Making a photographic image has been likened to capturing a split second of time and freezing it in that instant forever. Whatever the subject matter, the chances are that exact combination of lighting,
timing and composition has never occurred before, and will never happen again. Not only does this truism apply to action scenes, but to everyday visual phenomena.
As I travel this land I love with notebook, sketch pad and camera close at hand, I am constantly being reminded of the power of the unexpected; the magic of serendipitous moments, and the sheer beauty of nature caught in the act. I have been particularly dazzled by visual fragments of reflected glory; those isolated and elusive moments where something ordinary becomes extraordinary when seen “in duplicate”.
There was a period of time when I lugged a heavy and bulky 4X5 view camera and accessories into the field, often spending many hours just getting set up to make a single image on expensive film, only to be thwarted by a weather change or some other unexpected intrusion. Fortunately, I found sufficient compensation in the adventure of it all. (I enjoy one enlargement hanging on my wall, knowing that I returned to that one location each autumn for four years before achieving my photographic goal!)
Often I would end up discovering something entirely unexpected, like the day I spent hours trying – in vain – to find the desired angle from which to photograph a certain Vermont covered bridge, having traveled many miles to get there in the first place. What I captured instead was the reflection of a 19th century red barn in a setting I could never have planned, with the covered bridge ending up as a mere piece of background; a secondary subject.
With the birth of the digital age and the “point-and-shoot” technology available today, all that is needed for even the casual photographer to bring home such images of “reflected glory” is an eye for the unusual, and a talent for composition.
The northern Vermont village of Montgomery lays claim to five covered bridges, more than any other New England town that I know of. While all are historically interesting and visually appealing, they are not necessarily photogenic. In this case, it is the reflection which makes the moment so memorable.
There are rules of geometry which add interest to the photography of reflections: for instance the reflection is always the exact dimension of the real-time object, and the distance between subjects above and below the “mirror line” will be equal. Often a ripple or two in water will add both interest and context to the photo.
The last glacier to recede from northern New England did so around 15,000 years ago (not long in geologic time), leaving behind the striations and gouges in ancient granite which draw leagues of photographers to the mid-coast’s Pemaquid point. What made this visit different was the unusual combination of pooling rainwater and reflective light catching the image of the nearby lighthouse and buildings.
Cattails, lichen-painted stones and autumn leaves bring beauty to a woodland reflective pool.