Serving The Cause Of History – Part 3

War-Correspondant-PatchShooting photographs as World War II
re-enactors shoot at each other

This is the third and final set of images from my time at the re-enactment of a World War II battle between the American and German armies. I was there to photograph the re-enactors as part of my Serving The Cause Of History project.

After spending some time getting to know the re-enactors and learning about their way of honoring history and our World War II veterans, it was time for them to stage the battle. The sides split up and began to relive a day in 1945 when the two armies met each other in combat somewhere in Germany. The rainy day gave an air of realism to the battle.

The gun fire erupted, mortars blazed and eventually the Americans won. These guys live for this! They are like kids playing war except they are in authentic uniforms and carrying period gear and weapons. While being out there with them, one experiences the fast-paced drama of battle without the fear of actually getting shot. Keeping track of it all with a camera is very difficult, especially coming from the school of slow and methodical landscape photography. It gives you respect for the commanders who have to keep track of and maneuver their troops on a rapidly changing battle field.

This is a new type of photography for me and I’d appreciate you taking the poll at the end of this post. Thanks!

The Battle

Returning Fire by Richard Lewis

Returning Fire by Richard Lewis 2014

Realization of Fear by Richard Lewis

Realization of Fear by Richard Lewis 2014

Ammo Runner by Richard Lewis

Ammo Runner by Richard Lewis 2014

Taking Cover by Richard Lewis

Taking Cover by Richard Lewis 2014

BAR Man by Richard Lewis

BAR Man by Richard Lewis 2014

Covering Fire by Richard Lewis

Covering Fire by Richard Lewis 2014

Guarding the Wounded by Richard Lewis 2014

Guarding the Wounded by Richard Lewis

Falling Back by Richard Lewis

Falling Back by Richard Lewis 2014

Retreat by Richard Lewis 2014

Retreat by Richard Lewis

The Victors by Richard Lewis 2014

The Victors by Richard Lewis

Click here for more of these photographs from this event that are on my website.

Serving The Cause Of History – Part 2

War-Correspondant-PatchMore from my day as a war photographer

Although I was born after World War II, I grew up surrounded by adults who were profoundly affected by it. They either served, lost someone who served, or had family in Europe who perished in the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.

While photographing the re-enactment of a World War II battle, I went over to meet the guys playing the role of the enemy. It was a bit disturbing to approach men in German uniforms sporting swastikas and SS emblems. After getting to know them, I realized that they were just regular, red-blooded Americans playing a part and telling the story of America’s involvement in World War II. Someone had to play the bad guys.

Many of these people are so passionate about re-enacting World War II that they own uniforms and gear from both sides. I met someone who owns American, German, Russian and British uniforms, gear and weapons. Another re-enactor said that he plays the role of a German because his father was forced into a German Army Labor Battalion because he refused to join the Nazi party.  Even though his father was never a real soldier and didn’t carry a gun, he did wear the uniform. This re-enactor felt he was honoring his father while also playing a role in telling the story of how our nation mobilized to stop the Nazis.

While the re-enactors played their parts as the confident American citizen soldier, those playing the German role acted more like people caught up in history. The re-enacted battle originally took place in 1945 at the end of the war in Germany. The average German soldier knew they were beat, but right or wrong, they were now defending their homeland.

The Germans

The Old Soldier by Richard Lewis

The Old Soldier by Richard Lewis 2014

Walk To Glory by Richard Lewis

Walk To Glory by Richard Lewis 2014

Fanaticism Meets Defeat by Richard Lewis

Fanaticism Meets Defeat by Richard Lewis 2014

Dressed to Kill by Richard Lewis

Dressed to Kill by Richard Lewis 2014

Tactical Discussion by Richard Lewis

Tactical Discussion by Richard Lewis 2014

War Stories by Richard Lewis

War Stories by Richard Lewis 2014

Next Post: The Battle

Click here for more of these photographs from this event that are on my website.

 

Shooting War – A New Project

This is a very different project for me and I would greatly appreciate it if you took the time and left a comment or even a like to let me know what you are think. 

My stint as a war photographer

These photographs are the first in a series that I will be doing about World War II re-enactors called Serving the Cause of History. Besides being a photographer, I’m a history nerd with a strong interest in World War II. I’m fascinated by the memoirs of our citizen soldiers who weren’t the professional military of today. They were teenagers and young adults who put their lives on hold to take up arms and defend their nation. I also have read memoirs by the other combatants, as well as civilians, who were caught up in the conflict. This was a horrific time and those who fought the evil that was consuming the world should be remembered and honored.

My friend Mike Pillows recently posted an amazing portfolio of an American civil war re-enactment on his photography blog. Although I’ve been thinking about this project for a while, Mike’s work finally got me moving.

On a recent cold December morning, I drove to Philadelphia’s historic Fort Mifflin to join a group of World War II re-enactors. Knowing that being “out of uniform” would relegate me to the sidelines, I showed up very early to meet some of the soldiers and chat about our shared interest in WWII. Re-enactors have a strong passion for history mixed with a bit of a desire to act. I wanted to use that time to make photographs that were more personal.

I got lucky when it started raining. It made the re-enactors better actors because they really were miserable in the cold without the benefit of modern rain gear. War is hell and on this wet day so was re-enacting one.

Showing up early allowed me to get to know some of the re-enactors before they staged the battle. After they realized I shared their passion for World War II history, they didn’t mind posing or letting me follow them around during the battle as long as I didn’t make myself obvious.

I also was invited to join them at future events. When I find a proper uniform, I’ll be able to take on the role of a war photographer and shoot the battle (with a camera) close up. Now part of my photographic gear will include a helmet and combat boots.

I’m splitting the images from this event into three posts. Here is the first.

The Americans

GI Joe by Richard Lewis

GI Joe by Richard Lewis 2014

Citizen Soldier by Richard Lewis

Citizen Soldier by Richard Lewis 2014

Today Might Be My Last by Richard Lewis

Today Might Be My Last by Richard Lewis 2014

A Private Moment by Richard Lewis

A Private Moment by Richard Lewis 2014

Enlisted Men by Richard Lewis

Enlisted Men by Richard Lewis 2014

One Rag Tag Outfit by Richard Lewis

One Rag Tag Outfit by Richard Lewis 2014

Next Post – The Germans

Click here for more of these photographs from this event that are on my website.

Photography Sometimes Requires Walking Backwards

If Ansel Adams had an iPhone, would he use the camera?

One Glorious Afternoon by Richard Lewis

One Glorious Afternoon by Richard Lewis 2014 – App: Snapseed

The Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain in New Jersey is a nice park with a lot of hiking trails. Although the terrain gives you a great workout, the park is not the most scenic place and I usually do not take any camera gear.  We recently decided to walk one of our favorite routes in the opposite direction. The trail goes through a meadow and there is the large tree near the edge of it. I’ve seen this tree many times from our regular route. It never caught my eye because the background is not very interesting.

However, coming from the other way, the big old tree got my attention. It looked quite majestic in the muted afternoon light with nothing but the meadow behind it. Armed with only an iPhone, I had to stop and make this photograph. There are photographs everywhere you choose to see them. I guess I chose not to see them at Baldpate Mountain until changing my direction made this photograph impossible to miss.

Enjoy

Seeing The World With One Eye Closed

Photography Turns 3 Dimensions Into 2

The recently released science fiction movie “Interstellar” presents the concept of adding a 4th and 5th dimension into our 3 dimensional world. That got me thinking about how photographers go in the opposite direction, turning our 3 dimensional world into 2 dimensions. The photographs below are exercises in exploring this concept intentionally.

The Old Barn

When studying this old barn, I liked how the angles created by the roof, windows and broken door would look in a 2 dimensional photograph. After composing the image, I decided to remove the pole leaning against the door. It’s a distraction right? Then I closed one eye to look at the scene in 2 dimensions and realized that the pole actually adds a contrasting angle to the door. Diagonal lines and triangles can add a lot of visual interest to an image, so I left it  and feel like the finished photograph is better because of it. A distraction in 3 dimensions became a compositional element in two.

Old Barn Composition by Richard Lewis

Old Barn Composition by Richard Lewis 2014

Senseless

Old Shrimp Boat at Dusk by Richard Lewis

Old Shrimp Boat at Dusk by Richard Lewis 2014

On a recent trip to Florida, I photographed an old shrimp boat, named Senseless, at sunset to get a “post card” shot that included the entire boat. That image is on the right.

Early the next morning I went back to photograph the boat again with the light coming from the front. All those angles caused by the ropes and rigging combined with the textures of the old wood on the boat and dock were quite interesting. Thinking of this old shrimp boat as a 2 dimensional object made finding the right composition for this photograph a study of line and form instead of an image of an old boat.

Senseless by Richard Lewis

Senseless by Richard Lewis 2014

How I Did It - Closing one eye is a great technique all photographers should use. It temporarily removes our ability to see depth so we get to see the world the way our camera does.

Enjoy

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Taking Photography One Photograph At A Time

Three Cedars in the Morning Light by Richard Lewis

Three Cedars in the Morning Light by Richard 2014

In my last post, I mentioned how we photographers can learn something from those that went before us who were shooting film. Working with film is a slower and more methodical process. By practicing a more patient and careful approach to our own photography, we can strive to come back from a photo shoot with one great photograph instead of a few good ones.

The other morning I decided to practice this at a favorite place in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I wanted to make one photograph. Fortunately, it was one of those mornings with remarkable light.

How I Did It - Reading the Light. it is important to study the light in the area you live at all times of day. Doing that helps you get to know it and understand the variety of conditions that can cause it to change. Stare at the sky enough and you will be able to predict what is going to happen and be there when it does.

Enjoy.

My family wishes a very Happy Thanksgiving for all of you who celebrate this day. 

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Click here to see more landscape photography on my website.

 

Paul Strand, You Ruined My Life

Photography is an art, not a numbers game

White Horse, South Uist, Scotland by Paul Strand

White Horse, South Uist, Scotland by Paul Strand

Paul Strand,  pioneer of fine art photography,  created meticulously crafted photographs from the early 1900’s until his death in 1976. Currently, the Philadelphia Art Museum in Pennsylvania has an extensive retrospective of his work on exhibition.

Maybe he didn’t really ruin my life, but looking at his work made me realize that photography today may be missing something. We photographers are caught up in the fast paced world we live in. Limited time and virtually unlimited space on camera cards has created a method of photography similar to the military philosophy of the machine gun called “spray and pray.” We go out and take hundreds, if not thousands, of images hoping to get a few good ones. We travel to amazing places for a few days and hope to assemble a large portfolio of work from the sheer volume of images we create.

Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France by Paul Strand

Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France by Paul Strand

Paul Strand did it differently. Carrying heavy cameras and shooting expensive sheets of film, he would spend years in a location getting to know an area and its people. In that time he’d have maybe a couple of dozen images to show for it. Granted, shooting film is much different from shooting digitally, but we can learn about creating art from those who came before us with film in their cameras instead of a sensor.

Some of Paul Strand’s subjects were interviewed for this exhibition. When commenting on his working method, they didn’t really know what he did to create their photograph, but did know that he spent a long time doing it.

We can learn from this. Try to slow down and start a photo shoot by looking, thinking and studying the subject. Spend more time framing and adjusting before clicking the shutter. Maybe we would come back from a day’s shooting with just one great photograph instead of a bunch of good ones.

Beach Scene, Carmel California by Richard Lewis

Beach Scene, Carmel California by Richard Lewis 2013

Enjoy.