My 4th great-grandfather Isaac's FALLIS Pioneer Cemetery near Bellbrook, Greene County, Ohio FOLLIS Families
in the United States of America
by descendant Stanley J. Follis
Home Cemeteries

Sunlight on Tombstone Photographs

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4:00 PM - 1:00 PM

The old white sandstone and marble tablet style tombstones are best photographed on sunny days shortly after 1:00 p.m. with legibility declining as the sun moves across the sky. Some old white tombstones look brand new and others are highly eroded. Often the buried parts are new looking with the exposed parts eroded probably due to acid rain.

The following photographs were taken on September 12 and 13, 2004. The left photo taken around 4:00 p.m., the right photograph was taken the next day around 12:50 p.m. The angle of the noon day sun creates shadows from the name and dates allowing a legible photograph to be taken. By 3:00 p.m. or so the sun has washed away the shadows and the inscription becomes illegible.

Noah Burkett thumb 4:07 p.m. Noah Burkett thumb 12:48 p.m. Benjamin Burkett thumb 4:06 p.m. Benjamin Burkett thumb 12:57 p.m.
Noah BURKETT 4:07 p.m. Noah BURKETT 12:48 p.m. Benjamin BURKETT 4:06 p.m Benjamin BURKETT 12:57 p.m.

Some of the light gray tombstones are very difficult to photograph under any condition whether old or new, sunny or cloudy day. Every rural cemetery I have visited in Indiana and Ohio faces the west, whether along a north-south or east-west perpendicular road, hidden back in a woods, near a former pioneer church, along a creek, along an abandoned road, or on their family farm, so morning photography is usually a waste of time. Tombstones in city cemeteries can face any direction. The best explanation I have heard is that on Resurrection Day believers will rise from their graves as they face the morning sun rising in the east.

If tombstones are ancestor's or other important relatives, I generally plan two visits as the first visit rarely is ideal for clear photos as trees, shrubs, buildings, missing tombstones, etc. can prevent that "perfect photograph" on the first visit without knowing the "lay of the land". With digital cameras the rule is have lots of memory and take many high resolution images. That is one reason I took 12,000 photographs in 2005 and I am still trying to sort through what is good or not!

Best trick EVER to read old Gravestones given by a stone carver! Do No Harm photographing illegible tombstones in the vertical center without touching or damaging the stone! Use a mirror to light up dark gravestones by Pumpkintown Primitives on YouTube. They have other interesting videos.

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