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Friday, November 13, 2009

Eliminate the Subject...and Just Shoot the Reflection

Whenever I'm photographing near any kind of reflective surface, whether it's the surface of a pond, a store window or a shiny car fender, I try to find ways to use the reflections in the composition. I think that including reflections as a component of a larger composition adds an element of color and depth that brings an extra level of visual interest.

But reflections can also make interesting photographs when the subject itself is cropped entirely out of the frame. Isolated reflections have a very romantic, impressionistic feel, often bordering on abstraction. I shot the photo here while photographing a landscape scene of the trees that included a small bit of this reflection in the foreground. As I was shooting that larger scene, however, I began to notice some interesting possibilities using just the reflection. Within a few minutes I was so engrossed in shooting isolated views of the reflection that I completely forgot about the landscape scene. Sometimes you just have to go with the creative flow (which I guess is what creativity is all about).

There are some interesting benefits to photographing reflections, particularly when you're shooting them in water. For one, if the surface of a pond is dark (especially a very stagnant pond like this one) the colors will be more saturated. Also, if you have a breeze or some ripples (just toss a stick in the pond if you want ripples), you get an added level of abstraction. It's important though to use a relatively small aperture (I shot this at f/9 but wish I had shot at f/11 or smaller) when photographing a broad reflection to be sure that the surface will all be in focus. Remember too that you can use a polarizing filter to enhance the saturation even further by eliminating surface glare on the reflective surface (as long as the surface isn't metal).

Keep an eye open too for unusual reflective surfaces. While hanging out near the Eiffel Tower one day I noticed some interesting reflections in a dark-tinted tour bus window and spent about 15 minutes photographing them from various angles. I think I had more tourists looking and me and wondering what I could possibly be shooting than looking at the tower.

Next time you're out by a pond or walking past a large picture window, see if you can't find a shot of just the reflection. You may find out you don't need the actual subjects at all!

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