Photo Tip: Transillumination

Transilluminated trees: sunlight is passing through some of the leaves making them glow
Transilluminated trees: sunlight is passing through some of the leaves making them glow

If you haven’t looked for it before, here’s a quick tip that can enhance your photographic results. In a word, transillumination. This means light coming through your subject.

When light comes through the subject instead of bouncing off of it the appearance of the subject can be radically altered. I’m including two photos of trees taken along the Fremont Trail in Capitol Reef National Park. In the one on the left the trees look lit up. They have a glow. This is because the sun is on the other side of the leaves from where the photo was taken and light is coming through them. In the other photo, on the right, I’m on the same side of the trees as the sun so there is no transillumination. Both photos were taken the same day, the same time of day, in the same location. The only difference was the direction I was facing and thus the angle of the sunlight. See the difference?

Frontally lighted trees have a normal, blah appearance
Frontally lighted trees have a normal, blah appearance
In the photo captioned “In Quiet Canyon” taken along the trail to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, the leaves look almost as if they are lit like light bulbs. This is because of, yep, transillumination.

Light is such an important component of making photographs that in order to make extraordinary photos it can be very useful to seek extraordinary light.

Greenery and sandstone on the way to Angel's Landing
In “Quiet Canyon”

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