Photographing Water Reflections: It's All About Light!

by Tony Sweet

Colorful Water Reflections
Colorful Water Reflections
© Tony Sweet
All Rights Reserved
A bald blue sky and hot sunlight aren’t good for much, photographically, with the notable exception of reflections. What we are looking for are very bright light on the reflected subjects (trees with early spring leaves) and the water in shade. The clearer the sky and the hotter the sunlight, the stronger the reflection. This is evidenced by the lead image (Colorful Water Reflections), photographed at Greenbriar in the Great Smoky Mountains, where the yellowish color is the early spring green and the blue is from the blue sky.

The white balance setting is important. Quite simply, amber reduces blue, so in order to intensify the blue sky reflection, the white balance is best set to “daylight.” The length of time and intensity of the reflections can vary. When Sue and I shot there alone before a recent Smokies workshop, we only had 10 minutes of intense reflections before beginning to fade. On this day, with the workshop group, it went on for about 30 minutes! We were thrilled to deliver these conditions to our workshop clients!

B&W Water Scene
B&W Water Scene
© Tony Sweet
All Rights Reserved
I normally don’t shoot very much during workshops. But I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of shots, however, immediately deferring to any client needs, and calling attention to what I was photographing.

After the reflections, the game is not over. As many of us know, the amount of water is critical. Too much water, like after a heavy rain, can cover the rocks too much, resulting in a rushing white sheet of unphotogenic water. Too little water, like in July/August in the Smokies, is preferable to too much water because there is water running around exposed rocks, but still not optimum. The amount of water on this day had dropped from a couple of days ago and was perfect. Great scenes are always fun to photograph, yes, over and over again. The classic rock outcrop with the pot hole reflection is such a scene for me (B&W Water Scene).

During processing of the B&W image, as I was selecting Nik’s Viveza, I unintentionally selected Silver Efex Pro. When the image opened in the processing box, it was pretty much a finished black and white image! Serendipity is a welcome element, and I continued to finish processing the black and white accidental interpretation. Obviously, it was meant to be!


Editor's Notes

Pro photographer Tony Sweet teaches a number of online photography courses at BetterPhoto.com, including A Quick Start to Adding More 'Pop' to Your Images and Image Design: Revealing Your Personal Vision.

Also, Tony contributed a number of beautiful images to the how-to book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light, co-authored by Jim Miotke and Kerry Drager.




About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Tony Sweet
Photography Instructor: Tony SweetAfter 20 years as a professional jazz artist, Tony changed careers and directed his creative juices towards nature photography. The improvisational, spontaneous, and abstract nature of jazz are also integral elements of nature photography.

Today, Tony's work is published worldwide and is represented by The Getty Picture Agency.

Tony conducts his "Visual Artistry" photography and digital printing workshops from March through October throughout the continental United States and Canada. Tony's articles and photography are featured in Shutterbug and Rangefinder magazines, and as contributor to Nikonnet.com. He’s also a columnist for Nikon World Magazine.

He has authored three books on the art of photography: Fine Art Nature Photography, Fine Art Flower Photography, and Fine Art Photography: Water, Rain, Fog. All are published by Stackpole Books.

He maintains an active speaking schedule on the subjects of nature and flower photography and marketing, addressing professional photography organizations, universities, seminars, and workshops.

Tony is on the instructor staff of BetterPhoto.com, and is a member of the Baltimore chapter of ASMP. And he has been named a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens and is a charter member or nikSoftwares TeamNik!

To learn more about Tony, visit his Web site: