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Eternal Peace

Posted by
Darkelf Photography (Perth, Australia) on 2 November 2021 in Lifestyle & Culture and Portfolio.


A quick break from landscape photos. There is a long existing tradition in Poland that each year on November 1 (and also extending into the next day) people visit local cemeteries throughout the day to pay respects to and commemorate friends and family members that have passed away over the years. It is called All Saints' Day or it is sometimes referred to as Day of the Dead.

In 2019 I was fortunate to experience this moving and spiritual event for the first time in thirty years. We visited the Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow to pay our respects and to breath in some of that solemn atmosphere of eternal peace. In fact, we spent the entire day catching up with family and visiting different cemeteries where our family members were buried. By the evening we arrived at the main burial ground in Krakow and this is when we really felt the mood of that day.

It is in the evening when the spiritual atmosphere is especially present, once dusk takes over and the warm glow of thousands of candles can be seen hovering over the graves. On that day there were also a bit of chill and a touch of fog in the air that made the mood even more ethereal. We tried to avoid busy parts of the cemetery when taking photos to ensure that we did disturb others in their moment of contemplation and respect.

In terms of the photo itself, I could have gone for higher ISO and take photos hand held but I wanted to photograph that beautiful glow emanating from the candles without blowing out too much of the highlights. I used multiple exposures, which I merged to HDR in Lightroom when processing. That allowed me to get good clean detail in the shadow areas, while keeping highlights well under control. I know that for many 'HDR' is a dirty word but Merge to HDR function in Lightroom is quite good actually, especially when the scene is rather static. It worked very well for me in this instance. The resulting image reflected the mood of the day perfectly for me.

It was a bit of a discovery for me as well because previously I only ever experienced this special day as a kid and on smaller cemeteries in small towns. They have their own beautiful atmosphere but experiencing it in large city, on a big cemetery, is something quite different altogether. It is not only the glow of the candles but also the quiet whispers of prayers, the subtle smell of the incense, fresh flowers and burning wax, the feeling of wet grass and touch of mist in the air on a colder day, just as we experienced it in 2019. It all works together and in some moments we did feel that the deceased loved ones were right there with us.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV 1/2 second F/4.0 ISO 200 32 mm

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