Thread: Photographing Cemeteries
01-04-2010, 06:23 AM #1
I recently stumbled upon a very old cemetery out in the country in Rockingham County, Virginia. I returned to it one foggy morning to capture some images. I had no experience photographing cemeteries, so I was flying rather blind. However, I walked away from the experience with some valuable insight.
1. Capture the Overall Mood and Context
In order for the viewer to be transported to the location, one must effectively capture the general mood and context of the cemetery. Is it it a rural or urban cemetery? Is it an old or young cemetery? Is it small or large? A wide angle landscape shot that effectively captures all of this will allow the viewer to get a sense of what it is like to actually be standing on location.
2. Get Personal
After I returned from my photo shoot, I most regretted not getting up close and personal with the tombstones. In my case at Friedens Church Cemetery, the cemetery was very old, the oldest in the county, with "residents" being born prior to the independence of the United States. The tombstones themselves had a lot of great character, texture, and stories. In addition to the wide angle shot that captures the overall atmosphere of the cemetery, getting up close and personal allows the viewer to see the uniqueness of the cemetery compared to others.
3. Shoot in B&W
A lot of tombstones are old with unique etchings and textures. Black and white photos not only highlight these elements, it also aids in enhancing the mood.
4. Don't Shoot in B&W
Obviously, you can change your color photos to B&W in post-processing, but unless you shoot in RAW, you can't change your B&W photos to color. Furthermore, shooting in color allows one to highlight some beautiful colors on tombstones. At my location, there were bright green and orange colors on the tombstones from aging, weather, stone, moss, and lichen.
5. Avoid Daytime
Let's be honest. Cemeteries aren't exactly meant to be the happiest place on earth, but whether it be an eerie or somber mood, a cemetery can emit a deep, soulful energy that is hard to capture midday. I visited this cemetery early in the morning when lots of fog was still out. An hour after I finished shooting the fog lifted and the cemetery would have appeared less engaging. The late-afternoons and evenings could offer some engaging moods that otherwise could not be captured during the day.
There is often a lot of empty space at cemeteries, even if there are hundreds of tombstones. Fill your frame by cropping to create a more compelling shot.
7. Show Respect
Finally, be respectful as you shoot. Every individual buried has a unique, invaluable story, along with families and loved ones who care about them. Respect and honor both their history and living presence as you photograph.
See my entire collection of Friedens Church Cemetery, Mt. Crawford, VA at Friedens Church Cemetery - a set on Flickr
02-03-2010, 01:06 AM #2
02-05-2010, 08:53 PM #3I'm new here!
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I love this and can't wait to try out your tips!Canon 20D, 50mm 1.8, Sigma 24-70 2.8, 100mm macro, Speedlite 430 EX II, 60mm 2.8 macro, dreaming of Tamron 17-50 2.8 VC, 85mm 1.4, and on and on...