Camping with and Photographing the Bucktails

Looking back at my lack of updates on my blog, I realized that I never shared anything about continuing my work with the Civil War Bucktail reenactors this past summer.  As someone who’s studied History and the American Civil War in college, this is probably my most favorite personal work that I’ve had the pleasure of shooting.

Back in August 2018, I was able to continue shooting this personal project for a third time during the Bucktails’ annual reunion in Driftwood, PA where I camped with the reenactors for a weekend in a separate modern day tent just outside their encampment.

For three days and two nights, I did not have access to electricity.  Knowing this would be the case, I was certain to charge up every battery in my kit and hoped that I wouldn’t run out of juice. Being overly mindful of the electricity situation, I probably didn’t put as much care into my food supply.  I packed plenty of water, but somehow neglected to pack plenty of food for myself other than some light snacks.  Thankfully though, the Bucktails were constantly offering to cook me breakfast, made sure I was fed, and even offered up some nice cold beer.

Eating breakfast like a Union Soldier

The first morning there, I woke up at 5:30am to get things set up so I could start photographing portraits at sunrise.  I love to sleep in, but if there is one thing I’ll wake up early for, it’s that early morning light.  When I crawled out of my tent, I immediately noticed how fog had rolled into the valley we were camped in and only covered the tops of the surrounding mountains.  It took everything in me from running from tent to tent waking everyone up to get dressed.  Eventually, people started to wake up and we got to work while the fog was still hanging around.  

I kept things pretty simple as far as my kit goes.  I shot with my Phase One XF and IQ140 and used my faithful Paul C. Buff Einstein with their 64in PLM parabolic umbrella.  This kept my setup pretty mobile and allowed me to move from one location to another rather easily.  I also feel that using a single strobe helps to give these portraits a more realistic look that isn’t overly lit.

After photographing portraits from sunrise up until around 1:00pm, I then set up my 6x6 scrim and gray canvas backdrop outside to shoot some studio-like portraits.  In addition to the portraits I had taken earlier in the day, I wanted to shoot something a bit different that wasn’t necessarily an accurate historical representation of 1860’s photography.  Setting all this up outside was interesting, and thankfully, there wasn’t really any wind to worry about.

Camping with the Bucktails and spending the weekend with them was a great experience.  Like I’ve said after working with them the first two occasions, they are always extremely accommodating and willing to help me in any way possible while photographing them.  Sharing meals and sitting around camp fires with them really allowed me to have the chance to talk with them and get to know them a bit more.  Chatting with Clarence over some coffee, he told me how he had been a reenactor for 44 years since he first started in 1975 at age 29.  He even pulled out some old 4x6 prints and we compared one to the first portrait I shot of him in 2016 at the Battle of Cedar Creek reenactment in Virginia.

Before wrapping this post up, there is something special I have to share.  While shooting all day that Saturday, the Bucktails did something that I was not expecting.  Together, they decided to give me a special commemorative pin noting my participation in the reunion.  As if that wasn’t enough, they also presented me with my own deer tail to wear on my hat as they do and named me an honorary Bucktail.  To some, that may not seem like much, but when you see the amount of time and work that these reenactors put into what they do and their passion for History, it is a real honor to be thought of like this by them.  So, many thanks to the Bucktails for another memorable portion of this project, and I’m looking forward to the next time we’re all together again!

Related Blog Post: Photographing the Civil War Bucktails of Pennsylvania

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