Introduction: Shadow Play: Making Artful Photos With Shadows

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I love shadows! They often create artistic effects where least expected, looming from fog, on walls or forest paths. It's easy to discount them, but if you take the time to look at the dark areas cast by sunlight, as well as the light, some remarkable images and photographic opportunities can reveal themselves.

You can also intentionally create shadow effects with artificial light, of course, but I like the ones that nature offers up!

Here are some ways you can make the most of a bright day outdoors with your camera, to capture some out of the ordinary images.

Step 1: The Right Light for Shadows

The best time for shadows is in the mornings, or late afternoons. I tend to prefer late afternoon shadows, because I like the tone of waning light as opposed to the brightening light of day. But in the case of morning fog, that's a great opportunity to catch some cool light and shadows. I had never seen shadows on fog before and I thought it was pretty neat.

Step 2: Shadows for Depth

Shadows can add depth to certain landscapes, like these long tree shadows cast in the late afternoon sunlight in South Dakota. The help show the slope of the mountain om a really nice way.

Step 3: Shadows As Accents

Shadows can also provide accents, helping make an otherwise ordinary photo more striking. In the photo taken through the trellis, the shadows of the trellis walls create a nice boxed effect. Similarly, the vines of the fence might be okay without the shadows, but the shadows cast by the leaves of the vines make it pop a little more, and add another layer to the image of green vines on an old board fence.

Step 4: Shadows As Main Subject

Sometimes the shadows by themselves create the most compelling image, a casting of the thing not seen. In each of these images, there is obviously something else beyond the frame of the photos, but you only see the shadow of that thing and not the thing itself.

Step 5: Plato's Cave Photos

This "Plato's Cave" effect can be used to nice effect to tell the human story, too. I've always loved the image of the shadows of people cast on the creek bed below a boardwalk. And the image of the tabletop shadows is similar for the human presence it suggests.

Shadows can provide some fun photography experiences, and produce some surprising and unique images, if you just look for them.

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