Sunday, October 23, 2011


If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. Loran Eisley, The Immense Journey, 1957

Birds and their reflections in the water are one of my favorite subjects. So appealing are images of a bird (or other animal) in calm water that is interrupted only by the animal's actions. Absence of distractions is a necessary component of success. This requirement applies to the water. Therefore, no distractions means no water ripples or waves. As a result, we try to shoot with the right conditions.

So what to do on a windy day when photographing on the water? Realizing the wheel has already been invented, it probably goes without saying that water is dynamic and it reflects light, which is the primary reason photographers love to capture it. Ripples in the water can create a striking and dynamic play of colors from the light of the sky and objects reflecting. In itself, this can provide a beautiful display of abstraction that is the subject of the image. But if you are attempting to photograph an object or animal in disturbed water, the challenge is to avoid having the ripples detract the eyes away from the object. Rather, you might try to use the ripples to frame the object or provide balance to the composition.

I first became aware of the power of water reflections caused by its movement on Biscayne Bay. At first, it was to see what happened when I added ripples with my paddles. I thought it would provide texture to a reflection made by a lone mangrove and therefore, would add quality to the composition. Here is one result of that experiment.

More recently, while photographing a great white egret, I was challenged by the winds that were strong enough to create a constant ripple. The sky was clear blue and reflected on the indentations made by the water movement. All of a sudden, I realized the benefits of this. The dynamic interplay of reflected sky and dark water became part of the composition. Here is one result from that day. You can see the bold blues balanced well with the bold white bird.

When light reflecting from objects are seen in the water, this can add interesting patterns and colors. Here is one I took several years ago. I took several images of this portuguese man-o-war in relatively rough water. Unexpectedly, Vivian passed close by in her boat and the reflections offered a beautiful contrast to the man-o-war.

This weekend, I stayed off the water. With the cooler temperatures and drier conditions, I enjoyed being home where I have access to a small pond that attracts wildlife. The winds were brisk and the water was rippling continuously. In the afternoon sunlight, the colors from the buildings, sky and trees intermingled on the water. So irresistible was the light that I got out the camera and began attempting to photograph the only subject available at the time, the resident muscovy ducks. Yes, they are ugly, but they are plentiful. Is it possible to make an image of muscovy duck appealing enough that maybe someone will enjoy it and look twice? I had fun trying. Here are a couple attempts.

In a boat, I am surrounded by water, so water is a significant component of my photography. It sometimes can keep me from photographing, but more often than not, it is the main attraction. As with my attempt to learn birds and their behaviors, I also try to learn the behavior of water. After all, it holds the beauty of light.

No comments:

Post a Comment