July 20, 2024


Confederate Cavalry & Artillary photo by bwb-images

The 150th Anniversary of The Battle of Lexington was commemorated this past weekend inLexington,Missouri. The entire town participated with parades, markets, speeches, and lots of good food.  Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was the reenactment of the battle itself.  Hundreds of Civil War Reenactors gathered at The Big River Ranch just outsideLexington where ranch operators Robbie Maupin and Jake Brown played host to  three days of battle related events.  The ranch  was a perfect location for the activities.  Encampments were established for Confederate and Union Forces with all those taking part dressing in authentic period clothing and using authentic period equipment including, tents, utensils, handguns, rifles, and canon. It was a wet weekend and a bit on the cool side but it did not appear to slow these folks down one bit.  As I was told, the Civil War did not wait for a weather report and these folks did not either.

 The event was a great opportunity to do some interesting photography.  I’d highly recommend it to photographers who like to travel and shoot new and exciting things. Here are some photo related thoughts and observations for you if you do decide to head out:

 1)     Be prepared for any weather.  These events go – rain or shine.  Bring weather gear for yourself and also your cameras.  Lots of big plastic garbage bags and large size zip lock bags can come in very handy in addition to more specialized equipment.   It’s always better to keep your gear dry than to try and dry it out and clean it up after it’s gotten soaked.

2)     Get out and meet the reenactors.  Battles are great and are the main event so to speak.  But walk through the encampments.  Meet the “soldiers” and their families.  Everyone is very friendly.  They love what they are doing and are eager to share with anyone with an interest.  Walking though camps and talking with reenactors gives a great chance for some “up close and personal” shots.  This is where you want your short lenses or wide angle lenses.  Quarters are tight.  Tents are wall to wall.  This area is a chance to do some “detail” images – pieces of equipment, a pot on an open fire, rifles stacked outside tents.


3)    Battletime is time for the reenactors to bring out their big guns and the same applies to photographers.  No one is allowed onto the actual battle field other than the enactors actually engaged in the event.  All others must remain outside the rope line for safety reasons.  Remember, there will be horses racing back and forth – infantry units massing, charging, and retreating – and all the time canon and gun fire!  There’s lots of smoke as a result – truly giving you the sense of the “fog of war.”  Battletime is the time to bring out the long lenses.  Your 50 mm might give you a nice setting or overall shot but the soldiers and horses will be mere dots on your photos.  This is the time for the photographer’s big guns.  A 100mm lens will help a bit but not much   I would say a 200mm is the minimum for most good shots during the battle.  A 400mm is a great lens for the event. And then, of course, there are those lucky enough to shoot a 600mm lens.  The guys with the 600mm lenses are truly getting images in the heart of the battle.  (Don’t forget, you can cheat a bit by using extenders but there is a bit of sacrifice in image quality and speed.)

4)     Experiment with different approaches to the event.  Shoot some high speed, stop action images but also slow down the shutter speed and go for some motion blur – add some panning to the mix.  Most photographers today are shooting digital – shooting is cheap – try different things – experiment.

5)     Get there early – stay late.  Everyone will get the battle scenes and you want those too.  But not everyone will get the early morning light on the tents and the soldiers as they cook their breakfast over the open fires.  Not everyone will get the setting sun behind the canon emplacements.  At night, the tents, illuminated from the interiors, provide a totally different image of the encampments.

Young Girl - photo by bwb-images

6)     Lastly, one of my standard messages to photographers making images of people – no matter where it might be –  always be polite when photographing people. It never hurts to talk to people a bit and get to know them before pointing a camera in their face.  Actually, it really adds a neat dimension to the experience. You get to know your subject a bit.  You come away not with just an image of a person but also with a sense of who they are.  And finally, I always suggest asking a person if it’s OK to make some images of them.  It’s a friendly thing to do.  Most folks will say yes. If they decline – well, there are lots of other photos out there you can shoot instead.

 Hope you have a great time shooting.

 Dr. B, The Photo Trekker