Photos: American Civil War Reenactment….in California!

True, there weren’t very many significant battles fought in California.  We didn’t have The Sacking of Sacramento, The Battle of Van Nuys, or the Massacre at Moorpark.

Although the Civil War Reenactment in Moorpark, California is the largest American Civil War Reenactment west of the Mississippi, the battle was a recreation of the South Mountain Battle in Maryland.  South Mountain is also known in several early Southern accounts as the Battle of Boonsboro Gap, September 14, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. This was the 150th Anniversary, and the reenactment took place in Moorpark, CA in what is the largest Civil War battle reenactment west of the Mississippi.

In fact, this event at Moorpark actually recreates five different battles over the course of two days.  And it has large camps, battle music, and much more, with much of the spectators also dressing in period clothing.

The reenactors did a great job in recreating the time period.  And as a photographer, I felt that I could enhance this even more through an antique paper and sloppy border appearance, giving it the feel of the 1860s in a way that color photos might not be able to achieve.

I checked out one of the Confederate cannons. Made in 1862, 150 years ago. As it turns out, this was actually made by the Union Army, but “acquired” by the Confederates in battle.

The battle photos were taken with a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor VR 18-200mm lens, while the up close cannon shot and the soldier smoking a cigar were taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, which is great for portraits and anything in which you want to have a narrow depth of field and highlight the subject.

If you want to learn more about how to achieve this antique paper and sloppy border appearance, click here for a tutorial.

And here are more photos from this Civil War Reenactment in Moorpark on my Virtual Photo Album.

Advertisements

Featured Photo – The Door of Perception: Joshua Tree

The Door of Perception:  Joshua Tree

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Door to Joshua Tree

The Door to Joshua Tree

Desert art.  A lot of people use old doors as fences out in the desert.  Seems appropriate. During sundown, I especially liked the way the sun glinted off the broken glass. But I also liked the philosophical possibilities that doors in the open impart.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception” – Aldous Huxley

Sundown. I wanted to capture the light of the setting sun, but also catch the detail of the glass with my speedlight.

This photo was taken with a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash off-camera (wireless) since we were facing the setting sun, and it would have been extremely dark otherwise.

“A small key opens big doors” – Turkish proverb

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

 

Photo Tip of the Month – Fill Light To Reduce Contrast in the Mid-Day Sun

You’d be surprised how many people will ask, “Why are you using a flash? There’s plenty of light!”  Here’s how flash can help your mid-day photos.

Wagon of the Old West

A photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun. Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

You can’t always shoot photos during the “golden hours” (early morning, just before sunset).  And you may not always want this. Sometimes, you want to capture the look of something at mid-day.  But as anyone who has shot knows, this can create harsh light and harsh contrasts, particularly with subjects that are in the shade, as shown below:

Wagon with no fill light as an example

Our Wild West wagon with no fill light as an example of how mid-day sun can create harsh light and harsh contrasts in photos, particularly with subjects that are partially in the shade. Compare this with the other photo which uses the fill light.

So, what to do?  Use a flash as a fill light.

For this photo, I used a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash in wireless mode.  I placed it down on the ground, just out of frame on the right side, facing up at the wagon, with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-600 Flash Diffuser Unit to diffuse the light.  I like to use off-camera flash because I have more control over what area of the subject my flash lights (and if shooting portraits, it’s a great way to avoid getting demonic red eyes!).  Here’s another look at the photo using fill flash:

Wagon of the Old West

Have another look at the photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun.  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, Nikon 18-200mm VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens, Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, Sto-Fen Flash Diffuser.

 

Featured Photo – Beautiful Bokeh: Best Lens Bargain for a Nikon!

Camera equipment can be quite expensive.  But not always.  There are some fantastic 50mm lens out there for not so much money.  Nikon, for instance, makes a 50mm f/1.8 for somewhere around US$100, and a 50mm f/1.4 for under US$300, lens with large apertures (openings) to let in more light (see links at bottom).

And remember last week when I was showing you photo examples taken with really small apertures (the long exposure shots at Goat Rock Beach)?  You may remember that I mentioned that small apertures keep more elements of the photo in focus, or, in other words, has a large depth of field.

I’m going to show you the opposite of that this week.  If you shoot with the aperture wide open, using large apertures of f/1.4 or f/1.8, *less* elements appear in focus, or, in other words, a shallow depth of field.

Why would you want to do that, you ask?  To accentuate features and have backgrounds (or foregrounds) blur out.  This would be effective for portraits, focusing our attention on the subject and not the background or foreground.

Portraits can be people.  Or reptiles.  We may have friends or family members who qualify as both.

Reptile near 49 Palms

Reptile near 49 Palms.  Since I was using a 50mm lens and not a zoom, I was surprised at how close this guy let me get to him.  This was taken at f/1.8.  You can see how in this photo, our happy prehistoric looking subject is in focus while the foreground and background have this lovely bokeh, or blurred areas due to the shallow depth of field.

Or maybe another use might be taking photos of bottle trees in the desert…you know, the usual things one might use a 50mm prime lens for…

Bottles at Joshua Tree

Bottle tree in Joshua Tree, taken with a 50mm f1/4 prime Nikkor lens, illustrating the shallow depth of field for the lovely readers of this photography blog.

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever. For those who don’t know this Los Angeles-based band, who combine Cambodian pop-rock with psychedelic rock. They were formed in 2001 by Ethan Holtzman after he visited Cambodia and was inspired to start a band. This was taken with – you guessed it – the 50mm prime, illustrating another fine use…it’s a fast lens. Meaning it lets in lots of light through its large opening.  Meaning it does well in low light situations such as at this concert.

There’s a few other bonuses of a 50mm:

– As I mentioned, they can be quite cheap.  You can get Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 for a hair over US$100.  Not bad.

-They’re prime lens, or, in other words, fixed.  Good and sharp.  Of course, you can’t stand around and use your zoom lens.  You’ll hafta move your feet.

– As mentioned in the Dengue Fever photo caption, the lens is a fast lens.  It lets in lots of light through a larger, wider opening.  Which means that it’s also better in low light situations, where you might need to use a faster shutter speed to capture the action without blurring.  Cool, eh?

– And 50mm primes are small and light, perfect for the photographer on the go.

Flute player

Flute player for the band Dengue Fever, shot wide open at f/1.4. 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens. For this photo, I also shot at 1/100 at ISO 2500, focusing on his eye. I really like the bokeh on his hat and flute, a beautiful sense of depth that this lens is capable of doing.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 50mm f/1.4 prime Nikkor lens

Featured Quote: Michael Kenna on the Act of Photography Connecting Us To the World

Joshua Tree Star Trails (Ken Lee, night photographer)

Joshua Tree Star Trails.  This is a photo that I (Ken) took in the middle of a warm summer night.  I brought out one of those zero-gravity loungers and looked up at the sky during the entire exposure.  Indeed, as Michael Kenna describes in his quote below, the act of photography does connect us to the world. NIkon D90, 18-200mm VR lens, MC-DC2 remote release cord, and my father’s 1970s Sears metal tripod.

I love this quote and thought I’d share with you.

“Getting photographs is not the most important thing. For me it’s the act of photographing. It’s enlightening, therapeutic and satisfying, because the very process forces me to connect with the world. When you make four-hour exposures in the middle of the night, you inevitably slow down and begin to observe and appreciate more what’s going on around you. In our fast-paced, modern world, it’s a luxury to be able to watch the stars move across the sky.” – Michael Kenna in “Photographer’s Forum Interview” – Winter 2003 by Claire Sykes

Featured Photo: My Eyes Have Seen You, Let Them Photograph Your Soul

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

“Jim Morrison” with Break On Through, an amazing Doors tribute band, 17 December 2011. Nikon D90 with a 50mm Nikkor f1.8 lens, 1/100, f/2, 1250 ISO. Break On Through to the Faster Side There’s nothing like a nice fast lens. … Continue reading

Featured Photo – God Lives in the Details

El Tatio Abstract Photo from the Atacama Desert in Chile

Beautiful abstract colors.  Can you tell what this is?

Fantastic details are all around you.  But they can get lost, particularly when you are traveling, particularly at tourist sites, and particularly when you are freezing your you-know-what off.

This photo was taken at the El Tatio geysers in Northern Chile. There are 70 geysers at El Tatio, one of the highest fields of geysers in the world, containing about 25% of the world’s geysers.  Lots of hissing steam – early morning steam that condenses in the bitterly cold morning air. The steam plumes disappear as the air warms up. And at 4200m (about 13,800 ft), the air gets darn cold. -8ºC (17 F), to be exact.

But the ground near the geysers and bubbling pools of smelly arsenic are some interesting things. If you look closely, you can see some amazing textures and colors.   The details.

When I showed the above photo to my friends, some thought it was a satellite photo.  Some thought it was taken in an industrial setting.  And some did guess that it was some sort of hot pool or geyser.

El Tatio Geysers, Atacama Desert, Northern Chile

El Tatio Geysers, Atacama Desert, Northern Chile

Equipment:  Nikon D90, Nikkor 50mm f1/4 prime lens for the bubbling detail shot, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens for the geysers with a Tiffen circular polarizer.