It was only by chance that I found out about the Second World War re-enactment event taking place on my doorstep at Mapledurham House just outside Reading in Berkshire over the weekend. Since I wasn’t particularly busy, I thought I’d go along and take a look.
Vehicles and Tents
The event was entitled Mapledurham at War (MAW), inspired by the 1976 film The Eagle has Landed, filmed at this wonderful location. There were probably over 600 re-enactors there, all dressed in WWII battle dress or something associated with that period. The area for the event was littered with beautiful examples of restored and well kept military equipment, army truck, jeeps, tanks, amphibious craft and motor bikes. Together with the camps made up of authentic tents of the period it really did look the part. I was reminded of when I was a child and we used to play in my father’s ex-army tent. It was identical to some of the examples being used – even down to the same shaped wooden pegs.
I watched one re-enactment, which was a lot of fun for not only the public, but also the re-enactors. The Germans were outnumbered by the British and rest of Europe troops and I guess through excellent soldiering lost the battle on the day. I hear they take it in turns to win!
I took some shots of the re-enactment using my 18-300 Nikon lens which due to distance spent most of it’t time at the long end. I did wish I’d brought along my 150-600 Sigma to get some better in close shots. Once I got the camera home though the frustration soon went as I became quite pleased with what I’d managed to capture … especially once changed into black and white to better mimic the era.
One of the highlights of the day promised to be a Spitfire fly past. This was going to be challenging as it was going to come in “fast and low” according to the commentary. The general direction was going to be a bit hit and miss too. I have already captured some fine shots of a Spitfire at Eastbourne air show, but always hankered after getting a shot with the props spinning. This is quite tricky, as I was going to need to pan with a slower shutter speed to get that effect. At the same time I would need to track accurately to keep the aircraft in frame and focused. I wasn’t sure this day was going to be the best day to get that kind of shot, but I thought I’d give it a go. I set the camera to 1/200 and F10 to burst mode (8 fps) and waited for it to come into sight.
Yep. They were right. It was fast! Trying to keep up with it coming in low was extremely difficult. One moment, its a spec in the view finder, the next it’s overhead and overflowing the frame. It swooped by 3 times and each time I tried my best to hang onto it. After all the excitement, I reviewed what I had got. Mostly bits of plane, some in focus, most not. I had a few with the plane in full frame, but blurry due to me not tracking properly at such a slow shutter speed. Then I spotted the real blooper. I had left my Area Focus on Single Point … not ideal for something dancing around in the frame. Disaster! Nothing was in focus, or un-blurred … except for one image. I have posted that one on this site. Even though it is not my best image of a Spitfire, I do quite like it. I’ve managed to get the props turning and it does provide me with a memory of how difficult it was to capture.
So a lesson learned from the day’s experience. It pushed me back to a quick scan of an excellent e-book, I purchased recently; Secrets to the Nikon Autofocus System by Steve Perry. It’s an excellent book and 400 or so pages of really good advice that can be used to help you get those perfect shots. I really can’t tell you how good this book is for Nikon users. Shame I forgot on the day I needed it. Sorry Steve!