One of my favourite things to shoot are sunsets, and while sunset are fantastic on their own, they also provide a fantastic opportunity to capture interesting silhouettes. Silhouettes provide sunset images with something even more dramatic than a fiery red sky, and the stronger the subject used for the silhouette, the more dramatic and interesting the image becomes.
Examples of potentially good subjects for silhouettes at sunset are: trees, people, bridges, tall and interesting architecture, farm animals, horses, piers… the list goes on. Just make sure that whatever you choose as a subject for your silhouette has a strong, recognisable shape. The other thing you must ensure is that the subject is fairly isolated within the frame, if not the shot will become a cluttered mess of silhouettes with nothing distinct or recognisable!
Silhouettes are a relatively simple thing to shoot, fundamentally all you need to ensure is that there is more light behind the subject than there is in front of it. With a sunset that’s pretty simple – if it’s between your camera and the red sky, then chances are, taking a photo of it will make it a silhouette!
Here is what I do:
That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s not very complicated – in fact, the most complicated thing is trying to find nice, strong subjects to silhouette.
Just because the redness of the sunset has fallen from the sky doesn’t mean that you have to stop shooting. Hang around for a while and shoot your subject as the light in the sky goes from red to deep blue – it makes for some interesting shots. All you need to do is continue to adjust exposure for the sky.
The following shot was taken about 10 minutes after the one at the top of the page. It combines silhouette and reflections in the same shot, and looks just as interesting as the first shot.
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© All text and images copyright 2013 Gordon Mackay. All Rights Reserved.