Many people have asked me how I first got into the reenacting hobby; my answer is a strange one for some. I got into the hobby through photography. It was back in 2008 when the Fort York Guard requested that I come along to the annual Siege of Fort Erie event to grab some photos. I walked away with some great shots, and my presence soon migrated to the 7th Battalion, 60th Regiment of Foot, a brand new reenacting unit at that point. I watched as these dedicated individuals portrayed what the British military was like during the Anglo-American War of 1812 and learned a lot more about the conflict than I had in Grade 8 history. In 2011, I made a decision, having saved up enough money I was going to join the hobby, and trade my camera in for a musket (not literally of course).
I would still bring a camera with to some events, capturing more behind-the-scenes actions of camp life as a reenactor and the quirks of my unit (7/60th of course). Occasionally, I would still visit an event as a photographer, or even take a day off if I had some injury or lack of a unit to march with, which has become less an issue today. But I usually left the big guns at home because often I don’t have the room to lug around any more than a small collection of compact cameras and no long telephotos. This year’s Fort George Event had a bit of a twist; we were staying in the blockhouse on the site, so I had a secure spot for my camera gear and not having to bring all the camping gear I had room in my car.
Saturday I stuck to the Hasselblad 500c as I was shooting for the July Summer Film Party contest and I joined the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion for both the change of command ceremony and the two battles. All of them went off wonderfully with the evening tactical being a favourite of mine. On Sunday I was ready to shoot differently, with a proper event kit, that is my Nikon F5 and 70-200mm telephoto lens and several rolls of film.
Having studied the work of several photographers who frequent events, namely Michael Hurley, and taking the critique from my lovely wife to heart I left the wide and normal lenses at home and packed the only the 70-200mm and 105mm lenses in order to photograph the people as well as the battle itself. And the best part is that I woke up Sunday in the right mood for some people photography. Locking my lens into f/4, I went to work around camp. The joys of being known as both a reenactor and a photographer are that I can wander about at will.
When it came time to do battle I switched out for a colour film stock, thanks to my friend James. I had never shot Agfaphoto Vista Plus a fast colour negative film but it sure felt and behaves like Fuji Superia 400, even down to the negative marks on the edges. And of course switching into a shutter priority mode, something I had not done before when shooting a battle sequence. Now the trick with shooting a reenactment is burst shooting, but having only a single roll of 36-Exposures, I had to trust my gut and ability to shut off the brain and listen for the commands. Make ready, bring the camera up and compose the image, present, half-press the shutter release to get focus and exposure, FIRE, fire off a single shot. A little different than with a musket, but sometimes you need to adapt to a situation. A different way of doing things like the two digital shooters flanking me. If you want to see the full set head over to my Flickr set.