Backyardsafari's Blog

Environmental Inspiration in Your Own Backyard

Shadow Play August 22, 2010

I’m your follower in the light,
Yet I’m invisible at night
At various sizes I appear
I won’t harm you, have no fear
What am I?

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I was walking into town yesterday, letting my eyes roam as usual to see what there was to see. I noticed the same acorns I took pictures of for an earlier post and the way some leaves had turned brown on the branch of an otherwise green tree. These things were interesting, but it wasn’t until something dark caught the corner of my eye that I really got excited.

Shadows! Of course! Why did I never notice them before? They are almost always there, making shapes and distortions beneath our feet. Once I thought of it it seemed so obvious–go on a shadow hunt and see what different kinds you can find! I spent the rest of my walk examining the ground and comparing what I saw. It turns out there are quite a few different kinds of shadows.

The first, and most fun to look at in my opinion, are shadows of trees that really show the shape of the leaves. Some of these have defined edges:

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Some shadows have fuzzier edges:

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In some places almost all of the ground is in shadow, and instead of seeing the areas where the light doesn’t get through the leaves you see the places where it does:

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There are some areas where the shadows don’t just show leaves–the branches of the tree are also visible in shadow form on the ground!

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Finally, I decided to just watch the shadows for a while and see what happened. I noticed that when the wind blows you can see the leaves shimmying and shaking in the shadow just like you would if you looked up at the tree. It’s interesting how some parts of the shadow move and some do not!

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Looking for shadows really enriched my walk! It is definitely something I will do again and I am planning on trying to document shadows more in general–of animals, trees, cars, buildings, etc. It’s all about taking notice of the little things that are around us every day.  I’d also like to repeat an experiment that we did once in elementary school. You go out to a parking lot or side-walk at different times of day and have someone trace your shadow with chalk. If you went every hour on a sunny day, for example, you could track the way the sun moves in shadow-form and have a sort of human sundial! If you wanted you could then go out and stand in the center to see what time the shadow tells you and compare to a watch to see how close you got. I google searched and found this brief tutorial on making human sundials from Crayola.

What kind of shadows do you see? How are they changing? What catches your attention? I’d like to challenge everyone to go on a shadow hunt of their own, either on a walk specifically for the purpose or just by keeping your eyes open as you walk from your house to your car or out to your mailbox. If you see anything you’d like to share please e-mail it to askbackyardsafari@gmail.com.

So what do you see?

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3 Responses to “Shadow Play”

  1. Debi Says:

    What a wonderful idea! I’ll have to try going on a shadow hunt this week with the kiddos.

  2. […] inspires us to look closely at the objects around us and see them in a new light. Blowing leaves, shadows, and even litter can hold a secret life that might make us better for noticing them. Is there […]


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