The backlighting in this photo was so severe that even though the highlight area is overexposed, the shadows are still practically pitch-black. I shot this with a film camera; a Leica if I recall. Imagine the result if I used a digital camera or a more flare-prone lens!
Regular readers of this blog know that I have a thing for dramatic shadows and that I don't much care whether they have any detail in them or not. In fact, depending on the composition, the less shadow detail, the better. Dark shadows force the eye toward the highlights, the shapes they form, and their texture. This means the highlights have to be worth looking at, of course, but assuming they are, it can make for a decent photograph.
One of the best ways to get the sort of deep, dramatic shadows I'm talking about is to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky and the shadows are long. The challenge, as with the example above, is that the sun can reflect off of dark surfaces such as asphalt or, as in this case, dark gray tile, with a mirror-like intensity. I don't care how much dynamic range your camera has, it's still tricky to find the right exposure balance between washed out highlights and inky black shadows. The one tip I can offer is to remember that it's an esthetic judgement; a matter of taste. The "right" exposure is the one that looks right to you.
The light is softer in this example and my subject is indoors, but the same principles apply: The hightlights reveal form and texture against a background of deep shadow. Anyone whose feelings were hurt by the preceding film example will be relieved to know this one was shot with a DSLR.
Backlighting exists indoors as well. The most common situation is when a subject is positioned with a window immediately behind them. Depending on the size of the room and the brightness of the walls, the room may provide a natural form of shadow fill. The more acute the angle of the backlight, the brighter the fill will need to be to compensate. If you're looking for drama though, skip the shadow fill and just make sure the highlights are where they need to be.
Indoors or out, you may occasionally find that the angle of the light is such that it intrudes into the frame, causes lens flare, protective filter flare, or all three. This too can add drama and character to what might otherwise be an average photo. When you practice "bleeding edge" photography you risk getting cut, but if you're looking for dramatic lighting, the rewards are well worth the risks.