In Reflection

It’s hardly modern architecture, but Lhasa’s Potala Palace has a perfectly placed lake to reflect the building back at you and add some foreground interest.

Writing last weeks blog about balancing the light in urban photography got me thinking about photographing cities in general, and what other tips and tricks I might be able to pass on via this blog. Ive decided to try and write a short series of posts that fit into a sort of urban outdoor photography’ theme  inspired my continued irritation that Outdoor Photography magazine and the like seem to think the only type of photography you can do outside involves a lot of greenery and no Starbucks for 50 miles!

Im not sure how many posts on this I have in me (and if you have any ideas for subjects youd like to see included Id love to hear them!) but I thought Id try one on reflections this week. One of the benefits of photography in cities is that reflections (along with Starbucks) are usually far easier to come by than they are in the countryside  and often need less manipulation to make the most of when you do find them.

The combination of historical city locations often being decided by access to water, and modern city design’s emphasise on open, showcase space means that photographers can often take advantage of rivers, lakes, and manmade water features to reflect city lights back on themselves. I often find myself using reflections when shooting after dusk in the urban landscape, particularly as a way give buildings a sense of scale and add interest to the foregrounds of my images.

Modern buildings like airports tend to have amazingly reflection surfaces, particularly at sunset when the natural light is low, as in this shot of reflected lines leading into the silhouette at Heathrow’s Terminal Five.

Thanks to the preponderance of glass in modern urban architecture, and more often than not nicely tinted glass, finding ways to enhance the impact of your images with reflections is usually easily done. Whether it is in creating abstract compositions that trick the eye; using reflections to act as lead in lines to the main subject; or using the mimicry of a reflection to highlight the power of piece of modern architecture, the opportunities are many and varied.

The final benefit from shooting in the city when you are looking for reflections is the streets themselves  whether they are concrete slicked with rain (as they are pretty much constantly in London at the moment!), or marble and its modern equivalents, they offer another element to your photography

Manchester is rarely short of rain, but one benefit of wet weather is the reflections water casts on rain lashed streets!

Ive tried to make clear on here in the past that Im no real fan of relying on gear fetishism tosubstitute for having a good eye and waiting for good light  and with aiming to shoot reflections, you really dont need any special tech at all. That said, if you want to have a bit more power to manipulate reflections, then a polarising filter is a very handy tool to apply. By attaching a circular polariser to your lens, when you rotate the filter, you can either emphasise, or reduce reflections  if youre looking to add some punch to them to aid your composition, twist it one way, if you want to cut them out, twist it the other. Id recommend using polarizers that fit directly on to your lens, rather than ones that slot into a system like Lee or Cokin filter holders  that way you have maximum flexibility, better equality optics, and still retain space for other filters like graduated neutral density ones which absolutely have to go in the holder. I use this Hoya one: 77mm Hoya Polarising Filter.

Posted in Uncategorized by Nic Stevenson on July 18th, 2012 at 8:40 pm.

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