Let’s take time for a little reflection.
A reflection in a landscape can be the difference between a really nice image and an amazing image.
Picking the right time and the right location to get that amazing reflection is most important. Having some things on hand to help achieve the result you are looking is also important.
Time of day
You can photograph reflection landscapes at any time of the day but you will find that you can achieve some quite dramatic results in the golden hours of early morning and around sunset.
Whether you are shooting toward the sun or away from it the lighting on the reflection will have a big impact on your image. Harsh overhead light doesn’t normally create ideal conditions. Maybe if there is a lot of clouds in the sky that are also visible in the reflection it could work for you.
Sunsets can create stunning effects when reflecting on water. You may not necessarily get a mirror reflection on the water but the light and colour that reflects really adds that additional element to help balance your image.
Shooting at night can provide a fantastic opportunity for reflections. Cityscapes, in particular, can make beautiful reflections on water.
Composition and technique
Once you have found a great location to shoot your reflection landscape it is important to position yourself to maximise the benefit of the reflection. Try shooting low and making the reflection a feature of the image. You can get some interesting results. Normally when shooting landscapes you will have been conditioned to use the rule of thirds. When shooting reflections in landscapes I find that positioning the horizon line in the centre of the image tends to work better. Having an equal mirror image can be very effective. That being said I wanted the foreground to take emphasis so the rule of thirds was a better approach. Try a couple of different crops and see how you go.
If you are using water for your reflection you need to take care that the water is still or you will need to try a couple of different techniques to get the best reflection possible. Using a fast shutter speed will freeze the movement of the water. Alternatively try using an Neutral Density filter and a slow shutter speed which will smooth the water out. You may need to try both and determine which is the best based on the way the water is moving.
Other things that will help achieve a great result are a tripod, polarising filter and a graduated filter. Using a tripod will help get that sharp image that will make your reflection so effective and a polarising filter can assist to reduce the glare off the water if that is a problem. A graduated filter can be used to darken the sky to create a similar look to the reflection in the water. Generally the sky’s reflection in the water will look darker.
You can also try some post-production techniques to give a different feel to your image. The lighting in the image below led me to turn it emphasis the lack of colour and give a completely different feel to it.
Take care when focusing. Make sure your reflection is in focus. Use a small aperture, f11-f16 or greater to give you the depth of field that will help make sure it is all in focus. If you also need to use a fast shutter speed to avoid water ripples then you may need to increase your ISO until you get the correct balance of fast shutter speed and small aperture. Don’t worry about increasing your ISO as if your exposure is correct any noise in the image will be minimal and can be removed in a program like Adobe Lightroom later.
Reflection landscapes are great fun to shoot and even better fun exploring locations to find an ideal spot to get your perfect reflection. There are many different ways to uses reflections in photography, including reflections from water, glass, mirrors, shiny objects, and surfaces including wood floorboards, ceramic tiles and more. When it comes to photographing reflections in landscapes remember that this is still a landscape image and ideally should be approached just like when you go out to shoot a traditional landscape.
I would love to hear of any other techniques that people use to get the best result from shooting reflection landscapes.
Images used in this article are a few of the reflection landscapes I have photographed for my print series that is available at Image Decor.