I love the art of the silhouette. I have been on a 30 year rant to not let the silhouette die. This art form did not hit a popular note with photographers until the 1970s. It has never been in favor with most image makers but in the 1980s and 90s the largest number of photographers ever were creating silhouettes, and they were being appreciated by the largest audience ever. I began to see a fading in the early 2,000s and with the concept of detail everywhere (HDR, graduated filters, software manipulation etc.) sunrises and sunsets, it has been leaving us rapidly.
The truth is of course, most silhouetting is an interpretive art. It is not reality as we see it. So many current photographer/artists dismiss the silhouette in favor of deep rich skies, but with detailed foregrounds. The truth is of course, that they are courting realism over interpretation. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is the photography of the 1930s. Many take it to the next level. That is deep, colorful skies, with “total” detail in the foreground. That is more interpretive than even pure silhouettes. The reality of most images taken directly at the sunrise/sunset is, we can see those colors and limited detail in the foreground with our naked eyes.
Very “busy” landscapes (not talking silhouettes here) with complex detail are popular right now. I love such images when the details are organized, and done so in real-time at the moment of the shutter click. I admire the compositional skill to do that more than I can express. Still, I love the artful, elegant simplicity of color and shape. Light and shadows. Brightness with black.
Some silhouettes are obvious. Those are often the ones that are also simple and elegant. There is more than one way to appreciate a sunflower……or a sunset sky. Exposure? A meter reading from the brightest part of the sky was used with mo minus exposure bias. No extra contrast in the editing process was necessary.
The silhouetted shape can be any number of things, and priority can be given to the sky rather than the object (west Texas rock form) .
I’ve given MUCH priority to the sky in this one, but those silhouetted trees are very important for a contrast. They are sort of a visual anchor.
The clouds in a sunrise/sunset sky can in fact become the sole subject of an image. Dark storm clouds make that even easier. Those dark clouds are silhouettes.
When the sun itself peaks around the edges of clouds, and there is some water or land in your composition, the sun will “naturally” light a portion of the scene. I am sure this is fairly close to how I perceived the scene with my eyes at the time I created the picture. This picture is a little less simplistic and elegant than some of the previous ones. Still, the overall lack of detail makes this photo easy on the eyes. Just a little more dramatic than the others.
I love back-lit fog at sunrise. This a fairly busy, complicated scene that has been rendered elegant by the lack of detail in the trees and grasses. It is likely that my meter reading was obtained from the mid-toned areas.
From bright to subdued. I was enthralled with what was happening in front of me as I stood in the darkness. This image has about four gradations of tone within it. The light is consistent, and it is the alternating areas of fog (light) and grass or trees (dark) that bring the variation. This scene borders on the abstract, despite the fact that it is fairly obvious what the subject is.
Our theme today is silhouettes, and the dark areas of this picture are just that. This somewhat odd image, is my favorite among those I have shared in this post.
Silhouettes of animals are a favorite of mine, and they do not have to be close-ups. This bright but foggy sunrise, with a flock (gaggle?) of geese, helps me accurately tell the story of just how I felt on that autumn morning. I added some contrast in the editing process to brighten the background just a bit, while the geese got darker.
You do not have to make your pictures at sunrise or sunset to create silhouettes. All you need, is a background that is brighter than the objects you want to silhouette.
I was creating images in late morning on a foggy winter’s day. I was using three or four trees at a time, and visually separating them with my compositions, to keep the somewhat bleak atmosphere of the day….well….bleak, but uncomplicated. I was in fact creating silhouettes.
Then I saw this oak.
I love craggy old trees like this, and on a foggy day with snow in the scene, the setting was perfect to show the pure shape and character of the tree. Not even any color for distraction. This a color image, not b&w.
Photography that is popular at any given moment, comes in waves. In reality, current subjects and treatments become fads. Don’t follow fads. Share your own personal vision whether that is what everybody is doing, or what nobody is doing. That includes silhouettes.
Happy Trails, Wayne