Cemetery Photography from Big Paul

This post is originally from Big Paul, on his photography site which has gone offline. I had listed the link in the ODP (now Curlie) and I tried to find another source for the content, but other than a Flickr group, there was nothing else to be found. So I am reposting this post, about cemetery photography, from the original site, as an archive. I did not repost images, they were not loading and the text is what I really wanted to keep. The instructions and advice are good and time isn’t likely to change that.

I love a good cemetery. That probably sounds morbid, but it’s not. They’re peaceful places, for one thing; hardly anyone ever bothers you. Besides, I figure that since one of these days I’ll be going into one and not leaving, it’d probably help to start getting used to them now.

On a more serious note, cemeteries have a unique sense of history about them that not many other places do. You learn a lot about an area – the way its demographics changed over time, mortality rates, the people who settled and built an area – by who’s buried there. You also realize that for all the expense associated with the death industry (and it is that), we just don’t do mourning like we used to. Don’t believe me? Compare headstones from the 1800’s or even the early part of the last century with what you get now; we used to send our dead out in style, versus sending them out in the equivalent of a Happy Meal container.

• Bring bags with you. Most cemeteries are well-kept. Some, however, aren’t, or they’re located in areas where people tend to use them as shortcuts (or, worse still, dumping grounds). If you see trash, pick it up, and don’t ever leave trash of your own behind.
• I say the following as someone who smokes a pack a day: Don’t smoke in the cemetery. It’s just tacky.
• Likewise, if you’ve got an MP3 player, mobile phone, or anything else on you that makes noise, shut it off.
• Bear in mind that many cemeteries are private property. You may be asked to leave; if you are, do so, since you’re trespassing if you don’t.
• You may also be asked what you’re doing in the cemetery. If that’s the case, be honest and respectful.
• Speaking of respect, a little goes a long way. If you see a family nearby visiting a loved one, or if there’s a service going on, put the camera away. The photo’s not so important that you have to be an asshole to get it.
• Some cemeteries actually have photo policies. Some may explicitly state that you’re not allowed to take photos (rare, but it happens), while still others will allow picture taking as long as you don’t sell the photos, or may require a special arrangement if you want to sell what you’ve taken. It can also be helpful to call ahead to find out.
• Watch your step. For one thing, you don’t want to walk over someone’s floral arrangements, flags, and the like. For another, you may come across uneven ground, or even sunken graves, from time to time.
• Disturb as little as possible on or around a gravesite. It’s one thing if a stone or plaque has a layer of leaves and dirt on it; there’s nothing wrong with cleaning someone’s resting place.* If, on the other hand, the marker is partially obscured by flowers, toys, or anything else left there by loved ones, leave it as it is.**
• One last rule of thumb: if you’re not sure whether you feel right taking pictures in a graveyard, ask yourself one simple question: how would you feel if someone were taking a picture of your or your loved one’s tombstone? I’ve thought about this from time to time, and I think that as long as someone’s being respectful, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. You may feel differently, and therein, I suppose, lies your answer.

If you want to learn more about cemeteries themselves, there are two great resources. The first would be a local church or historical society, who can tell you a lot about the town and its families (especially useful if you’re not familiar with an area). The other is a book that you can easily find online, called Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography which explains burial customs, iconography, and the significance of certain types of grave markers. It’s not a photography how-to, but it’s invaluable if you’re as interested in the history of a place and its dead as you are in the photos themselves.

*One exception would be stones, since it’s common custom to leave stones on or near the grave marker when you’ve visited. This is most common in Jewish cemeteries, but I’ve seen it done elsewhere as well.

**One site goes so far as to suggest moving anything that’s in the way of your photos and replacing it afterward, which strikes me as a step too far.

Ontario History in Rocks

I’d like to read the books by Nick Eyles, about Canadian geology. Two of his books are about Ontario history and places to see for the rocks.

Road Rocks Ontario and Ontario Rocks.

I have always liked rocks, one of the oldest and most enduring things on our planet. Really, is there anything that can top a rock for endurance and long life?

I studied physical geography in high school. A lot more than rocks and geology involved in geography but everything involves or stands on rocks at some point.

As an explorer of old places I especially like seeing the wear and tear caused by weathering. Bricks, stone, glass, wood are all changed by the wind and rain. One of the things being swept up by wind and water are rocks (sand, pebbles, etc.). Weathering of rocks forms the very ground we rely on. How can anyone not have a fascination with rocks and their history?

I Ordered Abandoned Manitoba

I have especially liked Manitoba since I first traveled out west from Ontario. I considered moving to Winnipeg, sometimes I still consider moving there. Winnipeg felt like a ruralized version of Toronto. I liked the local transit, the people I met and, more importantly, Winnipeg has great history and old buildings. I’m looking forward to the arrival of the book!

Update: the book arrived soon after I ordered it. It is wonderful. Highly recommended to history lovers and explorers in Manitoba (or anyone traveling in the province). 

Abandoned Manitoba by Gordon Goldsborough.

Dover has Europe’s Best Preserved Roman Lighthouse

I’d like to see that lighthouse. Of course, being England and a town on the coast, there are lots of old places and things (like shipwrecks) to see. The lighthouse would be special. Finding images of it from long ago would be great to compare with how it is now. I like finding lighthouses here, in Ontario. Unless something leftover from the Vikings is discovered, there won’t be any as old as this Roman lighthouse, in Canada. These images are from The Shepherds of Dover, on Facebook by way of the Bored Panda website. Source: We Moved To Live In The Worst Place In England, And Here’s What It’s Like | Bored Panda

Found Amazing Toronto Map in an Etsy Shop

I found this map for sale in an Etsy shop, civicatlas. With shipping, it would cost over $50 to have a print copy. Sure, it would be a nice size but more than I can spend. If you have the resources I recommend getting it for any Toronto history explorers. As you can see, there are excellent images of old architecture, likely gone or very different looking now.

To see more of it myself, I searched online and found it Historical Maps of Toronto, with a link to the source for the full map at the University of Toronto. Here are screenshots, to give you a preview. I would like to have this covering an entire wall of my house. But, I will settle for keeping it as wallpaper for my desktop computer. Meanwhile, I did download the full file and I can see what it would cost to get it printed. Possibly a local business where the photographer reprints and fixes old photographs, might be just the place.

Windsor, Ontario for Urban Explorers

Windsor Blight, on Flickr

Group Description
This group is for all those photos of Windsor, Ontario that exhibit the current state of property in the city. Abandoned homes, brownfields, vacant stores, empty factories, etc.

The current commercial vacancy rate in downtown Windsor is an astonishing 24%. The residential vacancy rate is the highest in the country, and has been rising since 2005. Businesses are closing left and right, and our leaders don’t seem to understand the importance of a vibrant downtown.

A lot can be said about this subject, but this group’s purpose is to SHOW our leaders what is happening across our city. Add your photos of blight in Windsor, and hopefully we can illustrate to the powers that be that immediate action is needed.

Sarnia’s Subterranean Rail Tunnel

Interesting the tunnel was never sealed off. Also, an alarm went off when the migrant came out on the Canadian side. Maybe it will get closed off now. Sarnia won’t want to have someone else go through and make insurance or legal claims against the city.

The Canadian portal of the St. Clair River Tunnel in south Sarnia. On the left if the original tunnel, opened in 1891 and now closed.

Source: Man arrives in Canada through subterranean rail tunnel, seeks refuge in Sarnia – The Sarnia Journal

Ottawa’s Old Train Station

Bhat Boy’s exhibition, called the Old Train Station, featuring scenes from Ottawa’s original train station downtown [was] showcased at the Orange Art Gallery.

“One of the things that really interested me is that the old train station was the hub of industrial Ottawa before it became a government town,” Bhat Boy said in an interview.

According to a press release, the old train station, built in 1909 and located across from the Chateau Laurier was closed in 1966.

The Grand Trunk Station officially opened in 1912, bringing historic arrivals and departures, including New Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry departing for the First World War before the station was renamed to Union Station.

It was the arrival and departure points for everyone from King George VIII and Queen Elizabeth, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and even Elvis.

Source: Ottawa Community News