Some time back I replied to a post entitled How to Take Better Headstone Pictures for Find A Grave with some additional suggestions, which seem to have been well-received. My main point was:
Try to visit on a bright day at a time when the sun lights the memorial(s) from a narrow angle, which throws engraving into sharper relief. This generally works best on clear days in winter where, even at midday, the sun is low in the sky. There is also the benefit that deciduous trees cast less shade.
Today was just such a day and I was able to take a few shots that illustrate this point very well. These images are from Ogley Hay, Brownhills, West Midlands, England. They were captured using a Canon Powershot A700 compact camera, which is about eleven years old. I have not manipulated any of the images, except to crop them. I have not resized them to preserve the full effect. This is digital photography in its simplest form.
The images were captured between 12:10 and 12:20 p.m. GMT today. The sky was cloudless and the sun approximately 3-5 degrees west of south. It should be noted that the church is aligned about 8 degrees to the south of east, meaning that the angle of the sun relative to the “east”-facing stones was between about 3-5 degrees east of their alignment. (Magnetic north migrates so that it was in a different position when the church was built in 1850.)
In short the sun was striking the east-facing inscriptions at a narrow angle, throwing them into sharp relief.
As the general shot shows, not all faces with inscriptions face east. On this rectangular tomb the shadows tell that the sun is almost perpendicular to the face. It is still just about readable, if you zoom in.
My next image shows how this side-lighting enables a readable image; in places it even looks more embossed than engraved.
This memorial to the infants Emily Owen and her brother and sister is one example of why it is important to record these memorials. This one is decaying and after a few more years might be completely illegible. Clearly, these babes did not shape history, but their memorial is testimony to the sense of personal loss that follows the death of a child, and is a reminder that infant mortality was commonplace in the Victorian age.
And, finally, wouldn’t it be so much easier if all were as clear as this last?!