ASSIGNMENT+TIP #35 REFLECTIONS
If there is a single theme that can be used as inspiration in many fields of photography, it is REFLECTIONS. From landscapes to portraiture, from street photography to fine art, using reflections can be a powerful way to create aesthetically pleasing and interesting images.
This month, we get inspiration from the work of Saul Leiter, an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s was an important contribution to what came to be recognized as the New York School of Photography. His original vision of the city, often abstract, transformed the urban scenery into a dreamy like place where different realities are merged by refractions and reflections. His photographs were often taken through windows, reflected in mirrors or blurred by rain drops falling on car windscreens.
Like Leiter, if we stop to look around us, we are likely to see an infinity of reflective surfaces on windows, mirrors, metals and water. The key is to train our eyes to spot them. Do that even when you don’t have a camera with you. Take some time to see life unfolding on the streets through a coffee shop window on a rainy day and observe the juxtaposition of elements that can be seen on the glass surface: the indoor image, the outdoor image and the glass itself, all layered together.
The second step is to start looking for interesting compositions, combining these elements into the frame of your viewfinder. On a technical aspect, reflections involve multiple focusing planes or (layers). To guarantee that all these planes are in focus, it is necessary to use deep depth-of-field by closing the aperture of your lens (large f/number). This also works when you are shooting through a window and want to show both the glass surface and the background/foreground in focus.
As you change the aperture settings, you will need to adjust the shutter speed too, so keep an eye to maintain a shutter speed that is fast enough to hold the camera still and, if needed, increase the ISO or use a tripod.
If your intention is to blur one of the planes, do the opposite and use shallow depth-of-field, by choosing a wide aperture (small f/number) and focusing on either plane you would like to see sharp. You might want to use manual focus for that, since the auto-focus function can get a little confused, keeping sharp the plane you did not intend to.
To light the spark in your brain, we prepared a Pinterest board to scroll and study with some examples of reflections and photographs shot through windows that might be useful to you.
If the spark does not happen don’t worry, we have all been there. This article by Antonio Leanza will help you unlock your creativity and demystify the creative process, getting through any “creative block’ you might be experiencing.
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Top Photo credit: Saul Leiter.