Monday, December 24, 2012

Living History Photo Shoots

Portrait of a Maid
I more or less accidentally discovered historical reenactments, often referred to as "living history." Here in Virginia there are plenty of reenactments depicting the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, and of course Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown are open year round. Other examples are "Military Through the Ages" and a variety of Renaissance fairs. All are populated by enthusiasts who spend big sums creating and maintaining authentic costumes, equipment and props, which can include horses, vehicles, portable structures like tents, musical instruments, furniture, weapons, anything that is historically accurate or authentic. Some presentations include reenactments of battles, complete with (blank) gunfire. Renaissance Fairs are the most lighthearted and colorful.

Perhaps as important as their appearance is the reenactors' interest in educating visitors. They will happily share incredible amounts of information and if possible, show you the items associated with their narrative. It is clear that these enthusiasts are well-read and deeply committed to understanding the era they represent, even as they enjoy sharing that knowledge and showing off a bit, which is right they have earned.

Walking Through a Meadow

For the photographer, these events are rich opportunities for capturing portraits of people in authentic costumes. For obvious reasons, these events are held outdoors, so having good shooting light isn't a problem. Ideally, bright overcast skies are best as they reduce the harsh shadows and squinting. 
 Because backgrounds are often busy and other visitors are walking through your frame, a relatively long zoom lens can get you in close and a wide open aperture can help isolate your subject, especially for headshots, which I favor. One benefit of shooting reenactors is that they're actors--they comfortably strike poses that are photographically appealing. It helps to be quick on the shutter---you probably won't have but a few seconds to frame and shoot, but with practice you can make some incredible captures.

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