At first glance, you might mistake today’s featured photo for a painting, a moody impressionist work that invokes a Renoir or a Monet. A closer inspection reveals it’s actually a photograph of two trees reflected in the water — one that photographer Navin Sarma took along the C&O Canal.
Capturing reflections in water is a great way to add depth and drama to a landscape photograph. But you don’t need mountains towering over a lake to pull it off. In fact, if you’ve ever shot photos across any of the reflecting pools at the National Mall, then you’ve either consciously worked the reflection into your composition or snapped away without even thinking about it.
While there is no hard and fast rule on making a good image from a reflection, there are some tips to keep in mind.
If you’re trying to get a mirror image of your subject, it’s often best to set up early in the morning when the water is calm. Shooting in the morning or at dusk is a prime time for these shots because the sun is at low angle and allows you to avoid a harsh glare off the water. The “ideal” shot is taken when there is no wind and the water is like glass.
Of course, sometimes, when you stray from the conventional method, you achieve something even more interesting. In the case of Navin’s image, the reflection is blurred because something caused the water to ripple — it could have been the wind, a passing boat or he could have thrown a rock in the water to create the effect.
I think one of the reasons it works well in this case is because Navin kept this image as abstract as possible by cropping out everything except the reflected trees and a hint of shoreline. It also appears that he rotated the image 180 degrees so that your mind is tricked into thinking the trees are standing upright.
The key lesson is don’t be constrained by the “proper” way to take photo. Use conventional techniques as a base but don’t be afraid to experiment, either when you’re taking the shot or when you get it home in your computer.
And don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t get the results you envisioned. There are certainly other factors to take into account such as f-stop and shutter speed, which we haven’t even touched in this post. You can Google “how to shoot reflections” to find plenty of tutorials.
If you’ve got a favorite reflection taken in the D.C. metro area, upload it to our flickr pool. We’d love to see it.