the other side of the gates who might have got better pictures.  Those in the picture here probably didn’t get a great deal, but they mightily outnumber the few demonstrators trapped between them and the police.

There were just so many people taking pictures it was hard to get a decent position – and when you did it was 100% sure that some guy with a large video camera would push in front of you. One of my friends – even though he takes video – was actually trampled on by a BBC crew, so I guess I was lucky.

Although I’d planned to get on site early, things kicked off just as I arrived, and I rushed into taking pictures. Somehow, without my noticing it, my camera had decided to reset itself to the default settings, which frankly are extremely odd.  You might think I should have noticed, but I didn’t, probably because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I can’t get used to using a camera with glasses on, but without them I can’t read the LCD screen.

So I shot everything on JPEG rather than RAW, which was a real pain, especially since the lighting was pretty tricky. But I contrived to mess up even more, taking pictures for quite a while on too low ISO and so getting problems with camera shake and lack of depth of field. But the camera was also up to some tricks, giving occasional frames with exposure that was way out of line with what was needed for no apparent reason.

Since it was beginning to get dark, I slotted the flash into the hot shoe, but in the excitement of the moment forget to check it was still on its usual setting. It wasn’t, and before I realised I’d shot quite a few frames hideously over-exposed. It wasn’t immediately obvious on the viewing screen as often I’d shot several frames fairly rapidly and when I checked on the back of the camera saw only the last – where the flash hadn’t fully recharged and the exposure was more or less ok.

Once I realised the flash wasn’t doing what it should I put on my glasses and tried to sort it out.  Whatever I did it didn’t want to work normally, although eventually I managed to get more consistent exposures.

Of course sometimes things going wrong can produce interesting results. I was using flash with a shutter speed of 1/60 to combine with ambient light at ISO800 on pictures like this one:

© 2009 Peter Marshall

and when someone with a video camera barges into you the results can be quite interesting:

© 2009 Peter Marshall

There are around 50 pictures from the event on My London Diary, and a tighter edit of around 15 from these on Demotix, where the feature made the front page.

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