Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One morning in an afternoon cemetery

Sometimes my timing is off.

Sometimes I visit a “morning cemetery” in the afternoon; sometimes, an “afternoon cemetery” in the morning.


In some cemeteries, most gravestones face east so that the morning sun lights the inscriptions. That is a “morning cemetery.”

Most often I visit “afternoon cemeteries.” In other words, cemeteries in which most gravestones face west, the inscriptions lit by the afternoon sun.

(Here in Ohio, even summer sun hits east-facing and west-facing gravestones at an angle. Let’s not get too far into the weeds.)

Why do I care about this? Simple: Because a photograph of an inscription is usually easier to read when the inscription is not in the shade—including the shade of the gravestone itself.

For example, take a look at the first photo below. I took this photo in an “afternoon cemetery,” even though I arrived a bit too early to get a good, bright photograph. The inscription is legible, but it is still in shadow.

Compare it to the second photograph of a similar gravestone in a (different) cemetery. Sunlight is falling on the inscription. Much better!

Of course it is not always possible to time a graveyard visit just right, and it is never possible to control the cloud cover. Now and then a bit of digital brightening after the fact can save a shady photo.

And what about those large cemeteries with gravestones facing every which way? In that case, my best advice is to arrive early and spend the day!

John Mooney, Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Union County, Ohio
Rachel E. Rice, Dublin Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio

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