A Dual Reality

The frame is divided into two equal halves by the horizon line. A line of trees receding towards the left, give a sense of depth. The dark foreground adds to the feel of the entire image. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/5.6. Photograph/Suresh Narayanan

The frame is divided into two equal halves by the horizon line. A line of trees receding towards the left, give a sense of depth. The dark foreground adds to the feel of the entire image. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/5.6. Photograph/Suresh Narayanan

The world in reflections can be both real and illusory. Suresh Narayanan attempts to capture the magical duality of the reflected and the reflection.

My Assignment

To capture the innumerable reflections found on natural as well as artificial reflective surfaces.

It is an ongoing project.

While shooting reflections, concentrate on highlights rather than shadows. Ensure that the blacks and whites in the image are exposed correctly.

Photographs of reflections bewitch and dazzle people. My interest in reflections sparked off way back in 1998, while I was shooting a Ganapati procession in Pune. One of the chariots in the procession was decorated with colourful neon lights. I noticed that the Ganapati idol was kept on an uneven, highly reflective surface. The distorted reflection of the neon lights was creating colourful abstract patterns. Every time I moved slightly, I saw a unique pattern form on the uneven surface. I was amazed and shot a number of pictures from various angles. This chance encounter left me captivated by reflections and led to an ongoing series of images on these gleaming marvels.

My Perspective
The incident with the Ganapati procession left me thinking that everything we witness is actually a reflection. When one looks through the viewfinder of an SLR camera, one sees a reflection. The scene in front of the viewer is reflected off the mirror to the pentaprism, from where it reaches the viewfinder. So, the picture that is seen and recorded through a camera is a reflected image. In short, the entire process of photography is based on the reflection of light. Through my images on reflections, I have tried to pay homage to this marvellous principle.

The Process
I look for extremely reflective surfaces that can help me make great pictures. Though glass and metal surfaces provide good reflections, water is the most flexible and refreshing medium. Reflections are enchanting and when cast on water, they make pictures look even more inviting. However, it is crucial to not limit oneself while looking for reflections; I have personally explored glass, metal and vehicle surfaces.

For me, reflections are wonderful additives that make images more inviting. But my primary focus is the subject that is being reflected. While shooting reflections on water, I expose for the sky. The surface of water absorbs more light than other reflective surfaces such as mirrors. Hence, if you expose for the sky, the reflection will subsequently be underexposed and the subject will be downplayed.

I also pre-plan my images. For instance, if I spot a beautiful Victorian era building, I look for a reflection and if I find none, I come back during the monsoons.

I have now joined the digital bandwagon, but I remain partial to the results I achieved with film. In Photoshop, I simply use Curves and Levels to boost highlights or deepen shadows.

Spotting an ideal reflection is not easy. Regardless of whether you have to lie on the ground near a puddle or stare at flowing water for hours, the effort always pays off. Look high and low for reflections and you will be rewarded with great images!

My Equipment

My equipment consists of Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, wide angle zoom lens (16–35mm), a standard zoom (24–70mm) and a medium telephoto zoom (70–200mm). Some of the pictures shown here are shot with a compact camera. Familiarising yourself with your camera will help you discover that you can shoot regardless of the equipment.

Easy Ways to Shoot Brilliant Reflections

  1. Try Different Vantage Points: Check all possible angles and try different levels of elevation to discover more aspects of a reflection. Using a different vantage point might also eliminate unwanted elements from the frame.
  2. Be Observant: Look around and you will observe that there are reflective surfaces all around you. If you are shooting at a large water body like a lake or a river, visit the location at different times of the day.
  3. Vary the Composition: Look for different compositions within the frame you have already shot—go close to reveal more detail. If you have shot a reflection in still water, wait a little while to include a ripple in the reflection.
  4. Think Out-of-the-box: The key to capturing great reflections is to think in unconventional terms and break compositional rules. Look for unusual reflective surfaces such as puddles, buildings, vehicles or even cutlery.
  5. Capture Distortions: Concave and convex surfaces provide you with distorted reflections. Fast-moving water provides colourful abstract reflections.
Tags: Composition, On Assignment, Nature, reflections, Suresh Narayanan, may 2010, illusion, automobile