Feb 2016

Seasons and Weather

In my last piece I indicated that the first and last hours of the day were often the best time for battlefield photography but what about season and the weather? Contrary to what many would expect I prefer to go in late autumn and winter. There are several reasons for this, in summer many of the battlefields, apart from the preserved areas, are covered in crops which cover the lie of the land, an eight foot high field full of maize is not the best way to show the ground. Photograph after the harvest when ploughing is underway will show the ‘bones' of the earth, something somewhat closer to what may have been there a century ago. Combine this with the possibility of mist, rain, snow or low watery sunlight light and you have the opportunity of making of a haunted evocative image.

Next time - The photographer's secret weapon ….

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The Kruisstraat craters in snow - Ypres

Preparing to take a photograph of the battlefields

When I joined the army many years ago the old adage ‘time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’ was hammered into us very early on, and I have found it a useful maxim for many things in life. This is particularly true when it comes to landscape photography. You make your own luck by good preparation and planning. Before I even leave home I will have drawn up a list of potential locations, looked on Google maps and other website photographs get a feel of what the location looks like. The first and last hour of the day are often referred to by photographers as the golden hour, this is because the sun is low providing low contrast and a lovely golden cast which always looks good in photographs. For that reason I make a point of knowing where the sun will be. On arrival at a location I will scout about looking for the best angles with my camera in tow making a mental note of potential viewpoints. A compass can confirm where the sun will rise as more often than not it will mean returning at dawn or dusk. My camera will transfer a low res image immediately to my ipad for confirmation of exposure, focus, sharpness and composition – so much easier than looking into the back of the camera. A high res raw file will have been saved as well, this will be worked on to produce the final image when I get home.

Next time - Seasons and weather.

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Vimy Ridge , at dusk showing shell holes

Battlefield Photography - what equipment do you use?

Admit that you are photographer and very often the next question will be what equipment do you use? If the answer is some expensive camera along with a series of equally pricey lenses to match, the enquirer will be often be highly impressed assuming that you must be incredibly good, and that this is without looking at single frame of your work. I am always bemused by this approach as it may indicate more about the state of your bank account rather than your skill as a picture taker.

Contrary wise the photographer who takes his craft seriously needs the tools to do the job and will invest in professional equipment to give him the high quality results he needs to undertake his work. He will develop the skill in using that equipment learning extracting every ounce of quality that the camera is capable of producing.

Others will judge your photographs almost exclusively on technical merit and according to preconceived ‘rules’. I decry this approach feeling that the camera is just a tool to express what I feel or what moves me. That said my approach to taking photographs has a method and a style developed of many years which I will talk about in future postings….

What is in my camera bag?
Canon 1ds mk3 & Canon 5ds camera bodies. Lenses: 16-35mm, 24-70 mm, 70-200 mm & 24mm tilt /shift. High quality carbon fibre tripod and lee grad filters.

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Wicres German 1915 cemetery at dusk.