Photographing Unconventional Subject Matter

Looking through the shape of a Christian cross towards a stained glass window at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

Pere Lachaise is the most famous cemetery in Paris. As well as being the resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison it is a marvelous place to wonder around and explore the architectural relics within which the deceased have been laid to rest. While a little tricky to navigate your way around the site, its worth putting aside a good half day to do so. The cobblestone pathways and hilly terrain just add to the atmosphere as your traverse the row upon row of resting places throughout the cemetery.

Approach Graves With Respect

Being careful to approach and photograph grave sites in a respectful manner is important. Nevertheless, such sites offer extraordinary beauty and are worthy of our attention and contemplation.

I rarely photograph gravestones for strictly documentary purposes (herein rests John Doe, died 86 years of age), preferring to concentrate on the abstract qualities inherent within the structures. To this end light, color, texture and shape guide my way.

Making The Image

I made this image with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM L series lens at 89mm. I made the image with a shutter speed of 1/30 second and an aperture of f/11 at ISO 400. I chose to focus upon the stained glass window and used the aperture to extend the depth of field so that it brought the foreground (almost) into focus.

This is important as, while the rose and shape of the cross are important, I didn't want them competing for attention with the stained glass window. They are important elements in this story, but I needed to make sure that the stained glass windows dominate this composition. Frankly, I'm thrilled with the result. It's one of my favorite photographs.

Photograph What You Love

Since my early years I've been drawn to stained glass windows. I'd like to think that my own photography, whatever the subject matter, explores the transforming and transcendental nature of light and, in doing so, provides myself and the viewer a glimpse of the sublime beauty evident in all things.

I strongly recommend, whenever possible, that you explore unconventional subject matter as a way of increasing your own powers of observation and photographic prowess.  

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru