You can see by the lens flare that I was almost shooting into the sun.  This means most of this shot is in the shadows.  Normally shooting into the shadows produces less dramatic results than directional light from the side or rear quarter.  Especially if you have bright blue skies to expose for.  But in this case the shadow worked because it set a darker base for the glow to contrast against.

Nikon D300, 18-200mm  F4-5.6 VR,  @F10  1/500th  18mm  ISO 200

 

When enjoying photos you occasionally come upon an unusual one that leaves you asking “Why does it work?” or “Why does it look like that?” It can be a fun an educational exercise to examine the photo closely, break down the elements and figure out what makes turn out like it does.

I took this shot strolling through a temple complex in Suphanburi Province.  I took other, stronger photos, but looking at it after the fact something always attracted my attention to this one.

After some thought I figured out that what grabbed my interest is the glow effect which is very unusual.  It’s the lighter areas that are surrounded by the darker areas.

You can see by the lens flare that I was almost shooting into the sun.  This means most of this shot is in the shadows.  Normally shooting into the shadows produces less dramatic results than directional light from the side or rear quarter.  Especially if you have bright blue skies to expose for.  But in this case the shadow worked because it set a darker base for the glow to contrast against.

The glow itself is the most mysterious.  It seems to be coming from inside the “bell” of the roof and manages to only illuminate the words of the sign at the entrance.  It also seems to reside on the tiles on the front of the “bell” and the gold scrollwork around the frame of the door.

Trying to figure out how this glow occurred and why it comes out the way it does was a challenge.  After much contemplation my best guess is that this “Bell” is catching reflected light from the roof.  Most of it coming from the rear which explains the glowing rear corners.  The shape of the bell is such that it gathers light and reflects it back down fairly evenly in a diffuse manner.  Since the structure is in shadow the light coming out of the bell is strong enough to make a difference where it falls onto the darker foreground.

The fact that only the words and scrollwork are illuminated is because of the secondary shadows cast by the eaves of the lower roof.  The light only comes through the break in the roofline above the door.  But it is subtle and diffuse enough to not be readily obvious which contributes to the mysterious glow.

The glow on the tiles on top of the roof is a little more subtle and perhaps more mysterious.  Why isn’t the entire top evenly lit?  My best guess was that I got lucky with the clouds.  If you look on the lower roof on the right hand side you see some evidence of direct light hitting some of the tiles.  I’m guessing the clouds were just right to allow some light, but not too much on that spot.

Adding to the picture are the dragons on the top of the bell are in shadow which contrast them against the bright blue and white of the sky by them.  This adds another level of transition and interest.

While not related to the glow the wide angle (about 28mm Full Frame) tends to emphasize the closer glowing parts of the photo as well as spread the clouds out giving the feeling of motion and energy.

There are a lot of things you can take away from this shot, but the biggest lesson is to look more carefully and think about all the possibilities when shooting or scoping out a location.  Normally shooting a very detailed object into a shadow gives inferior results but if the conditions are right and you can get enough light in the shadow to provide interest it can give a completely different effect.