Stopping the Man and the Mirror

March 8, 2012 

After a couple weeks of reflective columns, I figured I'd take a literal look at reflections since I seem to be on somewhat of a binge lately. I've always enjoyed playing with the creative element in my photos, despite often struggling with the technique, but managing what can be a chaotic frame into an interesting image that communicates something feels pretty damn good when you pull it off.

Sometimes the chaos is what I'm trying to communicate, like this shot from the Midway in 2010:

That photo and this portrait of Dennis DeFord from our Faces of Cancer series are both in my portfolio now too:

The technique is also good for keeping yourself amused while bored on assignment, and I turn to it when I want to jazz up an otherwise uninspired shoot.

After fidgeting around with a straightforward portrait of pianist Carlie Berry, left, and violinist Emily Campagna, who won a young artist competition,

I couldn't resist doing the ol' through-the-open-grand-piano setup:

I wasn't feeling the shiny metal when I started working the reflection,

and decided to try something a little funkier, using the piano lid as a more graphic element and keeping Carlie's unreflected face out of the picture. That let me throw more light on her face to give me a file that would take less post-processing. This pulled back photo shows you how overexposed her face is to get her reflection at a better exposure:

And here's the final shot:

A couple weeks later, I stopped by Mid-Columbia Mastersingers Artistic Director Justin Raffa's house for a story about Betsy Vance guest conducting a song at the Mastersingers' concert last weekend. Since that wasn't their actual rehearsal time or place, I was going to set up more of a portrait, but they started going through things while I was setting up lights and I worked the mirror.

I liked being able to include Betsy's notes scrawled over the music while including their faces. This shot was a bit too hand-and-Justin centric:

The low angle didn't quite work either,

but this shot combined my love of reflections with my affinity for disembodied hands coming out of the frame:

It was a little goofy having two reflection shots in the same AtomicTown issue, but the straightforward rehearsal-type shot wasn't nearly as interesting:

While I did include a line that they were practicing during a portrait session in the cutline, I think the more basic shot would have been taken more at face value as well, while the more complicated frame would beg to have its cutline read.

A few days later, I kept this shiny trend going by looking toward puddles on a feature hunt as a surging sun slowly slushed the snow:

And just yesterday, I leaned on it for a portrait of future liquor store owner Michael Shemali to try and show the reflected Washington Plaza banner as a location marker:

Clearly, I have a problem. I'm not even including another portrait since the story hasn't run yet. It's easy to say that I was simply rolling with the situations I was in, but it's still a little embarrassing to turn in so many reflections in such a short time. It's not as unforgivable as a slew of silhouettes, but maybe taking a look at myself in the mirror instead of using it as a compositional element will help me make that change.

Speaking of being the change you want to see...

Allen Murabayashi offers his view on the never-ending debate over whether photo contest winners are over-toned. It offers some nice insights from judges and photographers. But like frivolous lawsuits, this is one issue that everybody seems to think has gone too far, yet nothing ever changes. And until judges stop awarding over-dramatized images, people who want to win contests will continue stylizing them.

The second installment of Stephen Crowley's Smoke-Filled Rooms series is up at Lens. This timely entry looks at the recent debate over contraception. It coincidentally opens with a photo using reflection, too!

And check out these crazy close-up shots of lions. While I don't care for the flat, fill-flashed look on a lot of them, it's a pretty cool series.

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