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Photography at Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery

Learn the principles of cemetery and landscape photography and a bonus lesson on how to photograph ghosts in a cemetery

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Washington Photo Safari is pleased to offer for the first time a photo safari in Georgetown’s beautiful historic 22-acre Oak Hill Cemetery, with architectural photographer and WPS director E. David Luria giving instruction on cemetery and landscape photography, accompanied by a lesson on how to photograph ghosts in a cemetery!

Oak Hil was founded in 1848 and completed in 1853, and is a prime example of a rural cemetery. Many famous politicians, business people, military people, diplomats, and philanthropists are buried at Oak Hill, and the cemetery has a number of Victorian-style memorials and monuments.

The cemetery’s interment of “Willie” Lincoln, deceased son of president Abraham Lincoln, was the inspiration for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Oak Hill began in 1848 as part of the rural cemetery movement, directly inspired by the success of Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston, Massachusetts, when William Wilson Corcoran (also founder of the Corcoran Gallery of Art) purchased 15 acres (6.1 ha) of land.[2] He then organized the Cemetery Company to oversee Oak Hill; it was incorporated by act of Congress on March 3, 1849.

Oak Hill’s chapel was built in 1849 by noted architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle on Washington Mall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. His one-story rectangular chapel measures 23 by 41 feet (7×12 m) and sits on the cemetery’s highest ridge. It is built of blue gneiss, in Gothic Revival style, with exterior trim in the same red Seneca sandstone used for the Castle.

By 1851, landscape designer Captain George F. de la Roche finished laying out the winding paths and terraces descending into Rock Creek valley. When initial construction was completed in 1853, Corcoran had spent over $55,000 on the cemetery’s landscaping and architecture.
Here are samples of the photos you will get on this safari:

Among the better known people buried here are

  • Dean Acheson (Secretary of State under President Truman)
  • Ben Bradlee (Managing Editor of the Washington Post)
  • Katherine Graham (Publisher of the Washington Post)
  • Willie Lincoln (son of Abraham Lincoln, formerly interred)

While we cannot guarantee that you will see ghosts of THESE famous people, we DO guarantee that you will come away with genuine ghost pictures through our B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Sheet) Program. With techniques taught by Mr. Luria you will be able to photograph a ghost inhabiting your sheet, hovering over the graves of your choice!

To do this, you will need a camera with adjustable shutter speeds and apertures, a tripod, AND a No. 8 or No. 9 Neutral Density Filter. Smartphone users are also welcome.