Still Learning To See

Three reflections

These are the last three photographs of all I’ve been previewing that will hang next week in my new show at The Governor’s Gallery. (Click on them and they become larger.)

They represent a different, often abstract way of seeing the lovely Fall foliage of Vermont—in each case reflected in water but all with differences.

When I look for these kinds of opportunities, an important key, I’ve found, is to choose a spot with the “right” water—flow, ripple, texture. I almost never use a polarizing filter because I want the reflections they tend to suppress. That also means I can pay less attention to what is below the surface of the water but I can’t ignore it because some may show up. For example, in the middle image, the submerged leaves, including a serendipitous one from a Red Maple, really form the bones of the photograph.

Interestingly, water that is very still provides a mirror image that I find can be challenging to portray successfully. That was the case with the third photograph above where I opted to “manipulate” such a scene by tossing small stones in the water and waiting for what resulted in, I believe, a fabulous image.

Next in the process I add great Fall color, i.e. leaves on mixed deciduous trees that rise high above the water, preferably with some of them brightly lit by the sun. Yellow Birch and Red Maple are two standbys that often grow near water and change color fairly early and simultaneously in the Fall.

When those elements are all in place, I move to a position where the foliage is being reflected. Sounds easy but is not! Did I say, “Don’t fall in the water?!” It is a fun lesson in light physics, moving left or right, up or down, where even a few inches can change what I see dramatically. A plain scene become stunning and vice versa. When I’m working on a tripod, which is often, I need to constantly remind myself to move it and try new points-of-view.

One thing in particular always amazes me: adding even just a bit of blue sky—you can see that reflected in each image in different ways—lends a remarkable, almost primal quality. I think the human mind just responds to sky blue in that way. A bit of white cloud can also be interesting but can also quickly overwhelm the image.

Of course the shutter speed, aperture setting and focal point also come into play. Lots of variables all of which can make a great image or cause me to push the delete button when I review them. I’m also reminded of sage advice from Dewitt Jones, a mentor, that often it pays to take lots of photos to get the right one. As an example, I made 64 images to get the one on the right! Thanks to digital cameras, that is much less expensive than it used to be.

Enough of the background behind these photographs. Go find some water and explore and discover, with or without a camera. And, of course, enjoy!

Tomorrow I’ll post all 32 images that will be in the show in one gallery so you can get a sense of how they work together. Thank you for following this thread.

This entry was published on July 5, 2014 at 8:45 am. It’s filed under Abstract, Fall colors, John Snell, Patterns, Photograph, Reflections, Trees, Vermont, Water and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Three reflections

  1. Julia on said:

    Your water reflection pieces are my favorites, John–and how interesting to learn all the steps that lead up to these amazing photographs. You really teach all of us that “learning to see” takes patience–thanks so much for sharing your sight 🙂

    Eager to see all 32 images together–a collage of wonder!

  2. Deborah Leu on said:

    Beautiful images – I love reflections! Interesting and useful to read about your processes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: