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Reflections in Landscape photography

Reflecting on shiny

Apart from the one I see every morning, I love reflections. They are a sign of cleanliness, stillness and value, but above all they are a visual treat. In the landscape they communicate the stillness in the air and increase your tones and colours. Effectively, you can have double the photograph if you capture a good reflection. Here I hope to double your knowledge about reflections and increase your tones and colours.

Composing with reflections

The landscape photo at the top is reflecting the mountains of Suðursveit, South East Iceland. In landscape compositions we often learn about the rule of thirds first. The rule of thirds is a great way to get started in many types of photography because it discourages the photographer to place the subject in the centre of the frame and it makes you understand the value of ratios. By putting the horizon on a third you are breaking any symmetry and allowing the eye to wander around easier. But when you have a good reflection, you have perfect symmetry. For this reason, a good reflection is a good reason to break the rule of thirds. Putting the horizon dead centre can be a great idea. The image above is a crop from the image below which does conform to thirds.

Mountain reflection with thirds composition

Mountain reflection with thirds composition

Photoshop fakes

The photograph below is another thirds composition where I allowed the foreground straws to overlap a part of the reflection. This helps it’s authenticity. Authenticity is important because reflections can be faked. Although the grass is no definite proof of authenticity, it is difficult to fake correctly, so most fakers leave their reflections perfectly clean. Can you spot any more evidence for authenticity? Do you think you could spot a fake?

Mountain reflection strws

Mountain reflection with careful overlap of foreground straws.


The same mountain with reflected Northern Lights – the real deal.

Reflection of colours on ice

Reflection of colours on ice at Brunahorn

Reflective surfaces

In the Nature, water is the best, but you either need low to zero wind or incredibly shallow water. Bigger bodies of water need longer periods of zero wind to become super reflective, but when they do the results can be fantastic. Smaller bodies of water become reflective quicker and very shallow water become reflective very quickly. In windy weather, wet sand is the best reflector. Ice is not affected by wind, but the reflection can be frosty with poor details although it reflects light and colours well.

Straighten up

Reflections can be useful in post-processing. If you can find a reflected point in the middle of the image, this can be used as a straightening reference because points on a reflected object will be perfectly vertical. The reflected ice in this photo from Jökulsarlon really help a very wonky image.

Straighten in Lightroom

Using reflections to Straighten in Adobe Lightroom.

The deep blue Yonder, but how deep is it?

BUY PRINT

Depth communication

Few people realise that a good reflection can communicate the distance of objects in relation to each other – their spatial relationships. Have a good look at this reflection on the glacier lagoon. Can you judge the distances between different pieces of ice and the mountains? and can you explain how you are able to make this judgement? (200 word essays accepted in the comments.)

The only time this isn’t true is if the photo is taken from close to the water level.

Close to the water

Photographing close to the water for better symmetry and less depth.

Reflected Glacier ice

Analyse this Reflected Glacier ice

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