Opera Performance

I wasn’t expecting to go in side the Royal Opera House when I met a small group of members of the cleaner’s union CAIWU a short distance away on Bow Street, but when a few of them walked in I followed. And although I didn’t get to sing I did manage to take quite a few pictures before security led the few protesters outside, as they were too busy dealing with the noisy protesters to take much notice of me.

The foyer of the Royal Opera is a place of dim lighting, and even at ISO 12800 it really wasn’t enough. I don’t like to use flash in these situations as it draws attention to me and makes it more likely I will get thrown out. Flash is also a problem when people – like the security guys here – are wearing reflective clothing which results in large amounts of light coming back from the reflective strips. There was quite a lot of movement so I wanted a shutter speed of at least 1/125th second.

Faster lenses might help a little – my 18-35mm f3.5-f4.5 is a little pathetic in this department, but in situations like this you also need a reasonable depth of field, which generally makes larger apertures unsuitable even at the wider end.

I had expected a rather more leisurely start to the protest, which was around the sixth on successive nights at the Opera House in a concentrated campaign against the victimisation of six CAIWU members for their trade union activities. I’d assumed that security would have expected the protest and locked the doors as we arrived and that the protest would be on the pavement outside.

I had my D750 on a strap around my neck, but the D810 was still inside my camera bag with a longer zoom in place. Once inside I decided the situation and low light made there little point in stopping to take it out, though had their been time in advance to think I might have taken it out and changed to the 16mm f2.8 fisheye, often a useful lens at close quarters and with remarkable depth of field.

As I viewed the pictures later on my computer I was pretty despondent. The colour quality of most of those taken in the foyer was abysmal, with darker areas exhibiting a nasty purple cast and a blotchiness. I’d taken just a few with flash that were usable, and managed to get a couple looking not too bad. The rest I converted to black and white.

It’s the colour that goes first with excessive under-exposure, and by converting to black and white you can work at least a couple of stops faster. But I don’t like converting images taken thinking in colour to black and white – either my own or those by other photographers. But here it was necessary.

Outside on the pavement, alhough it was getting dark, things were much better.

More pictures: Cleaners protest at Royal Opera House.

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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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