Photographing Tombstones





Photographing Tombstones

Karen's Way





I have been asked what I do when I go out to photograph tombstones at the various cemeteries in my county.  The answer is simple...cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Seriously, I am a no frills person, but I do have good cameras.  Most of my photography is with a good digital camera, enough picture card memory to take about 150  photos and plenty of charged batteries and extra throw away batteries.  I also carry a "pen" that is a combination of brush and lens cleaner.

My 35mm camera goes with me, along with my automatic winder, flash, zoom lens and macro lens.   Occasionally, I will use the 35mm with the macro lens and get down on the ground to photograph a small metal plate or brass marker.

I am very fortunate to have a husband who enjoys going with me.  He carries a little wisk broom to brush away leaves or loose dirt.  He also carries a tablet of paper and a pen and transcribes the tombstones or markers that I am unsure of as far as if they will be readable on the screen.  Some tombstones are so worn that I will use the "Braille" method and let my fingers read each letter.  That is after I have walked around the tombstone trying to find a spot where the light hits it best so I can read it.  I also use a mirror to pick up light.

The time of day is extremely important to me for lighting.  I prefer to have some shadows, so afternoon or morning is best.  I do not like to use a flash, for I cannot get the dept and detail I can with natural sunlight.  I also like to leave the area surrounding the tombstones as I find it.  Meaning, I do not like to rake up the area, just clean off the markers/tombstones enough to be able to read them.  By doing this, people can get more of a feel of what the area around their ancestors plot is like.  An overview also helps.

At home, I download the pictures on to my computer if I am using a digital.  If I have used the 35mm, I scan them when they are developed.  I resize each photograph, clean or brighten it up if needed.  When it goes on to a web page, I transcribe it, just in case someone can not read the photograph.

Most of all, this is a labor of love and a desire to help someone out there find a long lost ancestor.  My reward is when a researcher does find a long lost ancestor and writes to me about the find.






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