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Reflections can be found on many different surfaces. Glass buildings, mirrors, mylar, chrome bumpers, and puddles to name a few. All provide the opportunity to produce creative images. Some provide smooth and uninterrupted surfaces while others add a rippled texture with variations of the reflected effect. In the natural world, the diversity of mirrored surfaces isn’t as vast narrowing the amount of photographic opportunities. Nature photographers often rely on still water for the effect. This mandates no wind. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to find this condition. A bonus is the light at this time of day is warm and directional.
Still water provides the nature photographer with great opportunities to make gorgeous images. I encourage you to use a graduated neutral density filter to even out the difference in exposure between the reflection and top area of the photo. The reflected part can be darker by as much as three stops, especially if you use a polarizer. With this in mind, I carry one and two stop versions on all my workshops. I take a meter reading of both the actual and reflected portions. If the difference is one stop, I use the one stop filter. If it’s two stops, I use the two stop filter and for those times when there’s a three stop difference, I combine the one and two to give me three stops of filtration.
Animals are great subjects to photograph with their reflections. If you’re just getting into wildlife photography, it’s a great way to “cheat” not having to buy a super telephoto. Including both the animal and its reflection, in effect you’re doubling the size of your subject so you don’t need as long a lens to fill the frame. Key to creating successful compositions is to not cut off any part of the animal’s mirrored image. This is one of the reasons why I’m a proponent of zoom lenses as it’s easy to tighten or loosen up the composition. Whenever I see a published image of an animal with an awkward crop, my immediate thought is the photographer had a fixed focal length lens and as a result, had to amputate part of the subject.