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Recording reflections, Part 1 (01/30/2005)
By Tom Hirsch


     
What makes reflection so appealing? It might be that a reflection gives us a mirror image of reality; sort of a reality that is not exactly real. It is as though we are looking into another world; a world that we are unable to enter, and that's what is so intriguing about it. Fortunately, we can record this other world in pictures.

Reflections are all around us. They can be found in mirrors, windows, bodies of water, and sunglasses. Subjects that can be reflected include people, landscapes, cityscapes, skyscapes, and almost anything else.

Nature created the ideal mirror. Early in the morning, before the rays of the sun, boaters and a midmorning breeze have had a chance to disturb the water, a placid pond or lake can produce a replica, although reversed and upside down, of a scene. Interesting effects can be obtained in a photograph by splitting the frame with half the image being reality and the other half the mirror image of reality.

If the water is perfectly calm, it may be difficult to distinguish the reflected image from the real one in a photo. This can be somewhat disturbing to the viewer. You could shoot the scene early in the morning, but then wait until later in the day for more shots when the heat of the sun has warmed the air. This will cause ripples or gentle swells that will distort the reflection slightly. If the water is only slightly disturbed, you will still get the reflected image, but the reflection will be less distinct than the real-world image, and the viewer can easily tell the difference between the two.

Sometimes a reflected image is more interesting than the subject it represents. When photographing the reflection in a lake or pond, tilt the camera down at various angles and see how the image changes when you include varying proportions of scenery and water. The most effective composition might have just a small strip of shoreline. Take a series of shots with the camera tilted at various angles, then later select the photos that are the most appealing. With a digital camera, you can evaluate the photos on the spot by using the playback mode.

If you enjoy playing with the minds of those who would view your photos, try this: Photograph a scene reflected in a lake or pond, but include none of the real world in the shot, just the reflection. It will help if the water is slightly to moderately ripply. Have the shot enlarged, then display it upside down. The picture will have all the characteristics of the original scene, except that it will be distorted and reversed. If there is writing or any identifiable object in the scene, have the negative printed backwards for accurate orientation. Digital photographers who print digital photos on the computer could reverse the image by using the Flip Horizontally option in the photo enhancing program.

Now back to the serious stuff. A polarizing filter can be used to enhance the effect of reflections on water. The filter will intensify contrast between the water and scenery, brighten colors, and increase detail in the distant scene by reducing atmospheric haze. This will result in a sharper and more colorful image.

For a scenery shot to be successful, it's important to have something of interest in all parts of the photo. It is unusual for the reflection of a scene to completely occupy a body of water, so something else must be present. This could be billowy clouds, boats on the water, or a tree whose branches reach beyond the shoreline.

As interesting as they are, lakes and pond's aren't the only sources of reflections. 

 

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