Documenting Life’s Moments

Thus far, I’ve covered, straight and gay weddings, babies (no births yet), kids, sports, still life, landscapes, portraits… but one area that I get nervous about, are funerals. I am starting to get much more comfortable doing them, and I guess it’s normal for Asian cultures to document them. The two that I’ve been to, thus far had a lot of photographers there. This time since it was a close aunt of mine, I volunteered to document it. Aside from weddings, funerals are the only event where family from far away really get together. I’ve always thought that the photographer at the funeral would be the most hated man present. It’s kinda of like having the paparazzi there during moments of grief, why on earth would you want to have your picture taken?! But I guess it’s not so bad if you do it right.

I went with a very non traditional approach. I hung out in the back like a fly int he wall, used no flash, and just scanned the room for important people (eldest sons, the widow, close family members), and took candids to basically document the event as I saw it. No walking down the aisle at the church, flashing all over the place, interrupting people. I thought that would be very rude, so I did end up getting a lot of the backs of people’s heads or the side. There were some moments that were just too sad, and I felt it would dishonor everyone if I was just snapping away. In hindsight, looking back, I was thinking man, they would of been some fantastic emotional shots, but there comes a point where there’s a trade-off between what you actually want, and what think should be morally correct.

But as I look back at these photos, I really just can’t be impartial. With my parents getting older, I do feel that within the next 10yrs, I’m going to be in the exact same shoes as the people in the funeral party, so it’s generally an emotional and taxing undertaking to document these events. One thing I did learn from this though. Always, always have a wide angle lens handy! You never know when you’ll need that one shot. The problem is unlike weddings, where you have the luxury to some extent of bringing more year, you’re limited to what you have on your person. Switching or going back and forth, and like with most ‘events’, you’re liable to miss an important shot. So for beginners, I’d suggest one very good zoom that’s relatively fast. (an aperature of 2.8, or something with IS (or VR in Nikon-speak). However, remember image stabilization ONLY attempts to mitigate your own shaking and movement. Not other people’s shaking and movement. A common misconception is you can take low light pics with a lens and use IS/VR as a crutch, but remember other people, mainly your subject, will be moving as well, so it doesn’t matter how much shake you can stave, the outcome most likely will be blurring of the photo. My general technique for that is to tuck my arms in and lock them, hold my breath, compose, and shoot.














“The Funeral Party”

Two pale figures
Ache in silence
In the quiet ground
Side by side
In age and sadness

I watched
And acted wordlessly
As piece by piece
You performed your story
Moving through an unknown past
Dancing at the funeral party

Memories of childrens dreams
Lie lifeless
Hand in hand with fear and shadows
Crying at the funeral party”
  -The Cure


About greenbeanfx

Photography is what I do =) If you wish to contact for a photoshoot, send me an email or comment on a blog with your info and I'll get back

Posted on June 27, 2009, in Aperature. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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