Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Into the Sun

National Gallery of Art Water Sculpture
All photography is about light.  Understanding light is fundamental to good photography.  Most photography is comprised of light falling on your subject which is then reflected back to the camera.  But what happens when the light source is on the other side of your subject?  The answer is simple…a very difficult shot to do well.  However, I hope to show you it can be done well, and that developing this skill is worthy of you time.
Back lit shots can be characterized by what the light does with the subject.  There are two options – the subject is transparent and the light flows through the subject, or the subject is not transparent, and a silhouette is presented to the observer.
The following shot of the Washington monument with one of the adjacent flags in Washington DC, provide an example of the transparency version of backlit photography.
2 Washington Monument and Flag
The next shot of a windmill relic in the Arizona desert near Tucson is an example of the silhouette form of backlit photography.
3 Windmill Silohuette on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Sometimes you can combine the two and get both elements of transparency and silhouette in one shot as is the case in the next shot…a cigar and a scotch can truly inspire your photography!
4 Cigar and a single malt
The next two shots break the rules a bit.  They are both backlit shots that should have resulted in a silhouette.  However, with a little help from Lightroom and Photoshop, we get more of a hybrid version.  The silhouette still exists, but both of theses shots bring out some of the details that would normally have been lost.
The first shot is the Air Force Memorial standing just behind the Pentagon.
5 AF Memorial sillouette
The next shot is of a Mosque in downtown Abu Dhabi.
6 Mosque in Abu Dhabi
As you can see from these shots, and know from my previous posts, I have a natural bias toward black and white photography.  For backlit photography, I believe that black and white is particularly appropriate.  However, there certainly are exceptions.  For example, the shot of the flag next to the Washington monument at the beginning of this post would not be the same without the vibrant colors highlighted by the sun’s backlight.
The next two shots are also shots I chose to keep in color.  However, both are somewhat de-saturated or have a severely limited color palette.  This limited palette gives them a feel of a warmer version of a black and white.
The first shot is of the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle at dock in New London, Connecticut.
7 Eagle Silhoutte
The next shot is of a couple of fisherman casting from a jetty near Bridgetown Barbados.
8 Barbados Fisherman sillouette
For the last shot, we return to the Air Force memorial.  This shot still falls within the bounds of discussion regarding backlit shots, but it is a unique application.  It is kind of a throw-back shot that ,thanks to the world of bits and bytes, allowed me to do something with a digital camera that can normally only be done with a film camera.  So the keys to this shot were 1) backlighting, 2) taking two exposures, 3) converting both shots to black and white in Photoshop, 4) blending the two shots (by way of layers) into a double exposure.
9 AF Memorial double exposure
In the days of film, it was possible to take an exposure, then take a second exposure without advancing the film; thus a double exposure.  Digital cameras do not offer this possibility, but with a little bit of creativity, you can achieve the same effect.
I also wanted to include this shot as a contrast to the first shot on this post.  The water sculpture shot at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is very sharp and includes a lot of detail.  The Air Force Memorial shot is not sharply focused, lacks a great deal of detail, and could even cause many people to wonder “what is it?”
I hoped you enjoyed these photos.  All of the photos on this blog are available for purchase.  For pricing, send an e-mail to craigcorl@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. I love these, Craig. You even managed to make that post-modern atrocity of an AF Memorial look good!