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“The best way out is always through.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reflect on Less Conventional Compositions

In some ways photography can be a very literate graphic medium: if you aim the camera at a sailboat passing through the sunset everyone will look at your photograph and know exactly what you had in mind when you shot it. But just how obvious your subjects are is really up to you--they can be literate and straightforward, or you can spin them slightly into the abstract.

One way to turn away from reality a bit is to literally turn away from your subject and look for its reflection. You can find reflections in some of the most unexpected places--shiny car fenders, polished car hubcaps or even in the surface of a puddle after the rain.

I shot the photo here in Galilee, Rhode Island (a beautiful New England fishing village if you're looking for one too shoot) during the peak of a very colorful sunset. But after spending about 20 minutes watching the sunset get more and more intense and framing it against very common subjects like the rigging on fishing boats and a ferry boat passing by, I wanted to find something that would capture the color and drama of the sunset in a dramatic but more freeform way. As I walked along the pier between giant fishing boats, I noticed that the sunset was reflecting in the almost quicksilver surface of the water and so I tried to shoot photos of just the reflection--but something was missing. The shot could have been made anywhere and I wanted it to have some connection to the locale.

Then as I came out between two boats tied to a narrow dock, I saw this rope hanging down into the sunset from the side of a fishing boat and it was exactly what I was after. I don't know if anyone else gets the sunset/fishing boat connection, but because of the snippet of the boat in the shot, I'll never forget where I shot it. The waterline stripe on the boat and the rope bring back the moment perfectly for me. I've made other similar shots of reflections to get the same effect--once photographing the Eiffel Tower in the reflection of a tour-bus window and another time photographing neon signs reflecting in the windshield of a car in Las Vegas.

Sometimes turning away from your subject and looking for reflections is the best way to find new viewpoints. Not everyone will appreciate your flights into whimsy, but who cares. It's a great exercise in expanding your creative reach.

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