Most landscape photographers are instinctively drawn to water, with the sea, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes offering many opportunities for great images. Water can help imply motion, reflect light and colour, and create mirror-like reflections.
A reflective surface can dramatically enhance a landscape image, particularly at sunrise or sunset when the colour in the sky is mirrored in the foreground.
Large bodies of water are best for this but they are more prone to ripples caused by the wind. Although gentle ripples are photogenic, to capture a true mirror image of the landscape you require total calm.
For this assignment, you need to capture dramatic reflections in a large body of water using the technique described below.
View the images
- Try placing the horizon centrally, it can create symmetry as well as a better sense of calm.
- Attach a polarising filter to strengthen the look of reflections in still water.
- Try using a neutral density (ND) filter to prolong exposure length and reduce, or smooth out, any ripples on the water.
- The first choice you need to make is the lens focal length. If you are photographing a big, mountain landscape you will need a wide-angle lens to capture both the mountain and its reflection. However a medium telephoto is better suited to isolating a smaller area in the landscape such as alone tree or building, along with its reflection.
- Photographers are often taught to apply the Rule of Thirds and avoid centralising the horizon as this can produce static-looking compositions. However when you shoot reflections it is often worthwhile disregarding this advice. By placing the horizon centrally you can create abetter feeling of symmetry and enhance the impact of the composition.
- Polarising and ND filters.
- Calm, still days, with a wind speed of less than 5mph are best for photographing reflections, so check the weather forecast.
- Dawn and dusk are often the best times to shoot reflections – it is generally calmer and colours can be more intense.
- A mirror-like reflection is often all the foreground you need, but don’t disregard other elements if they enhance the composition. For instance, reeds, driftwood, a jetty, rowing boats, or a few boulders in the water might help to add scale and interest. If you do decide to do this be careful that these elements don’t abruptly interrupt of overlap your reflected landscape.
- A low viewpoint will often accentuate reflections, so crouch or kneel down, use a tripod at a low height. It is normally best to setup close to the water’s edge.