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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Silhouette the Landscape

In previous posts I've talked about creating silhouettes from isolated subjects, but there's no reason that you can't take that idea to a larger scene--namely the landscape. Essentially the process is exactly the same, you find a dark subject against a light background and expose for the lighter area. Finding landscape subjects for this kind of treatment is a bit tricky and the best place to look (did you guess already?) is along the edges of hilltops.

Because hilltop landscapes (a row of barren trees, windmills, a lighthouse) are situated against the open sky, they're easy to silhouette. I found this farm scene in a rural corner of Iowa and I envisioned it as a silhouette from the moment I spotted it. I worked the scene from a lot of different angles and with several focal length lenses, but I knew that I wanted three main elements in the scene: the tree, the edge of the barn and a cow. The cow was the tricky bit because every time I fine-tuned the composition, she went for a walk. I had to wait almost a half an hour for her to walk into the frame where I wanted her (I was starting to wish I had a cardboard cow to substitute for her). The line of the fence tied the whole scene together.

The only editing that I did to this image (all in Photoshop CS3) was to enhance the contrast a bit (using the curves too, but the brightness/contrast adjustment would have worked) and I also used the selective color tool to clean up the white sky a bit. One last tweak that I made was to use the midtone slider in the levels control to bring up just a hint of green in the foreground grass. But to be honest, the silhouette straight out of the camera would have been very close to what I wanted.

Don't be afraid to tackle more complex scenes as silhouettes because the results are usually very interesting and it's easy to tweak scenes like this in editing.

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