Into the Village

Below is a selection of pictures from a recent shoot of British soldiers training on Salisbury Plain. The training helps prepare them for deployment to places like Afghanistan by allowing them to practice and perfect their skills and procedures in an environment where getting it wrong will not have the same consequences as it may have when they are actually deployed on operations.

Their mission was to make their way through a specially adapted village – Imber Village – situated on Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire and as the scenarios put in front of them developed so they had to react to the enemy threats before them and put into practice the drills they had been taught.

As I followed the troops through their assault on the village there were various photographic challenges to overcome. The assault on the village was to be carried out very early in the morning, as you would expect it was still pretty much dark and as such my ISO was cranked right up – 1600 minimum and up to 6400 for many of the pictures. This brought increased digital noise and even though the Nikon D3 is all over the problems of noise at high ISO settings it was still noticeable.

This was OK though as I knew it would work nicely for the type of pictures I wanted to try and make, so remember it can work to your advantage sometimes so don’t get too caught up with these technical issues, understand them, but also understand how you can work with them – you can still shoot pictures.

Anticipating the low light levels I had with me an SU800 remote IR trigger that I used to fire the SB900 Speedlight. I was never going to have the time to set up a light stand so I simply hand held the flash as I fired it and pushed some directional light into some of the pictures when required to create some extra atmosphere. I was using a 1/4 CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) filter over the flash head and this warmed up my colour pictures nicely and with the flash set on manual 1/64 or 1/128 power and zoomed into to 50mm on the flash head I was able to use it, when appropriate, to reasonable effect.

Due to the low light and smoke from the many smoke grenades used to provide cover for the troops as they moved through the buildings many of the photographs taken inside them made it difficult for my auto-focus to keep up so on numerous occasions I switched to manual focus and got over the problem that way but it was still tricky with a wide aperture resulting in a shallow depth of field, low light levels and fast moving subjects so there were some pictures that didn’t come out sharp – But that’s fine, that’s how it was so you just have to crack on and try and work around it and a bit of movement in a subject like this is fine to highlight the drama of the situation.

Along with pictures I was also gathering Audio with my Edirol recorder and mic for a possible multimedia piece. In fast moving situations like this it is always a trade off between getting the picture or getting the audio. Inevitably you will see a great picture when your in the middle of recording or you see the opportunity for a strong sound byte but don’t have time to get your recording equipment out.

There is no right and wrong here, in my opinion, you just have to make a judgment call at the the time and go for what feels right but I would suggest that regardless of what you decide try and get it as right as you can as you shoot/record to make your edit easier later and this is helped by having a good understanding of how you want your multimedia piece to come together.

As for my kit – two Nikon D3’s, 28mm 2.8, 85mm 1.4, SU800 trigger, SB900 speedlight, 1/4 CTO filter, Edirol recorder and mic, couple of Think Tank pouches, spare batteries (for the Edirol rather than the Nikons) and spare memory cards, a 50mm 1.8 and a chamois cloth. My usual kit really for this type of work, as I have mentioned before in situations like this it is always better to go light. It is harder work with prime lenses and they have their limitations but, in my opinion, your pictures improve by using them.

After my edit was done for my work requirements and I had re-edited some of the pictures for Black and White I go through them again (as I always do with my pictures) and on reflection I’m reasonably happy with the results, but there is always room for improvement and so there should be, because each time you experience a problem either technical or due to the subject matter or circumstances in which your shooting you should come away from it with something that will assist you next time and that will make you a better photographer.

A multimedia piece can now be seen by following this link…Weapons Free

Published by ian forsyth photography

Press and Documentary photographer covering the North of England. Stringer & contributor for Getty Images News. Prints are available to buy on my website.

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