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Reflections on Photographic Art

The more subtle reflection in this image is part of the overall image

One of my favorite photographic subjects is reflections. Reflections can be made of many different objects in different ways. A reflection can be an extreme close up view of the reflecting media and reflection itself, or it can be a more subtle part of an overall image. I have often tried to use reflections as part of the foreground interest in landscape images.

Pool - Refllection

This asymetrical reflection is used for foreground interest

Shiawassee River Reflection

Sometimes a reflection can just be an abstract image

The reflection can be about color, shape, or can be abstract.

Miners Beach Reflection

This symmetrical reflection is, nonetheless not a mirror-image

It can be a mirror image of the photograph’s main subject. It can be centered, or off-center (one of the primary exceptions to the “rule” that says one should not put the subject “bulls-eye” in the center – either horizontally or vertically – of the image is in mirror-image reflections).

Leaves on Water - Reflection

This is an image that is all about the reflection, itself

Reflections can be whimsical, or literal. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the subject from the reflection.

Split Rock Reflection

This image is already pretty interesting. The reflections give it added drama.

Sometimes the reflection is just added drama to an already pretty good image. Reflection images can be made from almost any reflecting surface, and the nature of that surface, its color, light and reflectivity will create very diverse end results.

Reflections can be made off of any reflective surface

There are guidelines for making good reflections. The most important guideline is to look for them. In every scene, there are intimate details worth exploring. One of the mistakes we all make as photographers is not to properly “work” the photographic scene as we come upon it. This is especially true when we are in new places. I am always excited to visit a new place and want to make the “big picture” or “grand landscape.” But, as I have said in previous Blogs, I like to look for the “intimate details” of a place. I have found, more often than not, that some of my more successful images have been made when I have moved in more closely and gotten less surrounding. In many cases, an interesting reflection image is only a very small part of what we originally thought the image looked like. The important point here is to search the scene for reflection images – which may not be what we thought the image was about.

Weston Vermont Reflection

A polarizing filter cuts the glare from both the water and the fall foliage

Another guideline is equipment related. The one filter I have on my lenses a large percentage of the time is a polarizer. In the context of reflections, this is going to be a required item 99.9% of the time. If you have never used one, you are going to be in for a treat. This filter is as close to a “do-all” filter as you can find (note that for autofocusing cameras, a so-called “circular polarizer” is necessary in order for the AF to work correctly). Polarizers can deepen blue skies, accentuate colors in leaves, deepen colors in water, and take the “glare” off of reflective surfaces. Like any tool, it must be used correctly and can be “overused” (for example, in some cases, over correcting with a polarizer can turn a blue sky to an unrealistic, near black). As a technical matter, what the polarizer does is filters the light waves. “Blue” light waves are short and not very “directional.” Their non-directional nature means they reflect off surfaces in many directions, causing unwanted reflections which create glare and obscure the subject. Simplistically, the polarizer only allows light rays that are parallel in one direction to enter the lens, filtering out those glare-creating multi directional rays (I know, more than you wanted to know).


A traditional, mirror-image reflection

Something that is a real plus about reflections is that you can find them in places where there is no other photograph. I have often said that I live in the flattest, brownest, most boring landscape venues in the world. Yet some of my favorite reflections have been made not far from my house. In those cases, I could not find anything photo-worthy in the larger view.

Shiawassee Reflection

This image is in a "junky" area near my home in which there is no larger landscape image

Reflections are fun and can be found almost any place and in places you might not readily think about. They can even be created, using mirrors you carry or other reflective objects. Think about looking for and creating reflective images as you are approaching your photographic subject. They may yield some of your most productive and successful images.

Newfane Church Reflection

Here is another "mirror image" type reflection which is not truly a mirror image

Thanks for reading . . . . .


2 Responses

  1. Andy, I’m always amazed by how much time and effort you put into sharing this stuff with us.

    Reflections have been a favorite of mine since I photographed one some years ago. It was a yellow birch with a double trunk and it stood on the edge of a pond. With two trunks, and a reflection in the water, it was like a double reflection. I was framing the shot in a do it yourself frame shop and another customer looked at the photo and couldn’t figure out which way was up.

    • Hi Al: Thanks for the comment and for visiting the site. When I wrote this blog, I was surprised at the shear number of reflections in my portfolio. It is obvious that they attract me. The shot of the Vermont Church in Newfane is one I never would have seen, but for the fact that Rich will generally wander around a site more than me. I was looking at all the “traditional” views of the Common and Rich disappeared. When I went looking for him, he was “eying up” this shot. I spent a fair amount of time shooting a birch tree with a bench underneath it at the same location — but didn’t like my results.

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