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How To Photograph Reflections And Ripples

How to improve pictures you take of reflections in lakes.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Words and Pictures by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

When you think of the Lake District, visions of Lakes with wonderful, still reflections spring to mind – but there are other reflections in the Lakes as well that make great pictures – here we take a look at a range of reflection techniques.

Still Day

Firstly, for those classic lake shots with mirror-like reflections. Your number one requirement is a still day (and I'm writing this with 25mph winds outside my office window!) So check the weather forecasts, sunny or cloudy makes little difference – what you're looking for is calm. Look at the direction of the wind and get out the maps, if you have 6mph westerly winds, the western shore of a lake with a high hill next to it should still be in the lee of the wind, and there should still be plenty of reflections.

Blea tarn autumn
Blea Tarn in the Langdales is a great example, it's not often calm over its entire expanse, but a light southerly wind often leaves enough calm water at the south end to achieve good reflections with the Langdales in the background. Similarly, small tarns, such as Tarn Hows are set in a hollow, surrounded by hills, so can often be sheltered.
Remember, winds are often lighter and lakes calmer early morning, so early alarms might give you a head start.

"Mirror-Like" Reflections

The "mirror-like" reflections the eye sees doesn't always translate into as successful a picture, the reason being that reflections off water are usually between 1½ and 2 stops darker that what is being reflected in it. I usually use a Lee filters 0.45 or 0.6 hard-edged grad on the top of my picture – pulled down to the far shore. The 0.45 typically keeps the “reality” still slightly lighter than the reflection, but balances up the brightness to what we perceive to be right; the human eye has a much greater contrast range than the digital sensor (or film), so we “see” reflections as perfect.

Sometimes, the surface of the lake may have ripples part-way out, but the nearer water is calm, to maximise the amount of reflection, shoot from as low a viewpoint as possible.

Derwentwater early morning Loweswater, multi exposure to remove ripples

Abstract Shots

The reflection on it's own can make interesting, slightly surreal images, especially if you rotate it through 180 degrees so it appears more as altered reality.

Once you have got some good reflection pics, when the wind picks up a bit, don't simply pack your kit away – keep shooting the distorted ripples and reflections and create stunning abstract pictures – all you need to ensure is that there are some interesting shapes reflected in the water. Remember though, ripples change constantly, so don't limit yourself to taking one or two – thirty or so will give you so much variation of shapes that you should find a couple that really work – but don't forget to delete the others!

Boat Reflections Reflections at the edge of a waterfall
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