Upon reflection

A reflection can be one of those things that stares you right in the face and yet still go unnoticed.

Often we’re too busy or distracted to see them. Sometimes when taking photos we can get into a certain mindset and not even consider the possibilities of using a reflection in a photo. Seeing how to use a reflection in a photo can sometimes mean just taking a step back and seeing the entire scene in front of you.

For the latest readers Photo Challenge assignment: “Reflections,” 22 people sent in a total of 70 photos. Here are some of the best examples that use reflections to great effect.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera with a Nikkor 18-55mm lens to photograph the reflection of the trees surrounding the koi pond at the Japanese tea garden at Micke Grove Park. A fish glides serenely just under the water’s surface but the reflections of the trees and sky makes it look like it’s lazily floating in midair. There is some distortion due to ripples in the water, but it just enhances the dream-like quality of the photo.


Ann Scott of Stockton used an iPhone5 to photograph trees reflected in a puddle in front of her home. The bare limbs of the tree are silhouetted on the water of the shallow puddle so that the sand and gravel underneath shows through. The resulting photo has a desert-like feeling to it despite the fact that it’s the water that makes it possible.


Most times we see the world in a certain way. We color within the lines and think inside of the box. But to expand our creativity sometimes we need to see things differently.

Luis Rodriguez of Stockton used a Nikon D3200 with a 18-55mm lens to photograph his 17-year-old sister Mary Rodriguez reflected in a puddle in an open lot next to the Joan Darrah Promenade in downtown Stockton. it’s a nice photo: The sun and some clouds are reflected in the water and the figure of his sister is a bold silhouette. In all respects it’s a great photo. But Rodriguez went a step further. On his computer he inverted the image turning it upside down. Normally I’m not a big fan of upside down pictures but by doing this Rodriguez turns reality on its head. At first it takes you a little while to tell what’s real and what’s imagery and blurs an artistic line between reality and fantasy.


I have a friend who likes the obscure movie “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” It’s a bizarre little film (released in 1953) written by Dr. Seuss. In a dream sequence the deranged Dr. T. kidnaps little boys to play his 480,000-key piano. I vaguely remember seeing the movie as a kid, and specifically recall seeing a shot of all the children’s hands playing a seeming endless row of piano keys.

Susan Scott of Stockton pointed 2 mirrors towards each other and photographed her hand reflected between them with a Canon Rebel DSLR. The resulting reflection upon reflection makes it look like there’s and infinite alternate universes in which different versions of her hands exist. It reminded me of the image in my mind of “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” In 1953 the movie was a flop being panned by critics, and even some patrons reportedly walking out of the theaters. However Scott’s photo is definitely a boffo smash hit.


While most people who entered the challenge chose to shoot reflections that were accurate visual representations of their subjects Anne McCaughey of Stockton took a different route. Using a Canon Power Shot SX500 IS point-and-shoot digital camera she photographed the 2nd Street tunnel in Los Angeles. The artificial lights in the tunnel as well as light coming from one of its open ends and the taillights of the cars traveling in it, were reflected in the tunnel’s shiny, tiled walls. The result is an abstract swirl of color and light that goes beyond a mere representation of the scene to one of artistic impressionism.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton got her reflection photo by using her iPhone to take a picture of another iPhone. Using her phone camera she captured the reflection of a blossoming cherry tree in the glass surface of her mother’s phone. I wonder what the reflection in her own phone looked like?


My wife and I used to secretly joke about my late mother-in-law’s travel photos. Many of her pictures would include the passenger side mirror, probably due to the fact that my father-in-law’s insistence of driving non-stop to whatever destination they were heading to.

Rick Wilmot of Lodi made effective use of my mother-in-law’s “technique.” He photographed a blossoming cherry orchard on West Lane near Harney Lane in Lodi. Wilmot used the driver’s side mirror of his car to create a self-portrait along with the landscape of the orchard.


Rick Jorgenson of Lodi created his reflection picture rather than photographing a found situation. He placed a pair chromed bocce balls (the fanciest bocce balls I’ve ever seen) in a loosely rolled sheaf of polka dotted wrapping paper. The colorful paper as well as the Jorgenson’s backyard where the scene was set was reflected in the shiny orbs.


Darrin Denison of Stockton also created his photo. He placed a small bathroom mirror in his backyard to capture the reflection of the sky and clouds. He noticed a rainbow created by light passing through some crystals hanging in his kitchen window. Denison then sued another mirror to reflect that rainbow onto the first mirror to complete his scene and photographed with his iPhone.


Stay tuned for a new challenge assignment next Monday

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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