Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Long Visit from Mississippi

On August 19, 2013, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia was host to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Long, who were visiting from Starkville, Mississippi. Mr. Long, who is in his seventies, was born and raised in Philadelphia but moved away when he was eighteen when he joined the Air Force. His mother and grandmother (the names you see on this headstone) are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Mr. Long served as an engine mechanic in the United States Air Force and spent time in Japan post-WWII.  His mother passed away when he was four months old.  He does not have any pictures of her nor does he know how she died.  Mr. Long’s father is also deceased.  Recently, Mrs. Long, Sue, began searching the internet for answers to the questions related to her husband’s family history and came across the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery website. She sent us an email and we located the grave in question, which you see in the photo above. Elizabeth Long was his mother and Ida May Reed was his grandmother.

The Longs were very appreciative for the information provided to them by the Friends and inquired about a visit to Mount Moriah. (This is one of the volunteer services we offer, along with keeping the grass and weeds cut and clearing large areas of overgrown trees and other foliage throughout the several-hundred-acre cemetery.)

Bob and Sue Long's plan was to drive to Philadelphia from Mississippi to visit the grave. Ken Smith (photo at right), Treasurer on the Board of The Friends took it upon himself to tackle the weeds in the section where Mr. Long’s relatives are buried. He and other volunteers labored many hours during the week prior to the Long’s visit to cut the high grass over the entire Section F (on the Philadelphia side of the cemetery) and clear the overgrown grass from the hillside walkway. The latter was done to allow Mr. Long clear access to climb the hill in his motorized wheelchair.

On Monday morning, August 19, the Longs completed their 1000 mile 15-hour trip by minivan to Philadelphia. They were met and directed to Mount Moriah Cemetery by Ken Smith. Several Board members were on hand to greet them, including Paulette Rhone (President), Ed Snyder (Communications and Technology Chair), and Sam Ricks (Education and history Chair). Ed Snyder brought his four-year-old daughter Olivia, who graciously carried the flowers brought by the Longs to decorate the grave.

Bob and Sue Long were extremely grateful to the Friends for making them welcome and assisting them in their journey. It was a very emotional time – along with Mr. Long’s memories, they brought a flag and a small statue of a boy labelled “Bobby.” Mr. Long told me his mother used to call him that. Ken and Ed helped to secure the statue to the headstone.

The Longs came prepared with a caulking gun and tube of builder’s cement, clippers and a can of … Play-Doh! Daughter Olivia asked if she could play with the Play-Doh. Mrs. Long told us she brought it to hold the flag in the little cup held by the “Bobby” statue. She told Olivia that she would only need enough to hold the flag in place and that she could have the rest.  She said, “I had to buy four cans and I left three home for my grandkids. You can have this one.” Olivia was thrilled!

“Bobby” wasn’t very secure on the headstone so Ken drove off to the old gatehouse to find a suitable piece of stone on which to mount the statue. He returned with a heavy piece of granite which we dug in next to the headstone. We then glued “Bobby” on to the new stone. I asked Mr. Long why the flag. He told me he was a veteran, and had been an engine mechanic in the United States Air Force. I told him my great uncle was also in the Air Force, but retired with far less marketable skills - great uncle Raymond had been a tail-gunner. Mr. Long laughed.

After returning to Mississippi, the Longs had the following to say about the Friends and their visit. This from Sue Vaughan Long via Facebook:
"It is such a great thing that all of you good people are doing for this cemetery. And thanks again for helping us decorate the grave and to Ken for showing us how to get to the cemetery and back to the Hotel we were staying at. May God bless each and every one of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Long Friends of Mount Moriah are just wonderful people. You have to have a big heart to undertake what you are doing for the Cemetery. As I have said before several times, we cannot thank you enough for what you have done for us. Bob says for him it was a dream come true after 76 years to finally go to his Mother's final resting place."

The experience was one that we will all remember for a long time. It is yet another example of the mission of The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery - “honoring the memory of those interred in her folds through restoration, historic research, education and community engagement.” 

If you would like to volunteer your time to help the Friends in any capacity - please contact us via our website or our Facebook Group Page:

The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. website 
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. on Facebook

Monday, August 26, 2013

Exhibition Opens: "Sacred to the Memory"

Photographic Exhibition:

Sacred to the Memory - 
the Historic Cemeteries of Philadelphia

Sept. 9 - Nov. 1, 2013
Free Library of Philadelphia
Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189

Artists: Frank Rausch, Robert Reinhardt, Ed Snyder
(Image above from Laurel Hill Cemetery, by Frank Rausch)

Opening Reception Sept. 16, 6 - 8 pm

The Historic Cemeteries of Philadelphia - Laurel Hill, Woodlands, and Mount Moriah 

Ed Snyder
 "Sacred to the Memory" is an historic exhibition that catches three historic cemeteries of Philadelphia at a moment in time - 2013, over a hundred and fifty years after they were originally established. Frank Rausch, Robert Reinhardt, and Ed Snyder are local photographers who share a passion for documenting these historic and beautiful sites. Their goal was to provide a clear picture into how each artist sees these individual memory gardens - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Woodlands Cemetery, and Mount Moriah Cemetery. Each site has its own personality and architectural features.  Each photographer has his own unique style. Together all three artists provide a complete visual diary of their visits and adventures in these Victorian sculpture gardens.

Book and eBook available from
A book was created to accompany the exhibition at Philadelphia's Main Public Library, and is available from (click here to see it in hardback, paperback, and eBook forms). Also, a poster (shown below) is being made available for a limited time. Autographed copies of the poster and book will be offered for sale during the Opening Reception. 

Exhibition Poster
A portion of the proceeds from poster sales made during the exhibition will be donated to the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. for direct care of the grounds. (This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Mount Moriah Cemetery by honoring the memory of those interred in her folds through restoration, historic research, education and community engagement). The poster can be purchased by contacting Ed Snyder, Chairman of Communications and Technology for the Friends at

Laurel Hill Lion (Snyder)
The photographs in this exhibition express the passion each of the artists has for documenting these three Victorian-era cemeteries. Whether the inspiration stems from an interest in the past, a spiritual journey, or just the desire to create strong visual images, each photograph brings to the surface the beauty of these eternal resting places. Garden cemeteries were the bucolic getaways for city people in the 1800s, they were the first public parks - landscaped sculpture gardens where people picnicked and strolled long before public parks and museums came into being.

Frank Rausch
“[We have] been able to create images that bring awareness to the beauty and fragility of our cherished resting places as well as showing the necessity to restore and preserve these exquisite places for future generations to enjoy." - Photographer Frank Rausch

Mount Moriah Cemetery Gatehouse (Snyder)
Some of these images capture the delicate partnership these graveyards have co-existing with nature. Others document the skilled craftsmanship of the artists and architects who created and constructed them. Yet others explore and hint at the myth and mystery that surrounds the persona of each of these silent and reflective sites. Whichever explanation you choose, the photographs seek to celebrate the significance of these graveyards. These images not only document our history, culture, and artistic trends of the past, they also hold the eternal silent voices of the past and once again bring to life the markers erected in their honor.

Robert Reinhardt
“Each site possesses a unique slice of history, culture, religion, art, and architecture of the time period in which it was created. These images attempt to bring to life a strength that lives on in these eternal monuments.” - Photographer Robert Reinhardt

The artists will host an Opening Reception at the Library on September 16, 2013 (6 – 8 pm). The exhibit hall is on the first floor of the Philadelphia Central Library, off the main lobby. This extensive exhibit will include nearly sixty images as well as display cases of artifacts created by each of the three historic cemeteries. Representatives from Laurel Hill, Woodlands, and Mount Moriah cemeteries will also be in attendance. The exhibition will run from September 9 to November 1, 2013. 

Woodlands reflection (Reinhardt)
You see here among these words a few images that will be on display. We invite you to see the exhibit in person, if possible. And by all means, please visit these landmarks of architectural and botanical beauty, these memory gardens of great historical significance. If you live in Philadelphia, you owe it to yourself to add these sites to your “must see” list along with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Cemeteries speak to us on many different levels – the intent of this exhibit is to preserve the memories and voices of the past so they can be handed down for the appreciation of others in the future.

Perhaps this is best described by Gwen Kaminski, Laurel Hill’s Director of Development and Programs, in the following passage which is excerpted from the book, "Sacred to the Memory" - The Historic Cemeteries of Philadelphia:

Laurel Hill blanketed in snow (Rausch)
"Laurel Hill Cemetery appeals to the senses. Walking through her gates, one steps into nineteenth century Philadelphia. Surrounded by a symphony of nature and noise; immersed in a thick forest of white marble; looking down on the river – the city of the living just below – one gains a new perspective on the world, and on our place within it. This place – our place – is ever changing. It shifts with the shades and shadows cast by each morn, noon and night. We see the shifts, though our finite gaze cannot yet pierce them. 

Laurel Hill Mausoleum lock (Rausch)
Yes, here at Laurel Hill, our senses are charmed. Our sight is heightened; our observations profound. Since her founding in 1836 – eighteen decades past, and too many comings and goings to count – Laurel Hill has been immortalized in art. Displays of greens and grays have given way to the whitest of winters. Branches bare are clothed again in the blooming buds of springtime. The landscape is refreshed by roaring rains, and takes on new shapes with each setting of the sun. So many names and numbers give testament, chiseled into stones not quite as heavy as the words that they bear – each one fighting the toll of time on memory, on mortality.

Fleeting glances of all this and more have become permanent visions in oil, charcoal, clay, graphite, marble, watercolor, celluloid, and now pixels. These photographs are a collection of moments memorialized. What you see herein of Laurel Hill Cemetery you shall not see again beyond these printed pages. The view through the lens has already shifted. Our eyes have grown another day older – our gaze another day closer to piercing the shifts."

Further Reading and Reference:
The artists encourage you to visit these cemeteries, as well as their websites:
Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery (established 1836)
The Woodlands Cemetery (established 1840)
Mount Moriah Cemetery (established 1855)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Charles Bukowski's Grave

I was in Los Angeles in June (2013), so of course, I ignored all the Stars Tours, the LaBrea Tar Pits, and the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, preferring to visit Charles Bukowski. Well, his grave, that is. I can’t say I’m a big fan of his writing, I’m more a fan of his style - which was in the stream-of-consciousness vein, a la Hunter Thompson. I like to do that myself. Bukowski often said “Don’t try,” and some would think he meant just let the words flow, don’t try to make sense of them. His wife, Linda, says it means don’t just try, but rather, DO.
“Dirty journalism” is the phrase some people use to describe Bukowski’s writing. Some of it borders on pornography (let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be reading his novel Women on an airplane and have your neighbor glance down at the words). Calling it misogynistic and crude is to put his prose mildly. According to, Bukowski’s writing is “marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work.

His poetry, however, is quite beautiful. Here are the opening lines from bang bang, a poem from his book Mockingbird Wish Me Luck:

"Absolutely seasamoid
said the skeleton
shoving his chalky foot
upon my desk;
and that was it
bang bang
he looked at me,
and it was my bone body
and I was what remained …"

So what did I expect to find at his grave site? Whatever it was that I was going to find, I suppose. Perhaps liquor bottles and cigarette butts, as I’d read in a few places (Bukowski was a heavy smoker and an alcoholic). In looking it up on the web ahead of time, I saw one reference to “Charles Bukowski’s mausoleum,” in Green Hills Memorial Park, but that turned out to be misinformation. He is buried in Green Hills, however, but not in a mausoleum. The memorial park (one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen) is in Palos Los Verdes, a suburb of Los Angeles to the south. (Bukowski lived nearby during the last few years of his life, with most of his life spent in L.A.) Being a memorial park, I really didn’t expect to see much of anything, except for acres of flush-to-the-ground grave markers. Such places seldom have statues and are not of the Victorian era, so they’ve never held much interest for me. Green Hills, though, was a bit different.

Green Hills Memorial Park, Palos Los Verdes, California
Driving through the expensive-looking driveway past the flower store to the guard’s booth, it was obvious that this place caters to the well-to-do (which I don’t believe “Hank” was, so I’m not sure why he’s here). Perfectly manicured lawns and rolling hills with gazebos, statues, and other memorials set Green Hills apart from any memorial park I’d ever seen. It was truly serene and respectful, with all the ambiance of a traditional cemetery. The memorial park, a relatively modern development in cemetery design (the first being California’s Forest Lawn in 1912), is usually a flat field that allows the grass to be cut with great ease – totally blasĂ©. The sheer quantity of giant shade trees in Green Hills would seem to impose the traditional challenges in cemetery lawn care.

Lucky clover growing on pine cone near Bukowski's grave
Bukowski’s granite grave marker is just like the thousands of others at Green Hills: rectangular, flat, and flush-to-the-ground. So how did I find it? You can get some general directions off the Internet (“Oceanview” section), but not for the specific location of his grave. I asked the guard at the entrance booth. Actually there were two gentlemen, both of whom were very helpful. Still, I had difficulty finding it amongst a hundred or so graves in “Oceanview.” The name, by the way, is kind of a misnomer - although his grave on the hillside does indeed face the Pacific Ocean, there is a mountain range in the way. The ocean is a couple miles from here. You can’t actually see it.

"Don't Try,"  ... do!
Wandering around the section photographing the grave markers here and there, I was struck by the individuality in the designs. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. Most of the plates were metal, and were embossed with waterfalls, trees, and other bucolic scenes. Some even had short epitaphs. Finally, a grounds keeper came up the road in a little cart and I flagged him down. He knew Bukowski’s marker was around here somewhere, and we walked around a bit without finding it. Then, another worker came up the road in a pickup truck. The first groundskeeper flagged him down and asked if he know where Bukowsi’s marker was. The fellow in the pickup replied, “The writer?

Which reminds me of a blonde joke. But this really happened:

I was at work about ten years ago when two saleswomen came in to the department. One of my coworkers sat at a workbench just outside my office. I heard people talking so I went out to see who they were. One woman was blonde, the other brunette. The brunette pointed to my coworker and said to the blonde, “Doesn’t he remind you of Ernest Hemingway?” The blonde said, “The writer?” There’s a reason stereotypes exist.

Green Hills worker helping me find Bukowski's grave
Anyway, the first groundskeeper kept up the search ("Don't Try" - do!) and eventually found Bukowski’s grave marker for me. “Hank’s’” grave was devoid of whiskey bottles and beer cans, so I assume such litter is not a regular occurrence, otherwise the groundskeepers would’ve known exactly where the grave was. I did pick up a pine cone, however, from beneath a nearby tree. (The name “Hank” on the grave marker is short for Henry Charles "Hank" Chinaski, Bukowski’s literary alter ego, a character who appeared many time in Bukowski’s books). The 1987 movie, Barfly, was actually based on Chinaski's fictitious life and times.

In 1986, Time magazine called Bukowski the "laureate of American lowlife." After visiting his grave, I celebrated this by stopping for beer and ribs under a tent in a nearby Pep Boys parking lot. As I was eating dinner out of a Styrofoam container in my rental car I started thinking bizarre thoughts. You cannot help but think them when you’re contemplating Bukowski – dive bars in L.A., alcoholism, mortality and death - all in the warm California sun.

Moyamensing Prison, Philadelphia (ref)
Here’s what I thought of: writing about the connections I have to famous people, no matter how many times removed. Charles Bukowski spent seventeen days in Philadelphia’s Moyamensing Prison in 1944 on suspicion of draft evasion. My connection? I live on Moyamensing Avenue, a few blocks from where the prison once stood here in South Philadelphia (it was torn down in 1968). There’s an ACME supermarket there now, and I shop in it. Another, somewhat more famous writer, Edgar Allen Poe, also spent some time here (the prison, not the ACME) for public drunkenness in 1849.

Reference and Further Reading:
Charles Bukowski bio on
Moyamensing Prison on Popturf 
IMDb bio on Bukowski
"Don't Try"
Green Hills Memorial Park website
Barfly, the 1987 movie based on Bukowski's literary alter ego, Henry Chinaski

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Night Cemetery Photography - a Lunar Stroll at Laurel Hill Cemetery

Image courtesy of Emma Stern
I just spent an interesting evening as a tour guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Philadelphia. Not a REAL tour guide, mind you, just an unofficial, auxiliary backup tour guide. Laurel Hill had an evening “Lunar Stroll” fĂȘte that drew twenty people out on a hot July evening. The premise of these regular outings is photography, though couples sometimes show up without cameras (hmmm…).

Emma Stern orienting photographers to the evening's events
When I said it was a hot evening, I’m talking the tail-end of a week-long 100-degree heat wave. It was around 90 degrees after dark. Diehard photographer types (half men, half women) showed up anyway, paying fifteen bucks a head to stroll the nighttime graveyard after the gates had been locked. The allure of such an opportunity may explain why some show up without cameras!

So the idea of photographing a graveyard at night is a broad-thinking approach to making your local cemetery all that it can be for all sorts of people. Here’s what it said on Laurel Hill’s website:

Photo enthusiasts: grab your cameras, tripods and flashlights, and capture the ethereal wonders of Laurel Hill Cemetery after the sun goes down. During this guided stroll through the site’s picturesque landscape, participants will visit some of its most photogenic spots and evocative statuary, while learning to paint with light using only a flashlight and ambient iridescence. You will have experiences to share from this rare and intimate exploration of the cemetery long after its gates close for the night. Photography experience is recommended. Lunar Strolls will occur on the third Friday of every month from May through August.

Image by Ed Snyder
In the passage above, three things grabbed my attention like a zombie from behind a gravestone:

  1. learning to paint with light
  2. photography experience is recommended
  3. Lunar Strolls will occur on the third Friday of every month from May through August

So, let me explain:

1. “Painting with light” is not for the novice. It refers to the act of illuminating your subject with a light source while your camera’s shutter is open. Imagine this: darkened scene (cemetery monuments in the dark), camera on tripod, exposure on auto, shutter tripped – shutter stays open looking for light. No light, shutter stays open for a while. At this point, you illuminate the subject with a flashlight from behind the camera – you sweep the light across the subject, back and forth, up and down, until the camera completes the exposure. It will end the exposure when it has sensed that enough light has hit the image sensor to create a properly exposed image.

Statuary atop mausoleum "painted" with light, by Ed Snyder

Painting with light is much easier with a digital camera than it is with film, because you can instantly see your mistakes on the display and then adjust for them. Of course you’ll be infinitely more successful if you have a tutor on the spot. And that’s what I and a few other people were there to help with.

2Being familiar with your camera is key to successful night photography. Maybe I should say “low  light” photography. You don’t want to be futzing with your camera in the dark, trying to get it to work. If you don’t know how to use it properly in the daylight, night photography will just make everything more difficult.

3.  And if you don’t get it right the first time, Laurel Hill has these night time photography ‘workshops’ on the third Friday of every month from May through August! So, try and try again. After my first outing a couple years ago, I realized I needed three items without which my efforts were virtually useless (so, learn from my mistake): a small flashlight to see the controls on your camera, a large flashlight with which to illuminate subjects, and a tripod.

So, other than providing helpful hints, what would be my other responsibilities in this endeavor? I assumed one of them would involve keeping my charges from wandering off into the dark where they might break a leg in a gopher hole. Herding people did turn out to be a major task (at which I failed, since I never again saw that camera-less couple again after the made off toward the mausoleums). I actually spent more time illuminating monuments and gravestones with my LED panel video light for other people, than I did making my own photographs. (I did take the people photos in this blog, however, with my Canon DSLR.)

The Lunar Stroll
One of the reasons that Laurel Hill’s Lunar Strolls are so successful (SIXTY people showed up for the last one!) is because the coordinator, Emma Stern (Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Volunteer & Administrative Coordinator), is an accomplished photographer herself. In fact, that is her wonderful image at the very beginning of this article. She is co-owner of a photographic gallery called GRAVY in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. ( refers to GRAVY as the “best kept secret in Fishtown.”) Emma is responsible for turning this photo outing into an actual photographic workshop. Not only did she coordinate experienced photographers to help those less experienced, but she provided other practical things like flashlights and colored gel filters to transform the flashlights’ color! Oh, and bug spray, snacks, and cold bottled water too.

In the gloaming (hey, Laurel Hill is an old Victorian cemetery – I can use words like that), it is easy enough to make photographs. There’s still enough ambient light to work with. (Want to make your images appear darker? Stop down your -Ev setting (see link). But then night begins to fall, as it usually does, and with it, a conundrum. How to make photos in the dark? Why does your camera have trouble auto-focusing? As I explained to one gentleman, cameras use light to create an image. No light, no image (unless you’re using one of those infrared Russian spy cameras). Challenging, yes, but at least we didn’t have grave robbers or zombies to contend with (reality often violates preconceptions of what you’ll find in a cemetery after dark).

Shooting in the Dark
Click to purchase from
With today’s super light-sensitive digital cameras with their 3200 (and up) ISO image sensors, when does it becomes truly too dark to make a photograph? The basic principle behind photography (which I quite knowledgeably point out in my book, Digital Photography for the Impatient) is that you need light to make the process work. The less light, the more difficult it will be for your camera to record an image. I usually tell people to start by setting their cameras on auto and letting it make the exposure. See how it reacts to low light. Most current model DSLRs will keep the shutter open as long as necessary for the lens to gather enough light to create an image. What you usually end up with, then, is a PROPERLY EXPOSED image, something like this:

Evening, Laurel Hill Cemetery, by Bob Bruhin

Focusing in the Dark
Millionaire's Row, photographed by Ed Snyder
Now, the phrase “properly exposed” has nothing to do with focus. If you look at my image above, you’ll note that it is not very crisply focused. Problem is, in the dark, many digital cameras have optical auto focus mechanisms, which require the subject to be bright (contrasty) enough for the system to lock on to. No such luck in the dark! If your camera uses Sonar (like the old Polaroids used to, see link), i.e. sound waves to focus, you’d be golden. However, that (better for this purpose) technology is antiquated. Some modern digital cameras will throw out a short (“assist”) flash burst to illuminate the subject for focusing purposes before it will allow you to trip the shutter. Some cameras use infrared to focus – which is good in the dark, but only for objects within twenty feet of the lens.

Millionaire's Row, as photographed by Bob Bruhin
Above is a much sharper image of the same mausoleum scene taken by another photographer. One reason for this is that Bob Bruhin used a DSLR while I was using my G11 DPS (as I refer to ‘Digital Point-and-Shoot' cameras in my book). In addition to the better light painting and focus, notice how his camera's image sensor interpreted the night sky as orange, whereas mine recorded the same sky as magenta!

A couple techniques I use for focusing in the dark:
  • Manually focus as best I can, then use a deep depth of field (say, f16 or f22) so that any minor mis-focusing is compensated for by the small aperture. This, of course, requires a very long exposure in the dark – minutes, perhaps.
  • Illuminate your subject with a bright light and allow your camera to lock into focus, then turn the camera’s (or lens’) focus to “manual.” Make your exposure while you are “painting” your subject with some artificial light source.

(Here’s a link to a good explanation of how different autofocus systems work on modern digital cameras.)

“Proper” Exposure
When you make night photographs, you don’t necessarily want a properly exposed image. You may not want all the detail in the shadow areas because those will not be well-lit and will therefore appear mottled and grainy in your image. Best to let those areas fade to black and accentuate the high-contrast highlights of your subject, as in the fabulous image below.

Warner Memorial by night; image by Karen Schlechter
Even the less expensive Nikon DSLRs have image sensors that are wonderfully responsive to low light. (I own a Canon myself, and it gives me nowhere as good an image.) So the trick is to NOT use a super high ISO but rather 200 or 400. If you can make an auto exposure this way and light up your subject with artificial light, the camera will terminate the exposure when it has gotten enough light to create an image. You can also shoot in manual mode, but either way, you’re making exposures in excess of thirty seconds (tripod a necessity).

Photographers in Laurel Hill Cemetery with cameras on tripods

Before I start to jump all over the place with night photography pointers, let me just categorize of few of them as “Helpful Hints:”

Helpful Hint #1
If you’ve never done night photography, start with your camera on its auto setting. Digital is preferable to film for beginners. That way, you can instantly see how badly you messed up, so you can make some adjustments and try it again. 

Ed Snyder, self-portrait lit with LED light panel
Helpful Hint #2
Use a DSLR. Point and shoot digitals have a much smaller image sensor (generally) which causes excessive noise in the image. I used my Canon G11 DPS for this self-portrait and you can see that as far as image quality goes, it is no masterpiece! I also avoided color, as a noisy image looks worse in color.

Helpful Hint #3
The photo shoot went from 8 to 10:30 pm, but with nearby city lights and the moon, there is some ambient light – you’re not in pitch darkness. Different color temperatures (tungsten from a flashlight, mercury-vapor from a streetlight, etc.) will flavor your color composition. One person even brought a couple glo-sticks on a string so an assistant could spin it overhead and create circular light trails in the image! (Unfortunately, I have not seen the photographic masterpiece that was subsequently created.)

Helpful Hint #4
Everything looks good on the display. This is actually something a woman at the event said to me when I commented on one of her images. And it is SO true! You may indeed, mirabile visu, have a three-inch masterpiece there on your camera’s display, but when you get it onto your computer monitor or make a print, you might be somewhat dismayed. Best idea here is to shoot at a low ISO (200-400) and paint the scene with light. If you shoot at a higher ISO your camera’s image sensor is going to be out of its normal operating range. True, you may get some interesting colors, but you may find that your image noise (see link) if too great to make a satisfactory print or high-res image.

Helpful Hint #5 
  •  Patience
  • Tripod and a remote shutter release
  • Tiny flashlight to see the controls on your camera 
  • A big, bright flashlight to illuminate the ground as you walk and your subjects (statues, headstones, people)
  • An LED panel video light (not heavy, uses very little battery power)

The Wrap-Up
Sepia image of Millionaires' Row painted with light (Ed Snyder)
Our photo shoot began at dusk at the gatehouse, then progressed to three of the most photogenic spots in the cemetery – the Warner Memorial, the granite lion overlooking Kelly Drive, then the “Millionaires’ Row” of mausoleums near Hunting Park Avenue. By the time the tour wrapped up at the latter, it was 10:30 pm. 

When I’m making a photograph, I am fully concentrated on this event, no matter how long it takes. As a tour guide trying to hustle photographers from one area of interest to the next, it seemed to me that these people were slower than Darwinian selection. It was difficult to pull them away from each area, they were having so much fun and engaged in interesting conversation with each other. These were photographers with specific interests in cemeteries, and there appear to be more of them on the planet than I suspected. One fellow told me how he became interested in photographing cemeteries: at his best friend’s funeral, he brought a camera to take a picture of the grave. Afterward, he began to look around and thought, "hey, nice statues ….."

Twilight at Laurel Hill Cemetery, by Bob Bruhin
I’ll leave you with this final Homeric Moment: As I was discussing cemetery travel (and to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, I have traveled extensively in Philadelphia) with one of the photographers, he told me how he tries to drag his wife along on his photographic escapades. That ended with the last trip they made – to see the tombstones from Monument Cemetery dumped under the Betsy Ross Bridge. He went on to say how he read about it on this “cemetery travel blog" and therefore had to go see the site himself. I interjected that it was my blog, “The Cemetery Traveler” which he had read. The fellow brightened up and wide-eyed looked at me and said, “You’re Ed Snyder?! Wait ‘til I tell my wife!

Further Reading and Viewing:
Some of the photographers who made photographs during Laurel Hill Cemetery’s July 17, 2013 Lunar Stroll posted their images on this Flickr site.
Laurel Hill Cemetery website
Emma Stern’s Flickr page
Bob Bruhin's Flickr page
Karen Schlechter's Flickr page