Taking photographs at each step and during
the life of the project should be a must. This records your methodology
but, most importantly, serves as a record of the changes made
to the yard. Make sure you record the graveyard in the state that
you initially find it. If you are lucky, you will find an earlier
record of the graveyard and can make comparisons (we haven't been
so lucky). This photographic record could be very useful to researchers
and caretakers who come after you. A videographic record will
be helpful, too, but probably for a shorter time span. We made
a photographic diary of our graveyard restoration and it is posted
on our website.
Maybe the most important things to photograph are the markers. As each grave is recorded on the form outlined below, a photograph should be made as part of the grave documentation. This should include an overall shot of the grave, including footer, and a closeup of the stone marker with inscription (if legible) and motif.
Photographing markers well is more difficult than it sounds. We will give some brief tips. For a more exhaustive discussion of techniques, see the pamphlet "Making Photographic Records of Gravestones" (available from The Association for Gravestone Studies). We recommend using a 35mm single lens reflex camera. For closeup work, this eliminates the parallax problem with less expensive viewfinder 35mm models. Often they also have long focal lengths that lead to fuzzy photos. Fewer people are using 35mm SLR cameras now that digital photography is coming of age. However, just as an adolescent is coming of age but not fully mature, so is consumer digital photography when it comes to resolution of detail. At least that is true for the low and moderate cost digital cameras most of us are using for computer graphics. We also use black and white film for its greater light sensitivity and generally better resolution.
Lighting is the trickiest part of photographing markers. The sun is seldom in the right place and the stones can't be repositioned as people can be. The light generally needs to be coming from directly overhead (no shadows) and to one side, raking across the stone. This will make the often shallow engraving show up in the print. Perpendicular lighting, such as a flash, makes the engraving harder to read. Backlighting (from behind) darkens the front of the stone. Directing the light is most often accomplished by reflection with a mirror. If your graveyard is a short easy walk from the bus, with no stones to trip over, take a mirror along. A round 12-18 inch diameter mirror should do fine. However, our graveyard is a hilly rocky one mile hike. A mirror is out of the question. An alternative is a portable vinyl reflector. We use a 32 inch diameter reflector that folds up in a cover about the size of a large dinner plate. It is available from Adorama for about $45.