Monday, August 1, 2011

Night Time Cannon Firing at Antietam

I am lucky that the stars were aligned and I was able to witness the following event. I just happened to be in Maryland visiting my family when I checked my computer and read a blog post by Mannie Gentile, (See his blog here) He wrote "Come to Antietam tonight and see a night time cannon shoot!" Three hours later, I found myself on the field of Antietam next to the New York monument  and two replica 12 pound Napoleon Cannons. They were set up over looking the cornfield area of the battlefield. It was a low-key affair attended by about 50 others. The weather was unsettled, with a thunderstorm passing to our north. We had a couple of sprinkles from it, so I ducked into the nearest shelter. There I found myself setting in a pew of the Dunker Church with a bunch of guys dressed in Confederate “butternut.” Quite surreal.
Dunker Church Antietam. Shot with Holga Wide angle Pinhole on Fuji 100 B&W. It was about a 15 second exposure. The film got fogged when I changed rolls.
For my photographs I used my Holga 120N and Fuji 100 ASA B&W film. My goal was to capture the muzzle flash and smoke of the cannon discharge. Luckily the sun was setting and it was a cloudy twilight. I took a chance and set my Holga to bulb and set up my tripod. My vantage point was about 25 feet away from the left gun. I just guessed at the exposures. When I saw the crew set the friction fuse, step away, and yelled “Ready!” I opened the shudder.
"Servicing the gun". With South Mountain as a back drop I set up my tripod at the corner of the New York Monument. I have arranged the photos in chronological order. Both guns were fired three times.  Note how the images become more dramatic as it gets darker.
Notice that the number three gunner, behind the cannon, is still because he is "thumbing the vent". In other words he has his thumb over the vent hole in back of the cannon. This is an important safety measure because it keeps air from entering the gun and douses any left over embers that could explode the next gun powder charge.
First shot.
I like this shot. Reloading for shot two.
Second shot. Note the vertical spouts of flame erupting from the vent hole in back of the gun.
Fire three! Both guns discharged almost simultaneously.

 Mannie Gentile blog-