Scottish Nationalists and Optical Illusions

A Force For Good counted 773 at the Scottish nationalist march in Glasgow on Saturday 14th May 2022 – not quite the "5,000" which the organisers lied about. You can count them for yourselves via our video evidence below.

Here's a picture of the front of the march as it passes along West George Street, next to Queen Street Station, just as they're arriving at their rally in George Square. This, and the shot above, are screenshots from our video.

The march was led by a Pipe Band, followed by a group carrying a banner about the NHS. It is fair to say that they are not packing out the street! It is not densely-packed. It is quite dispersed.

Now compare these two photos with a photo of the same groups of people – the Pipe Band, the front of the march, and those behind it – which appeared on the Scottish Daily Mail website on the afternoon of the event on Saturday 14 May 2022.

We know it is the march on Saturday because it shows part of the banner and the "NHS" placards which were unique to this particular march.

It is a good photo, and in our comments below we emphasise that the photographer has done his or her job well, and that they have taken the most dramatic photograph they can, which is exactly what is to be expected of them.

It shows the march coming over the brow of the hill at the top of West George Street, just after the perpendicular intersection with Blythswood Street at Blythswood Square.

However, it looks considerably more densely-packed than what we witnessed in reality!

How is the eye being tricked?

In this article we explain...

The photo would be taken with a long focal length lens and we estimate that the photographer would be standing on West George Street, somewhere around the junction with Wellington Street, which is below the junction with West Campbell Street (both of which perpendicularly intersect West George Street) – that is, somewhere around the area of this photo from Google Maps.

We know it would be somewhere around that area because the Daily Mail photo includes the traffic lights which stand astride West Campbell Street (see the right of the Daily Mail pic).

The front of the march shown in the Daily Mail pic was somewhere below where the taxi is shown – that is, below the junction with West Campbell Street.

From the top of the hill to the junction with West Campbell Street is 100 yards, according to Google Maps.


Firstly, the photographer has picked a good spot for this dramatic image, because the marchers are coming down the hill on a fairly steep slope (as streets go).

This means, at that point of the road, the flags carried by the marchers are all going to be slightly higher than the ones in front. Therefore, the camera can be held in such a way as to fit them all in the frame and make them all look "piled high on top of each other" which helps to emphasise their number.

But above all though, it is the focal length of the camera lens, and the position of the photographer in relation to the subject, which makes the difference here.

The focal length is the distance, in millimetres, between the optical centre of the lens and the camera's sensor (which records the image).

The longer the focal length, the narrower its "angle of view" – the bit that it takes a photograph of – and the larger the subject will appear in the photograph, than if we viewed it with our own eyes.

If the photographer was standing around where we think they took the pic (or perhaps even further down the hill and below the junction with Wellington Street), then a long focal length lens would concentrate the "angle of view" very narrowly in the small area of the street around where the taxi is located – the little bit in the middle – and immediately around it and just above it.

It would turn that area – which seems quite small to our eyes – very large.


Furthermore, a long focal length lens (combined with the distance between the photographer and the subject) can have the effect of "compressing" a picture.

It does this by tending to pull the background towards the viewer, giving the impression that objects in the distance are larger and closer than they actually are.

This can lead to a distortion of perspective which can be an effective method for particular photographic purposes.