Choose backlight for landscapes

Do you want your landscape photos to appear 3-D? Do you want the greens of your grasslands to be richer?

The way to go is to scrap the conventional “from over the shoulder” lighting and find landscapes which have the sunlight coming from behind the vista.

As I look over my landscape photos (including aerial scenes), I find that most of them are backlit. That’s a big part of what caught my attention and why I thought the vista would make a gallery photograph.

When an outdoor photograph’s main lighting comes from the sun which is behind rather than in front of the photograph two advantages occur:

  1. the colors are usually deeper on the areas where the sun is shining from behind and
  2. it gives the subjects a 3-D appearance because the sun casts shadows on the front of any objects in the photograph. A 3-D look on a flat 1-dimensional print is a great asset.

When you look at my sample photo selection to illustrate this concept, take notice of the rocks in the stream of the Hickory Run State Park photo. See the darkness on the front of the rocks and how it has them looking 3-D. Or pick out the two aerial photos and notice how rich the greens are in the fields. This is achieved because the sun is coming from behind the scenes. Notice the shadows in the photos, which confirm that the sunlight is coming toward the horizon of the scene. This is also the situation on the farm landscape made from the ground in Berks County, PA.

In the mountain pictures notice that the ridges of the vistas are set off by light coming from behind them. If the light were coming from the front they would appear much more flat.

When I’m searching for outstanding landscapes, my eye is attracted to backlit scenes. To have more outstanding landscape photographs, ignore the conventional and go for backlighting.

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