Spooky Location

The Oakwood Cemetery was the subject of a location shoot for my Meetup group, the Syracuse Photographers Association.

The Oakwood Cemetery was the subject of a location shoot for my Meetup group, the Syracuse Photographers Association. Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/11, ISO 200, EV -0.3.

Normally I post a photography tip or reference on Fridays.  Today’s post calls for a different introduction.  Location photography is something a bit different than your normal walk-a-bout.  When I am going to do one, I scout out the location ahead of time and start to plan what it is I want to photograph.  Such planning helps to insure I have the equipment I need.

This is what I did when I heard my photography Meetup group, the Syracuse Photographers Association, would be going to the Oakwood Cemetery after an early morning shoot at Webster’s Pond.  I have been to Oakwood many times but scouting it without a camera helps me to see it differently and concentrate without the pressure of creating photos. It’s a good exercise and helps me to be a better photographer.

The cemetery was dedicated in the fall of 1859 and features large and small ornate stonework of past citizens of Syracuse, New York and surrounding towns.  Family names on the tombstones and mausoleums in Oakwood come right out of the history books of central New York.  For me, the most fascinating part of the cemetery is the older sections were years of cold winters and hot summers have weathered the turn of the 18th century stone and masonry creating shapes, textures, and colors which call for a different approach to photographing and processing.

The Chapel in Oakwood Cemetery built in the late 1870's and no longer used today.

The Chapel in Oakwood Cemetery built in the late 1870's and no longer used today. Kind of creepy, eh? Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/125, f/8, ISO 280, EV -0.6, 16mm focal length, polarizer filter. Processed in Apple Aperture 3 photo software.

The day was partly cloudy with lots of sunlight.  Not the best conditions for photographing a cemetery.  I used a polarizing filter to cut down the amount and quality of the light.  This filter not only gives you truer colors but increases the contrast.  Such photos can be processed to create spookier images than what the camera captured initially.

The Haggerty Lion which sits on a hard to see hill across from the Chapel surrounded by woods.

The Haggerty Lion which sits on a hard to see hill across from the Chapel surrounded by woods. See the text for more information. Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, f/125s, f/8, ISO 2500, EV -0.3, 15mm focal length.

The Haggerty Lion was created by the then younger brother of Michael Charles Haggerty who died at age 14 in an auto accident in 1974 who later became an art student at Syracuse University.  The story of how it came to be placed at Oakwood can be read at the bottom of this webpage: History of Oakwood.

Selective coloring of the background give this stone a 3-D and otherworldly look.

Selective coloring of the background give this stone a 3-D and otherworldly look. Nikon D700/50mm, 1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 200, EV +0.6.

This stone stood out to me but not in the photo as its gray color was dominated by the green of the grass and the autumn colors of the trees. Solution: mono-color the background using selective coloring in Apple’s Aperture 3 photo software.  Now, the stone looks 3-D and otherworldly looking.

Time, weather and gravity has not been kind to the tombstone for Zella in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York.

Time, weather and gravity has not been kind to the tombstone for Zella in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York. Nikon D700/Tokina 11-16mm, 1/40s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 16mm focal length, polarizer.

A low angle which created grass stains and protests from my wife, a wide angle lens and the use of the Toy Camera preset in Apple’s Aperture 3 photo software, creates a high impact photo of what happens when time, weather and gravity teamed up to find the weakness in a mason’s tombstone made over a hundred years ago.

Next time you see a neat place you would like to photograph, before heading in with your camera, take the time to scout it out and plan how you would best photograph it to find the stories it has to tell you and those who enjoy seeing your work.  A word of warning if you do so around Halloween, you might get possessed to do some mad photo processing.  Not that I was. 🙂

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12 Responses to Spooky Location

  1. Carsten says:

    Cemeteries have lots of hidden stories. They are there, free to pick up by any visitor with an open mind. I think your advice to use time in your mind before shooting is generally wise.
    I like your photos here, some more than others. Should I rank them, it would be: 3,5,1,4 and 2. -Now I did it.
    My reason for putting 2 as last is that I think it is too flat. One tone range in grey dominates. Please note that I still like the photo.

    Like

  2. Karma says:

    You’ve definitely got some interesting processing going on here! Interesting advice about scouting a location before shooting. I’m wondering whether it would matter quite as much for me with only one camera and two lenses to choose from! I pretty much carry ALL of my equipment everywhere, LOL. I’m also very interested in that selective coloring; I’ve yet to figure out how to do it in my software.

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    • First, yes, even with a small photo bag of equipment, walking around without a camera lets you see things you wouldn’t normally see when trying to figure out what to photograph. Try it a few times. Take mental pictures. Envisions what a scene will look like at a different time of day like early morning, late in the day or just after sunset.

      What software do you use? Google it and add “selective coloring” and I am sure you’ll find a tutorial on how to do it.

      Like

  3. Gerry says:

    Ooh – a cemetery full of Civil War veterans. Interesting ways of looking at it. I might edit the color on some of my cemetery photos – see whether they work a little better. It’s hard to capture the inscription on a worn, lichen-covered stone.

    Spend enough time doing research in cemeteries and you learn that eventually everything and everyone goes back to dust. Even the Pharaohs.

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  4. Anna says:

    I like old cemeteries and I have visited a many. But I haven’t seen one like this with an old chapel. I really like all the photos and how they are processed, and especially the Chapel in Oakwood Cemetery. Intriguing Haggerty Lion.

    Like

    • Oakwood is amazing in how old it is and how well it is kept up. There are even crypts which go into the side of hills and pyramids of stone. You liking the processing thrills me! As I am a big fan of how you and Preston work your digital magic on your images.

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  5. Nye says:

    I love the colors of last photo, the spooky second photo has a cool effect also. I went to vote at a church after work and wish that I had my camera with me, the nearby cemetery made me think of your post.

    Like

  6. sorrentolens says:

    Great photos! Like the post production work. If you ever take a ride up to Watertown, check out Brookside Cemetery just of Rt 11 on the south side of the city – cool cemetery with lots of large mausoleums, unique stones, brooks/streams, etc.

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  7. Pingback: Autumn Highlights « Views Infinitum

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