Events Journal Re-enactments

Event Cancelled – Kelmarsh Hall Festival Of History 2012

Yet another event is cancelled due to the terrible wet summer we are having here in the UK.  The Festival of History at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, the flagship event in the English Heritage calendar, has suffered the same fate as so many other outdoor events this year.

“Wounded” Soldier, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2008

It all started in March with the announcement that there were to be hosepipe bans in many parts of the country due to water shortages and the reservoirs being at record lows.  I know myself from visits to Rutland Water reservoir that water levels were indeed very low at that time.  Little did anyone realise that almost from the moment the hosepipe ban was announced, it would rain almost daily for the next three months.  June 2012 was the wettest June since records began in 1908 and July has carried on in much the same way.

Chariot Racing, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2009

It was ironic that last Sunday, the day I was planning to go to the Festival of History, turned out to be one of the best days so far in July with plenty of sunshine.  Sadly the field where the festival was to take place was already under water by then and the event had reluctantly been cancelled after the downpours of Thursday and Friday nights added to the already wet conditions under foot.

Part of the WWII battle re-enactment, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2009

It’s a real shame, not just for me, but especially for the organisers and the re-enactment groups and living history groups who have no doubt been planning this event for many weeks and months in advance.  I know of at least two other events that were cancelled on the same weekend.  Only the Burton Latimer Annual Duck Race survived, it would appear that the current weather is absolutely perfect for ducks, even the yellow plastic variety!

One of Prince Malik’s Lancers, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2011

Oh well, I hope to have some new photos to share very soon, August is looking very busy with the Battle of Bosworth anniversary re-enactment  and the Crich 1940s weekend already in my calendar.  In the mean time, here is a link to my photos from some of the recent Festivals of History:

Kelmarsh Hall Events

It has to stop raining eventually, doesn’t it?  I hope you enjoy your summer holidays, whatever the weather!


Events Journal Places Re-enactments

Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend June 2012

Before I talk about my visit to the Great Central Railway 1940s weekend, I want to share some good news about two photos that I took at this event in 2010.  I recently entered these two image in the Great Central Railway Print section of the annual exhibition run by Leicester and Leicestershire Photographic Society.

This picture of an engine driver looking out of his cab was commended:

“Engine Driver British Railways” Great Central Railway 2010

This picture featuring a young soldier and a beautiful land army girl, which was a grab shot taken as a steam train was drawing into Rothley Station, was awarded second place in the same competition:

“Young Lovers In Wartime” Great Central Railway 2010

This year (2012) was the fifth time that my good friend Barry and I have photographed this event in the last 6 years.  Not only is it a great event for photographers, but it is a great day out with plenty to see and enjoy, good food and interesting people to meet and share experiences.

Members of the Pitsford Home Guard Living History Unit at Quorn and Woodhouse Station, Great Central Railway 2012

The weather turned out so much better than expected with the forecast for Sunday being wet and windy.  As it turned out, it was a beautiful day for re-enactors and visitors alike.

A British Spy attempts to escape by running along the railway track – Great Central Railway 2012

I don’t think there were quite as many period costume “characters” as there were last year but there was still plenty going on, certainly on the Sunday when we were there.  The Das Heer re-enactment group were on patrol at Rothley Station as in previous years.

A member of Das Heer Living History Re-enactment Group fires a warning shot – Great Central Railway 2012

At Quorn and Loughborough Stations we encountered the Pitsford Home Guard Living History Group who carried out various exercises, parades and drills throughout the weekend.  There was also a rarade featuring members of the Royal British Legion and guest dignitaries including Montgomery among others.

Members of the Pitsford Home Guard Living History Unit on patrol at Loughborough Station – Great Central Railway 2012

This was my first re-enactment of the year following a long lay-off due to my back problem earlier in the year.  It was great to be out taking photos again and I hope to be able to cover more events through the remainder of the year now that my back is improving.

Standard Bearers of the Royal British Legion at Quorn and Woodhouse Station – Great Central Railway 2012

All the photos here were taken with my Canon EOS 5D (Classic) and EF 80-200mm F2.8L lens.  All photos were shot in RAW format and processed using Lightroom Version 3.6.  I’m still using Windows XP and so I am unable to upgrade to the latest version of Lightroom but to be honest it doesn’t concern me that much.

Loughborough Station in the 1940s – I love the shadow pattern being projected onto the carriages by the platform canopy – Great Central Railway 2012

As always, credit must go to the event organisers, especially everyone connected with the Great Central Railway, including all the volunteers.

A Well-Dressed Professional 1940s Style – Great Central Railway 2012

Also thanks to all the living history groups and re-enactors, both military and civilian, who make these events such a great photo opportunity for the many enthusiast photographers like myself.


Events Places Re-enactments

Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer’s Day 23rd October 2011

Well, I can’t hardly believe how long it has been since I updated this blog.  In fact, my last post was at the end of August following the battle re-enactment at Bosworth.  So, what’s been happening while I have been away I hear you ask?  Well, not a lot really in terms of my photography, hence the extended break.  However, I have attended 5 University open days with my daughter Sophie over this period, all of which I have really enjoyed, but which have taken up quite a lot of my spare time, particularly at weekends.

Alan at Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

Back in June, my good friend Barry and I were approached by someone whilst visiting the Great Central Railway 1940s weekend asking if we would be interested in attending a special photographer’s event at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire.  It was short notice but we decided to give it a go and it turned out to be a very interesting day with a number of models dressed in a variety of costumes at this excellent location.

Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

When I heard that Tutbury Castle were planning a similar event in October, to run from 2pm in the afternoon all the way to 9pm at night, and with a medieval theme, I knew I had to get a ticket.  I was delighted that five other members from Desborough and Rothwell Photographic Society also made it over for the event, along with myself and Barry.

Dawn at Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

I love doing people pictures as you know but my natural shyness occasionally stops me from approaching people at events and getting the shots I would like.  The opportunity to photograph “models” in historic outfits who were there for the sole purpose of being photographed is surely every photographer’s dream.

Alan at Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

The opportunity of taking photos during the evening, at dusk, and then by floodlight was an added attraction for this event and made it extra special.  I must also congratulate Lesley Smith, the curator at Tutbury Castle, not just for organising the event, but also for being the star attraction, first as Queen Bodicea and later as Nell Guinn.  Lesley certainly throws herself 100%  into the characters she portrays , which also included Queen Elizabeth I back in June.

Lesley as Queen Bodicea at Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

The day ended with a photo shoot in the Great Hall with only candle light for illumination.  This turned out to be a source of some disagreement between the photographers attempting to take the shots, some equipped with tripods and looking to take a long exposure, whilst others without tripods had to use flash to supplement the candle light in order to get a sharp image.

Dusk at Tutbury Castle Medieval Photographer's Day, October 2011

The source of the “conflict” was that the flashes from the tripod-less photographers was affecting the exposures of the tripod users who were shooting long exposures (several seconds I would guess) in order to get their shots by candle light alone.  In the end the flashers, including myself I must confess, were asked to pause while the tripod users took some shots sans flash.

Lesley by candle light (and bounced flash!), the Great Hall, Tutbury Castle, October 2011

As always, the photos here represent only a small portion of the images taken on the day.  I have posted many more over on my website.  I do hope that Tutbury Castle will be planning some more photographer’s days for next year.  From the feedback I have heard, everyone that attended had a brilliant day.



Events Journal Re-enactments

Battle of Bosworth Re-enactment – August 2011

Last weekend was the occasion of the Battle of Bosworth Anniversary Re-enactment.  The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire was the venue for this event.

The King addresses his soldiers before the battle, Bosworth Battlefield 2011

The Battle of Bosworth took place here in 1485 and the battlefield at Bosworth is famous as the place where King Richard III was defeated and lost his life and his crown to Henry Tudor, the first of the Tudor dynasty.

Receiving orders before the battle – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

This battle followed the “Wars of the Roses”, a series of battles between two rival dynasties, the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster, for the control of the English throne.  Between 1454 and 1471 the houses of Lancaster and York fought thirteen battles with the Yorkist Edward IV winning the eventual victory.

Marching into battle – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

Richard III was Edward’s youngest brother and succeeded him to the throne in 1483.  Just 2 years later, he rode into battle at Bosworth in Leicestershire on the 22nd August 1485 where he met his death and lost his crown to Henry Tudor.

Man to man combat – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

If you are a fan of Shakespeare, you will recall that the bard immortalised King Richard III as he lay defeated on the battlefield with the famous line: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”

No quarter asked for or given – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

I must admit, this was not the easiest assignment I have been on.  The battlefield itself was surrounded by tents and spectators on all sides making backgrounds a problem.  The other problem is that you can only ever be in one place at once so of course you can only photograph what is in front of you.

A pause for refreshment – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

As it happened I was quite well placed for both of the day’s big battles and hopefully managed to capture some of the atmosphere and action of the day.  The living history encampments at either end of the main arena provided further photo opportunities throughout the day.

After the battle – Bosworth Battlefield 2011

I have posted many more photos from the day, including the excellent Jousting Tournament, over on my website


Events Journal Places Re-enactments

Back to the 1940s for a Weekend at Crich Tramway Museum

One of my all-time favourite places to visit at any time of the year is the National Tramway Museum at Crich, up in the Peak District near Matlock in Derbyshire.  Twice every year the museum, which depicts a traditional english village complete with working tramway and rolling stock,  is transported back in time to the 1940s.

A domestic goddess – 1940s style! Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

Not only are there lots of period vehicles on display, but there are also dozens of individuals and groups dressed in authentic 1940s costume.  It is these re-enactors, some in military uniforms of the period, and some in civilian outfits, that make these events such a wonderful opportunity for us enthusiast photographers.  The attention to detail of these re-enactors, together with the location, brings a unique chance to capture the look and feel of the 1940s in our photographs.

Fun and Laughter 1940s style – outside the Red Lion Public House at Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

Unfortunately, I missed the Easter 1940s weekend in April of this year so I made a point of not missing the August event.  I was accompanied by my very good friend Barry who not only drove us all the way up from Northamptonshire but also paid for both of our entrance fees.  How could I not enjoy such a day?  My contribution?  Paying for lunch and tea – a fair deal I think.

The lovely Lola Lamour – brilliant entertainment 1940s style – Crich Tramway Museum, August 2011

The forecast was for a fine if cloudy day after an early morning shower.  Perfect conditions for outdoor portraiture, cloudy bright, was exactly what we enjoyed for most of the day save for the odd sunny spell in the afternoon which added some welcome warmth to the day which started a little bit chilly for short sleeves.

1940s style and elegance – Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

As we had been to this event several times before, we talked on the way up about strategies for the day i.e. how to get something a little bit different to the usual photos taken at such events.  I had already decided I was going to look for candid shots first and foremost, using my longest lens to diffuse the backgrounds which are inevitably busy at all these events.

What’s going on here? A sophisticated 1940s lady showing off her knee in public – outrageous! Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

Using my long lens and a wide aperture enabled me to take pictures from across the street without being in the faces of the re-enactors and that was really useful in getting some natural looking candids.  Unfortunately, when certain activities were taking place, especially the 1940s wedding, I was limited to head and shoulders only for some shots due to the closeness of the watching crowd and other photographers.  That’s how it is with these events, you win some and you lose some.

The bride and groom – wedding day 1940s style at Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

Overall, I am very pleased with the set of candid pictures I took on the day, and I hope that if the people in the photos eventually find themselves on my website, they will be pleased too.  I think they are a refreshing change from the posed smiley photos that appear on many photographer’s sites.  I realise also that some people won’t agree and that’s fair enough.

1940s elegance and sophistication, Crich Tramway Museum – August 2011

There are many more of my 1940s photos from this event on my Flickr Site


Events Journal Places Re-enactments

The Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 17th July 2011

It’s fair to say that the Festival of History held anually at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire is the jewel in the crown of the English Heritage events calendar.  I had been looking forward to this event for a long time so it was with some trepidation that I watched the weather forecast for the weekend on the Friday night which warned of heavy rain showers on Saturday followed by more heavy rain showers on Sunday.

The Story of the British Army, Festival of History, 2011

As it turned out, Saturday morning was a wash-out as it rained almost constantly right up until around 1pm but from there onwards it stayed more or less fine for the rest of the day.  I had already decided to take my chance on the Sunday and that turned out to be a day of sunshine and mostly light showers so not as bad as forecast.

Roman Soldiers, Festival of History, 2011

The Festival of History presents many opportunities to the enthusiast photographer, but also some challenges.  On the positive side, there is so very much to see, so many people and events to photograph and so much going on all the time.  The enormous number of re-enactors taking part, the different periods of history portrayed and the variety of set-pieces and encampments to explore is mind-blowing.

The Boar War Battle Re-enactment, Festival of History 2011

It’s the sheer size of the event that presents one of the major challenges.  At any given time there are at least three different places you need to be.  Another problem is trying to isolate your subject from the background which at times can get a bit messy with white tents, members of the public (refered to as MOPs by the re-enactors), other photographers (grrr!), videographers (is that a word?), trade stands, caravans etc.

The challenges of taking photographs at the Festival of History

The problems continue when trying to shoot the big battle re-enactments in the main arenas.  Every photographers worst nightmare, the safety ropes – white this time, a welcome change from blue you may think – are there to ensure that almost every photo you take will contain at least some portion of the dreaded rope.

“The sheer variety of re-enactors facial hair is mind-blowing”

Despite all the above, I love this event.  There are so many photo opportunities all around you but you do have to keep a close eye on procedings and you do need to be lucky sometimes in order to be in just the right place at the right time.

German Half-Track Commander, Festival of History 2011

In the event I was very lucky with the weather, one sharp shower in the afternoon but only a few spots of rain for the rest of the day.  A very enjoyable day and it was good to catch up with some of the people I had met at previous events. 

Update January 2020:  You can find many more images from the event over on my website here.


Journal Places Re-enactments

Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011

The 1940s weekend at the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire is one of my favourite WWII re-enactment events on the calendar.   My good friend Barry and I have photographed it for four of the last five years, and it was great to see some familiar faces from previous years.  Not only that, I even plucked up the courage to speak to some of them!

British Soldiers at the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011

From a photographers point of view, I thought this was one of the best I can remember, with an assortment of colourful characters and some small but interesting set-pieces to photograph.  We caught the train from Loughborough and travelled south stopping at Quorn, Rothley and finally Leicester North Stations. Unlike previous years there was no “battle” as such, but the demonstrations on each station made up for that to a certain extent.

Re-enactors at the Great Central Railway 1940s Event 2011

One set of photos that I am particularly pleased with is of a group called DasHeer Living History Society who portray German conscript soldiers from the late 1930s and early 1940s.  They have asked me to send them some of my photos to put on their website, which is great, so I will be taking a disc of selected images to Kelmarsh Hall in July where they will be taking part in the Festival of History.

Members of DasHeer Living History Society at Rothley Station on the GCR 2011

Mixed in with the uniformed re-enactors were many people in civilian outfits from the same period.  Some of these were also doing small set-piece presentations throughout the weekend.  My favourite had to be Mrs. Day with her 1940s washing demonstration, a wonderful character to photograph and she played the part beautifully.

Mrs. Day notices a Photographer in the Crowd…

If you love taking outdoor portraits and environmental portraits as I do, these reenactment weekends provide great subjects to photograph and, with the odd exception, the volunteer re-enactors are willing models for the many photographers who tend to congregate at these events.

1940s Shopkeeper complete with Handlebar Moustache and Cigar

You can see more of my photos from the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2011 on my website here.

Update June 2012:  Photos from the Great Central Railway 1940s Weekend 2012 can be found on my website here.