20 December 2013
Last updated at 16:16
Photographer Matthew Marschner has taken a series of pictures of World War One battlefield scenes which can be used as a resource for School Reporters producing reports about the First World War centenary. He has also shared some top tips for taking good location photographs. This shot depicts poppies growing at the Dixmude ‘Trenches of Death’, where the Belgian army kept the German army at bay for the whole of the war.
This is Matthew, who says: "I started taking photographs when I was about 10 years old and the excitement of capturing images has never left me. I’ve been a television cameraman for nearly 25 years, working on all kinds of programmes from The Apprentice and The Voice to political and historical documentaries."
"I first visited the WW1 battlefields of Northern France in the 1970s when I was in my teens. but the real excitement came when we stopped for a picnic by a recently ploughed field. We quickly realised that the field was strewn with the debris of warfare, from bits of barbed wire, lumps of rusty shrapnel, bits of hand grenade and bullet casings." This picture shows sheep grazing on the remains of the battlefield by The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
"I took the picture for a number of reasons. Firstly it was a good way of signposting the location geographically as the main road runs along what was the front line. Secondly, the names of the towns would have been synonymous with any soldier who was fighting on the front, so I was trying to imagine what those names might have meant to a soldier. I also liked the graphic simplicity of the two signs back-to-back and pointing in opposite directions."
"Before going out on a shoot I’ll always try and do as much research about the subject and location as possible, using the internet, books and maps, so I’m not wasting time trying to get to the place I really want to be." Here we see the statue of a figure in repose at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
"If I cannot do a recce of the location before the shoot I try to relax when I arrive and not attempt to take in everything in an instant. I try to have a good look around and build up a picture of how I would like to portray the scene." This shot is of the names of the Fallen at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
"I’ve had a good look around the location so the next thing to think about is what I am going to try to say with the photograph - what sort of message I am trying to communicate with the viewer. I then try and convey that idea in the most visually economical or clearest way." This is La Targette French National War Cemetery.
"Sometimes you need to use elements like shadows or the way sunlight is falling across something for a photo." The remains of the battlefield area around Vimy Ridge are still pock-marked with clearly visible exploded shell craters."
"I try and step away from the crowds and poke around a bit. Often the most interesting visual stuff is hidden away or not in the most obvious place." While at Vimy Ridge, Matthew came across this rusty old vehicle chassis.
"When looking for ways to frame a photograph I always think about the height of my camera relative to my subject. It’s always the easiest shot, but try to get out of the habit of shooting everything from eye-level." Here Matthew found an old mortar in a preserved trench at Vimy Ridge.
"Sometimes you might have to get down to the same level as your subject, which means if it is at ground level you might just have to lie down on the ground as well." Matthew proves the point with this picture of a rifle firing hole in a protective steel plate with yellow flowers at Vimy Ridge.
"Don’t always rely on wide-angle shots to tell the story. Try to mix the wide shots with interesting close-ups of details." Here Matthew moves in to shoot these telephone line insulators in underground tunnels leading to the front line at Vimy Ridge.
"I’m also careful to make sure I have a good ‘texture’ when presenting a sequence of photographs." Matthew stayed underground to capture a shot of these tunnels leading to the front line at Vimy Ridge.
"As a documentary cameraman I have a rule when filming something like an old building for example, that I take three or four really interesting close-up shots as well as the ‘wide’." Old shells like this are still commonly found by farmers while ploughing fields around the old battleground areas.
"These shots could be something like a detail of the corner of a window or a bit of old guttering but they tell the viewer something about the building as opposed to the ‘wide-shot’ that generally sets the scene." This is the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium.
"I think whether you include people in your shots is largely up to you. Some photographers see everything from a human angle and see people as essential in their pictures whereas others might see humans as disrupting the visual order of a photograph." No people, just bikes, here at the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium.
"Sometimes it's just really good to put a human in a shot to give some scale to the scene so the viewer can see how big or small things really are. At other times for example, a single figure lost in thought might say a lot more than a beautifully framed geometric shot – you just have to experiment a bit and see what works for you." The couple seen here are visiting the Tyn Cott British Cemetery at Passchendaele in Belgium.
"When I’m looking through my lens and considering the frame I’m always thinking about ‘what is most interesting’ within that frame. Sometimes this might mean that I shoot the camera on its side (portrait shot) so there is more interest in the vertical part of the frame." These roses are at Vimy Ridge Cemetery.
"If I am photographing a landscape then the camera will probably be in the normal horizontal position (landscape shot) to get a wider horizon and more sky. Try not to be tempted to always put the horizon across the middle of the frame. If the sky is really interesting then pan the camera up to show more of it." A good example is in the picture of this lake, which is in a landmine crater on the Messines Ridge.
"If your camera has a steady-shot function then I would suggest you keep it switched on to get the sharpest wobble-free pictures. If you don’t have a tripod to hand and you feel the need to steady yourself to stop the camera moving around, try leaning against something, eg a post, a tree or the top of a wall." Useful advice for taking this photo of somewhere like these Sanctuary Wood preserved British Trenches. Ypres Salient. Belgium.
"When I go out to take photographs I like to use my Digital SLR camera to shoot the main or key images. It’s always great to have a bit of a record of your day out taking photographs as well as the more considered shots. It’s also nice that you can tell a bit of a story about your day as an event to other people who are viewing your photographs." This picture is taken from inside the Bayernwald German trenches at Messines Ridge.
"From a photographic perspective, I think the main challenge we all face when we visit the Battlefields in northern France is facing up to the fact that really all the visible signs of war have now been erased, apart from a few protected sites." One is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial with cratered foreground and an unexploded ordinance danger sign.
"There are lots of war cemeteries and monuments to look at which are certainly very impressive and thought provoking, but to really find anything that feels like it was just abandoned at the end of the war one really needs a lot of time and some very detailed maps." This is the La Targette French National War cemetery.
"On my photographic trip I ended up crawling through a dense muddy wood near Ypres with my camera gear and found old landmine craters full of water and duckweed which at least felt ‘real’ to me."
"Any last tips? I know I’ve been going on about try this and try that, but I think one of the main things is just to really enjoy taking the photographs. I always think a photographic trip is a bit like going on a voyage of visual discovery, as you never quite know what you’ll find around the next corner!" The final picture is the Hill 60 Concrete Bunker and Crosses. Flanders.