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Author Topic: Family Cemetery  (Read 4998 times)
Jonathan Wienke
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« on: December 07, 2006, 09:02:29 AM »
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I shot this in a small family cemetery near San Antonio, TX. As usual, constructive (even if not flattering) C&C welcome.
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jecxz
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2006, 12:26:38 PM »
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Often times I see interesting family cemeteries like this, ones that I’d like to photograph. But somtimes they are on someone’s property, and I worry about trespassing to photograph it.

What do you do, do you ask permission or start photographing and talk with the owners if they say anything?
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2006, 01:48:26 PM »
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I was shooting an abandoned trailer park when the owner happened to drive by. He stopped, we chatted for a few minutes, and he invited me to shoot both the cemetery and his front yard with the huge live oak tree, which I posted here a few days ago.
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jecxz
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« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2006, 02:10:43 PM »
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I was asking because many times I consider photographing a landscape on private property, but I don't out of respect to the owner. How have you handled it other times?
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jani
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« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2006, 05:10:18 PM »
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Jonathan, I think you're on to something here, but it feels like something is missing in the web version.

My first impression was that there wasn't much that caught my eyes in the foreground and middle of the image.

I can see that there probably are interesting details in the vegetation around the tombstones, but at web display size, that's too much like noise. (Coincidentally, I think that may describe what several people found problematic in Bernard's 4x5 web version, too.)

But I think I see hints of structures that will work well in print or larger versions; e.g. the tonalities of the fence from the left to the center, and the tombstones closest to it.

I've toyed just a little bit with cropping and various brightness and contrast adjustments, but I can't say that I'm able to come up with something really constructive.

I do like the general theme, though. Perhaps I should teleport over there and look at a print.
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Jan
Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2006, 05:59:18 PM »
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A purely personal subjective note. What gets to me in a cemetary is seeing a name and dates on a tombstone.
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larkvi
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2006, 01:17:04 AM »
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Jonathan,

I see the potential you saw in the site, but the pho, as is does not do anything for me. I do not feel there is a strong focus, mood, story, or other hook that pulls me into the image. The individual elements, especially the foreground tombstone and the weathered fence, look great, but I don't feel a strong relationship developing between the elements.

I tried playing with a couple crops, but nothing really jumped out at me--I didn't give it that long.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2006, 03:28:16 AM »
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After thinking about it I think the problem is that while I have an interesting subject, I don't have a strong image here. How about this one:

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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2006, 03:30:38 AM »
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I was asking because many times I consider photographing a landscape on private property, but I don't out of respect to the owner. How have you handled it other times?

I don't trespass. If I can't get permission from the owner, I'll shoot what I can from public property (road, park, sidewalk, etc) and move on.
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:Ollivr
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2006, 03:40:14 AM »
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Hello,

did you try cropping it right over the fence doors?
I thought taking away the sky might leave more attention for the geometrics on the ground...and the widescreen format would bring resemblance of an old movie..perhaps Hitchcock...

Just a quick thought. To me it actually looks quite cool that way.

O.
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larkvi
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2006, 01:39:10 PM »
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After thinking about it I think the problem is that while I have an interesting subject, I don't have a strong image here. How about this one:

I think that this one is a much stronger image, and it has a lot more resonance to me. I like the immediacy and the way the weather eating away at the still-legible inscription on the civil war headstone suggests story, without giving away any more than a name and a unit. The tones look a little strange on my (currently uncalibrated) screen, but I imagine they glow in a print--I have a bad sense for that.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2006, 01:48:40 PM »
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After thinking about it I think the problem is that while I have an interesting subject, I don't have a strong image here. How about this one:


[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=89351\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

My take:

1.  The top of the head marker in the rear goes dark at about the same place as the brush in the background.  That makes it look like a bad burn-in job to me.  I would lighten the top of the head stone.

2.  The constrast looks a bit high overpall
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2006, 02:41:01 PM »
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The only adjustments I did on the second image were global. The marker in the rear has moss or lichens growing on its upper half, which are darker than the white stone.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2006, 02:49:43 PM »
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The only adjustments I did on the second image were global. The marker in the rear has moss or lichens growing on its upper half, which are darker than the white stone.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=89456\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm sure you are right and the head stone appears quite literally.  

I was careful not to say it was a bad burn, but that it looks that way to me.  I would lighten it anyway.
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russell a
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« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2006, 03:39:05 PM »
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Jonathan:  First of all, it is good to see that you have time along with your Army duties to exercise your eye and forefinger.

Cemeteries are prime attractors of the photographic eye.  A cemetery comes with a slew of potential narrative ingredients - allusions to mortality, loss, rememberance, ephemerality, etc., etc.  Because of all the narrative "overhead" associated with cemeteries, as subject matter it represents a particularly useful opportunity for a discussion of narrative intent.  My sense is that the photos of cemeteries you have shared suffer most from lack of a point-of-view.  As in all subject matter in photography, it is the framing of a selected set of given subject items and their enhancement by the resulting treatment of formal visual elements that yield photographs that capture our interest and stimulate our empathy.  

In photographing cemeteries there are numerous possibilites for pushing the narrative in one direction or another.  A non-exhaustive list could include:  showing neglect, with all that implies about say, the loneliness of the human condition;  (the opposite) showing evidence of caring of the living for the memory of the departed;  contrasting a lively formal rhythm of the grave markers with the stasis of the moribund;  grave markers versus new growth (renewal), and on and on.  The goal is to have a point of view, one, ideally that is sufficiently complex to allow for multiple and, indeed, ambiguous interpretation.   By the latter italics, I mean to emphasize that the narratives of which I speak are hopefully beyond what can be easily articulated into one-liners or other easily pigeon-holed categorization.  But, it is useful for the photographer to have some sense of intent. (Or, at least, a strong attraction to and resonance with the subject.)  I often get back to the computer and, when working with the raw image, expand my understanding (for me) of a narrative or narrative possibilities.  Often, this requires a re-visit to the site (if possible) to strengthen my sense of the narrative, by all the variants at our disposal (lighting, lens, focus, depth of field, point of attack, etc.)  Then, since I am opposed to captions in the interest of not imposing my narrative on the very possibly different and/or richer narratives of the viewer, I largely keep my intent to myself.  But, having my intent is vital to my sense of my photographic "mission".  

In the interests of not "hiding" behind "mere" theory, I offer the following link to a cemetery shot of mine that satisfies my sense of narrative.

Ridgewood NY
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2006, 11:41:31 PM »
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I shot these images the weekend before Memorial Day. The intended narrative theme of the first is neglect; the falling-down fence, the uncut grass and weeds, etc. That of the second would be remembrance; bringing attention to an otherwise anonymous participant in the Confederate Army. The first image doesn't translate well to web presentation because it depends almost completely on the viewer's perception of many small details that show poorly at 800 pixel resolution; looking at it as a whole instead of many small parts doesn't help to tell any kind of story. The second image works better in that regard; the viewer has a better idea of what he is looking at even at low resolution because the focus is narrower, one specific slice of bread rather than the whole loaf. To me the second image is interesting because it raises some unanswered questions: Who is William Goynes? Did he serve honorably? Did he die in battle? There aren't any legible dates on the stone, so it's not possible to tell.
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russell a
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« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2006, 02:46:15 AM »
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I shot these images the weekend before Memorial Day. The intended narrative theme of the first is neglect; the falling-down fence, the uncut grass and weeds, etc. That of the second would be remembrance; bringing attention to an otherwise anonymous participant in the Confederate Army.

Who is William Goynes? Did he serve honorably? Did he die in battle? There aren't any legible dates on the stone, so it's not possible to tell.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=89506\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Jonathan:  Understand that the following is not an attack on your photography or motives.  I'm using your examples as a way to think about the issues of narrative and intent.  Taking your statements of intent at face value, some questions to ask are "was/is there a better way to communicate the sense of neglect? Do all the elements of the image contribute to the intent?  If there are elements extraneous to the intent, do they contribute a contextual reference that enhances or detracts from the intent?   Is this particular instance of the thousands of neglected cemeteries unique in some way and does the photograph communicate that?"

Of course, for the photograph as an uncaptioned experience there is no way to know that they were taken on Memorial day.  Only the presence of flags or a Memorial day parade participant might signal that.  In the second case, conjectures about the named deceased could be applied to any grave marker.  e.g. "William Blank, I wonder if he were kind to animals?"

In the particular case of your two images, if the second one (Goynes) had the quite engaging tonalities of the first, the combination of the beauty of the image and the starkness of the composition might well carry it.  I'd run the raw through DxO and work with the channel mixer or the equivalent to try to get a wider tonal range in the grasses and burn the background significantly.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2006, 09:44:54 AM »
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I actually prefer the first image.  It is a little dark overall, and particularly in the background area near the fence.

Have you tried to crop it just above the fence post, cutting off the sky?  Sort of a "daring" move but the payoff is that the emphasis is on the graves, fence and vegetation alone.  The sky is distracting, introducing a totally different and much brighter tonal range, taking over the rest of the image.

The second post, the close up of gravestones, is nice but in my estimate loses the overall effect of the first image.

Alain
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Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
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