Cemetery Sunset

So, I was driving home from dinner with my wife, and the sunset was just amazing on the way home.  So as soon as we pulled into the garage, I told my wife I love her, get out of the car, I’m going to go take a picture or two of this sunset.  I grabbed my tripod and Olympus and headed to the only place close enough for me to get there in time that would also give me a view of the sunset.  It’s the cemetery mostly behind my neighborhood.

So I haven’t taken a picture that directly into a sunset, and I set my camera to aperture mode.  What I ended up with was a bunch of pictures that were too dark (but looked fine in the back of my camera)  However, I also wanted to test some HDR so I bracketed a few of the photos since I had my tripod with me.  This completely and utterly salvaged the photos.  I would have completely lost any of the beauty that was there without it.  Here’s an example of what I was getting.

As you can see, Everything is completely dark and backlit

I can’t believe I underexposed the landscape and the cemetery so horribly.  I got these up on my computer and just was DEVASTATED!  The sky looked good, I loved the colors, but without the foreground, there is no photograph.  So I took this photo, and it’s 4 friends that were part of the bracketed group.  They were at steps of 1 for a +1 and 2, as well as a -1 and 2.  This group of photos were then loaded into photomatix, and after a little tweaking, I got stunned with the results.

Here’s what I ended up with:

The HDR Results for the Cemetry

I just can not believe how much this saved my shot.  The composition here isn’t amazing, but the ability to fix the unfortunate situation I found myself in is awesome, and the sunset looks amazing to me.

And just the one shot that I got that I was happy with without a lot of extra work.

One of the graves

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4 responses to “Cemetery Sunset

  1. I disagree with your assessment that “without the foreground, there is no photograph.” From a composition standpoint, take your original photo above, and cut it in half, just below the treeline. It becomes a more horizontal composition, the strong contrast of the trees along the bottom serve to give the sky a solid foundation and the photo context, and the sky becomes the main focal point…the only focal point really.

    Maybe if you had had the time to find something other than a sad looking cemetery for your foreground I would perhaps be more inclined to agree with you, but if you were trying to photograph the sky, I think your original shot had more potential than the latter.

    That being said, I guess you can use your ‘final’ shot as some sort of compound metaphor for death: cemetery and setting sun.

    • I tried out your cropping idea for the primary photograph and I agree, it does a lot for that photo. I like the end result when I reduce the dead space. I’ve thrown up another post with that cropped version on it and I think it makes a very positive impact. Thanks for the idea and the good eye!

      I don’t know if I agree with the sad looking cemetery. You are right, I had no where else I could get enough skyline to get a decent picture, the place was chosen by necessity, but based on what that cemetery is, I kind of like its simplicity, I would make a few position changes in the future for myself which I’ll explain in a second. If you look at the far right just beside the larger pot of red flowers, you’ll notice a statue far in the background. That statue is a replica of the famous photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. I know the grave directly in front of the camera says “Beloved Wife and Mother” but this part of the cemetery is a military burial ground. (The grave beside that is her husband who was military and she was buried with him) If you look through this plot of land, here lie people who served for our freedom or gave their lives for our freedom, and all they have as a remembrance of that, are small markers and flowers with flags. (You’ll probably notice that almost all, if not all of those flower pots have flags in them) While this isn’t the cemetery with beautiful old gravestones or other structurally beautiful pieces, it is a place to honor both the dead, and those who sacrificed for our freedom, and as the sun sets on another day that we are free to be Americans, it does so over these simple graves and graces them with a beautiful reminder of what they were fighting for.

      Now I know I didn’t mention that in my post, and I probably should have, but I was really focusing so much on how astonished I was that a quick run through photomatix had turned picture 1 to picture 2 with such extreme detail that I really didn’t get into much story here other than my hunt for a location. Had I realized that statue was back there sooner during the sunset, I would have re positioned to make that a more focal point of the shot, and I think it would have added both a more visible focal point as well as extra context, but by the time I noticed it and moved, the majority of the sunset was gone and all I had was a little leftover glow on the horizon. 😦

      That being said, every eye is different, we all have different tastes, and obviously you saw more in the first photograph than I did, and I see something in the second that may be more emotional than it is visual, I don’t know, I have a very deep seeded love for those who have served our country. To me, I just don’t see a sad looking cemetery like you said, I see a simple place of rest for men of service and then a salute from above by a fiery exclamation point above their resting place to another day of freedom.

      • There are different ways to approach ‘artistic’ critique. One is putting your work up there, explaining it away, and getting a reaction. Another is putting your work up there, saying nothing, and getting a reaction.

        I prefer the latter because I’ve always felt that a piece, be it a painting or a sculpture, a piece of graphic design or a photograph has to stand on its own and tell the intended story without extra information from the speaking artist, because most of the time you’re not there to speak for it. I realize you’re probably not yet intending these pictures to really be anywhere you are not, but my point is that while your extra information on this being a military cemetery is great, I don’t feel that it is strongly conveyed in the photograph itself. I feel like the grave plots are more of an after thought and, per your original post, items of convenience and necessity more than considered elements in the composition.

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