Sunday, October 1

Why I Love Backlighting

As I worked in the garden for a while today, the changing colors of the doublefile viburnum kept catching my eye. I love this shrub in all of its incarnations... when it holds its delicate spring flower sprays lofted, when its thickly serrated green leaves sway in the summer breeze, when it starts to turn a dark reddish purple in the fall, and when its horizontal branches catch dustings of snow in the winter.

The jewel-like reds and purples were quite dazzling in the sunshine, playing off the deep color of some nearby purple-leaf heucheras and the reddish brown carex buchannii. I took some time out from fall planting and ran inside for the camera. I walked around the shrub from West to East, taking several pictures from different angles before bringing the camera back to safety inside.

Tonight, when I went to download the pictures, I was amazed at the difference in the way the shrub looked frontlit vs. backlit. On the first picture, you can tell that the bright sunshine is coming from the front and is washing out the leaf colors a bit. You still do get a sense of the darkness of the reds and the deepening purples, though. You see the serration on the leaves, the branching structure, and even some grass in the background. On the flip side, you don't catch any of the "glow" that was so enchanting me every time I walked past the shrub.

In the second picture, taken within a minute of the first, the shrub is backlit. This is a much more warm and dramatic way to see the colors of the leaves, and you don't have to imagine that the leaves can actually glow. You see it with your own eyes. You still see the serration and a little bit of the background, too. In the interest of truth I must admit that the backlit pictures aren't 100% accurate, either, however. In picture #2 the shrub shows way more orange and yellow tones than I saw in real life.

That said, it still seems to capture the spirit of what I was trying to take more so than the first picture does... maybe it just better represents the feelings of wonder and magic with which I tend to view my garden?


Philosophical Karen said...

Capturing the light (and true colours in the light) is one of the hardest parts of photography, I find. It's so interesting to compare the different qualities of light on the same objects though.

Especially in the garden. ;-)

Alice said...

Wonderful posting. I agree with Karen that capturing the light in photography is so difficult. Sometimes I will take dozens of photos of the same scene in the hope that I can capture that glow. As you mention, plants look so different from various angles and with differing lights.

I also take many photos of sunrises and sunsets, trying to convey all their colour and beauty, which changes by the second.

Annie in Austin said...

Kim, this is a wonderful demonstration of backlighting. You've made me think about how to use this idea whenever we finally get around to doing something with the front yard.

It seems since the front of our house faces northwest, that a small tree/large shrub would be backlit in summer by the sunset for anyone sitting on the veranda. Oooh - the possibilities! Thank you!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Unknown said...

Karen and Alice, I agree... it definitely is tough! I know that I have a "low tech" digital camera--no extra lenses and such--but it just kind of boggles my mind when I can't get what my eyes see recorded in a photograph. (Even if I take multiple pictures!)

Annie, I'm trying to do that, too--the heucheras are between me and the setting sun every day, and I really like the way the light works with them. Same with the Japanese bloodgrass, and the Japanese maple. Somehow, the reds just seem to always look nice that way! I need more of them. :)

Kati said...

Karen mentions the difficulties and frustrations of trying to photograph light and colour. I think capturing the colour of fall leaves, which when back-lit appear to be lit from within, will always be something I will strive to perfect. I haven't got it yet.

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