All Saints' day at Cracow cemeteries
Memories of WWII in Poland.
by Danica Gianola
If you find yourself in Cracow, in the days between October and November, you should not forget to pay a visit to its cemeteries, along with tourist attractions, such as the underground corridors of Wieliczka salt mine, Kazimierz Jewish District, Veit Stoss Altar, Wawel HIll, medieval architecture. The rare cultural heritage, meddles with tradition and modernism, among an estimated amount of 6'000 old buildings and 2.5 millions artefacts on display in museums and churches. Melting pot of cultures and traditions, the city is a city of culture, art and science... But it's a city which still holds the scars and memories of WW2.
Poland, in fact, was the nation which really lost WW2. When invaded by Germany, over half a million fighters and 6 millions civilians lost their life. At the end of the war, the country had lost the 38% of its national assets and there were one million orphans and half a millions invalids. To add to the losses, Teheran and Yalta conventions put the country under another master and - until 1989 - Poland was within URSS orbit. Its no chance then, that the country has so many cemeteries, which are crowded on All Saints' Day: Poland suffered in any possible way.
Madej's pictures are a gateway to give a sense to the suffering encountered. Used at walking the cemeteries on All Saints' Day with his father during his early childhood, Zbooy still holds memories of that day and - during the years - he discovered the peculiar atmosphere which covers the soul. A lot changed since then in the setting: as he says, the candles were different back then, most of them were uncovered, giving more light, smoke and this particular smell of burning wax.
It is in the Nineties that Zbooy started taking pictures, with a rusty Russian Zenit SLR and a primitive Russian tripod, and a few years later he went there with an EOS camera to get a few snapshots. But the photographer realized that with full sphericals - in the digital era - he could have taken outstanding pictures. Here, you have some beautiful examples.
click here to view Halloween at Rakowice Cemetery
click here to view Remuh Jewish cemetery
click here to view All Saints' Day at Rakowice Cemetery
click here to view All Saints' Day at Rakowice Cemetery 2
click here to view All Saints' Day at the Military Cemetery in Kraków
click here to view Kraków Military Cemetery - Cross of Sacrifice
click here to view Kraków Military Cemetery - Commonwealth sectionWhich were the challenges you encountered to shot?
Remember that November can get quite chilly and wet over here and if it rains or worse yet snows on this one particular day, you're out of luck and need to wait another year.
It happened to me in 2006; I managed to get a test run on October 31st when candles just begin to show, but next day it started to pour and I could not do anything. Last year I was lucky, so November 1st, 2007, was my first full spherical session.
Fortunately, cemeteries are open through the entire night, so you can take all the time you need. In the early evening hours there's still lots of people walking around which makes it hard to get a long-exposure shot without any people. Sometimes you need to take a few photographs from the same position and then composite them in Photoshop to get a clean image. It gets more quiet at about 9 or 10 pm.
Candlelit cemeteries are very contrasty places. Lit graves are quite bright and shadowed fragments tend to fall into almost total darkness. Fortunately, Canon 5D handled it better than I expected, nevertheless you need to choose locations carefully to get the right balance between light and darkness. One of more sucessful images: is a good example, with the rhythmic pattern of candlelit crosses against the dark grass.Which were the techniques used?
Actually I had tried some HDR but I found the improvements not worth the extra hassle; +/-2 bracketing range is apparently too narrow. Careful use of masked adjustment layers with some shadow/highlight recovery in Photoshop post-processing was enough.
If I recall correctly, I used ISO 800 with exposures up to 30 seconds and apertures of f6.3-f9.0. I found out on that day my TC controller got broken and I could not get past the in-camera limit of 30 secs. I used a Canon 15 mm for 6 images around plus zenith.Any similar project at the horizon?
This year I'd like to try some close range panoramas, using 4 images from a Nikkor 10.5, and to include more people even if it means cranking the ISO all the way up and losing some quality. Funny thing is that what you learn one year you can only make use of next year. But I hope the weather will not be a problem...
Szymon "Zbooy" Madej is a 37 years old head webmaster for a major Polish commercial radio. Addicted to photography since 1980, he started panoramizing in 2001 and - in 2005 - switched to spherical technologies. Panography is his hobby but he occasionally makes some money out of it, even though he said it's far from covering equipment expenses.
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