Finding Inspiration In Water Reflections

by Scott Setterberg September 07, 2019

Finding Inspiration In Water Reflections

As photographers, we sometimes find ourselves in a rut, tired of shooting the same subject matter and looking for something new to capture.  If that’s you right now, I suggest keeping an eye out for water reflections, and now that I planted the seed, you’ll be surprised by how frequently you find photo worthy reflections in water. 

A few years ago, after a long day shooting Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, a friend and I stopped at a lake to do some fishing.  Thinking I was done shooting for the day, I packed up my photo gear and swapped it out for my fishing pole.  My line had only been in the water a few minutes when a breeze kicked up, the light quickly changed, and fiery reflections began to appear.  Torn between the long walk to the car and simply enjoying the experience, I knew if I didn’t get the shot I would forever kick myself, so I raced back to the car, grabbed my camera, and ended up with the powerful image below.

Yosemite Water ReflectionYears earlier, I went to Minnesota to visit a friend and we went hiking along the St. Croix River.  As we meandered through a small gorge, we came across a dock, walked out onto it, and were suddenly greeted by a very simple, yet profound image of billowy white clouds reflecting in the river.

St. Croix Water ReflectionMarinas are also great places to look for water reflections and the image below was created by a high-rise condominium in Marina del Rey, California.

Marina Reflection

OK, right now some of you might be saying, “But, I don’t live anywhere near water,” and my response to that is… get creative.  I lived in Southern California for nearly twenty years and while the climate there is fantastic, it’s basically a desert with very little rainfall.  When the skies do open up, photo opportunities emerge, and one of my favorite things to look for is puddles. 

The shot below was taken on a crisp night in Santa Monica, California after a light rainfall.  I looked out my bedroom window and saw my neighbor’s porch light reflecting in a fresh puddle and immediately new it would make a stunning image. 

Alley Puddle ReflectionOn the same Minnesota trip that I mentioned earlier, while looking for a unique angle of the Cathedral of St. Paul, I walked down an alley behind the church, and once again a puddle provided the perfect mirror for a fantastic water reflection image.

St. Paul Reflection

Sticking with creativity in urban areas, check out this vivid abstract created by a parking structure reflecting in the pool of a nearby fountain in downtown Los Angeles.

Orange Black Water ReflectionSo, regardless of location, and whether its abstract patterns in majestic lakes and rivers or mirrored images in urban puddles and fountains, photographing water reflections is a unique way to get the creativity flowing and help you break out of a rut. 

Pro Tip:  When in locations like Yosemite with so much jaw-dropping natural beauty and so many iconic landscapes, it’s easy to lock your focus on capturing those sights.  By all means, capture those images, but remember to also break free from those scenes and search for details like water reflections.  When you do, you open yourself up to an entirely different world of equally incredible images that will diversify and strengthen your photography portfolio.

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Scott Setterberg
Scott Setterberg