The British are coming, the British are coming

It’s Patriot’s Day in  Massachusetts or at least yesterday was.  This was a big day in Massachusetts. There were reenactments all over but the most traditional one is the one on the Lexington Green where the battle really took place. Then there’s the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon. I think the marathon gets more coverage than the reenactments! And we can’t forget the Red Sox even though their season so far has been really  forgettable. They were playing at Fenway Park and wonder of wonders, they WON! So much to do, so much to see, so little time!

I chose to travel to the Battle Green in Lexington to see their reenactment. It’s a bit over an hour from my house to Lexington.  They try to be as authentic as possible, even holding the reenactment at 5:30 am, daybreak. To allow time for parking and to walk to the green, I left my house at 4am and arrived in Lexington at a few minutes after 5am.

The pre dawn light was just beginning to lighten the sky.

As you know I scoped out the area last week so I would know where to park and were to get a good vantage point. It quickly became apparent that the trip was pretty much an exercise in futility. I made excellent time, there was no traffic even for a Monday. Many businesses close in Massachusetts to observe the holiday. We even get an extra day to file our income taxes.(Isn’t that special?).

I pulled into Lexington and headed for the Stop and Shop Parking lot but it was full already! I began to search for a parking spot. That quest took me almost 20 minutes so by the time I got parked, they were ringing the church bells on the green.  I loaded up with my camera, new lens and monopod and began hustling toward the sounds. As I reached the green I was shocked into standstill.  IT WAS PACKED! Who gets up at 5AM to watch grown people dress up and play dead people? Apparently a lot of people including young children.

The little rise I had staked out as mine was overflowing so there was no chance of getting up there. Plus loads of people had step ladders, not little ones either, big 6 ft step ladders and they ringed the back of the crowd that already surrounded the common. I could tell I wouldn’t be able to get close enough to see anything there. I continued to work my way around the common on the fringe of the crowd looking for any little opening I might be able to squeeze into but it wasn’t til I was well past the common that the crowd began to thin out.

Having driven all that way in the wee hours I wasn’t going to just turn around and go back home so I slid into a small opening right at the barricade. Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to use the new lens so I pulled out my favorite lens, my trusty 55-200mm telephoto. Oops, I left the polarizer on and it was wasn’t very light out.  But it was cold, and windy and that meant that my polarizer was stuck…again. Seems like it won’t budge when it’s cold. Warm the lens up to 70 degrees and the polarizer will come right off.  Boy is this morning off to a good start? (Not).

Anyway, it was time to try to improvise.  I upped the ISO and although I had wanted to use a small aperture to get a deep DOF , I decided to do the opposite to try to increase shutter speed so I could capture action. If the sun had been up higher and I could get the polarizer off, I probably wouldn’t have had to make these compromises.

Across the street was a building that I think is the Hartwell Tavern. That was where the Patriots gathered that fateful morning before heading to the green. I could see some reenactors milling around on the lawn. Someone was making a speech but we couldn’t tell what was being said because the speakers were pointed away from us and toward the crowd around the green. All of a sudden 3 of the Patriot’s raised their  rifles and a shot went off. Boy it was LOUD! Smoke billowed out and drifted on the breeze.  It caught all of us in my little corner off guard. I wasn’t the only one who jumped!

Right on the heels of that we heard someone yelling. We couldn’t make out exactly what was said but a rider came trotting up to the Patriots on the lawn. It was pretty clear this was the messenger bringing the news that the British were on the move, not Paul Revere because he had been captured, if you recall.

The Patriots began to run out of the Tavern and form up on the green. We began to hear drums and pretty soon the British came into sight marching at a  brisk clip right down the road where we were standing. They were going to go right past us.

The columns of Redcoats marched by us and formed up on the Green .

 They had 1 captive and suddenly someone yelled that the captive was escaping. A shot rang out and then chaos broke out. Rifles were firing, smoke was blowing and all of the players were yelling. The crowd was spellbound and those of us with cameras were all trying to jockey for position.

From my vantage point I could see the redcoats and the smoke and that was about it.

And then it was over.  8 Patriots had been killed that day. The British  formed up and marched away.

The crowd began to break up, many headed to the pancake breakfast. I chose to head to the Green to see what remained.

I’ll tell you what I saw when I finally got to the green in my next post. For  this one I will say a lesson learned for next year. Unless I want to be one of those people dragging a ladder around next year, I will have to get there much earlier than I did this time. I don’t need a super telephoto, a 200mm is more than adequate and be sure the polarizer is off! 🙂

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