Gallery: backlighting to add drama and atmosphere
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.George Eastman
Yes, lighting is everything in photography. It can make an ordinary subject look intriguing, while the lack of it can make an interesting one look dull.
Light that falls on your subject from the front will make it look flat and two dimensional. Side lighting is more interesting, creating shadows and bringing out textures. The last option is backlighting, something that the most basic photography manuals may tell you to avoid. Don’t shoot into the sun, they say. Rubbish, backlighting can be beautiful and dramatic, if done with care and on the right subjects.
It creates silhouettes and emphasises transparency and translucence, whether a richly coloured stained window or the delicate petal of a flower. It can form halos or bokeh patterns around your subject. And can you imagine a sunrise or sunset without backlighting? Of course not!
For Ann-Christine’s Lens-Artists challenge this week I’ve searched out some examples that I think illustrate this technique. Most are from my archives while a couple are from our recent trip to Tirana. I’ve tried to avoid sunsets and silhouettes, as I’ve shared so many in the past. Please click on any photo to open a slideshow of each gallery, with captions.
I love to photograph flowers with the sun behind them, the backlighting bringing out the detail of veins in the petals. Trees and leaves look great like this too, and even mosses.
Photographing the tracks through Bardia National Park in Nepal, beautifully backlit in the early morning sunshine, kept me occupied while waiting for the elusive tigers to (not) appear. Terri has asked to see paths and roads for this week’s Sunday Stills; I hope these tracks, being somewhere between a path and a road, will fit the bill. My feature photo was also taken here, but looking up at the trees.
Backlighting works well for fountains. You can really show off the sparkling water as the sun shines through it. The same is true of naturally occurring ‘fountain’s’, such as those produced by the elephants enjoying their bath time below. Backlighting also creates beautifully glinting water as a backdrop to silhouettes.
Light streaming through a stained-glass window is an obvious winner when it comes to backlighting, but any coloured glass can be effective, as can clear glass holding a coloured liquid. Anyone for a beer?!
Shooting into the sun can make it harder to pick out the details of any structure but the silhouette effect emphasises the form of a building. It can also add drama, as in the shot of Pyongyang’s Juche Tower below.
I’ll finish with three very different images that didn’t fit any of my chosen categories but which I couldn’t resist including, even though two, I think, have been shared before!
Great gallery, Sarah! Loved the hibiscus and the stained glass. I hope to see Devil’s Tower this summer. Your picture captures its mood.
Thank you again Siobhan 😊 Hibiscus are among my favourite flowers, I take far too many photos when I see them! I hope you find the Devil’s Tower as fascinating as I did.
Loved this study of backlit images! Especially the closeup flower and stained glass reflections.
Thank you so much Ruth 😊
Thank you Teresa 🙂
Beautiful collection of light 🙂
Thank you 😊
Thanks for that Sarah … I’m definitely going to try to take more “into the sun” photos 🙂. Your photos are proof that it can work very well – I guess I just need to get the technique right! Your orange flower photos are lovely, as well as the fountains.
Beautiful examples Sarah, I especially loved the woods with the sunlight streaming in. Very ethereal
Thanks so much Tina 😊 Those woods seem to be a general favourite!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
This is a beautiful collection of photos, Sarah. I like all of them and couldn’t choose a favorite. As a photographer, I’m not on the same level as you, but I like shooting into the sun too. Sometimes I surprise myself.
Aw, thank you Kellye 😊 I always enjoy your blogs and you illustrate them really well!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
Thank you, Sarah.
Those backlit trees, paths, and roads look so dreamy.
Thank you Rose 😊 As I just sad to Amy below, the paths in Bardia were the first thing I thought of when I saw the challenge theme!
What a gallery of backlit! All are beautifully captured, Sarah. These photos of the light through woods are my favorite! Flowers are beautifully captured. 🙂
Thank you so much Amy 😊 Those paths are the first thing I thought of when I saw the challenge theme!
So delightful and well presented, Sarah! A feast for my eyes. Including water was a perfect idea, and the paths in Nepal are bathing in gorgeous light. Even without tigers they are very very enigmatic!
Thanks so much Ann-Christine 😊 I really enjoyed this challenge, it was a great idea for a theme!
The moss, water, elephant, coffee, and bike are favorites for me this week Sarah. Beautiful written and organized for us to see understand reasoning behind backlighting.
Thank you Donna – you’ve picked out some of my own favourites there 😀
Wonderful photos 😀 😀
Aw, thank you Cee 😊
Terri Webster Schrandt
Your backlit images are varied and so beautiful, Sarah! Even the paths you chose look so inviting to explore. Its not easy to capture those water droplets–they look awesome. Have a great week!
Thank you very much Terri 😊 Those paths may look inviting to explore but not a good idea, on foot at least, when there are tigers lurking somewhere! We saw their footprints, some quite fresh, but sadly no actual tigers.
Terri Webster Schrandt
I’m with ya there, wow, tiger prints!
Amazing and beautiful backlit images Sarah. I liked the way you grouped them and that you included water. Well done!!
Thanks so much Anne, I really appreciate the nice feedback 😊
Great photos, as always, carefully selected.
Thanks so much John 😊