It’s hard to believe that it was August 2011 when I last visited the National Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire. I was genuinely surprised to discover that I had not been to this event for six years but that is how long it has been. So much has changed for me personally during that time, so it is reassuring to discover that the event itself has changed very little, with many familiar faces to be seen, and the familiar surroundings which provide an excellent supporting role for these 1940s events.
Last time I visited this event, I was still shooting with my trusty Canon 5D, now lovingly refered to on some internet forums as the “5D Classic”. The 5D was my first full-frame camera and it was remarkable in that it always outperformed what the specification sheet would suggest it could achieve. With “only” 12 megapixels and “only” 9 focusing points (and only 1 that could be relied on), the spec would appear quite basic compared to today’s cameras but somehow it always seemed to deliver, a testament to the quality of the sensor.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.