Muskets and Lions

It isn’t often I photograph musketeers, and I’m not sure I made much of a job of it, though it wasn’t entirely my fault. I blame it on the musketeers, though not seriously, but they were not quite up to New Model Army Standards, when a fully drilled soldier could apparently manage four rounds a minute.  Of course they were doing it slowly at least in part to make a better display for the crowd watching.

But the problem is that camera shutters expose for perhaps 1/250 of a second, and when the order was given to fire, the musketeers were not all firing exactly in sync. This too was one of very few occasions when I felt a need for a faster frame rate than the 5 fps that the D800E can deliver (with a following wind and a stream of qualifications listed on p104 of the manual – and it can do 6 fps with a battery pack with AA batteries, which I didn’t have.) One thing I forgot was that the VR on the lens can slow the frame rate, but I don’t think it mattered.

The musketeers fired two volleys, the second roughly two and a half minutes after the first. I was hoping to catch the brief flash that comes from the lock and also from the barrel along with the smoke which lingers for some seconds . During the first volley I caught the first musketeer firing on the third frame after he had given the order to fire, two others on the fourth frame and by the fifth frame all five had discharged their weapons – with two having done so between the fourth and fifth frames. On the second volley, the same musketter again appears on the third frame (the drill master who gave the order to fire) the flash from two others on frame 4, and again the final two missed between this and frame 5.

I was actually quite pleased with frame 3 from the first volley, where you can clearly see the flame coming from the barrel – just a little enhanced in post-processing, where I’ve added a little contrast and saturation to make it slightly more visible. Although the flashes from the touch hole were visible as mentioned above, this was the only frame that showed the flame rather than just smoke emerging from the barrel.

I was working as close as we were allowed to get for safety reasons, with the 28-105mm at 42mm (63mm equiv) and the exposure at ISO 640 was 1/320 f9.  There really is seldom any point in going below ISO 640 on this camera except when you want to limit the depth of field.

The musketeers and pikemen where part of the Sealed Knot’s ‘Colonel Rainsborough’s Regiment of Foote’, present today for the unveiling of a plaque to Rainsborough, the highest ranking officer among the supporters of the Levellers in the English Civil War, with a few well-known figures from the political left also present, including Tony Benn who pulled the cord to draw the small curtains aside. And there were of course a few speeches, but little that made for interesting pictures.

At the end came an unofficial addition on behalf of one of the even more radical Civil Wars, with Ian Bone giving an uninvited speech in front of the fine Fifth Monarchist banner about Thomas Venner, who led brief and from the start doomed insurrection after the restoration in 1661, storming St Paul’s Cathedral and holding parts of London for three days (and commemorated earlier this year by Bone and friends for a film being made about him – see Epiphany Rising Against King.)

You can see more images from this event in Wapping at Leveller Thomas Rainsborough on My London Diary, where there are also pictures from the Boishakhi Mela Procession I photographed in Bethnal Green earlier in the day.  After a pint in the nearby Town of Ramsgate, next to Wapping Old Stairs, I walked back to Tower Hill, taking a few pictures on the way. But I rather prefer the way it used to be when I walked along here in the 70s and 80s – a few pictures in my book City to Blackwall.

Gun Wharves, Wapping High St, 1981


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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