During the early battles of the Civil War (known in Virginia sometimes as The War of Northern Aggression) people would pack a lunch and travel by carriage to view the battles. Throughout the U.S., but primarily in the Mid-Atlantic states, you can still pack a lunch, get in your (horseless) carriage and bring your cameras to reenactments of Civil War Battles. In Virginia, several of the reenacted battles occur on the original battlefields and are accessible for both viewing and photography.
One of the better photo-ops is in the Shenandoah Valley. It is the Battle of New Market staged on the original battlefields, and draws a great number of participants. There are several others in the region and while the opportunities and difficulties are pretty much the same, the focus of this article is on the New Market Reenactment.
Considerations When Photographing a Battle
Attending a big reenactment is as close to a real battle as you can get, at least until the cannons set off the car alarms. Photographing a reenactment is probably different than most subjects the typical photographer has tried and has some unique considerations.
1. It’s full of living moving masses of people. You need to choose a clear spot to shoot from−at New Market close to the fence separating the orchard and the wheat field is where most of the action occurs and is a prime location to set up.
2. There will be a large number of people who are there to just view the battle. The crowds may hamper your ability to quickly move to other locations so initial choice of location and early setup is very important. Watch your backgrounds to keep modern structures out of your images.
3. The battle reenactment will move over a large area. You may not be able to capture the whole event.