Artistically photographing a headstone ??

Started Aug 3, 2007 | Discussions
valeriecook Contributing Member • Posts: 942
Artistically photographing a headstone ??

OK - I have an odd (maybe) question. I was fairly active on this site for awhile until early summer when my 58 year old mother's ovarian cancer progressed and she was under hospices' care (as well as me and my dad's care) for about 1 1/2 months until she passed away at the end of June.

Anyway - my dad asked me to photograph her stone )-: . He wants me to send prints of it to the family members who will receive a copy of the DVD slideshow I made for the memorial service. (mom picked out the pictures and music for me to make it - I kept asking her what she was punishing me for??? We laughed about that often towards the end as I was trying to get it done for her)

The stone is black, shiny and polished. The engraving is white with a Marine Corps Emblem by my dad's name and a running horse near my mom's name and dates. It's set in a rural cemetery.
Equip I have include D200, 17-55 2.8, 18-200VR, 3x SB-800s, tripod.
Any ideas for lighting this to make a nice 'portrait'

I know I can experiement on my own, etc - I am just looking for any cool ideas to make this a shot that maybe I can look at with a bit less sadness - and I am afraid that once I get out there to do it - I will be too upset to get it right.
Thanks for any ideas.
Val
--

Val
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vals_photo1class
Just learning as I go.....

Tony Tello Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

A few thoughts to consider,

1) Orientation: Does the rising/setting sun cast the stone in in an interesting light or can the stone be photographed with it in the background.

2) Is it in the midst of other stones in a crowded cemetary (use DoF to your advantage).

3) Flowers or trees nearby that are worth capturing in the frame?

4) From groundlevel or mid stone or mourner's perspective?

I've been puzling this too, for my brothers stone. I think black and white with a layer of snow on the ground...

johnnymcclung
johnnymcclung Senior Member • Posts: 2,659
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

hmm

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johnnymcclung Senior Member • Posts: 2,659
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

natural light with the 17-55mm - perhaps sunset, but sunrise would be something I'd love to capture as a symbol of moving on to the next life - (in my belief being reborn in heaven..).

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Ed_C Veteran Member • Posts: 3,812
Possibly infrared

It's hard to know how infrared light will work on any particular stone surface but some of my very favorite infrared shots I have taken were in cemetaries, albiet usually old stones.

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Ed C.

niagaragirl Regular Member • Posts: 318
Try a polarizer

...The stone is black, shiny and polished. ...

Definitely try a polarizer and stay away from high noon and the immediate hours around it. I did a series on military memorials, and when it came to black polished stone the polarizer helped a great deal. Even though it's not window glass you can get weird reflections of the black polished stone.

Also take some nice fresh flowers with you, maybe a couple of small flags if she was patriotic. Seeing as there is a Marine Corps etching, the flags would be nice in any event. Figure where the sun is at various times of day and go for the most beautiful light.

Take your photo with the heart involved, that will be your best shot.
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Photo!Snapper Senior Member • Posts: 1,227
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

Sorry for your loss.

Depends what you want to say. Zoom in with a simple flower to show your respect and love for the passing or zoom out w/ slow shutter to show passing time and fates of all beings. Time can be sunset to show her resting place, as of the end of an era. I don't think you can do wrong, even if you choose to take picture in mid-day. If sadness is what it is, then let it be sad.

PS: I would't bring flashes and risk making a mockery w/ fancy setup.
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MMuddler Veteran Member • Posts: 4,527
My son and I had an idea ....

When he was in Washington on his middle school trip to DC, he photographed some shiny black granite memorial tablets with inscriptions not unlike what you'd see on a headstone.... and there is one shot where he captured his own reflection in the granite.

Now perhaps you and your dad could position yourselves so that your images are placed strategically on the headstone. Camera could be on a very low tripod shooting slightly upward. Pick your focal length to get your images properly sized in the headstone. If you have a beautiful setting the wide angle would give a nice panoramic view and the images of you and Dad would be subtle yet noticeable in the darkness of the shiny granite.

Good luck. Would love to see your results.

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Lou Tent Veteran Member • Posts: 3,595
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

valeriecook wrote:

Anyway - my dad asked me to photograph her stone )-: . He wants me
to send prints of it to the family members who will receive a copy of
the DVD slideshow I made for the memorial service. (mom picked out
the pictures and music for me to make it - I kept asking her what she
was punishing me for??? We laughed about that often towards the end
as I was trying to get it done for her.

Your Mom was very generous - she was an amazing person I'm sure. I lost
my dad to prostate cancer and my mom to a heart attack. You will never
forget your parent(s) and their generosity. The older you get, the more
apparent it becomes. Your dad is to be cherished.

The stone is black, shiny and polished. The engraving is white with
a Marine Corps Emblem by my dad's name and a running horse near my
mom's name and dates. It's set in a rural cemetery.

Whatever you do (with the expert advice here) will be fine. I have taken
many shots like this, but nothing means more than going there and
placing some flowers several times a year.

I sympathize with your loss.

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Lee H Senior Member • Posts: 2,013
Val.....

Hi Val,

I’ve done all this concerning my Brother, I also take a grave shot every week for a website I set up as a remembrance (nearly two years now).
I have made several DVD slideshows, these varied in length up to 40mins.

It’s very difficult to come up with new angles of the headstone, the only advice I can give is to take several lenses and call at different time of the day, it amazing how these can vary, also arranging flowers around the headstone can add to the shot.

I also used the shots in my slideshows, I used Blufftitler on some of the shots and added various effects including misty angles sitting beside the grave, on another I took a frontal shot of the headstone zoomed in using my slide show software, when the headstone filled the screen it merged with a photoshoped version (marble removed to solid black) and inserted a photo of him into the black behind the letters (gold).

This has helped me come to terms with my loss, especially as he was very keen on DVD/Photoshop editing himself, I hope producing yours also helps you.

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Regards,
Lee

Kevan Goddard Contributing Member • Posts: 765
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

My 2c worth would be - angled light if possible to give depth to the engraving and negate any reflections into the lens.

But more importantly, may I offer my condolences, my thoughts are with you at this difficult time. I wish you well in what must be a demanding task for you (emotionally as well as photographically)
--
Regards
Kev G

jescott18 Regular Member • Posts: 226
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

ever get a chance to see the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall....

OP valeriecook Contributing Member • Posts: 942
Wow

Thanks for all of the great ideas. The sun sets behind her stone - so I have thought about doing it with the sun setting behind it.

The one idea that REALLY jumped out at me is doing a 'time lapse' type of thing. If it was a day when the sky had great big wonderful puffy clouds - maybe I could do something like that.

Photography and all of my 'fancy' (as mom would say) equipment was a part of my life that I shared with my mom - every shot I take I would think about showing her - I am having such a hard time getting back into it now that she' s not here to show them to. Maybe if I get this done - it will help.

The slideshow was very very hard, but helpful for me to make - Mom had given me the box of pictures a couple of months before she really got sick. I put it off and put it off and finally realized I better get it done or I wouldn't get it done. My 11 year old boy ended up scanning all of the older pics for me. I worked late at night and when mom was napping putting it together. Dad and I sat up late previewing it over a couple of drinks many nights as I worked on it. I ended up basically moving in over there for a month. We showed the slideshow on a big screen at her memorial service and it worked great - I was able to hold it together b/c I put myself in 'tech' mode and could pick it apart as it played - thinking of all of the things I should've done on it...

This has been the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life - mom was my best friend!
Anyway - I know I am WAY off topic here - I appreciate the great ideas!!
--

Val
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vals_photo1class
Just learning as I go.....

OP valeriecook Contributing Member • Posts: 942
Vietnam wall

Great shots of the Vietnam wall! My dad has been to see it. It's astonishing!
--

Val
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vals_photo1class
Just learning as I go.....

LilKnytt Veteran Member • Posts: 7,213
OT for Val Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

Val,

I just found this & I'm so sorry. I knew your mother was ill.....

My heart is with you, your father & the rest of the immediate family. This will be a long & hard adjustment for all of you. I lost my little brother 22 years ago & I still miss him & think of him every day.

Talk about her a lot. Share with your son & pay a lot of attention to your father. This year will be the hardest on him. Go & talk to her horses. They will guide you as well.

I don't know how to help you with this shot. It' very personal. But I know this....

Go to her grave & spend the day with her there. Watch the sun. Talk to her. It will come to you. This is not going to be easy. So spend the time with her & she will guide you in this. Believe in yourself & it will all just "happen".

Again, I so sorry for the loss. You will all be in my thoughts. No words are right on this. So just know I'm thinking of you all & send me an e-mail if you feel the need. I will be pleased to try to support in any way I can.

Lil
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dezinerd
dezinerd Senior Member • Posts: 1,259
Re: Artistically photographing a headstone ??

My condolences, Your healing process will take longer than you may think but it will come and after sometime you will only remember the good times and the end life ilness will be a more distant memory.

Mmudder has the answer if it is just you and your father surviiving your reflections could be in the headstone done in camera. I would put the camera in a place where it is not visible in the image. The photographer or his equipment is never sposed to be seen! The stone is a mirror so you can bring black cloth to cover the tripod etc. You may have to cut a whole in the cloth for the lens. It might be easier for you and your dad to do a composite in PS. Your mothers image could be used in a transparent veiled way to signify her continued presence in your and your fathers life. You might need some one else using the camera to line it all up. To get the stone and your reflections sharp will require lots of depth of field meaning small F stops and maybe flash. If you want the sunset you might need to bring the light up to illuminate the stone.

Shortly after I lost my father I was drinking water from a stainless steel polished drinking fountain. I saw his image which was actually me reflected. I was so startled but later I realized that life goes on and I was made in his image.

Trying to help and hope that I have. Dennis

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deziner-d

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
Re: Wow

Valerie - sorry for your loss. At least for me, doing something artistic to remember my dad, and my mom, made it a lot easier for me to deal with. It's sometimes hard to remember them as they were at their best if they go through a long illness - the slideshow you mention was a lot like what I did.

Setting sun idea is interesting, be sure to use a flash to try to balance the light on the stone against the bright background. Actually, a large white reflector would probably be even better - a big sheet of foamcore. Just because of how I think, I'd be trying to shoot the stone at sunrise, though, if there were great clouds in the background in particular. I'm one of those people who thinks that a beautiful sunrise or sunset takes place on both ends of the sky. Black stone makes this a hard technical problem. You might also want to try putting on your widest angle lens, and placing your camera at the base of the stone shooting up to show it ascending to the sky.

I also think you should play around with infrared effects, reversing the image, doing a black and white by selecting only one channel (red channel often works best.) For a subject like this, a photograph may capture the light and how it looks, but it usually will fall short of how it feels to be there. Let yourself play with the image until it feels right.

valeriecook wrote:

Thanks for all of the great ideas. The sun sets behind her stone -
so I have thought about doing it with the sun setting behind it.
The one idea that REALLY jumped out at me is doing a 'time lapse'
type of thing. If it was a day when the sky had great big wonderful
puffy clouds - maybe I could do something like that.
Photography and all of my 'fancy' (as mom would say) equipment was a
part of my life that I shared with my mom - every shot I take I would
think about showing her - I am having such a hard time getting back
into it now that she' s not here to show them to. Maybe if I get
this done - it will help.
The slideshow was very very hard, but helpful for me to make - Mom
had given me the box of pictures a couple of months before she really
got sick. I put it off and put it off and finally realized I better
get it done or I wouldn't get it done. My 11 year old boy ended up
scanning all of the older pics for me. I worked late at night and
when mom was napping putting it together. Dad and I sat up late
previewing it over a couple of drinks many nights as I worked on it.
I ended up basically moving in over there for a month. We showed the
slideshow on a big screen at her memorial service and it worked great

  • I was able to hold it together b/c I put myself in 'tech' mode and

could pick it apart as it played - thinking of all of the things I
should've done on it...
This has been the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life - mom
was my best friend!
Anyway - I know I am WAY off topic here - I appreciate the great ideas!!
--

Val
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vals_photo1class
Just learning as I go.....

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