Monday, May 27, 2013

Golden Gate National Cemetery: A Memorial Day Tradition

Since it is Memorial Day, I thought that I would go out and photograph something to commemorate the sacrifices of American servicemen. Three years ago, I made my first visit to the Golden Gate National Cemetery, which is located in San Bruno, CA.  I took photos at this same location, but this time of year the cemetery is lined with American flags to support those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

On Saturday, I was photographing an event located near San Bruno, and my wife suggested that I leave early and shoot images of this amazing location before the evening party. What a great idea! Every Memorial Day weekend, the local Boy Scouts of America go out and put an American flag at every tombstone. I have always wanted to photograph this amazing tribute, but never had the time.

Honestly, I was a little worried about the crowds of people that might be there, but as it turned out, I was one of the only people there. I later found out that the cemetery closes at 5pm (I arrived at 4:58pm) but allowed me to be in there until 6pm.

After shooting photos for 45 minutes, I called my wife and all I could say was "Wow, that was spectacular!"


When first arriving at the cemetery, I saw this tribute and thought that it would be perfect for a fish eye lens. I mounted my Sigma 15mm fish eye lens to my Canon 1DX and started to shoot. Wow! I was just  amazed at the beauty of this scene. So moving!


To get a different perspective. I got down low to the ground and shot right in front of the flags.


This shot was taken while standing. You can see how different it looks from the previous photo.



Amazingly, Adobe Photoshop has a feature called lens correction where you can tell the software which lens you were using and it will "correct it".  This photo is the same photo as the one above it, only corrected in software. Most of the time, I like to leave the fish eye effect, but in this case, I like them both. (Photographer's note: The lens correction feature is found in ACR, 6 buttons over from the left, and is also available in Adobe Lightroom.)


And to try something even more different, I stood tall, pointed the camera down and shot this photo. (Photographer's note: With wide angle and fish eye lenses, the angle at which you shoot is dramatically distorted. This can be used for effect, like you see below, but be careful to shoot straight to the horizon if you want to maintain the most "normal" photo.)



I also had my Canon 5D Mark III with the 70-200 2.8 lens attached, and used this for most of the other photos. It was so beautiful, and yet so sad at the same time. To see this endless sea of tombstones and knowing that so many servicemen were buried here.


 Even the birds were paying their respect...


As I photographed some close-up shots, and looked at the names of each soldier, it reminded me that this was not just a name on a stone, but someone with a family and a story that I will likely never know.



Photographically, I have always been drawn towards repeating patterns, and I had a hard time dealing with the beautiful repeating pattern, knowing what this represents.



I took this wide shot to show you how big this place is, and this is just one section of the cemetery.




This last photo was taken from the top of the cemetery and allowed me to isolate the American Flag against the endless rows of tombstones. I felt that this would be a fitting image for the day and the weekend.

I dedicate this blog entry to all those who have served in the military. If it were not for them, none of us would have the freedom that we so take for granted. Thank you!

10 comments:

David said...

Amazing work. A very befitting tribute.

Dreamosity said...

Jeff, thank you so much for capturing and sharing these. I truly appreciate it!

Marcelle

Dreamosity said...

Jeff, thank you so much for capturing and sharing these. It's a great reminder that our freedom isn't free.

Marcelle

Karalyn Hubbard Photography said...

A beautiful and moving tribute Jeff, thank you for sharing.

Ed Rosack said...

Wonderful series, Jeff. Your photos really show the spirit of this location and day.

Heather said...

If you ever get a chance to watch, the scouts usually place flags on Saturday morning. It's amazing to watch the boys and girls place all of those flags so carefully on the graves. The cemetery (at least the one in Los Angeles) goes from empty and quiet to full and decorated in the span of about an hour.

Amanda Kristeen said...

I'm a den leader & our pack went that morning to decorate & found your blog while I was looking for some good pictures to show the scope of how large the cemetery is. Thanks for sharing these pictures. It's humbling to see how many have given their lives for us. I'm putting a link on my blog to this post. Thanks again.

Amanda Kristeen said...

I'd just like to add how stunning that last photo is. It's perfect.

muzie5 said...

Thank you for shooting and sharing these images. I'm 41 years old, my husband is a veteran of 2 wars, and I've seen photographs of this cemetary numerous times... but never like this. These photos show the emotion and beauty of what these men did for our country. You are able to post these photos for the world to see because of what they did to keep us all free. God bless them all and you!

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