Foreshadowing is a tactic used by story tellers, writers and film makers to hint at a plot twist or something that is going to happen later in a story.
It is a way to hold the interest of the listener, reader or viewer as well as move the story along.
It can also be used by photographers to add interest to their images by providing contrast and visual tension.
In the case of photography, the term might be better described as foreground shadowing because you are making use of a shadow in the foreground of the image.
Shown above are two techniques that use foreground shadows to enhance an image.
The top image was made at Boston Mill of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 during a photo runby on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
The shadow in the foreground resulted from the sun sinking behind the hills and trees behind me.
In this image, the shadow has the effect of covering what otherwise would be empty space.
The reader’s eye is naturally drawn over the shadow to the locomotive, which gleams brightly in contrast to the foreground shadow.
Many photographers would rather that their trains be pristine, meaning free of bystanders cluttering up the environment.
But the 765 was executing a photo runby and the people watching it are part of the story being told by this photo.
Most of those along the tracks watching are also spotlighted by the late day light.
Another way to use foreground shadowing is to allow clouds to provide it.
That is what is happening in the middle photo above that was made of a Wheeling & Lake Erie train awaiting a new crew west of Norwalk.
When I arrived on the scene, a cloud was covering the train in shadows. But the cloud began moving and the shadow moved with it.
What does this foreground shadow add? Compare the middle image with the bottom one.
In the bottom image there is some cloud shadow in the field about half-way between where I am standing and the train.
The foreground shadow of the middle image softens the harshness of the green of the corn crop. Although this image was made just after 4 p.m., the sunlight is still harsh because it is late June.
The foreground shadow also creates a slight illusion of shortening the distance between where I am standing and the train.
As in the case of the image of NKP 765, the foreground shadow also draws the viewer’s eye toward the train because your eyes pass over the shadow. The foreground shadow creates visual tension, which encourages eye movement.
Foreground shadowing is not necessarily something you can set out to create in your photographs.
In the case of the 765 shot, it was a matter of timing. The photo runby occurred when there was still enough direct sunlight to illuminate the train.
Had it occurred a few minutes later, the shadows would be covering the train. As it was, there are some shadows from the trees on the 765.
In the case of the W&LE train, I had the right cloud conditions. I would not have been able to use foreground shadowing in the W&LE train image had it been a clear day.
As is the case in making any image, shadows can hinder your shot or they can be your friend if used in the right way.
How the shadows fall is something to watch for in the environment next time you are out trackside on a sunny day.
Photographs and Commentary by Craig Sanders