November 19th marked the annual Remembrance Day and parade in Gettysburg, PA. This small town in southern Pennsylvania is one of my favorite places to visit and every year we make the trek down – usually a couple of times, but always for Remembrance Day.
It’s a surreal sort of weekend. You’ll walk down the street and pass troops encamped in yards; Union soldiers line the bar at the pub, and Grant, Lee, and Lincoln share a table for dinner. Not the sort of thing you see very often…
But despite this, I actually debated bringing the camera with me this year. The parade – the main attraction – becomes less important to me each year – it’s several hours long and after you’ve shot photos of it the first couple of times, it doesn’t change much. Last year it was (I think) just the 400D + 50mm, and looking back through the blog I don’t think I ever even posted any photos. I may not have kept anything I shot.
But “the best camera is the one you have with you” and I’d be a pretty lousy photographer if I didn’t bring anything, so I took the E-M5, the Pan-Leica 25mm, and the Oly 75mm. It’s a compact kit that covered both the wide(er) and long ends of the spectrum, while remaining lightweight and easily portable.
Turns out I’m really glad I did bring it. Shooting the parade and around town with the 75mm yielded a few neat shots, like the one above of the soldier eating jerky in the shadows. And of course it’s not everyday that you get to capture a photo of President Lincoln in the flesh.
Best of all, I ended up with an hour to myself just before sunset and was able to hike from the Visitor’s Center out onto the battlefield at the High Water Mark, down to the Pennsylvania Monument, and back to the Visitor’s Center. It was a couple of miles at a good pace, but frankly it felt good to get out and move around – and also to finally shoot some meaningful photos on the battlefield.
I say “finally” because, despite all the trips I’ve made to Gettysburg, they have always been visits where photography takes second-place to other priorities. And while I’ve walked and driven across much of the battlefield, I’ve never been able to slow down and make some artistic, thought-out images of it. So the opportunity to get to do so this time, even just for a little while, was great. I loved it. (And it didn’t hurt that the light was perfect!)
In the end I had about 24 hours in this lovely little town, which wasn’t nearly enough. It never is. But I’m looking into going back this spring, when the landscape has turned green again, and focusing on the photography. Here’s hoping it works out.