In May, the Art of Birding community was led on an adventure by photographer Karen Miller, who asked us to (literally!) reflect on what we were shooting. In this month’s blog, Karen delves into her challenges and picks her favourites.
The challenge for the first week was to find still water, whether it was a puddle or a pond, and take a photo no more than a foot from the water's surface. The goal was to get as low as possible and observe how it captured the reflected image. I wanted to demonstrate that what might seem like an ugly brown puddle could actually serve as a unique mirror surface if the right position was found.
Initially, I had concerns about this angle not being the most convenient, as it required bending over and crouching down, which could be particularly challenging for those without a tilting back screen on their cameras. To accommodate participants, cellphone cameras were also allowed. However, Andrew Underwood came up with an innovative idea and constructed a rock-solid, low-level camera support using a modified spade handle. I wondered how he managed to control the camera from such a position. Andrew explained that he uses a small remote release with a focus activation button. If he isn't using a tilt screen camera, he estimates the tilt when using a fish-eye or ultra-wide-angle lens and relies on autofocus to handle the focusing.
Andrew shared his clever tool and the lovely pond image he captured with it. He mentioned:
"Finally, the rain stopped, so I went to the Japanese Garden in Nelson (mostly restricted due to flooding and remedial work)... The main pond provided this low-angled reflection today. I used my new tool, made from a fork handle, to help me get down to water level. I used a Nikon Z9 with a 20 mm f 1.8 Nikkor lens and an SB-5000 fill flash. The settings for the reflection shot were 1/400 sec at f 16, using 1,600 ISO and AVE -1.0 EV."
Meanwhile, Kathy Keddle captured a stunning image of Mount Taranaki. She recounted:
"This morning, I went for a quick drive to a good vantage point to photograph Mt Taranaki with all the fresh snow. On the way home, I spotted this puddle in a paddock, and the mountain was reflected in it. I loved the early sun glowing gold in the scene. I had to stop for a shot, and it turned out better than the one I was aiming for!"
You can find more of Kathy's images on her website bestmates.keddle.net.nz.
During the second week, we continued our search for puddles, but this time we looked down on them from above to observe the reflections. The idea was to add depth to the image and create a portal to another dimension or perhaps a more abstract composition.
Katherine Pawley created a captivating image from a puddle on the street during her morning walk in Auckland after a rain shower. I was particularly drawn to how the tree seemed to reach up from below and connect with the leaf resting on the edge of the puddle. Well spotted, Katherine!
Helen Smith, while doing the morning school run, captured a street scene with her phone. I appreciated how we could see the texture and color of the leaves in the puddle against the shadow of the tree's reflection, giving it an almost three-dimensional effect. I also enjoyed the sense of depth as it allowed us to see into the distance down the street.
For the third week, we focused on reflections on dark surfaces. Participants had the option to explore reflections in wet tarmac, wet black sand for outdoor fun, or utilize their glass stove top or a black glossy tile for an indoor still life image.
New member Tony Hickland had a lot of fun with this challenge and created a striking still life image. He shared:
"A couple of hours flew by as I created this. The hard part was getting Mrs. H to bed so I could steal this flower from her bouquet and convert the dining room table into my studio."
I must say, Mrs. H might need more flowers, but we won't tell her that Tony plans to swipe them in the night. You can see more of Tony's amazing work with reflections on his Instagram account, taken_by_tony.
Anne Hugget produced an intriguing image using a photo of her dog. She titled it "The hour between wolf and dog when they become their own shadow." Anne explained that she took the photo using her Samsung S7 and edited it in Snapseed. It is a double exposure, with an inverted picture of a wolf matched to her dog Skye's posture. I found it to be a skillfully executed piece, and in this instance, the reflection truly caught my attention. It's a lovely tribute to her faithful companion.
For the fourth week, the suggestion was to visit a local pond on a calm sunny day or during the golden hour and blue hour. The aim was to observe the colors hitting the surface of the water or capture ripples catching the light and reflecting the surrounding colors in a slow-moving stream or canal.
Barbara Newton captured a beautiful scene of golden autumn leaves. Well done, Barbara! I admired how the still water created a circular pattern of golden texture.
Becks McDaid achieved a very cool abstract reflection of rushes taken at Lake Ngaroto. The colors and shapes reflected in the water were simply mesmerizing. You could almost feel the water moving. Check out Becks' Instagram account, te_pahu_tales, for more lovely nature shots.
For our final week, we encouraged participants to create artwork using reflections. Barbara Newton took two of her images from that month and combined them as layers in Photoshop. I'm not sure how she did it, but she ended up with a very cool abstract composition. I wonder what it would look like printed on metallic paper.
It was a pleasant surprise to see a late entry from our commander in chief, Judi. She visited the largest puddle of all, Lake Wairarapa, and captured a very Kiwi image of a cabbage tree. I appreciated how the texture of the lake bottom was visible through the reflection. From a distance, it reminded me of silver butterflies in the sky. Judi mentioned that if you look closely, you might spot some friendly Piwakawaka flitting around.
If you’d like to join the thriving Art of Birding community, head to www.artbyjlm.com/joinaob - this month we’re getting arty with Astrid Authier-Hall!