Gettysburg Reenactments for Photographers

ife-long residence of Pennsylvania, a history fan, and a photographer, you would think that I would have merged those interests into a photography trip to Gettysburg sooner than 2017! Nope... I just went to the reenactments for the first time this year, and of course I took my camera!

The reenactment activity is actually held in one location, outside the center of town. I had prior agreements to photograph a specific group of reenacts, but they were going to be set up in the center of town, not at the reenactment battle field outside of town. So, I arrived early, and headed out to the camp ground where the reenactors had been camping all night. The photography opportunities at this huge event were absolutely everywhere!

Just after first light, I arrived at the reenactor's campsite. I'll confess to some creative explanations regarding how much authorization I had to photograph at the camp site. But luckily the person that I explained things to was kind enough to provide me with a staff access pass, which served me perfectly for the rest of the day. Next year, I'll definitely make sure to have that staff access secured in advance.

One of my favorite images from the camp is this young drummer practicing her rudimental drumming on a classic rope drum. The camp was just waking up, and she was working hard to ensure that she was well prepared for the upcoming day.

It was a real treat to get to see all of the various reenactors making their preparations in the morning. This is clearly an important and exciting day for all of them. There were military units practicing drills, and it actually made me think of the largely untrained men who were pressed into service 154 years ago. They very well could have been doing the exact same kind of very fundamental marching drills before breaking camp on a given day, just to build a working knowledge of maneuvers and tactics. That aspect of things might have been more authentic than originally intended.

Most of the tents and camp sites include only authentic replicas on site. The opportunity for still life photos of the replicas is fantastic.

This cup and jacket were resting on a table in one of the camps. Definitely a LOT of gray in that image. These would have been such vital belongings to a soldier who was most likely marching on foot.

Another still image that I was particularly fond of was a close-up of a trip of muskets that had been propped together as part of an early morning drill.

I'm a sucker for wood grain. The grain of the barrel of the closest musket barrel is a detail that I just absolutely love. And then the bokeh of the grass in the background, and the other details... I definitely am fond of this image, even though it's probably a case study in compositional flaws.

While wandering the vendor tent areas, I found a photographer who's processes would be extremely interesting to learn! It's an interesting thing to think about what a Civil War era photographer would have though of my Canon 5D Mark IV on a carbon fiber tripod, with an Acratech ball head!!!

One of the coolest aspects of the reenactment camp is the fact that almost everyone is there to be "on display." The willingness and even the enthusiasm for having portraits taken is really exciting. More than a few of the reenactors expressed their excitement to have a photographer there to capture their efforts. Some folks would break character and just chat away, while others were more invested in maintaining character.

This is a great example of someone who didn't really break character at all, while I was there photographing. We said a very cordial good morning, but that was the extent of the conversation. He was more than happy to allow his image to be "stricken" as many of the folks would refer to it.

After a morning of wandering the reenactment camp and vendor areas, I made my way to the center of town, where I had made arrangements to meet a group of individuals who present themselves as a number of Union Generals. The amount of historical expertise and knowledge in this group is absolutely inspiring.

My contact for the Confederation of Union Generals was General Hunt. Ironically, after a number of communications spanning many months, we didn't discover that we live in neighboring towns until we actually met up at Gettysburg.

General Hunt was also interested in having a formal portrait stricken with General Winfield S. Hancock. I love the authentic style of posing that represents the manner that commanding officers would have presented themselves for a photographer in the 1860's.

From an editing standpoint, I processed these exactly the same way I would process a modern portrait, but then I applied an Antique Plate setting from the Google Nik app, Silver Effects Pro.

General Ulysses S. Grant was also there. Given the exposure times, I doubt that a portrait would be created with a drinking cup, but the Mark IV captures images just a tad more quickly than an 1860's period camera!

I did not have the opportunity to meet this woman, or to get the story of her character. I'm hoping that the drum that she is carrying contains rum, and we'll have a conversation next summer!

Next summer I will be working with the reenactors again, and I will have some exciting opportunities for photographers that I will be announcing soon!


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