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Over the weekend I attended a memorial gathering at Nauset Beach. Friends and family met the day after the funeral to place her ashes in the sea. Under normal circumstances, I would never have brought my camera, but the service was for a friend and her daughter asked me to take some pictures. I struggle with taking pictures at such solemn times. In most situations my role is clear, but in this instance I wasn’t sure if I was a mourner or a documentarian. I never want to be the “asshole with the camera.” I initially staked out a location on the south side close to the gathering so I could take full advantage of the silvery fall sunlight on my subjects. But another photographer friend was already on that side, and my pictures weren’t coming out that great anyway. It felt intrusive as I was in full view of family and friends.

So I took a few steps back, in opposition to my intuition, and crossed over to the north side of the beach facing the sun. This is very tricky light, bright, high contrast with well defined silhouettes…. and it’s nearly impossible to read the in-camera light meter. So I took some guesses at metering and starting shooting.

After a few frames, I felt calm and I started to see a beautiful, solemn celebration in front of me. Taking a few steps back helped as it gave me space to look and see. I started work in a circle around the group and shot the pictures in the above slideshow.

To honor my friend and her family, I’ve chosen only to display images in which individuals are silhouetted.

One thing I noticed only after I viewed the images on screen was a cloud shaped like an angel’s wing just under the sun. I believe my friend brought us that beautiful day.