Digital Photography Photography Places

Highgate Cemetery, London

Highgate Cemetery website

If you’re visiting London and you want to escape into a cool, green space while learning something interesting and being somewhere a bit different, Highgate Cemetery is the place to go.

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I’ve been twice so far. The first time it was a beautiful sunny day; in photography terms this meant a lot of contrast to deal with. The second time it was raining so hard that rivers of rainwater were running down the paths, the guide said he’d never seen anything like it, and a lot of people on my tour just gave up. Not ideal for photography.

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It’s split into two sides; the east side you can visit fairly easily, you just pay a small entrance fee towards upkeep, it was £12 for an adult last time I went. Here you’ll see the graves of Karl Marx and Douglas Adams amongst others. If you want to see the west, older side of the cemetery, you’ll have to book. You get a knowledgeable tour guide to show you around though, and on both guided visits I’ve found the whole thing fascinating.

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It’s a great place to take photos, but be aware that you can’t usually use a tripod and being so overgrown in places it’s very dark and shady in some spots. If you’re using film you’ll need to use a reasonably high speed. If you can’t decide on film or digital, in this case I’d go for digital as there’s a lot of contrast on a sunny day and you’ll tend to get a better dynamic range with most digital cameras. But obviously it all depends on the visual result you want.

I’ve noticed that The Royal Photographic Society sometimes organise photography trips to Highgate Cemetery and if you’re a member and manage to get on one of those trips you might be able to take a tripod.

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Douglas Adams; for me, the most loved person buried here as evidenced by the amount of tiny gifts, whole pots full of pens, and general bits and pieces left here.

So for all my talk of results in terms of photography, I haven’t really done much with these images as yet as you can probably see. I have a lot that I would like to desaturate to create a set of black and white images. But I cannot escape the fact that that is what most people do and so maybe I should avoid it. I have a much better camera with really fast lenses now and so when I go back again I might be able to get better results.

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Obviously, check the website before you go to Highgate. Always remember you’re in a graveyard and there are people there who are visiting the graves of relatives and loved ones, so respect their privacy.

I hope that goes without saying!

5 comments on “Highgate Cemetery, London

  1. Melissa Selena

    I know what you mean about desaturation, I tend to shoot black and white in-camera or on film when I’m at a cemetery. I have shot colour film before but it didn’t feel right, however I think your images are lovely… I might have to give colour another go! Great post, might have to visit Highgate soon 🙂 Have you been to any of the other Magnificent Seven?

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  2. Instead of fully desaturating, try doing it partially – it creates a nice, soft effect. You can also adjust the overall colour-tint.

    I last went to Highgate Cemetery in the 1970s, I think. I was born in and lived most of my life in London, but moved over a decade ago to rural Wales which is where I now live.

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    • That’s a good idea Val I will try that. What part of London are you from? I’m from west London and moved to Dorset 18 years ago. I love living in Dorset but miss London a lot so I visit as much as I can. I used to go to Wales every summer with my children, it’s very beautiful and in the summer a lot quieter than Dorset which I appreciate!

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      • North London – last place I lived was near Finsbury Park. I used to holiday in Dorset each year with my family, in Bowleaze Cove near Weymouth. Lovely county! These days I rarely miss London as it had already changed too much for me, but there are certainly parts of it I miss.

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