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Photographing Reflections

Photographing Reflections - Reflections are all around but you need to tune your vision to spot them easily.

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Category : Landscape and Travel
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Words and images by Robin Whalley - www.lenscraft.co.uk

When you first start thinking about reflections, Lakes and Ponds spring to mind. While these can look stunning, it’s often difficult to find a large body of water that’s still enough to give a good reflection. As a general rule of thumb, the larger and deeper the water, the less likely it will create a good reflection. There are however notable exceptions such as Wastwater in the Lake District, which is well sheltered by surrounding mountains and often boasts fabulous reflections. Take care though; too perfect a reflection and people will question whether it is real.

In this shot of a glacial lake in Iceland the icebergs help deaden the surface and create a near perfect reflection.
In this shot of a glacial lake in Iceland the icebergs help deaden the surface and create a near perfect reflection.

Superb reflections on Wastwater are emphasised by the golden light of the evening sun.
Superb reflections on Wastwater are emphasised by the golden light of the evening sun.

When capturing reflections on the surface of lakes and ponds, filters are often essential. The Wastwater reflection shown here used a 0.6 Neutral Density graduated filter to balance the exposure of the brighter sky with the darker reflection on the lake. Without the filter the shot would lose much of its impact. A word of warning though, in nature reflections are darker than the subject they are reflecting. It’s therefore possible to use too strong a filter and your image will look false.

The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, Manchester
The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, Manchester.

Urban locations also make great hunting grounds for reflections. In this shot of the Lowry Theatre reflected in the Manchester Ship Canal, the surface of the water was quite choppy. The distance of the object from the camera has helped reduce the effect of the choppy water. A long exposure and the use of HDR have also helped to smooth out the ripples and create a much better reflection. If you want to have a try at something like this make sure you take your tripod along. A lightweight model such as those found in the Manfrotto 290 Series would be ideal and ePHOTOzine members currently have the chance to win four 290 Series tripods in our exclusive competition.

Reflections in puddles
Puddle reflection.

You don’t actually need much water at all to capture good reflections. Puddles and wet pavements are often great for reflections due to being very shallow. It was the red of the neon sign that caught my attention in this shot. I used a wide aperture to limit the depth of field, allowing me to focus on the reflected sign whilst throwing the surrounding pavement out of focus.

Clouds reflected in the Urbis building, Manchester
Clouds reflected in the Urbis building, Manchester.

In fact you don’t need water at all. Many modern surfaces such as chrome, steel and glass are great reflectors. These can often be enhanced by boosting the contrast of the image as reflections have a lower contrast range than the subjects they reflect. A quick tweak in Photoshop using a curves layer made the clouds reflected in this building literally pop out.

When you take the time to look around you properly there are literally reflections everywhere. All you need to do is get out, tune in and start shooting.

Robin Whalley.

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