Sunday 12 July 2015

Samsung NX1 - Photojournalism

People are aware of my posts about the Samsung NX1, I've been using it for a while now, mostly for scenic things, bird watching, street photography and the like. Nothing really taxing; the light is constant, movement is predictable (for me anyway) and it's easy to get great shots.

But everybody knows this, what this post will be about is using the mirrorless camera in a photojournalist context.

It's 11pm and I'm popping to the shop to grab beer. I see a constant stream of police vehicles travelling into the town centre. Camden Town is probably the busiest area for tourism in the whole of the UK and hearing sirens on a Saturday night (about the time the pubs close) isn't exactly unusual. But this was different, it was interrupting my enjoyment of the new Batman vs Superman trailer so I had to go and check it out. I walked down towards the commotion to see any developments.

Camden Road Police Incident

Once I got a look of the place and decided this was worth documenting (although I still have no idea what was going on), I popped back, got the NX1, used the S 50-150mm and rushed back out to see what I could see. I could have brought out my 50-200mm but I needed all the light I could get, plus I know with 28 Megapixel images there is plenty to crop with. Plus the focus speed of the S lens is superior to the standard telephoto option and I didn't want to sacrifice focus speed and accuracy for an extra 50mm throw.

Police had set up a cordon, preventing anyone from getting anywhere near the centre, well, the NX1 is small and the 50-150 changes focal length internally, this all helps to keep the device subtle and unobtrusive.

I had spot metering on, I should have used multi but I wasn't paying attention. I should have also used raw, but I had the camera on the same settings I used for a previous days' walk, where I shot this. But that's a post I'm currently working on for later.

Camden Road Police Incident

The road was blocked off, the drama was all happening at the end of the street. Lots of people wandering around asking what was happening (naturally). As you can see the street lighting barely hits the pavement. Very dark, lots of movement, flashing sirens changing the exposure every fraction of a second, should be interesting.

I started off shooting Aperture Priority, moving to Manual later as I wanted complete control over exposure. I probably could have switched to multi metering but, whatever. To be honest I had already had a few beers. Ahem.

Camden Road Police Incident

So I continued back down the road, snapping away. These shots are all quickly edited from the JPEG and the resolution reduced to 1500x1000 pixels. I also reduced the saturation as the police lights would clip the blue channel and using curves would just take longer.

Camden Road Police Incident

I zigzagged down the road, seeing if there were any angles that revealed something not obvious at first glance. There were armed response units and dog units. Something bigger than a mere punch up was going down.

Camden Road Police Incident

People were arguing with a police officer about wanting access to the high street, probably in order to get to the train station. He wasn't having any of it. Sirens coming into earshot as more police vehicles entered the scene. Some chanting was heard from a crowd up ahead, some kind of anti-establishment thing I presume.

Camden Road Police Incident

The majority of the police were stationed up ahead and there was no access so this was as close as I could get. This is another convenience of shooting in high resolution. At the same time I was receiving reports (from friends in the vicinity) of pubs having their doors barricaded shut by staff due to violence on the street.

Camden Road Police Incident

I then saw these two being detained by police, again no info as to who, what or why any of this was happening. I couldn't see this from the other positions I was shooting from. That's why being aware of your environment is a useful thing for a photographer. Looking back down the way you came, looking up, thinking of the physical objects in a scene, and exploring that scene by not only by re-framing shots, but also by altering your position. Focussing wasn't a problem in these lighting conditions, the NX1 had a hiccup though at a particular spot near a bus stop, with lots of people moving in different directions and extremely low light. Plus I was shooting wide open in Aperture Priority mode, not the best settings for that I admit.

Camden Road Police Incident

I passed back out into the middle of the road to see if anything else was happening in the distance. Apart from the chanting, nothing was going on, so I headed home. I'm happy to say, even with my lazy, haphazard use of the NX1, it got the job done.

Another box ticked.

UPDATE: Local newspaper, the Camden New Journal has provided additional info:

GENTRIFICATION-RAGE spilled onto the streets last night (Saturday) as a large group of protesters clashed with police in the heart of Camden Town. 
The demonstration, organised by Class War, was triggered after a number of recent closures of popular venues and local landmarks that were subsequently replaced with “luxury” housing developments.

Looks like I only caught the aftermath.

Camden Road Police Incident

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