Playground basketball player Joseph Kaplan is silhouetted as he drives for the hoop in Malden, Ma. (© Michael Maher).
I watched a lone player shooting baskets on a playground, and tried to come up with a way to make such a mundane activity visually interesting. The setting sun in my eyes gave me the idea to create a silhouette of the player laying the ball into the basket. As the sun set, it minimized the light on the playground and my basketball player, but still maintained a bright sky, so I lay on the ground under the basket and used the sky as my background. A silhouette requires a background approximately four times (two f-stops) brighter than the foreground. To make this a great picture, I needed the player’s arms and legs to be fully extended, creating a silhouette that clearly outlined all the key body parts (head, torso, two legs, two arms, etc.). It was challenging for me to fit him, the ball, and the basket into the frame, but he had the toughest job, for he had to simultaneously: 1) soar toward the basket holding the ball in one hand, 2) extend his arms and legs away from his torso to clearly display an outline of his body parts and 3) avoid stepping on me. He did about between 50 and 60 lay-ups while I lay on the ground under him and the basket, shooting up at the sky. As he got tired, he had to concentrate a little extra to avoid landing on me after laying the ball in. For dramatic effect, I used high contrast to make his image extra black, and added a black border.
1) A silhouette can make an ordinary activity far more dramatic.
2) Successful silhouettes require that the background have about four times (or two f-stops) more light on it than the subject in the foreground.
3) The subject’s shape and form must be distinctly defined to create a strong silhouette picture.