I’m a solitary kind of guy so I do most of my photographic work solo. Especially when I’m looking for some very moody images I don’t want to be thinking of other people or a time frame to finish by. I like to stop and spend time when visiting those chosen locations, I want to relax and really get a feel for them.
Cemeteries are one of these locations I like to quietly meander through. I have to be in the right mood and that will usually strike me early evening or near sunset. I lean toward grounds that have an abundance of trees, they offer very interesting highlights and shadows, backgrounds or great silhouettes and vistas to look beyond. I also look for older cemeteries with the grand head stones topped with amazing sculptures or if your lucky you can find architectural limestone or marble crypt.
Its also important to note that stepping into a cemetery I have already converted my eye to thinking that I’m shooting with B&W film. Its a different mindset for me. I’m looking for more contrast and texture, more depth in shadows and highlights in a scene or subject.
Think outside the box and this may still sound a bit creepy, some will call this getting into the zone, but, as I wander about I listen to the sounds of the birds, trees rustling in the breeze, I watch the dancing dappled light filter through, I’ll become comfortable and a sense of calm will come over me, if the stars align my instincts will begin to guid me.
This is when the magic either happens or not, if not, I may not even take a shot and just walk. I may see the most amazing sculpture and try my best techniques to capture it but if it doesn’t want to pose for me then it won’t work. On the other hand you may find your drawn to a detail, for no apparent reason, one you’ve never had an interest in but suddenly its the most fascinating feature on the grounds, they speak to you and your excitement grows and you say why haven’t I shot this before. Is this divine intervention, I like to think so because I’m not in control I was brought here.
Have you had a moment when you felt someone watching you or out of the corner of your eye you see movement but don’t see anything. I treasure these sensations here and I’ll let them guide me and most often I’ll see something that is truly moving and capture an image that is compelling.
When I return to my studio I’m usually excited to down load the days shoot. In opening these image files I usually have a different sense of first impressions. One of my first processes is to do a general B&W conversion, I don’t know why but I feel that cemetery shots are best suited to a B&W conversion and I need to see all the files that way. I have my own B&W conversion formula that produces all my shots dark, its where I like to start. Out of the abyss I will select the highlights that I want to bring forward therefore the mood is instantaneous and more in tune to what I experienced.
Alright so now you know that I’m totally crazy. I hope you find this set of images inspirational and when you next visit a cemetery say “hi” to the folks there for me.
Word of caution if your visiting a gated cemetery make sure you park outside and walk in, nothing like having your car on the wrong side of the gates when they close at sunset.