Wreaths Across America
In 2006 The Air Force Auxiliary (a.k.a. Civil Air Patrol) partnered with Worcester Wreath Company in Maine to take their "Arlington Project" across the Nation by utilizing our infrastructure and their product to create "Wreaths Across America" and deploy their mission of "Remember the Fallen, Honor those serving and Teach our children the true price of freedom.
When I first put this event together in Fayetteville Arkansas we had little idea of how powerful a message this would convey. our first couple years we may have had 25-50 people in attendance and if I were a photo journalist at the time, I would have said "Nothing to see here .....move on". But after getting some corporate sponsors to pay for all the wreaths to cover the entire cemetery and adding guest speakers, static displays, youth organizations, and a pipe and drum corps, the ceremony now brings in between 4000 - 5000 people annually to the event.
The fact that I added the additional features was not the only reason it grew exponentially, it was because I employed the use of my DSLR camera and Digital Video camera and started feeding the media with photos and videos shot at the event. Using Photoshop for pictures and Final Cut X for the video I was able to create some very dramatic an poignant moments from the event and make them pop. Had I not taken the time to document this event with digital media, it certainly would not have been nearly as successful.
When shooting these events I found there was no end to candid shots, with the occasional portrait shot thrown in while the guest speaker was pontificating. Action shots during the procession or during the rifle volley or taps provided additional shots/footage that made a huge impact and told our story effectively.
Because this is done in December, you need to be prepared to work in cold, damp and windy conditions. All of which can cause some challenges for your shooting process, but trust me, it is worth the effort, both to the program event team itself, but also to those participating in the wreath laying process. Another thing to remember is have several copies of your model release form handy, this will keep you from having to retrace you footsteps to find those individuals after the fact.
If you get the opportunity to shoot an event like this, whether it be be a volunteer gig or paid assignment, you should take the opportunity. Using a modicum of good composition techniques coupled with a plethora of subjects to shoot, you will find it enjoyable and rewarding. You may also help that fledgling event find its public audience and be it's catalyst for growth.
Photo credits: Charles Lytton.
Nature and Wildlife Photography