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Battle re-enactment photography

Battle re-enactment photography - Cameras at the ready as we explore the world of battle re-enactment photography.

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 Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.
Until they invent time travel the chance of us going back to photograph a historical conflict is rather slim. But with fires roaring, blacksmiths working and the sound of a battle cry echoing around a field. A battle-re-enactment gives photographers the ideal chance to photograph life how we imagined it to be over 100 years ago.
Shawn Soderstrom was given the opportunity to go to an American Civil war re-enactment in July 2008 and it was something he found to be an incredible experience.
Everyone associated with the event was in period clothing and even spoke as if they were from that period as well. I wandered the camps prior to the battle event and it was like walking into the 1860’s. I was re-living history and  it was amazing.
  Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.
When Shawn arrives at an event the first thing he will do is familiarise himself with the battle field to determine the best positions to photograph from. It's important to have a shooting position that has a good view point of the whole field and make sure the background you are shooting against is also period or at least fitting- you don't want a modern car parked behind your Civil War battle.
During the actual battle all of Shawn's attention is focused on the battle field. He rarely moves, his eyes are constantly fixed on the viewfinder and as his camera is fixed on a tripod, he can use them like a spotting scope to help him anticipate where the action will be on the field. Having good ears also helps as you can often find out what each side's tactics are from the officers directing their men.
  Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.
To capture action Shawn uses the aperture preferred setting on his Olympus DSLR which gives him control over depth of field. He also uses shutter speeds between 1-250th and 1-800th of a second and a good, long lens.
Safety is the number one concern of all the people taking part and the event organisers. All photographers are to be outside of the roped off areas so the closeness you see and feel in my images are done with the help of a 500mm lens, it certainly gets me in close with the event. You will also find a 10-20mm lens, batteries, memory cards, a camera rain jacket, 45-150mm lens, pens and a note book in my photographers vest.
  Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.
Shawn's photographs have a similar feel to that of period work but with a twist. He likes to add a pop of colour in post production which he says makes the viewer feel like they're stood on the field, witnessing the battle for real and for the first time.
Don't forget the other aspects of the battle-enactment. Some of my favourites are of camp life. You can also get images of the period medicine and weapons on display.
If you enjoy or have a passion for history experiencing a battle re-enactment is something you will really enjoy. Take your first event as a learning experience. Watch and learn how the event is performed. Of course take your camera gear along but make sure you take plenty of notes so that you learn how to capture images that not only show the passion of the actors, but your passion as well!
  Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.   Photo by Shawn Soderstrom.
Shawn Soderstrom's book - Blue & Gray - History Reenacted is out now.
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20 Jun 2009 11:12PM

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