Living History

Roman Britain, Vikings & Saxons, Jousting Knights, Cavaliers & Roundheads, World War 1 & 2, the Victorians, to name but a few, the United Kingdom is not short of reenactment groups who give up their time and money to present us with living history.

For a photographer there’s some great opportunities, as most reenactors are happy to have their photograph taken, but it’s always best to ask.

Cartier-Bresson says he cannot take portraits of actors because they pose.

Personally, I like to ask them first about their history, because I like to hear the story behind their reenactment,  then later on ask about photographs and yes they do tend to pose.

The weekend of the 13/14 April saw me at Bodrhyddan Hall for a living history WW1 and 2 reenactment

Bodrhyddan Hall
Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/320s, f11, ISO200

Although I’ve lived in this area for about 10 years, it’s the first time I’ve visited the grounds, mainly due to the fact that the hall and grounds are only open at certain times of the year and I keep forgetting when.

This year the reenactment was taking place in a large field near the hall

Reenactment Village
Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/200s, f11, ISO200

and I was able to get some photographs from the grounds on my way there

Landscaped Gardens
Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/320s, f11, ISO200

Wandering around I came across this delightful gentleman who was painting in watercolours from old photographs of soldiers.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/200s, f5.6, ISO200

From the first World War, what was it Cartier Bresson said? We had a good chat, I asked about the photograph and he stuck his pipe in. It just made for a totally different photograph and I like it.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/320s, f5.6, ISO200

I didn’t stop to have a talk here as they were getting ready for a firing display in the arena.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/800s, f5.6, ISO200

In the arena we were going to be treated to a firing display of different types of weapons from WW2 and soon the reenactors filtered down.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/500s, f5.6, ISO200

Before the weapons were fired, we were given some history about the way they were used,

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/400s, f6.1, ISO200

their effectiveness in battle

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/1600s, f5.6, ISO200

and in some cases a comparison between opposing forces weapons.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/640s, f5.6, ISO200

And now for my lucky capture of the day.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/500s, f5.6, ISO200

During the demonstration they fired five mortars, I had the camera in burst mode recording 18 frames a second. In four out of the five all I caught was a puff of smoke.

Meanwhile around the arena various reenactors were watching the firing displays

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/640s, f6.7, ISO200

The press corps, look at that camera

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/320s, f6.1, ISO200


Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/1000s, f6.3, ISO200

The Big Boss!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/800s, f6.7, ISO200

Meanwhile back in the arena. Look at the front. They use blank charges in these weapons and you can see the remnants of that charge coming out the front. Just because it’s a blank doesn’t mean it can’t do damage to someone. So although this looks close I was shooting, excuse the pun, with a 300mm lens from some distance away.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/800s, f6.1, ISO200

A long time ago I used to do a lot of photo composites using Photoshop. Basically I would take a photograph and usually change out the background for something more interesting. So with that in mind I took several photographs of this reenactor.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/500s, f5.6, ISO200

A shape like that above is easy to cut out in Photoshop and then it’s just a case of blending it into the background which I obtained from a stock site called DeviantArt

My thanks to Nathies Stock for this beautiful painted background

After the firing display I took the time to wander around some of the static displays on show. If I remember rightly these guys represent Finnish troops.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/500s, f5.6, ISO200

You’ll notice they are sitting around a fire. Despite the fact that it was sunny day, there was a really cold wind blowing across the field and most static displays had a fire of sorts

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/500s, f5.6, ISO200

All in all I had an enjoyable day and although the grounds weren’t officially open to the public there were a few people having a look, so I went for a wander before heading home.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 1/250s, f5.6, ISO200

I found a really nice area with this summer-house and lake but that was it for me. I was tired, hungry and it was time to go home.

Until next time – Mike

7 thoughts on “Living History

  1. The grounds of Bodrhyddan hall are beautiful. I don’t relate to the whole reenactment bit, but you got some great shots, and I love the Photoshop composite photo – it really changes the whole atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to do a lot of that type of composite photograph, Alison. Buy when I switched to photographing landscapes i lost the subjects for the composites. But I’ve started doing some studio work again, so who knows

      Liked by 1 person

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