Silhouetted

Silhouettes can present graphically bold images. The dark outline of a person or thing can virtually jump out of the photo. For the challenge sunsets/sunrises were a common theme. The combination of a sun low on the horizon, dark foreground and brilliant colors in the sky makes evenings and mornings the perfect time for silhouettes. 21 readers sent in a total of 48 photos to the challenge. Here are some of the best examples.

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From beginner to advanced pro, the challenge is open to all skill levels. Rich Turner is one of the best professional freelance photographers in the area (full disclosure: he was once the chief photographer at the Record many years ago). He sent in several photos to the challenge and each one was a master class in shooting silhouettes. My favorite was one of Mount Diablo during sunset. When I issued the assignment, I said that you shouldn’t overlap your silhouettes lest the meld together. Turner’s photo is an exception to the rule. Diablo appears as pale purple as all majestic mountains do when seen from a distance because of the amount of atmospheric haze that scatters the light in the air between it and the camera (a Nikon D610 DSLR with a 80-400mm lens in Turner’s case). You don’t see any detail in the peak, just its outline. Turner then waited for a serendipitous moment of a trio of sandhill cranes to fly by. Being closer to the camera than the Diablo they were silhouetted black against the purple mountain. Combined with a golden orange sky made for a perfect sunset picture.

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While most of the entrants looked for found situations Darin Dennison of Stockton took a different route. He set up a silhouette of a small bronze statue of a girl blowing bubbles. You may think that’s easier than finding a picture out in the “wild” but you’d be wrong. When done well, a set up photo can take as much time, effort and thought as a found one. It took Denison about 6 hours to thoughtfully arrange his items (art glass vases in this case) and carefully light the scene from behind and below with 2 floor accent lamps. Looking at the scene he saw that there were some unwanted reflections so he blacked out 2 windows to eliminate the glare then photographed it with his iPhone. The result is a colorful bold still life silhouette that was well worth the time and effort.

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Some art may be puzzling at times, perhaps even indecipherable, but it’s designed to make the viewer think and take a second look.

Ann Scott of Stockton took her silhouette at the Maui Airport in Hawaii while on vacation. She took it with her iPad through the window of the airport’s waiting area. She captured not only the silhouetted figures of the people there but the reflection on the glass as well, creating a unique layered effect. You can tell what’s going on in the photo, but the viewer is left wondering what is real and what is just an ethereal reflection. It makes the photo worth more than a second look.

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Trees are great subjects for silhouettes especially this time of year. Their leafless limbs can stand in stark contrast to a brighter background. Teresa Mahnken of Morada used Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS digital compact point-and-shoot camera to photograph an old oak tree along Airport Way in Stockton during a recent sunset. She captured the last bits of colors in the clouds just before what’s known as the “blue hour” when the sky turns a deep indigo. The tree, dark in its silhouetted form, stands eerily out against the paler sky like some horror story harbinger.

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Silhouettes can turn even the simplest scenes into a bold artistic statement. Tiffanie Heben of Tracy used a Canon Rebel T1i DSLR to photograph a humming bird on a tree in a small neighborhood park. The upsweep of the delicate limbs of the tree lead the viewers’ eye directly to the darkened outline of the tiny bird. The beauty is in the photo’s simplicity and the perfect placement of the subject.

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 You can use a silhouette for a part of your photo other than your subject. Rick Wilmot of Lodi used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III to photograph his wife Debby under a tree at the edge of Lodi Lake during a break in a bike ride. Although dark and in the shade, his wife is still recognizable but the darker tree around her is silhouetted and it provides a visual frame for the scene.

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 Using a Nikon D51000 DSRL Dave Skinner of Stockton took this photo of a sentinel oak along the Mokelumne River on Highway 88 in the Sutter Creek/Jackson area during sunrise. The tree accents the bucolic scene of a farm as a fog rises in the hazy morning.

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 Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D90 to photograph Fort Point under the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Spurgeon captured the spark of sun peeking from around a watchtower with a lone figure standing near its base.

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 Freddie Flores used his Samsung galaxy 3 smartphone to take a picture of 11-year-old Daisy Tong during sunset at Half Moon Bay. Common practice dictates that you should never center your subject but despite having the horizon line in halving the frame vertically and the sun at dead center, the slight offset of the girl makes this photo work.

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As always readers have stepped up to the challenge with some great photographs. Stay tuned for the next assignment on Mon. Feb. 17.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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