Visual Echos: Photographing Reflections

Abstract of fall color

When sounds echo over varying distances they become distorted.  I see echos visually in reflective surfaces.  The distortion can be mild, like the image of one skyscraper on the reflective window surfaces of another.  Or the distortion can be substantial enough to make the subject unrecognizable rendering it an abstraction.  Like the reflection of trees in moving water.  Reflections offer an element of surprise and wonder.  They can be unpredictable, like an unexpected reflection in someone’s sunglasses.  This distortion is a different way of experiencing reality.

Pond in Japanese Garden
Green Abstract Water Reflection

If I have difficulty “finding the zone” while I’m out photographing, I often turn to looking for a reflection.  I find this helps me shift my interpretation of what I’m seeing, and unlock my creativity.  The abstract photograph of a green water reflection above was taken as I was standing next to Peter.  I was unable to capture the serenity of the pond and found myself focusing on the green water; I chose to photograph just the color in the water.  It is my favorite image from the day.  Below are photographs of rare water reflections in Barker Dam.

Rare water reflection in Barker Dam
Sunrise over Barker Dam

A great example of seeing past the obvious is a photograph I affectionately call my “puddle picture”.  I was trying to capture fall color in California’s Eastern Sierras, and found it difficult to isolate vibrant patches of color that weren’t “hot” (overly bright) in the afternoon sun.  I started walking down a rough one lane dirt road, and stopped before a water puddle in the shade to wait for an on-coming truck to pass by so I wouldn’t get splashed.  Standing there waiting for the dust to settle, the small puddle of water the truck had just driven through also settled, and I saw a reflection of aspens and a pine tree.  I spent the next 30 minutes in a patient game of dodging cars, waiting for the puddle to settle, snapping a picture and trying again.  Below is the final abstract photograph of fall color.

Abstract of fall color

Your Turn

Find a reflection and challenge yourself to see past the obvious, or interpret the obvious in a new way.  Sometimes it’s easier to “see” when you are looking through the view finder.  Some typical reflective surfaces are:  water, windows, buildings, sunglasses, stainless steel.  I have found sharpness is important, even with moving water.  Pick a small aperture (I usually use f16).   These types of images also benefit from post-processing, especially color enhancement.  You can even find unexpected reflections at Disneyland!  To see more of photographs, go to

Reflection of Ferriswheel


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