The chances of us ever getting the opportunity to travel back in time to witness one of the many historical conflicts that the world's seen is very slim. However, the sound of guns firing and an army marching can still be heard at battle re-enactments right across the country and they're the perfect place for a photographer to snap a few images of times long gone.
Photo by Peter Bargh.
What Gear Do I Need?
You need a good, long lens as for safety reasons, you won't be able to get right among the action. But also pack your wide lens for opportunities after the battle's over. Spare memory cards, batteries and protective gear for yourself and your camera should also have a place in your bag. Take your tripod along too as in the middle of a battle when you're trying to track the action, having your camera on a tripod will make life much easier. If it's a popular event, you may find a monopod is easier to manage and won't take up as much room.
Before we talk about technique we must mention safety. Safety is the number one concern of all the people taking part and the event organisers. You must obey the rules and if you're not allowed in certain areas please don't ignore the ropes and barriers that are put in place. They're there to protect you and the people around you and stepping over them to get a better photo will only upset the proceedings.
Battle re-enactments are popular events and crowds are challenging at the best of times and that's before you've got your camera out! If you can, arrive early or stay later than the main crowd will to maximise your chances of getting a collection of good shots.
Do Your Research
Prior to the main event familiarise yourself with the battlefield and find the best positions to photograph from. Find a spot that gives you a good viewpoint of the whole field and don't forget about the background - you'll be very annoyed when you get home if your brilliant battle shot is ruined by a burger van sitting in the background.
Photo by Peter Bargh.
At some events there will be a camp which you can walk around, soaking up the sights and sounds of the past. There will be plenty of people who often do expect to be photographed but do remember it's always polite to ask permission first. It will also give you the chance to tell them a little bit about yourself and explain what you're trying to achieve. This will also give you the chance to make sure the little details are correct. You'll be surprised how asking someone to fasten a shirt higher or move a strand of hair out of the way will make a big difference to your final image.
Follow The Action
Once the battle begins stick to your chosen position and make sure all of your attention is on the action. As your camera's on a tripod you can use it as a spotting scope to home in on the action. Make sure you listen to the people who are part of the re-enactment too as the orders they shout out will help you know where you need to focus on the field. You'll find fast shutter speeds are needed and make sure you have your panning technique perfected before you arrive so you don't miss a shot.
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