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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Silhouette

This may be jumping a bit ahead to go right into lighting design, but I want to share one of my favorite lighting techniques. I call it the 'Silhouette'.

The idea is to have a soft glow behind your plants so that the outline of the plants is defined by their shade side. It reminds me of the old comedies where they would have people with a light on in a tent or behind a curtain and their silhouette makes them look like they're being naughty... then they show the characters and they really aren't even close to each other, it was just an optical illusion. Did I lose everyone on that one?

Anyway, this technique works best with these ingredients:

- Character or sculptural planting such as bamboo

- A backdrop to catch the light behind the plant subject such as a plaster wall or smooth fence

- Wide angle, filtered, low voltage, lighting. You want the light close enough to the backdrop to illuminate and create a silhouette, but not so close that you create 'hot spots.'

I really do not like to see the source of lighting, so in-grade up-lights with a 'hood' to hide the lens from the onlooker works best. In these applications where the source is being hidden, do not waste your money on expensive brass or bronze fixtures. You want it to be hidden anyway. The black, high-density plastic ones are fine. Check your warranty and enjoy!