How I Do It
Before starting it might be best to think about how you are going to do this. The temptation is to take just a few well
chosen photographs and let the rest slide. Not a good idea! Or to drift around aimlessly taking pictures. An even worse idea!
Plan to take pictures of every marker. Best idea of all!
First, the equipment you will need. A good digital camera is an absolute must! If it were not for digital photography the
cost of the film would bankrupt the best of us. Currently I am using a Minolta DiMage G500. It gives 5.0 megapixels
resolution which means that it takes very fine grained photos. I shoot pictures as 'big' as the camera will allow and edit them
before putting them into the program. Unfortunately, that particular camera is no longer being manufactured. Buy a camera
with rechargeable or replaceable common size batteries! I have a spare battery (a must). Buy a camera with plug-in memory
card slots! I have a couple of Flash memory cards (another must). The memory cards should have storage capacity as big as
your camera can handle. Your camera doesn't need to cost a fortune and, fortunately, you can use it for other things. Get to
know your camera and how it works before going to the cemetery for serious work. An LCD panel on the back so you can
frame your shots is also a necessity. Be sure you can see the image in sunlight otherwise you might have to buy a hood for
the panel. Sure helps to know you have the complete gravestone in the image. One other thing, the Cemetery DataSource
program will only accept photos in the JPG format. It isn't necessary to shoot in that format but you will need an editor to
convert your photos to that format. More about editing and editors later. OK, something else. Think about how you are going
to get the photos from your camera into your computer. Does your computer accept memory cards directly? How about a
*A whisk broom is a necessity! I cannot empathize enough the value of a whisk broom. Check your grocery store where
they have the mops and brooms. If not there, check your nearest auto supply store. You don't need a full sized broom and it
would be a liability when you are going up and down rows. No matter how well the cemetery is or is not kept, there will
always be something on a marker that should not be there. Whisk it off!
*Forget the whisk broom! The stooping over and straightening back up will kill your back. I know, mine is still sore!
Instead, use a regular broom with plastic bristles. My broom's bristles are bright yellow and they hold up just fine when
moving the gopher's diggings. A bit awkward to carry with a camera, etc., but much better.
Carry a small note book! I like a spiral, four by six inch note book that fits into my shirt pocket. Need I also tell you to
carry a writing stick of some type? What good is the note book without something to write with? More about the uses later.
With your camera, your whisk broom and your note book you are ready but there are a couple of other items you might like
to take with you. Water! Both to drink and for the birds. No, not to water the birds but to help the whisk broom remove what
they leave on the markers. And some stones take a better photo when wet than when dry.
A small portable sun light reflector can be cheaply constructed. Sometimes a marker is under a bush or tree and the direct
sun light doesn't get there. Your camera probably (should?) has a flash but it might not be the best thing to use. Take the
cardboard from the back of a tablet and cover it with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Sometimes that will give the shadow you
need to read the letters on a stone. Experiment a bit and it is amazing how much it helps. If you are lucky you will have an
assistant to hold it for you. Otherwise you might need something to prop it up (water bottle?).
Almost ready but not quite! Don't try to take all the photos of a large cemetery all on one day. A 200 photo day is a good
day. A 300 photo day is even better. A 400+ photo day may be exhausting!
First things first and permission is a first. Have you contacted the cemetery and let them know what it is that you want to
do? It is better to receive their permission before you start than to find out half way through the project that you are not
welcome. This may not be necessary for a 'public' cemetery but definitely is for a private cemetery! They also might want
you to include the unmarked graves as well as the photos of the marked graves. No problem, Cemetery DataSource makes it
easy to enter the data with or without a photo.
Before taking your first shot, is there a map of the cemetery? At the Fairview Cemetery there is an excellent map on the
Maintenance Shed outside wall showing every space. Wow! Made my job easier when it came time to assign row and space
to each photo. Sure helped that I took pictures of that map, In fact, I took two complete sets of photos just in case one didn't
work out. One shooting the map vertically and the other shooting horizontally. The whole map is about four feet by eight feet!
It would have taken a lot of film but not much space on the memory card. I had to cut and paste it together but it sure paid
off. No map?!? Make one. Just a fast sketch will do and later you can use a drawing program to include it with the on-line
listing. Cemetery DataSource makes provision for including a link to such a map. (Check the county tax assessor's officer for
a map. Amazing what those people have.)
Cemeteries are usually laid out in Sections then Rows then Spaces. Sometimes there are Family Lots but they should fit into
the Section-Row-Space layout of the cemetery. Work only one Section at a time and complete that Section before starting the
next Section. The same with Rows within a Section. Complete one Row before starting another Row. Sections are not
always laid out with perfectly straight Rows like soldiers lined up for inspection. Some older cemeteries have a Circle of
Honor or something like that especially for Civil War Soldiers. The main thing is to photograph each and ever grave marker
even if you can't figure out what Row or Space it is in.
Another thing that might confuse you is that some head stones are actually foot stones. It may appear that they are in one
Row when they are actually in another. It is better to take two photos of a particular marker than none. Sometimes the
markers are scattered and you don't know which Row they are in. I try not to take two photos but it happens. Cemetery
DataSource makes provisions for locating the marker within the cemetery but doesn't require an entry for each and every
marker. However, you should always be able to enter what Section the grave is in.
Caution: Do not intermingle 'background' shots with marker photos. I keep all my general shots on one chip and all the
marker shots on a separate chip until I load them into the computer. I like to take lots of pictures of the overall cemetery
showing such things as any signs and dedication markers. All the photos I took of the Fairview map were on a separate chip
from the markers I shot that day. All these background photos I keep in a separate folder.
Pick a Section to start with. Preferably not the newest nor the oldest Section in the cemetery. One with straight Rows
would be best. You need not photograph the cemetery starting with the original Section and working to the latest. Start
anywhere. Pick something that contains about 200 markers and make that one day's photos. If there is a map of that Section,
plan your route with that map in mind. If the map identifies Row 1, that is a good place to start.
Before I take my first photo, I make some notes in my shirt pocket notebook. What Section I am in and what Row will be
the first. Even if the map identifies Row 1, I make a note about the which direction the Row runs. I then note which will be
the first marker photographed. I don't enter the entire inscription just the surname or something to identify that it is the start
of a Row. When I get to the last marker in that Row, I enter the surname or something to identify that last marker. I move
over to the next Row and note which is the last (first photo) in that row. I proceed down the odd numbered Rows and up the
even numbered Rows, taking a photo of each and every marker as I go.
Some markers require two, three or four photos. If the marker and all its inscriptions cannot be included in one photo then it
becomes necessary to take the additional shots. Typical is a marker with two or more names inscribed that is too big to be
read if the entire marker is in the photo. Take a photo of the entire marker then photos of each entry on the marker. The same
problem occurs with entries on the front and the back of a marker. Check all four sides of the obelisk type markers. Make a
note in your notebook where in the Row that particular marker is and how many photos you took of it.
Some markers cannot be read! Take the picture anyway and note anything you can read. Identify where in the Row that
marker is located such as being between two readable markers. I enter them into the program under the name "UNKNOWN"
and who knows, someday somebody may let you know who is there.
Do not try to edit as you shoot! Don't be afraid to include a lot more than just the marker itself. A lot of my original photos
have the toes of my shoes included in the shot. I always try to include any flowers or other items at the marker. I remember
two in particular. One had a pair of boots sitting next to the marker. I included the boots. Another had several beer cans both
empty and full on the marker. I moved them around so the name could be read and included them in the shot. Why not? The
shots can be trimmed, called 'cropping', during the editing process. I can always crop out what isn't needed and doesn't fit
but cannot crop in what should be included.
If a battery gives out during a shooting session, I have my spare battery all charged and in my pocket ready to change. If
the memory chip fills up during a shooting session, I have a spare formatted chip ready to insert into the camera and keep on
going. I always complete a pair of Rows before calling it a day. I may not complete a Section but my notebook will tell me
where to start the next session.
As soon as possible, I transfer the photos from each days shooting into the computer. This particular computer (HP Pavilion
ZV5000) accepts the Flash memory chips directly into a built in slot. This computer stores them in a folder in "My Photos"
named with the date of transfer (probably a function of Microsoft XP). I don't change anything about these photos. I keep
the name the camera and computer assign and the format the photos are in. But, right after transferring the photos from the
camera into the computer, I burn a CD disk with these original photos. Once my CD is done, I put the memory chip back
into the camera and format it which erases the photos taken from it. If you have photos on two disks, be careful that one set
doesn't replace the other. You might have to rename the first folder before loading the second set of photos.
There are some requirements and particularities about Cemetery DataSource that need to be understood before you get too
far. First, as mentioned before, the program will accept only photos in the JPG format. This is probably the most common
format and most if not all photo editors can convert your original photo to the JPG format.
Each photo must have a unique number. Since the program can handle more than one cemetery, each cemetery is identified
by a unique three letter combination. (Piru Cemetery is "PCD" and Fairview Cemetery is "FVC.") The photo numbers start
with these three letters then the sequential numbers starting with whatever number you choose. Plan ahead and leave plenty of
room for numbers. Don't start with 'XXX01' because you will only have ninety-nine photos! I started with "PCD0001" which
gives room for 10,000 photos. My last Fairview photo is number "FVC1313." All of this numbering and conversion must be
done before bringing the photos into the program. Once they are in the program's data base they cannot be changed! But, you
can replace a particular numbered photo with another using the same number. Make sure to use the JPG format.
There are two copies of my original photos. One is in "My Photos" and the other is on the CD disk. Before starting on the
editing, I make a copy of the folder in "My Photos" and place it inside a folder with the cemetery's name. Now, no matter
how much I mess it up, I can always go back to the original, either on my computer or on the CD.
There are at least four things your editor must do. Crop, resize, change format (if necessary), and renumber. It should also
be able to lighten, darken, change the contrast or whatever it takes to make the inscription on the marker readable in the
photo. It is amazing that the camera doesn't record exactly what we see and as we see it. You may be able to read every letter
on the stone when you are standing right there but the letters don't always standout in the photo. Learn to use the functions
on your editor and maybe you can improve the photo enough to save a trip back to the cemetery.
Cropping is the easy one. Most editors will put movable lines around the entire photo and you move the lines with your
mouse to include what you want or exclude what you don't want. Click the button and your original photo is changed as soon
as you tell the editor to "Save" it. Computer DataSource has some editing capabilities but cannot permanently change the
photo in the data base. Comes in handy when entering data into the program and you need to enlarge the photo in order to
correctly spell a name.
Resize is a bit more complex. I like to take the photos with the best detail I can. This means, besides shooting more than I
will need (that I will crop), taking a photo that takes a very large amount of storage space. Once I have the photo cropped
and edited to what I want, I need to reduce or resize the photo. Resize the photo to what the editor might call a web size
photo or something like that. Since the photo will end up on the Internet (did you think you were shooting for National
Geographic?) you don't need a lot of very fine detail. If you can read it, thats good!
Format changing can be accomplished when you save the photo. Tell your editor to save your cropped, edited and resized
photo in the JPG format. It all happens with a push of the button but if something goes wrong (you made a mistake?) you
can always go back to the original photo from either the computer or the CD.
Renumbering gets a bit tricky. First, can your editor renumber a group of photos all at once? It is a real pain to have to
renumber them one at a time. There is a very good editor called InfranView which is available on the Internet for no cost - a
shareware program. It not only can do all the above but can renumber in bulk all the photos in a folder. InfranView is not the
easiest program to use because of its being able to do so many things makes it very complex. I already had it and was using it
when I found that the author of Cemetery DataSource recommends it. (To be honest I am using InfranView only for the
renumbering function because the photo editor that came with the compute does all the rest. Even for that it is well worth the
trouble to locate and download it!)
After you have done all this, the original file of photos can be deleted because you still have them on the CD. Once you have
all the photos for the cemetery, cropped, resized, formated and renumbered, save a copy of that complete file onto the CD.
You are now ready to use the Cemetery DataSource program. My suggestion is to play with it for a while before trying to
make a permanent data base. Another suggestion is to take all the photos of the entire cemetery first, then load all of them into
the program, then upload it to the Internet. My first was done piecemeal and I still have a lot of duplicates on the Internet.
One of these days I got to do some weeding. Yes, it is a lot of work but I received a letter thanking me for the effort which
made it all worthwhile -- I think! Remember that a genealogist can pass anything but a cemetery so you might as well take the
photos while you are there. Enjoy, Jay C. Wood
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