Silhouettes: How I got the shot

February 22, 2015  •  1 Comment

 

I love silhouettes, no doubt about it, and they're my number one selling stock images.  Whenever I have the opportunity I look to capture/create one.  If you haven't created one before, it turns out, they're fairly easy to compose.  It goes without saying, and should always, you need to know your equipment and be ready!

Sometimes knowing the story behind the shot kills the image (at least for me) because everybody loves to romanticize about a cowboy!  For example, in David Stoecklein's (recently passed) images, at times, he used potato flakes to create the wintry scenes you see.  Oh man, I could stare all day long at those and wonder about how cold it was, how far the cowboy had to go to get home, etc.  And then I learned that!

I captured the images here while I was out following some friends (above) on a ride along, they were moving some cows and I'm always at the ready.  Although I can ride "on" a horse, I prefer horsepower.  To that end, I'm very comfortable when they offer to let me drive the little ranger.  We were coming back in for the day, it's late November and time is 630pm.  The sun had already set and we were crossing a very long alfalfa field.  To give you an idea of the late light, I needed the little ranger headlights on to see my way back across the field.

I had been watching the sky since the sun had set.  There weren't any clouds around and the sky was turning a beautiful golden yellow and orange.  I only had a minute to get this right.  I sped up in front of the group, hopped out, and immediately lay belly down on the ground.  This is where I usually get in trouble, especially shooting the stock events, I typically will find myself not paying attention to the ground and as a result, lay in cow poo somewhere.

Question; why did I lay down?

Answer: For composition, this is the easiest and my go-to way of reducing distractions.  Had I not laid down, you get the horizon line cutting right in the middle of your image, and as a silhouette goes, the whole bottom half of the cowboy would be a black blob.

The next thing that goes through my mind is, exposure.

How do you expose for a silhouette? 

Answer: In this situation, the sun has already set, light direction is coming from his back, and he's at a walking pace (thankfully).  I'm going to expose (quickly) for the sky above and behind him.  I was shooting in AV and had my aperture set to 5.6, I brought up the ISO to 800 letting in more ambient light and allowing me to stop the movement at 1/160sec as he's walking right into me.  Action coming at you doesn't require as quick of a shutter as it does moving horizontally across your frame.  That's it - don't over complicate it, get out and do it!

Here are the before and afters of my main image:

Before

Canon 5DMKII, ISO 800, f5.6, 1/160sec, 70-200mm @ 200mm

After Lightroom adjustments


Comments

Michael Stahl(non-registered)
Great work. I need to plan a trip!
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