Tag Archives: Festival of History

Not The Festival Of History – History Live! Kelmarsh Hall, July 2013

So, a change of name for this showpiece event in the English Heritage calendar, no longer the “Festival of History”, now “History Live!”.  On the face of it, that was just about the only change of note to this excellent event.  It was, to this paying customer at least, the same Festival of History as in previous years, just with a different name.  One other change I did notice, there was no First World War trench display this year although I am told this will return in 2014 as one of many events planned to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.

What a difference a year makes.  This time last year I remember blogging about how this event, along with many others, had been cancelled due to the wettest summer for a hundred years.    Fast forward twelve months and the UK is enjoying (if that’s the right expression…) a heat wave such as we haven’t seen for many years.  Here in Northamptonshire we have hardly seen a drop of rain for almost four weeks and with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid to high 20s Celsius every day for the past three weeks the ground is starting to look quite parched and brown in many places.

In the event, the weekend weather turned out to be not the clear blue skies and souring temperatures of the previous few days but much cooler, cloudier and quite overcast at times.  I can imagine this would a great relief to the re-enactors in their uniforms, many of which include both chain mail and/or heavy armour, not to mention helmets, weapons and various other pieces of kit which required to represent the chosen period with authenticity.

Regular readers of this blog will know that “cloudy bright” is my very favourite lighting for outdoor people photography, the clouds forming a massive diffuser to spread the light evenly over the subject without creating harsh shadows or highlights.  In particular, photographing people wearing hats can be especially problematic in strong sunlight due to the harsh shadows created under the brim.  In these conditions I usually resort to fill-flash (which is so easy with modern cameras) to avoid hard shadows obscurring the eyes.

On the Saturday, the light was actually rather poor for much of the day.  I shoot Aperture Priority (Av on Canon DSLRs) almost all of the time so I have full control over depth of field.  However, I had to constantly keep an eye on my shutter speed and subsequently adjust the ISO upwards if it started to fall below 1/320 second (I was using my trusty EF 80-200mm MDP lens for the event and 1/250 is absolutely the slowest shutter speed I want to go with this lens unless deliberately panning).  I also took the Canon 40mm “pancake” lens for the wider shots.  It’s a great little lens with surprising performance for something so tiny.

Below is a small selection of the photos I took on the day, including the Hawker Hurricane flypast.  I have just started uploading some of my other photos from this event to my website here.

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Event Cancelled – Kelmarsh Hall Festival Of History 2012

Yet another event is cancelled due to the terrible wet summer we are having here in the UK.  The Festival of History at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, the flagship event in the English Heritage calendar, has suffered the same fate as so many other outdoor events this year.

“Wounded” Soldier, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2008

It all started in March with the announcement that there were to be hosepipe bans in many parts of the country due to water shortages and the reservoirs being at record lows.  I know myself from visits to Rutland Water reservoir that water levels were indeed very low at that time.  Little did anyone realise that almost from the moment the hosepipe ban was announced, it would rain almost daily for the next three months.  June 2012 was the wettest June since records began in 1908 and July has carried on in much the same way.

Chariot Racing, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2009

It was ironic that last Sunday, the day I was planning to go to the Festival of History, turned out to be one of the best days so far in July with plenty of sunshine.  Sadly the field where the festival was to take place was already under water by then and the event had reluctantly been cancelled after the downpours of Thursday and Friday nights added to the already wet conditions under foot.

Part of the WWII battle re-enactment, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2009

It’s a real shame, not just for me, but especially for the organisers and the re-enactment groups and living history groups who have no doubt been planning this event for many weeks and months in advance.  I know of at least two other events that were cancelled on the same weekend.  Only the Burton Latimer Annual Duck Race survived, it would appear that the current weather is absolutely perfect for ducks, even the yellow plastic variety!

One of Prince Malik’s Lancers, Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 2011

Oh well, I hope to have some new photos to share very soon, August is looking very busy with the Battle of Bosworth anniversary re-enactment  and the Crich 1940s weekend already in my calendar.  In the mean time, here is a link to my photos from some of the recent Festivals of History:

Kelmarsh Hall Events

It has to stop raining eventually, doesn’t it?  I hope you enjoy your summer holidays, whatever the weather!

Geoff

A day out at the Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall 17th July 2011

It’s fair to say that the Festival of History held anually at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire is the jewel in the crown of the English Heritage events calendar.  I had been looking forward to this event for a long time so it was with some trepidation that I watched the weather forecast for the weekend on the Friday night which warned of heavy rain showers on Saturday followed by more heavy rain showers on Sunday.

The Story of the British Army, Festival of History, 2011

As it turned out, Saturday morning was a wash-out as it rained almost constantly right up until around 1pm but from there onwards it stayed more or less fine for the rest of the day.  I had already decided to take my chance on the Sunday and that turned out to be a day of sunshine and mostly light showers so not as bad as forecast.

Roman Soldiers, Festival of History, 2011

The Festival of History presents many opportunities to the enthusiast photographer, but also some challenges.  On the positive side, there is so very much to see, so many people and events to photograph and so much going on all the time.  The enormous number of re-enactors taking part, the different periods of history portrayed and the variety of set-pieces and encampments to explore is mind-blowing.

The Boar War Battle Re-enactment, Festival of History 2011

It’s the sheer size of the event that presents one of the major challenges.  At any given time there are at least three different places you need to be.  Another problem is trying to isolate your subject from the background which at times can get a bit messy with white tents, members of the public (refered to as MOPs by the re-enactors), other photographers (grrr!), videographers (is that a word?), trade stands, caravans etc.

The challenges of taking photographs at the Festival of History

The problems continue when trying to shoot the big battle re-enactments in the main arenas.  Every photographers worst nightmare, the safety ropes – white this time, a welcome change from blue you may think – are there to ensure that almost every photo you take will contain at least some portion of the dreaded rope.

"The sheer variety of re-enactors facial hair is mind-blowing"

Despite all the above, I love this event.  There are so many photo opportunities all around you but you do have to keep a close eye on procedings and you do need to be lucky sometimes in order to be in just the right place at the right time.

German Half-Track Commander, Festival of History 2011

In the event I was very lucky with the weather, one sharp shower in the afternoon but only a few spots of rain for the rest of the day.  A very enjoyable day and it was good to catch up with some of the people I had met at previous events.  I have uploaded some images from the event over on my website.

Geoff