Photographing and Exploring Cemeteries

As part of your September and October spine-tingling exercises, you might try your hand at exploring and photographing, sketching or grave rubbings in a cemetery. 

If you're going to photograph a cemetery, consider going near sunset. Many close at sunset, but the deep shadows make for some great pics! 


Repetitive shapes in a cemetery really help a flatland of headstones have anchoring and also a thematic feel. Here, the cross, the iron spires and the trees repeat  the shape and create a depth of field and a tall standing feeling like headstones.

In this case (above) the amount of similar headstones shows the vastness of this mass graveyard section for people who succumbed to the Spanish Flu.

Once again, mass anonymous looking graves in a row. Bleak, endless, forgotten mass grave production....

Sometimes, repeat shapes can seem like sentinels. 

Singular, these are just statues and crosses, but as a grouping, they have impact.

Getting Underneath 

The only way to truly see the power of a statue or a headstone is to get under and look up, show it reaching to the sky, imposing, almost the viewpoint of the dearly departed.

Moody Sky 

Sometimes, a setting sun with a statue, headstone or cross is enough to get the eternal rest feeling across.

Stormy sky and turbulent woes - this statue and sky are perfectly matched.

The sun setting between loved ones.

Moon rising over the cross.

Sunset through an offering 

Wear and Tear/Offerings

Fallen headstones, cracked statues, rusted metal, forgotten offerings; they all give a punctuation to the eternal graveyard.

Still holding the burial cross and flowers and no grass grown over it yet (above).

Glass box of curios for the beloved and missed family member at a cemetery in Yuma. Glass is broken, objects still in place. 

Parts still in place, but unassembled. A jigsaw grave (above).

A most disturbing doll 

Foreground Perspective

In this shot (above) instead of just taking a picture showing the angel statue, show what the angel is praying for - the holy cross pounded into the ground. Now, it tells a story and has a location. 

There is a beautiful stone church at the top of the hill, but just a hot of the church doesn't put it in a location. From the lineup of headstones, it is where the eye is drawn and now it has a context. 

Trapped inside the fencing (above)

Above - One thing leads to another like stair steps, drawing the eye through the whole picture.

Light and Shadows

Above - with the sun at that beautiful angle of sunrise or sunset, shadows cast by fencing, headstones and statues can be impressive. Even, in some cases - the photographer's own shadow showing the loneliness of the location (below)

In the case of this cat, his very positioning and reflective eyes made him a dream element. 

Silhouette is a great opportunity (above).

Rows of crosses and their cross shadows (above)

Appropriate Names 

Sometimes, you can't help but documenting the interesting ones.

Grave Rubbings

Always be respectful of the age and the individual's headstone. This needs to be done cleanly and cautiously. Lightweight paper, masking tape, black crayon, a cardboard wrapping paper tube to roll up and store the work, a lightweight dustpan brush to clean the surface. Cover the entire front with paper and wrap it around and tape it. Use the flattest surface of the crayon to make light even strokes. Step back and see if you need to go over any variations in the tone of it so it's even. Clean up everything you used and never leave litter behind. Roll it up and put it in the cardboard tube.


Bring a large trash bag and a handful of flowers. Leave flowers on the graves of those long-forgotten and no longer visited because they are so long gone. Say their name out lout. Now, go around and set vases upright, pick up trash, and leave the place knowing that you attended to those who were unable to do so for themselves.