Aerial and 3D Imagery of Cemeteries

In preparation for our latest tour, ‘Beginning at the End: Exploring Richmond’s Historic Cemeteries’, we have been taking drone shots of the historic sections of Richmond’s two major cemeteries, St Luke’s and St John’s. St Luke’s was the first cemetery established in Richmond with the first burial occurring over a decade before the church was built – on a different site. The first burials at St John’s pre-date the church too.

These aerial photos have been an effective way to understand the layout of the cemetery and see how one grave lies in relation to another. The orientation of some of the graves is a little off at St Luke’s as you can see in the image below.

Orientation Slightly Off

Two of the earliest graves are in the middle on the right hand side. One headstone has fallen over. Other graves on the left and at the top have a different orientation and those in the bottom right of the picture have a slightly different orientation again.

Drone shots of St John’s Cemetery reveal interesting information too. In the image below you can see the crumbling cliff very clearly.

Riverbank Erosion

There is at least one headstone partway down the cliff, outside the wire fence which makes you wonder how many more graves were lost. A famous child’s grave was relocated when it was found to be in danger of being lost over the edge in 1948.

Taking the drone shots was challenging. The first attempt (which was at St John’s Cemetery) involved setting the camera to take an image every two seconds while flying the drone manually. This resulted in some 123 images, each slightly different from the next. Then, the images were uploaded onto software which would organise and stitch them together to provide a 3D image. It was several hours’ wait for the software to do its thing, but the result was incredible. We could see the cemetery with all its hills, paths, bushes, bumps and imperfections. The only drawback was that the headstones ‘melted’ if you zoomed in too close!

Our second attempt (we tried St Luke’s this time) was much more methodical. This time, the drone was flown in an automatic grid pattern, set at a height of 30 metres. This provided a much more organised and logical set of around 136 images for stitching into a 3D master. There was one particularly hairy moment when it looked like we would lose the drone into the top of a tree and only ended up clearing it by centimetres! Different software was used to make the 3D master below. There are instructions at the bottom of the file for how to pan, rotate and zoom the image.

Three-dimensional view of St Luke’s Cemetery

You can zoom and rotate this 3D image. Click on ‘click here’ at the bottom of the image for instructions.

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