Monday, May 25, 2015

Photographing at Golden Gate National Cemetery on Memorial Day (using the new Canon 5Ds)

In honor of Memorial Day, today I made a visit to the Golden Gate National Cemetery, where more than 140,000 military people are buried. This is not the first time that I have visited this cemetery. You may recall that I photographed here twice before. Once back in 2010 and also on Memorial Day in 2013.

But I looked forward to going back this year, for two reasons. First of all, it is a great way to pay respect to those who gave their lives our country. And secondly, I enjoy photographing this amazing place. This year I was joined by my best friend, Glenn, who is also into photography.

Every year, on this weekend, the Boy Scouts place American flags at each grave site. Not only is this a beautiful was to show respect for all these lost soldiers, but it visually stunning. If you looked at the previous blogs from this cemetery, you will see what I photographed in the past. As is always the case, my goal was to capture something different this time around. I wanted find new angles, and also include more people this year. And this year, I happened to be traveling with a loaner Canon 5Ds, the latest 50 megapixel DSLR from Canon, and the some new Canon lenses

All of the photos in this blog were taken with the new Canon 5Ds and the new Canon 100-400mm II lens, unless otherwise noted.

As you can tell, I really like using selective focus here. I focus on one tombstone and then let the rest fall out of focus.

When looking for good location to photograph, I am typically drawn to the repetitive patterns. As I was taking these photos, I was constantly reminding myself that each of these stones represented a person. This was not lost on me, I promise you.

This particular location was one of my favorites. From where I stood, it appeared that grave sites spread out in a symmetrical pattern away from the center stone.

Just as I finished photographing the previous photo, I look up a nearby hill and saw this man walking amongst the tombstones. I noticed that he was wearing a hat that said "Navy" on the back.

Here is the power of the Canon 5Ds. This is a crop from the photo above, and you can perfectly see the Navy logo that I saw from a distance.

I introduced myself to him and asked if he was a veteran. He told me that he had served on a ship in Vietnam. His name is Phil and he is a really nice man. I asked him if I could take a photo of him, and he graciously agreed. This is one of the things I love most about being a photographer. It is the chance to meet new people and learn their stories. Without the camera in my hand, I am not sure that I would have the courage to go up and talk to complete strangers.

This first photo was taken using the new Canon 5Ds and the new Canon 11-24mm wide angle lens.

More photos showing the patterns of the cemetery.

This is a photo of my best friend (and former college roommate from a billion years ago), Glenn. He was shooting photos with me, so I grabbed some shots of him.

Here is another example of the advantage of shooting with 50 megapixels. This is a crop from the previous photo. Look at the clarity and resolution from this tiny crop. Wow!

This photo is intriguing to me, since the tombstones appear to be placed in random places. As you can tell from all the other photos, all the stones and placed in very orderly lines. But from the angle of this photo, you would hardly know that.

While shooting, a large group of motorcycles drove into the cemetery. I noticed that each of them had American flags on their bikes, so I grabbed some shots of this. Something different from the years past.

I asked some of the guys why they were visiting the cemetery and they said that they were paying tribute to numerous friends who were buried there.

Another shot showing the orderly placement of the grave sites.

I saw this gentleman, who was about to leave the cemetery, and I asked him if I could photograph him. I took some photos of him looking up at me, and then I asked him to look down at the stones. I prefer this shot since he was there for them, not me. His name is Blaine and he works for the U.S. Coast Guard.

This photo was also taken using the new Canon 5Ds and the new Canon 11-24mm wide angle lens.

Here is a photo of me shooting the previous photo (credit: Glenn Tokunaga).

Glenn and I walked around for more than an hour and then I spotted a memorial service out in the distance. He and I headed straight over to the service and caught the tail end. I saw these vets saluting and quickly grabbed this shot.

Since it was my goal to photograph more people this year, I made good on that promise to myself. I saw this guy wearing his Army cap and asked to photograph him. I had him move so that the cemetery was behind him, and took this photo.

I saw these three marines talking, and really wanted to shoot a photo of them. I waited for them to finish their conversation, and asked if I could photograph them. They agreed without any hesitation. I moved them down a hill so that I could photograph them with the grave stones in the background. I was a little hesitant to make them walk away from everyone for me photo, but as it turned out, everyone who was in the area started shooting photos of them in this spot. I guess I started something.

After shooting these photos, a nice man came up to me and introduced himself. His name is Francisco, and he is an avid viewer of the blog and my videos. (I guess my bald head and ugly face is recognizable.) It is always fun for me to meet people who share the passion for photography and learn from this blog and my online classes.

Francisco, thanks for saying hello and making my day. And to Phil, Blaine, the Marines and all the others who serve in our military, thank you from the bottom of my heart!


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JanPaul van Hoven said...

Hello Jeff,
Good show, impressive to see all those graves, nice to read!
Here in the Netherlands we have Margaten, the US cemetry, that impressed me quite a few times.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

It was very nice meeting you Jeff, love you pictures and I'm still in awe of all the Canon gear you had, hope to run into you soon at another event and than you for mentioning me in you blog, take care Francisco Canas