View Full Version : General Custer & Corporal Brad

17-Jun-2014, 20:52
I know one of those Civil War re-enactor guys, and for the past couple of months he was begging me to drive up to Ft. Sisseton SD and see him & his regiment "in action." It involved five hours of driving, but what the hell. I took my Chamonix 045n, an E&HT Anthony 4 in. RR mounted in Copal 1, Heliar 150mm 6 in. c.1912, and my ~6 in. f2.8 Ross Petzval c.1845. I brought a small backpack full of holders loaded with Efke 25, FP4, HP5. The Heliar is my favorite portrait lens, but for the shots I took there the Ross Petzval was suprisingly cool! I used Efke 25 with about 6 stops of ND, taking shots in the shade at roughly half second to one second. It seemed to work OK.

I really like the results and think I want to try some more of this. I'm after a Civil War vintage look. The lens is doing its part, but I am using film. What if I added about 2-3 stops of blue filter--would that give me a more authentic look? I could use ~3 stops ND and ~3 stops blue, maybe? I'm headed to a closer, larger re-enactment deal in about 6 weeks and I think there might be a wet plate guy there. I'll watch him and see just how difficult it is. I vaccillate between wanting to try it and wanting to stay clear. If I can get what I want with film, I might stay with that. I can get more shots in a day for one thing.

Any thoughts on my first attempts here? Two shots made with Petzval on Efke 25, one shot made with Heliar on FP4.


18-Jun-2014, 03:06
The second and third pics look smashing, although I wonder if in the second pic the composition wouldn't have benefited from a more formal rectilinear approach, as was the fashion at the time (ie level camera to avoid the window perspective distortion)? In any case, I'm super impressed with the feel you've managed to get with film!


18-Jun-2014, 04:45
The Petzval shots definitely. I did some shoots last year and this spring with a Petzval and Ilford Ortho at a couple of civil war reenactments, results in my album "Civil War" http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/album.php?albumid=86

I highly recommend the Ortho, or perhaps X-ray film for your next 19th century adventure.

Thanks for making the drive!

18-Jun-2014, 05:11
Definitely stick with the Petzval lens, lots of ND, and slow shutter speeds. Other possibilities would be using Ortho film, pronounced vignetting at the corners, and if you want to go whole hog, try "distressing" the film/image a bit (which could be a photoshop filter).

18-Jun-2014, 05:41

You you got some nice shots for sure! I've found these guys to be quite cooperative. Maybe I should exploit that a little more as you did. I've been looking at the Ilford Ortho film and like what it did for you.

18-Jun-2014, 12:55
Looks good. I'd try xray film rather the filters if you have neither. You can probably get some nice books at the library of civil war images if you want to see what sort fo lens signatures were common. The whole black powder thing with replica rifles/muskets is pretty fun. My brother used to do reenacting and had an extra 1855 springfield rifle recreation intended for the 1993 gettysburg movie.

18-Jun-2014, 17:36
The second picture of Corporal Brad looks pretty "authentic", but General George seems too---what? casual, maybe? I can't recall a Civil War era photograph made in the field that wasn't square to the camera, with the weapon either butt-first on the ground or lying across someone's knees, probably because of the long exposure times (and setup times, given plate coating, removable focusing backs, and whatnot). Not to say that there aren't counterexamples, of course, but it seems that the iconic wet-plate battlefield picture would be much more like your Corporal's.