VE Weekend

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A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey, Essex. The occasion was the  VE  Celebration Weekend and my aim was to photograph the re-enactors taking part in it. As the weekend was about the Victory in Europe day everyone taking part was in WW2 uniform, British, Polish, German and probably a few more countries that I didn’s come across during my visit. Let me say at the outset that everyone involved was taking part in ‘living history’, there were no politics or idealists involved. I saw several signboards saying ‘Our aim is to recreate a small section of the Allied and Axis forces that existed during WW2 and not to promote, in any way, political regimes or ideals’. It really was a ‘living history’ experience, a little like being transported back in time with my camera.

My aim was to photograph some of the people involved rather than big action dramas. Never having been to one of these re-enactments before I was not sure what to expect, how serious were the participants, how authentic would everything be ? I have to say the participants were fantastic, they were more than happy to explain everything in detail and their knowledge of their respective subjects was exhaustive. As for the authenticity and attention to detail I can only say it was amazing, the amount of time, effort and money that had been spent was first class. Best of all from a photographer’s point of view people were very happy to be photographed, it was an excellent opportunity for both portraiture and still life of weapons and equipment.

I decided not to burden myself with too much camera equipment, I took my Leica V Lux type 114 which gave me 24mm to 400mm (35mm equivalent) and my Nikon D7000 with the 10mm to 24mm Nikon zoom. With a camera over each shoulder I felt more than equipped for whatever ‘VE Day’ threw at me. In the end I shot nearly everything on the Leica V Lux, however I am a bit of a sucker for wide angle shots so I am glad I took the Nikon as well. As I usually do I set both cameras to Aperture priority as I like to have control of the depth of field, the ISO was set to 400 as there was light cloud and I wanted to keep the shutter speed up. I shot everything in colour and made the conversion to black and white in Photoshop CS5.5.

Although I was only able to stay for a couple of hours I really enjoyed my time with the re-enactors, as I said everyone was very obliging, if you are looking for a great day out for some photographic inspiration you won’t go far wrong with these guys and girls.

Please remember all pictures and text are my copyright so please don’t use them without my written permission many thanks. So here we go with a selection of the photographs that I took..

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My favourite portrait of the day, I really like this strong close-up. I deliberately framed this tight so that just the eyes show beneath the peak of the cap.

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Soldier of the Polish 3rd Carpathian Division.

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British soldiers on the move..

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I would like to thank all those taking part in the VE Celebration Weekend for their help and co-operation with this post..

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A British pathfinder paratrooper taking part in the re-enactment of 6th Airborne Division at Breville Woods, St Comb, France.

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A wounded soldier is helped to the Medical Officer at the Breville Woods engagement.

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Polish Military Police of the 3rd Carpathian Division.

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Sniper ! Luke is from ‘Field of Fire’ which is a good entry point for re-enactors who are just starting out.

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A jeep with soldiers arrives from the 6th Airborne Division

This selection of portraits below show what can be achieved quite simply, they could have been taken with a simple P & S or even a ‘phone, it’s not about how much the camera costs rather it’s about just taking the time to look.

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this barbed wire is actually string, it fooled me from a distance

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Please remember all pictures and text are my copyright so please don’t use them without my written permission many thanks.




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