Shooting at The Unconquered Seminoles
By Jason Pepe
2 Mar 2009
Ever since I was a kid I loved to play Cowboys and Indians. Today I had a chance to play again. This day would be different. Instead of shooting a revolver loaded with caps, I would shoot with my Nikon D-200.
This is the second year of the Seminole Shoot Out. This event is held the last weekend in February. The shootout is sponsored by The Seminole Tribe of Indians at Billie Swamp Safari in Big Cypress, Florida.
When I arrived at Big Cypress I realized I needed to hustle over to the battle field quickly. I didn't want to miss the battle reenactment of one of the many battles fought by the Seminole Indians and the United States. The battle was to start at 2:00 pm and it was only minutes away from show time.
With camera in hand and my Tamron 75 to 300mm mounted I was ready. The field was about 100 yards away and it looked very crowded. I cursed myself for not having left earlier in the day. I really wanted the perfect location. I wanted to be on that battle field early.
Standing on the hill overlooking the field I noticed a videographer near the far end. Well, I guessed she probably knew something I didn't, so I set up a few feet away from her on the only available opening.
So now, here I was in a small area surrounded by brush that nobody wanted to occupy. I quickly understood why no one had taken that spot.
The area had a red ant mound about one foot tall and two feet wide. It was good enough to see most of the action on the field but not really the best place to shoot from. The view was limited and red ants are mean little bastards, you don't want to piss them off. Somehow I avoided disturbing the ant mound and they left me alone to shoot.
This was my first reenactment and I had no idea of how fast the action would be. The battle began with a surprise attack on the United States Troops as they marched on the field to set up camp.
I set my camera to shutter priority and selected a varied range between 500 and 1,000. The Tamron is not a vr (vibration resistant) lens so camera shake was an issue. I don't like using a tripod and I don't see how it would have been practical with the restricted movement I had to deal with. No tree to lean on and hold steady.
With the heavy overcast sky and a 5.6 lens the metering was a bit challenging. Using an ISO over 400 gives me too much noise and I hate noise. So I stayed within 400 - 500 ISO.
Several Seminole warriors on horseback quickly galloped across the field firing on the troops. I made a few panning shots but was not really very thrilled with them. I posted one here for you. Take a look at the warrior on the black horse, seems as if he is floating in the air. Well, maybe it's not that bad after all?
The troops formed a defensive formation in the open and began returning fire. Small bands of Seminole warriors rushed out of the brush on foot firing rifles and taking cover behind fallen trees.
With so much going on and so many quick decisions to make, on what to shoot, I felt the rush as if I was in the fight. Wow, this was fun. I was a war correspondent sent back in time and I had photographic equipment that would have blown a 19th century photographer away.
The Soldiers fought bravely but the Seminole tactics and ability to surprise the enemy earned the Seminoles a victory. Of all the Indian wars fought in the United States, only the Seminole Indians managed to remain unconquered and still have their land.
After the battle all the dead stood up came back to life and shook hands. Many of the spectators cheered and applauded both the Seminoles and the Soldiers.
A friendly atmosphere developed among all the people on that field. The actors posed with the spectators and the experience was unforgettable. I was able to speak with many of the actors and some posed for me as well.
I guess we all like playing cowboys and Indians and of course we who love JPG, just love making pictures!