Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blood Washes Away; Bullet Holes Do Not; or: How to Not Get Arrested in Poland

The following article was guest-written by my good friend Jonathan M. Klein. After Jonn relayed this experience to me verbally, I invited him to share it with a wider audience. He was gracious enough to agree. - Ed Snyder 

Abandoned Jewish cemetery, Warsaw, Poland

Before we get down to the stories of my adventures in Poland, allow me to give a brief introduction.  I’m a 38-year-old bar owner from Philadelphia who has been an avid photographer for over 20 years.  I was what you might call a “goth“ for many moons, and I’ve always had a fascination with the morbid and decadent.  I first met Ed outside one of my bars when he stopped me on the street to snap some pictures of the hearse I used to own.  I have a salvaged Victorian tombstone in my front yard.  Finally, despite being a practicing atheist, I was born and raised Jewish and continue to culturally identify with the traditions, if not the religion.  I’ve been traveling regularly for 14 years and have always made it a point to explore abandoned Jewish cemeteries in the Holocaust-decimated countries of central Europe whenever I find myself in that region.  Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have all been targets of exploration.  This fall, I set my sights on Poland, which, pre-WWII, had the largest Jewish population in Europe and now effectively has none.  Having done my research, I left knowing that the four cities I was visiting had four of the biggest, most neglected Jewish graveyards in the world.

A lonely path through an abandoned Jewish cemetery, Warsaw, Poland

My first stop was Warsaw, which reading had told me was home to a humungous and extremely poorly kept Jewish cemetery that abutted an equally old, but still very much active, Catholic one.  These were on the edge of the former Warsaw Ghetto, and while I had hoped that the three mile walk from my hotel would provide some interesting sights, the bleak reality was that what the Nazis hadn’t destroyed, the Communists had.  Thus, my walk was very uninteresting, and I was chomping at the bit to use my camera for the first time that day.  It was also my last day in Warsaw, and I knew that I would not be returning anytime soon.  Imagine my disappointment when, after this long schlep to the graveyards, the simple black gate with a star of David on it was locked tight, displaying a handwritten note in Polish that pretty clearly said, “Closed Today”. 

Inside the (Catholic) Powazki Cemetery with the Jewish cemetery beyond the dividing wall

Unbeknownst to me, as a totally non-observant Jew, it was Sukot, a Jewish holiday I barely remember.  Despite the fact that the cemetery is abandoned and decaying, despite the fact that there are almost no Jews left anywhere in Poland, and despite the fact that the property is maintained by the city and not a religious authority, it was closed for the holiday.  However, I’m not one to be put off by simple things like locked gates and rules.  It occurred to me that, as I was planning on shooting the Catholic cemetery anyway, I could scout for a way to gain entrance via the shared back wall.  Imagine my dismay when reconnaissance revealed that, for some reason, the wall dividing the two properties had been almost completely rebuilt, clearly within the last few months!   

However, the work had not been completed yet, and there was one small section of the old wall, which was lower, and still had Catholic graves butting up against it.  I quickly discovered a cross tombstone that afforded me an easy foothold to vault the wall, but… It was a beautiful fall day, and the active cemetery was busy!  There were two funerals while I was there, and many people were tending to the graves of their loved ones.  So I, with my odd facial hair and bag full of camera gear, who stuck out like a sore thumb, had to skulk around for almost a half hour, trying to be inconspicuous and waiting for a clear moment to scale the cross and hop over.  I seized the moment when it came and was in the Jewish cemetery within 30 seconds.  The reward was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in my life. 

Being the only living soul walled in with over 100,000 burials is something that can barely be described.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but the trees, which have been growing unchecked since 1942, created a canopy of such density that the lack of light was like shooting at dusk.  The only noises were the sound of autumn leaves rustling in the wind and my own footsteps, which I was desperate to keep quiet even though I knew I was alone.  Parts of the graveyard were kept somewhat clear for those few tourists who might wander in, but mostly, it was an overgrown morass of packed, toppled, defaced, and deteriorating markers for the long dead.  I only spent about 2 hours there, but that time left an indelible mark on my memory.   

After covering as much ground as I could without getting too near the gatehouse (just in case!), I returned to the low point in the wall half expecting to see a gaggle of Polish police calmly waiting to take me away.  I was trying to formulate an explanation as to why an atheistic American Jew felt it overwhelmingly necessary to break into an abandoned Jewish cemetery (on a Jewish holiday, no less!), but I could not come up with anything useful.  Fortunately, none was necessary.  My egress was just as clean as my entry, and I spent another three hours photographing the magnificent Catholic cemetery without incident.

Krakow graves in Jewish cemetery

Krakow offered a different experience.  This was a much smaller cemetery where many of the smashed tombstones had been haphazardly reconstructed by the Communists decades ago.  Because Krakow survived the war mostly intact, the graveyard, though abandoned, had a slightly touristy feel to it. The overgrowth is kept to a picturesque level, with clear paths and a fair number of people wandering through. It is surrounded by busy streets, and the former Jewish district of Kazimierz is thriving again.  This was a far cry from the decimated areas of Warsaw I had walked through.  I even got to see a Klezmer concert in a newly re-opened but historic Jewish restaurant. 

Poznanski mausoleum - largest known Jewish mausoleum in the world

The city of Lodz is actually home to not only the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, supposedly, but the graveyard itself is home to the largest single known Jewish mausoleum as well.  That mausoleum is maintained as a monument, but the rest of the cemetery, as in Warsaw, was an overgrown ruin.  I spent the only rainy day of my vacation traipsing through muddy brush, marveling at piles of tombstones that the Nazis had pulled up for use as pavers but never found the need for.   
Stacked headstones in Lodz Jewish cemetery

There are acres of beautifully carved gravestones in Hebrew simply being consumed by the woods, but which are too proud to disappear altogether.  Rusting wrought iron railings demarcate the plots of wealthy Jews whose descendants were still shipped off to the gas chambers regardless of money or status.  The grey, damp weather merely accentuated the sense of loneliness and desolation.

The forest reclaims, Lodz Cemetery

My final stop was Wroclaw.  Having again done some research, I learned that what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw was, until 1945, the German city of Breslau.  The story goes that Breslau, which was the easternmost major German city, put up such fierce resistance that, at the end of the war, Stalin, as punishment, took Breslau from Germany and gave it to Poland as part of the massive border rearrangements that marked the end of hostilities and the start of the Cold War.  I can speak and read a little German, so I was excited that I might be able to understand the inscriptions on some of the tombstones, which obviously were all pre-1945.  

"30mm in Art Nouveau," Breslau/Wroclaw cemetery

Breslau had a vibrant and wealthy Jewish community,  thus the artwork in the graveyard was supposed to be quite elegant, especially that from the Art Nouveau period.  My GPS guided me to a tiny dirt driveway which was so inconspicuous I drove past it the first time, and it wasn’t until I saw the cemetery walls that I realized I had missed it.  After looping back around and parking in the grass, I wandered up to the tiny gatehouse.  The little shack had a bit of information in English, and it was there I learned that as part of the last, desperate Nazi defense of Breslau, SS troops had taken refuge using the high walls against the oncoming Russian army. 

Bullet-riddled headstone, Breslau/Wroclaw cemetery (detail from photo below)

Bullet-riddled grave marker
The resultant gunfight did more damage to the cemetery than the years of neglect or anti-Semitic vandalism. When you wander through the graveyard, which is just barely maintained for the few tourists willing to pay the equivalent of $2 to wander around, the battle scars are everywhere.  Granite, unlike marble, never weathers – it’s why Egyptian sculpture holds up so well.  But, no stone is impervious to gunpowder and bullets.  Marker after marker bore the tell-tale pockmarks of small-arms fire.  Certain tombstones showed evidence of heavy weaponry, while some mausolea were nothing but collapsed piles of rubble.  Snapping picture after picture, I tried to follow the individual trails of gunfire, and I was filled with an odd sense of satisfaction.  The idea of Nazi soldiers, frantic and losing, holed up in a hated Jewish cemetery is surreal enough. But, being able to look at certain tombstones and just know from the level and position of the damage that someone was almost certainly shot against that marker is a whole different idea.  Nazis shot by Russians against wealthy Jewish graves – how could it not appeal to all of my cultural sensitivities?

However, reality then filtered in, and I realized that I was looking at a place where not only is someone buried, but more than likely someone else spent their last few agonizing moments of life.  As Americans, we are so insulated from many of the horrors of the last hundred years.  In that cemetery, I was standing at a place frozen in time, at a pivotal point in history.  The city of Wroclaw has moved on.  Everyone speaks Polish.  Buildings destroyed in the war have been rebuilt or something modern raised in their place.  But amongst those bullet-riddled tombs, it will always be Breslau, 1945.  Those Jewish graves, inscribed in German, chipped and broken, forever bear witness to one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In with the Old, Out with the New

I was in an abandoned cemetery around this time last year and was surprised to see a fresh wreath on a grave. Last year's wreath appeared to have been tossed outside the grave. This made me realize that, although a cemetery itself may be forgotten, some of the people buried there are not. Not everyone ceases to care after the cemetery itself goes to pot. Individuals are often helpless in this situation. Or are they?

One of the things that bothered me about the old wreath, is that it was just tossed aside along with the other mess in this cemetery. Why not remove it to a trash can? Why add to the problem? Unless they didn’t see it as a problem. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that the descendent (probably long distance) paid the cemetery owner to have the wreath placed on the grave. So it might have been a cemetery worker who tossed the old wreath.

Typical sign seen in cemeteries ("K of P" is not the cemetery in question)

But wait, I said the cemetery was “abandoned.” Why would there be an employee? This particular Victorian cemetery is locked up tight, with barred gates and high walls and fencing, and unmaintained. Trees and weeds grow wild. How can this be? How can the owner get away with this? Is he actually “getting away” with something? Or is he just in dire straits? Regardless, something needs to change – a Friends group could be formed, or a change of ownership may occur. The dead deserve greater respect. Besides, these people most likely PAID for greater respect in the form of “perpetual care. Out with the old, in with the new.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Christmas Mourning!" - A Photographic Exhibit

It is truly an honor to be able to exhibit your art in public. Many take it for granted, and many more are petrified by the very idea. It is with humble heart that I announce a solo show of my work, which can be seen throughout the month of December, 2014.

Location: The Gallery in the Dawson Street Pub, Manayunk, PA
(See link at end for hours and directions.)
You may have guessed by the title of the exhibit, “Christmas Mourning!” that the theme is indeed cemeteries. A little off, to be sure, but then so am I. There is a smattering of angels here, which are kind of Christmassy, right? Witness eighteen photographs in this public hanging, ranging in years of origin from 1998 (the image you see below, entitled “Stone Emotion” to current work (2014) that I have just printed for the first time. One of my most recent pieces, of which I am quite proud, is “The Visitor” (directly below). I included a few snow scenes to keep with the spirit of the season, for example, the image further down, "Victoian Snow," which I made in 1877 (just kidding).

"The Visitor" (2014)
All are welcome to view (and purchase) the work throughout the month (take it right off the wall and pay the barkeep, if you need a truly unique piece of art as a holiday gift for that special someone. I mean, who doesn't like the idea of angels for Christmas? The angelic mingles with the somewhat creepy in this display of various sized and priced ($60 - $150) images. So if you want first choice, don’t wait until Christmas, uh, Morning.

Want the story behind the photograph? Plan to stop by the reception on December 20 and I will tell all. Every image here has a story, and they stick with me like glue, for some reason. I made some of these images locally (Philadelphia), and some in different parts of the U.S. There are some from California, some from New Orleans, for instance. Some grave markers and monuments I return to time and again. Take the angelic black and white “Stone Emotion,” for instance. I made this on film around 1999; its one of the first cemetery angels I ever photographed. I was drawn back to it for years to photograph it as it aged (weather, lichens, etc.), but it never regained that warm glow of youth. It seemed to age as if it were quite alive.
"Stone Emotion" (1998)
Reception: December 20, 2014

"Victorian Snow" (1877)
I think it was Jethro Tull who said, “The Christmas Spirit is not what you drink.” However, the various beverages are expected to flow freely at the reception for this exhibit (Dec. 20, 2014, 1-5 pm). After all, the Dawson Street Pub is a bar. Do I feel funny having such solemn work hanging here? Is it disrespectful to exhibit such images in an establishment that serves alcohol and hosts live bands?  Only if your reasons for smiling are wrong. Cemeteries can be a celebration of life - not just a fond remembrance for those who have passed, but a reminder that we should enjoy life with our friends.

I do thank Dave Wilby, the owner of the Dawson Street Pub, for the opportunity to exhibit work in his gallery (Manayunk is a Philadelphia neighborhood). In fact, every month for the past six months I’ve been curating photography exhibits here, coordinating the art receptions with the one-weekend-a-month  celebrity chef takeover. My good friend Tom Bera is the guest BBQ chef,  owner of award-winning Philly Blind Pig BBQ, which provides mouth-watering delicacies such as slow smoked beef ribs and brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork, BBQ chicken, salmon, and other specialties. The artsy crowd gets to rub elbows with the foodie crowd, and everyone has a great time!

Patrons in the Dawson Street Gallery at a prior show

While I have a number of photographs in various group shows around Philadelphia this month, you can get a good perspective on the range of my cemetery work at my Dawson Street solo show. It’s up for the month of December, and as I said, I am selling the work right off the wall. I assume there will be some left to look at on December 20!

Yule love this!

Dawson Street Pub from the Philly Blind Pig Christmas Party invitation!

There are a number of events occurring on December 20 at the Dawson Street. Stop by and enjoy the company, the wonderful food, the winter ales. Sit by the fire if you like (though that would be outside next to Tom Bera’s Philly Blind Pig smoker!) and wait for Tom’s Christmas Special for the weekend - Polish Lasagna (think layers of pierogies and kielbasa)! A Tap Takeover by guest brewers the Conshohocken Brewing Company is planned (let’s assume free samples) and live music will be provided by the band, "The Conshohocken Curve" at 9pm!

Dawson Street Pub, Manayunk, PA
See more of Ed Snyder's cemetery photographs from this exhibit on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wilmington Cemeteries in the Snow

Regardless of what Saab I own at the time, they all seem to want a new water pump for Christmas. Prayer doesn't seem to help. My current Turbo convertible cemetery traveler jumped the gun a bit – I had to give it a water pump the day before Thanksgiving. (I mean, couldn’t it at least have waited until at least Hanukkah?)

The only thing that assuages my pain during these "Saab Stories" is the fact that I get my work done at Sports Car Service in Wilmington, Delaware, and there are several cemeteries in the vicinity. In fact, lovely Riverview Cemetery is within walking distance of the service center.
This particular day before Turkey Day was a messy one. Rain was expected all morning, which would turn to snow in the afternoon. Maybe I would experience my first snow of the season in a cemetery. I drove south, twenty-five miles from Philly on I-95 in the dark and pouring rain that Wednesday at seven a.m. You may be asking yourself why I would go through such trouble when there’s an auto mechanic on just about every street in South Philly, where I live. Remember, I drive Saabs. Pretty much no one can fix these things - except for Sports Car Service in Wilmington. I’ve tried many places. They all make the situation worse, and cost you more money. People actually drive MUCH further than Philadelphia to have their dead nameplate cars serviced here (Saab Automotive went out of business in 2012).

Mausoleum in the Brandywine and Wilmington Cemetery

Waiting in the waiting room while my car was being mauled, I watched the pouring rain. Now, I like taking pictures of cemeteries in the rain, but I wasn’t about to walk the half mile to Riverview in this weather. I did some work on my laptop and strolled the showroom looking at the fancy cars. After a couple of hours, I had to get out. I went across the street to the greasy spoon diner for brefass. My car was ready shortly after I returned.
Sleet scene from Brandywine and Wilmington Cemetery

With my wallet four hundred dollars lighter, I decided to take in some cheap entertainment while in town. Cemeteries, I have found, are very cheap entertainment. And Wilmington has some fine ones to choose from. Nothing grand, yet each with its own quirky attractions.

I drove around Riverview Cemetery a while, making a few photos here and there. It was just raining too hard to even open the windows. I decided to drive up Market Street a bit and stop in to see David Bromberg (one of my favorite folk/blues musicians since the 1970s, see link) at his violin shop, "David Bromberg Fine Violins." Not that I do this all the time, mind you – in fact, this would be approximately the first time ever. But with graveyards in mind, and him getting up there in age (he turned my favorite number – 69  – this year (2014), I really wanted to tell him how much joy his music has given me over the years. God forbid he die without him knowing this!
David Bromberg's violin business, Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 

Snowing on the dog (and robin!)
After a brief chat with David, I exited his shop as it began to snow. It was cold and windy. I headed over to the nearby Brandywine and Wilmington Cemetery, maybe two miles away. The snow mixing with sleet provided this hillside Victorian graveyard with quite a nice effect. I was able to get out of my car here and there, to photograph various scenes with an umbrella over my head. The black dog here always takes me by surprise.

Scene from Wilmington's Cathedral Cemetery

I needed to get some lunch so I headed over to the area where Cathedral and Silverbrook Cemeteries are located, a couple three miles west of downtown Wilmington. Plenty of fast food joints (and bathrooms!) over there. Cathedral is a much more interesting place to me, having quite a bit more statues and ornate mausoleums than Silverbrook (which appears to be newer and simpler). I always seem to notice some new odd detail whenever I’m in Cathedral, like the "Little Sisters of the Poor" plot, an extraordinary zinc monument and this odd car lot across the street – why the cross in the name? Bizarre.

Most of the photos I took were with my point-and-shoots out my car windows or with the windows cracked open. I did brave the cold, high winds, and rain however, to get some high vantage point photos of the praying child atop this 1876 zinc (or “white bronze” as some people call it) memorial. 

In all, it was a very productive day. I headed home with images I could post on BOTH my “Cemeteries in the Rain” AND “Cemeteries in the Snow” Facebook Group pages from the same day’s photo shoot! So while I don’t look forward to my next auto repair, I at least know that when I return, there will always be interesting things to do in Wilmington. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Cemetery and its Friends

Recently a student from Philadelphia’s Temple University wrote a blog about her experience volunteering to help clean up at Mount Moriah Cemetery (Philadelphia and Yeadon, PA). I was struck by how well-written and on point she was, in explaining what some people find so appealing about volunteering to help maintain cemeteries. I want to share her perspective with you through The Cemetery Traveler. (The link to her blog can be found at the end.)

I’ve been volunteering at Mount Moriah myself for a few years, as part of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. (FOMMCI), and I have my own reasons for doing so. Alyssa, the Temple student, volunteered as part of the university’s civic engagement program. I’m not sure she expected the experience to be so profound. Thousands of students have taken part in this sort of community volunteer program since the FOMMCI started it in 2011, and it is obvious that many are affected in the same way Alyssa was. I’ve spoken to a number of them during cleanup events, and many share her experience.

As part of a hard day’s work, she states, “It was amazing to uncover tiny grave stones and large markers and even more thrilling to see the size of the space we helped to bring out from underneath the mess of tangled vegetation. It was also great — after learning more about the context of the cemetery clean-up — to think about the people that were buried there and know that we were helping families rediscover or simply have the ability to locate and visit deceased family members.”

Mount Moriah is at this point still about seventy-five percent overgrown with trees, vines, and other flora. Alyssa describes the situation clearly when she states, "Tombs were entombed again in brush and trees: a layer of time measured in yards of vegetation.” The cemetery is huge, recently abandoned (2011), and more recently put back on track (Sept. 17, 2014) with the legal appointment of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation as receiver of the property (which now has legal custodial responsibility). However, until funding is appropriated as part of the overall plan to maintain the cemetery, Mount Moriah is still greatly dependent on volunteers.

Please check the FOMMCI website for future cleanup and restoration events. You simply cannot foresee how being part of such a community effort can benefit so many – yourself included. Also, now that it is cold out, the vegetation has mostly died and you can see much more of the cemetery than you can in summer. Come and visit! Both the Philadelphia and Yeadon sides are open from 9 a.m. to dusk.

Alyssa's blog, "Mount Moriah: A Cemetery and Its Friends," can be read here.
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. website
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery Group on Facebook

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dying of the Light – Losing Daylight Saving Time

If you’re an outdoor photographer, the letters DST might be your nemesis. In the fall, in the northeast part of the United States, the switch from Daylight Saving Time (DST) back to “standard” time is when you run out of light early, an outdoor photographer’s worst nightmare. Since I photograph cemeteries (and most cemeteries are, for the most part, outdoors), it becomes more challenging to photograph them at this time of the year. Every once in a while I would stop by a cemetery on my way home from work to do some photography. Not so in the winter – its just too dark.

DST is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months by one hour so that light is extended in the evening hours, and sacrificing normal sunrise times. Which is fine, but I’ve always been too lazy to photograph sunrises anyway. (Sunsets, on the other hand, have been more my forte.) Spring forward, fall back, indeed. While it’s a documented fact that more outdoor photography is done during the summer months than in the winter (1), you may need to fall back on an alternate plan if you want to maintain your current outdoor photographic production during the months of waning light.

You notice the “dying of the light” (hats off to Dylan Thomas) around September – the days begin to get shorter. Then during the first week of November we’re off DST and back on standard time, the tripping point. It’s dark when you get up in the morning and its dark when you leave work. From here, there is a steady progression to the winter solstice (mid-December) as we continue losing our precious light. If you’re in the earth’s northern hemisphere, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.

Photography is all about light. We may not think of it that way, but given current imaging technology, photography depends on light to create an image. Film worked that way, and so does digital. The less available daylight, the less able we are to make daylight photographs.
Self-portrait of author at Point Lobos, California

The loss of light never affected me as much as it did during a trip to Point Lobos, near Big Sur on the California coast a few years ago. I took a break from photographing cemeteries and planned a side trip to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Within the park, on the coast below Monterrey, is the area with all the weird rocks where the famous photographer Edward Weston made many of his famous images (read more about Weston and view images here). I arrived late in the day as a fog rolled in. I barely had an hour’s light. As much as I was looking forward to being here, I was ill-prepared for actually making photographs. The beauty of the setting was overpowering. I lamely made some digital and some film images, while taking in the magnificent scenery. Every rock, every dead branch was glorious. It looked like nowhere else on earth. Which, I suppose, is why Weston spent so much time here. He photographed dried seaweed, dead logs, the surf, cypress trees, the beautifully eroded rocks - for years.
Point Lobos, near Big Sur, California

I realized, I think, as the day drew to a close, how Weston may have felt at the end of each day. When nature closes the curtain, it is almost like being robbed of something precious. You want it to last forever, this section of wild ocean shoreline is so captivating. It is also very difficult to describe WHY it is so spellbinding. If you’re an outdoor photographer and you appreciate form and shape, “Weston Beach” can be a wondrous experience.

The experience taught me a lesson, well, a few lessons, which apply to more than just photography:
1. Planning is paramount – too early is way better than too late, in the same way that over-studying for an exam is better than under-studying (if you want a good grade)
2. Be prepared – I was not expecting the very dim conditions, and I had only one roll of film.
3. Appreciate the scarce resources around you, e.g. light.
4. Allow yourself time to appreciate the beauty around you.
5. Nothing lasts forever (even cemeteries).
    Author in a cemetery at night, illuminating with an L.E.D. panel light

So as we face days of limited light, how can we best take advantage of this precious commodity? (And it is just that, as conflicting as it may seem: a commodity we take for granted, like electricity, yet precious in that we would be lost with it. Without light, in fact, we would quite literally be lost!) Must we “rage against the dying of the light?” With all due respect to Dylan Thomas (and his wonderful poem, Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night), there are alternatives.

Fall at Mount Moraih Cemetery, Philadelphia
Rather than be upset about such a situation or allowing Mother Nature to grind your work to a halt, plan to do your photography in a different way. Maybe take a day off work to exercise your skills. As a way of stocking up, I got as much photography in as I could in the past few weeks. I took a bit of time here and there to photograph the autumn leaves at Mount Moriah, Woodlands, and Laurel Hill cemeteries (Philadelphia). If you shoot mostly black and white, this is a good opportunity to capture the colors of the season! Assuming you don’t actually become clinically depressed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), there are steps you can take, like consciously planning to do other types of photography during this time of the year.
Artificially-lit mausoleum at night

What are some other options for photographers, the “painters of light,” when the resource becomes scarce? If you photograph cemeteries, there ARE some that you can enter at dusk, or even night. Too spooky?  Try your hand at night photography in other locations, possibly experimenting with both existing and artificial light. Try taking a day off work just to do photography or maybe  adjust your schedule to accommodate getting more photography done during limited daylight.

Here’s one of the things I did last year when Mother Nature got in the way of my plans:  I let her lead me to places I’d not explored in the past. I began photographing cemeteries in the rain, and the snow. I started two Facebook Group pages called Cemeteries in the Rain, and, you guessed it -  Cemeteries in the Snow, both of with were well-received. People from all over the world posted their photographs on these pages. Cemeteries in the Snow, in particular, struck a powerful chord with many people. Why? Possibly because the time of year it usually snows (winter) is the time of year with – you guessed it – the shortest days! Maybe other photographers benefited from some creative nudging at this low-light time of the year.

I write this blog a week or so into November, back on standard time. The days get progressively shorter as we work our way toward the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice (which will occur on December 21 this year, 2014). For outdoor photographers, its all good news from there on out! The days progressively get longer as the earth continues (hopefully) its elliptical orbit around the sun. So maybe part of our energy now can be spent planning to take full advantage of that greater amount of light in the future. The summer solstice in mid-June will be the longest day of the year! Don’t spend it indoors!

References and Further Reading:

(1)   I made that up about more outdoor photography being done during the summer months than in the winter - just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

 In Point Lobos, Where Edward Weston Saw the World Anew