Behind the Image - Infinity Pool

Location

This shot was captured along the banks of Lake Bonney in South Australia's Riverlands. Lake Bonney is well known throughout photography circles for its large, dead trees that line the shores. The trees ooze character and are the perfect subjects during a sunset or against a starry night sky.

Time

This image was taken after sunset. All of the bright light had gone and what remained was the beautiful pastel colours that often follow a sunset when cloud cover is minimal.

Quality of Light

I must admit that on this particular afternoon I was a little underwhelmed by what was going on in the sky. I can be a little bit of a 'cloud snob' sometimes and I had decided that I wasn't going to go and shoot because the sky looked boring. Fortunately for me, my wife is a great motivator. She insisted that I go out anyway and use it as an opportunity to get creative. So that's exactly what I did.

Equipment

I used a Nikon D800 with the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED lens. On the lens I used a Nisi 3-Stop Soft Graduated ND filter and a CPL (circular polarising filter) with the Nisi V5 100mm Filter Holder. 

Inspiration & Process

Prior to leaving on our 6 month trip, I picked up a great pair of (for lack of a better description) gum boots. They weren't your typical gum boots as they were made from a wetsuit material and had a fantastic grip on the soles. Anyway, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to try them out. My idea was that if I waded out into the water away from the shallow bank, it would allow me to get closer to the trees and have them fill the frame in my shot.

The boots worked perfectly until I felt my toes starting to get wet and I realised that I had gone out a little too deep. This wouldn't have been such a problem if not for the fact that this was the middle of winter and the water was freezing :) After trying a couple of different compositions with the trees in the immediate vicinity, I decided that simplicity was the best way to go and I targeted just one tree. This tree's shape was perfect and when viewed with its reflection, created a great composition.

I knew that to get an almost mirror image at the bottom I would need to slow my shutter speed to take the ripples out of the water. My exposure couldn't be too long though because it would smudge the reflection. The other trick was to stand perfectly still in the water to minimise water movement. After experimenting with the shutter speed, I decided that an exposure of 1.6 seconds gave me the look I was after.

Lens Filters & Editing

For this image I used a 3-stop graduated ND filter by Nisi. The graduated ND filter darkened my sky slightly, while allowing me to extend my shutter speed. This gave me a nice, even exposure at the top and bottom of the image. I also used a Nisi CPL (circular polarising filter) to adjust the shot to get just the right amount of reflection. 

By using a graduated filter it meant that I didn't have to bracket my exposures and I was able to capture the scene in just one shot. All basic editing was done inside of Adobe Lightroom with final colour adjustments made in Color Efex Pro 2 from the Nik Collection by Google. 

Tips for Capturing a Similar Shot

My advice would be - don't limit yourself to only shooting when conditions are favourable and the skies look dramatic. The truth is that 80-90% of the time, the sky can look quite uninspiring and conditions are often unfavourable. If we only went shooting during these small windows of opportunity, we wouldn't be taking all that many pictures. The trick is to be creative with what you have to work with. 

Unfortunately I am really bad at following my own advice. For me I find that it helps to go shooting with a friend. A fellow photographer can help keep you motivated when nature isn't co-operating. Especially when you have to get up for sunrise and you don't feel like getting out of bed! 

Behind the Image - Duality

 

Behind the Image is a new blog series detailing my favourite shots and how they were captured. Through this series I hope to discuss the processes that I go through behind the scenes to make an image. Topics will range from what settings and gear were used, to how I approach a scene and what led me to capture that particular composition.

 Nikon D800 | ISO 100 | f/10 | 17mm | 6 sec

Nikon D800 | ISO 100 | f/10 | 17mm | 6 sec

Location

I took this shot at one of my favourite locations in my home town. A place called Hedlow Creek. I live in a regional town in Queensland, Australia and this location is only about 20 mins from my house. What draws me to this area is the wide open spaces and the fact that you can spend hours here and not see another person. It's the perfect spot to unwind in nature.

Time 

This was taken around 5:30am, just before the sun met the horizon. 

Lighting 

When I'm shooting at sunrise or sunset I always look for clouds to help add drama and interest/colour to the sky. The great thing about shooting just before dawn is that even when there are no clouds, you can get amazing colour gradients in the sky. This type of light was perfect for this scene as it worked really well with the reflections in the water. Clouds in the sky would have made the image too busy and removed the overall simplicity of the composition. 

Equipment

I used a Nikon D800 with the NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens and a Benro Travel Angel II Tripod.

Inspiration 

When I approached this scene, I was standing on a wooden platform just above the water. The first aspect I noticed straight away was the stillness of the water which created a perfect mirror image of the sky and tree line. The other was the thin layer of fog forming across the water. I decided that the perfect way to capture this scene would be to keep my composition as symmetrical as possible and place the horizon line almost in the middle so that the standout feature of the shot would be the reflections. An easy way to line up shots perfectly on the back of your camera is to use the Live View on your LCD screen and turn on the Grid view.

Lens Filters & Editing 

The 14-24mm lens that I used for this image is not compatible with any lens filters I own. It requires the use of a custom filter holder (which I don't have), so in the absence of a graduated neutral density filter, I bracketed my exposures. There wasn't much dynamic range in the scene but I wanted to make sure that I had enough detail in the shadows and colour in the foreground. I ended up using 2 of the exposures from the bracketed shots which I initially made adjustments to in Lightroom and blended them together in Photoshop using layer masks. Once I had combined the exposures, I made final colour adjustments in Color Efex Pro 2 from the Nik Collection by Google. 

FYI - All the Nik Plugins are FREE. They are fantastic tools and I use them all the time. Check them out here - www.google.com/nikcollection

Tips for Capturing a Similar Shot

My advice would be...make sure you have a steady tripod and a wide lens. You would also need to have similar weather conditions to get a shot with mirrored reflections. The water will need to be completely still as ripples will ruin the reflection effect. You could smooth out the water with a longer exposure however this will also remove the mirrored image of your subject. You may also want to use either a Graduated ND filter or bracket your exposures, depending on the dynamic range.