Silhouette photography works best when you have a recognizable subject that can be identified by its shape against a brighter object. (How’s that for a good photography dictionary definition!) The key to making this work is to show the main object completed devoid of any light.
Elena and I were driving along somewhere in rural Iowa (don’t ask why, I’m guessing we had good reasons at the time) and the light kept fading as night approached. (I’ve noticed this about night, the light keeps fading). I found this strip of dead trees, barbed-wire fence, and a cloudless sky and I loved how stark it was–the making of a good (identifiable) silhouette.
This image works surprising well even though the “main focus” of the stunted tree is almost centered in the frame. Centered is not normally where you want to position the picture’s emphasis (see blog, “Don’t Be Centered, Grasshopper (and Other Zen Koans”). But in this case the trees on the left and the taut barbed wire on the right continue the isolation theme. I also made a point to show more of the sky (more than two-thirds of the image) than the land (less than one-third) to create an interesting composition, or at least a restrained, hopeless, forlorn, depressed, stark, and unwelcoming composition; I was thinking of an anti-depression ad (“Is this how your day looks, then try, Reverse Silhouette where everything looks brighter against a very black background.”).