Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Hirshorn Museum 5 of 6
Capturing reflection is a fun and creative part of photography.  Photographs that incorporate reflection are appealing on multiple levels.  But as I was conceiving this post I had to ask “why?”  I know I enjoy shots that take advantage of reflection, but simply acknowledging the affinity is not a sufficient explanation.  To answer the question, I decided to gather the shots for this post and analyze them…what specific elements of the shots created interest, drew the eye, and why. 
The first shot (above), is an example of reflecting something that is not actually in the frame.  All told, this is a more complex form of using reflection.  The composition is dominated by the water feature at the center of the Hirshorn Museum in Washington DC.  However, in addition to the water feature, we see the reflection of the Hirshorn museum proper.  I find this shot particularly appealing because unlike most water reflected shots, the water feature has it’s own texture and depth.  The reflection of the interior walls of the Hirshorn is overlaid on the beams or channels that span the water feature, just below the surface, leading to the large hole where the water drains at the far side.
Now contrast the first shot of the Hirshorn with this one:
Hirshorn Museum 6 of 6
This is essentially the same shot, but the composition was expanded to include the interior walls of the Hirshorn rather than just reflecting the walls.  This composition introduces what I have concluded is the second way reflections add interest to a shot; repeating patterns.  Our eyes are naturally drawn to repeating patterns.  I can’t explain why we are attracted to repeating patterns, but I know it to be true.
The next photograph, from the Thames River in New London, CT, is another example of the appeal brought by repeating patterns.
Swan and Sailboat in the Mist - 2
We can differentiate some of the elements of this photo to further distinguish what we find appealing.  In this shot, the reflection is primary limited to the two principal subjects in the shot; the swan and sailboat.  Other features such as the far shore and a house emerging from the fog do not have reflections.  This results naturally in your eye falling on the sailboat, then moving to the swan, and eventually to the fog shrouded shoreline in a clockwise manner.
Now contrast the swan and sailboat with this shot of Mystic Harbor in Mystic Connecticut.
Mystic Lighthouse
In this case, the reflection runs the width of the entire composition; everything has a reflection.  If you notice how your eyes move through this shot, you will likely find that you pick something of interest such as the lighthouse or the tall ship, then your eyes will move horizontally along the waterline to take in the rest of the shot.
Returning, to the reflective form that brings something to the composition from outside the frame, this shot from Millennium Park in Chicago is a great example.
Chicago Egg
In addition to the skyline brought into the composition by the reflection, I like having a person standing under the “egg” to provide some scale to the shot.
Water is the most common surface for compositions using reflection.  Naturally, this leads to many nautically themed photographs.  The next four shots are exceptions to the nautical them and use reflecting pools (U.S. Capitol and of minaret of the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi) and the tidal basin in the case of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.
DCF 1.0 
Domes from Exterior-2
Washington Monument Refelction-2
Jefferson Memorial Reflection-2
The next group of shots focus on animals and water reflection.  Specifically, a shot of retriever entering the water with perfect form, and a pair of swan shots.  Notice with the shot of the swan and the boat how the swan mimics the boat.
Retriever at Maritime Museum - 2
Munich Swans
Swan and Sailboat in the Mist - 1
Finally, I will leave you with two nautically themed shots.  The first is of a radio controlled sailboat in the boat basin of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland.  The second comes from a fog enclosed marina in New London, Connecticut.
RC Sailboat 53 - 1
New London Marina - 1
I hope these examples of reflections in photography are helpful in understanding their appeal.  So the next time you are composing a shot with a reflection, try to understand how the reflection adds interest by either developing repeating patterns, or by adding to the composition something that is not directly in the frame.



  2. mohammed alhammadiJune 18, 2009 at 4:42 AM

    thank you crige for giving me the chance to learn from you and i hope you have enjoyed the advincher of having the agood pic for the ground mosqe