Posing the environment

Water and its reflection was a strong element in many Impressionist paintings because it was such a dynamic subject, always changing the appearance of light’s reflections from it by shape-shifting with the wind, current and tides.  Pay attention to rippling water on a bright day and notice how the colors change with the curvature of the waves, first reflecting the sky, then the shore, then other waves.  It was these multitude of small areas of color the Impressionists captured with their pigments, creating dimension and movement with their brush stokes.

Reflections even now help set the tone of an image, creating anticipation for the viewer even before the substance of the whole image becomes apparent.  Manipulating reflection is one way to change how an image is perceived and received.

Take this basic reflection image:

5 image HDR, ISO 100, 14mm, f/7.1, various shutter speeds

Calm for a Great Plains composition, it promotes a late afternoon stillness that doesn’t really convey the heat in the area right now.  All the cool colors counter balance the warm tones in the building and trees, suggesting a pleasant spot for a picnic or just to sit and watch the geese.  A fairly traditional portrayal of such a scene, rich in detail with emphasis on drawing rather than coloring.

This image of just the reflection is much more Impressionistic – less drawing emphasis and more on placing colors in conjunction to offer the suggestion of form.

ISO 100, 44mm, 1/100 sec., f/7.1

I wanted more of that effect for this image so I tossed a rock in the water just below the bottom of this image and then made several shots as the ripples expanded into the reflection.  By combining them in Photoshop I got this result.

ISO 100, 44mm, 1/100 sec., f/7.1

Probably more abstract than Impressionist as the form is falling apart but it nonetheless shows how reflection and movement can change the nature of an image.  Compare this to the first one above – do you not feel less calm and more “agitated”?

Periodically we outdoor photographers can actually manipulate our surroundings to deliver an specific mood.  Might as well take advantage of it when we can!


2 thoughts on “Posing the environment

  1. You’ve prompted me to think differently about “creative vision” and the degree to which a photographer can act to achieve that vision. That’s pretty heady stuff for an early Friday morning. Thanks for sharing not just your photos but your thoughts and feelings, as well as your motivations and techniques as you set out to create something beautiful


    • Mike,
      Appreciate your comments. Deeper study of photography’s beginnings led me to the Impressionists, who developed their style as photography was becoming popular, and learning how they created their works led me back to a better understanding of how images are created in photography. Our world is so visually oriented there’s much to be learned from many different sources that can be applied to this craft.


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