Recently, I was assigned to do a photography project based on a central theme, to which I selected the idea of reflections. While the scope of this project by most standards is not as deeper level as say, the concentration projects I had to create back in high school, such experience has helped me form my vision for this project which ultimately turned out for the better!
With that said, let’s get to it! Image by image, I will detail the story, intended meaning (if any), and how it connects back to the idea of reflections. When I had presented it, I had quite a positive reception apparently, but there were also things I noticed along the way that I could improve upon.
Sequentially, the images are laid out in a very specific and continuous format, one that years of concentration and breadth projects have helped me develop an eye for, even unconsciously (that I will expound upon later). Most images were shot in Camera RAW, and then manipulated minimally in Photoshop to adjust certain flaws and highlight focal characteristics. I used two brands of DSLR cameras: Nikon and Canon, both 50 millimeter lenses.
The Sky’s Mirror
The first image here is actually a puddle within a small denture of a stone block that lines the roads across the heart of campus. I got real close and took several shots across all angles but I ultimately chose this one mostly because this specific close up emphasize the central, literal idea of reflections: the projected image of the sky perpendicular from the camera is reflected off the surface of rainwater. The orange tone of the stone surrounding the subject is excellent contrast to the deep blue of the sky peeking through the stratus clouds. The tip of the evergreen tree also casts an interesting, negative space with its silhouette. I often used low depth of field for my images because most of them tended to be close ups like this one; the focus is once again then emphasized on the reflection or subject matter itself so that there is no question as to what the theme is.
This one was also metaphorically, in a slight way, represented as the reflection of the sky through nature’s “mirror” so to speak. When I was younger I came up with an idea that the ocean is simply the sky’s mirror, so that’s why “the sky is blue.” 🙂 I basically extended that idea to a smaller scale: a puddle of rain water. Thank goodness for the rainy week right before this project was due, seriously saved me more than once.
Daylight Riding Time
This image was going to be more of a filler image but it has it’s interesting perks. I manipulated with this one much more so that the image has a very crisp and definitive appeal to it, almost to the point where I feel that I am back in Korea. The simple reflection of bikes was shot from this specific composition frame, where the real bike tire pokes out from the top so that the viewer has no question about what they are exactly looking at. The reflection itself is intended to have curving, smooth lines with the white of the bike rack, which then leads the eye out onto the bright, white concrete ground. I manipulated this a lot more in Photoshop than other photos due to the original, boring color – HSV values were adjusted to achieve an unnatural blue color, and contrast aspects (Levels) were utilized to erase all the noise within the concrete ground. The one thing I found interesting with this one was the fallen leaf that originally does not look brown, but it seems to have captured my eye being so alone.
The third image was also intended to be a filler image, but somehow a lot of people enjoyed this one. I recall one mentioned that it looked as if it were an underwater scene; however, in the print, the image turned out a lot more “bleedy” because it was not shot in Camera RAW, so the color printer could not read beyond the limited color space of the .jpeg file. This one was more fun and visually interesting despite the lack of focus within any subject matter/focal point. The dappled fade of the leaves at the bottom of the stairs looked pretty cool to me, and the stairs leading into the array of leaves, particularly in the dark spot, seemed almost wondrous to me. It almost gave me a The Secret World of Arrietty feel, although the ATEC stairs, not as much. Still, what blew my mind was that a couple of folks pointed out that the reflected red-orange light streaks would soon lend itself an excellent artistic transition into the next image.
Bleeding Lights was one of the photos that I had to take in a flash (although I cannot say literally here lol, as I turned off flash… wasted pun opportunity there). I remember hurrying to get the camera started and callibrated to the light meter while my sister and I were at a stop light one late night driving home. This basically meant I had one shot to do it, and it came out so fascinating. The dew from the drizzle can be seen in the top section, and I hid the traffic lights at the top well enough so that I could only focus on the reflection. Again, I wanted to make it very clear so that there was no doubt in any of my pieces, which I suppose the “clarity” portion lends itself to the theme as well in that far-fetched sense. The transition note that the couple people made is also present here: the far distance carries also vertical streaks of green, the complement of the previous image. Paired together, there this nice reverse synergy and I was just seriously mind blown when they brought that up, never having thought about that prior to sequencing my images (which was intentional). While I had mentioned just that, the prof did say that I chose these images in this sequence for a reason, hence ultimately my decision. That was awfully kind of her to say, and I took that as a great compliment.
In this, the reflection is not so much an actual subject matter but the idea of reflecting the color of the light itself. I highly emphasized this by intentionally increasing slightly the Saturation values, and then adjusting the contrast accordingly. I titled this Bleeding Lights as almost this subtle, dark warning of what this signifies, beyond the theme’s scope.
The fifth piece is also full of story. I wanted to do a piece where the focus was a sort of metaphor on the idea of “dancing lights.” That phrase came to mind specifically because in one of my blog posts, I recalled one night while working on a digital painting that I was watching the night lights from my tall window, the lights of passing cars, flash such entrancing dancing lights across the bedroom walls. I wanted to replicate that in some way, but dark light settings are such a pain so I took a shot using (cloudy) afternoon daylight.
I looked around in my older sister’s room, and I noticed she had a lot of knick-knacks or items laying around. I would inspect for something shiny and reflective until I came across this and the idea blossomed right then and there; her dancing trophy from so many years ago, maybe more than a decade I mean, was the perfect subject. I quickly cleared her night table (as I had used that area before for other photos) to create as clean of a background as I could. Placing her trophy at the edge, I opened the blinds of the nearby patio(ish?) door, which I then had to maneuver into staying a specific position so the light rays would hit the subject at just the right angle. Only problem was, it was a cloudy day (which would later rain heavily that evening), and every few seconds I would have to painstakingly wait for the light source to reappear. Because of this, this also became a shot where I had to take the image swiftly and efficiently. Unfortunately, as I look back on it, I realized there is a slight stain that I could have moved the table lace a bit so cover that up… and I realized trying to Photoshop it looked very artificial. So I was stuck with that splotch of color that now diverts my full attention (now that I have brought it up). The other thing that bothered me was that looking closely I can still see the dust on the trophy! Because this was a high light setting in an unlit room (so pure natural light), I was distraught to see the dust details. But, perhaps that adds some character or something, I don’t know. It is very distracting to me personally. These things become very noticeable once I or someone mention it (although no one seemed to have comment during the review session, whew).
This one was one of the pieces that had a great reception. One mentioned that upon reviewing this image that the series had a cinematic feel to it, which I had not thought of but was pleasantly surprised to hear. I absolutely love the mood of the piece because the original still had great lighting and not much change, but once I had added some adjustments to it, it seemed to have this warm glow that made me feel happy. So satisfying to see an image with natural lighting and really shine.
While this one may reiterate the literal translation of reflection, the title of the piece probably says a lot more about it in a more expansive way. This is probably one of my more favored pieces just because of how vibrant and clear the subject turned out. It was shot at an extremely low aperture of 3.8, giving it the shallow depth of field. I love focusing on the subject matter itself for that air of simplicity, although it was pointed out to me that better positioning or camera settings may be able to clear up the left side of the sunglasses a bit more. The area seems like a beach scene, but it is actually a recreational park on the side of the road that leads to a lake I used to exercise and take a stroll around with my family when I was younger. Funny thing was, I took this shot moments before the heavy downpour of rain; so this too in a sense was taken in haste. I knew it would be raining that day and it was just a matter of time – thank the Lord I was able to finish right on time before it started pouring on our way back home (after grabbing a bite to eat from a bakery <3).
I am so glad my sister is a fashionista because these sunglasses look superb, stylistically. They have a special tint to them, although most of the color correction (or should I say distortion since I “enhanced” it) was done in Photoshop. I amped up the HSV, to which the sky became this unnatural shade of crisp, cerulean blue with a violet tint. The shallow depth of field gives me this sense of relaxation and a “daze.” I like that feeling.
I definitely wanted to shoot something with glasses though. They are easily tied to the idea of reflection through careful thought. But with sunglasses, they are perceived as relaxation, hence the title Halcyon. It often takes tranquility for inner reflection though, and to be gazing out to the sea or ocean (or in my cheap small suburban town world, the pond) deep in thought.
Again, literal idea of reflection. I’m glad everyone was able to identify my theme even though I would kind of like a more extensive body of work.
I absolutely wanted to incorporate a watch or a clock into the frame of the mirror but I simply ran out of time and inspiration. I also justified that the general blankness of the reflection seemed to lend a negative space that gave me the feeling of emptiness. Not so much in negativity emptiness, but just hollow nothingness that made me think… simply deeper.
The extreme simplicity of this made itself popular with me, personally. I love pieces that invoke feelings of such emptiness, and this one had some preparation involved as well. Actually, prior to the start of my actual project delivery, I was shopping at Daiso with my sister for home and personal stuff. I was already thinking ahead of my idea for this first semester project, and so I spotted an item I could potentially use: a hand mirror. It is actually too bad because the back of the top side has this fake but beautiful sapphire gem embedded onto the entire area. The light source made it difficult to position it interestingly while still spotlighting the entire theme of this project.
Watching Glass is meant to be more of almost a inceptive approach to reflection. We see the reflection of the mirror onto itself, but we cannot see ourselves. The mirror reflects the other side, and gazes at each other in empty unity. The shape of the mirror as an antique hand clock also gives form to this idea. You have no idea how fun it is to press that spring.
Finally, I would like to wrap up detailing the final image of the project. Because it is an image with the subject being my sister, I cannot post it in a public platform such as here even if I’m the one mostly reading and writing content anyway… However, it is meant to be the most deepest form of reflection: Contemplation.
I love that I placed this last because it is a progression of surface level to a deeper, more metaphorical level. This was the entire reason why I selected this theme because I had a clear end point that I wanted to reach.
In the image, my sister wears a plain blue ruffled dress with a white laced under-blouse. She holds a mirror to her face, which is placed at maybe about a 45° angle in order to reflect the cloudy, more illustrious sky behind me. However, behind her is a storm of gray clouds that is more heavily populated across the right side of the photo, with the left side slightly more brighter and whiter. To me, this is the ultimate form of reflection that combines both literal and metaphorical weight: the mirror that reflects that sky is also reflecting her own face to which she gazes upon — we cannot see this but it is implied. The wind, supposedly from the clouded thoughts upon which she contemplates, billows the skirt of her dress in ripples (parallel to the lake). I chose this one specifically because of that, so that there is a bit more dynamic action, with the rest of the composition being highly placid. The colossal lake water behind her is unfortunately a grayish-blue-green, but the ripples are highly defined with shadows stroking the waves. While the water and houses that line in the far distance to the right are completely still, minus minimal action; the waves, the wind, her hair, and the clouds all form this unique dynamic of a gentle yet pushing action to prod her into her still central figure of her strong left arm holding firmly the mirror upon which she reflects on, literally and figuratively.
Aside from the same adjustment types, I had to correct the camera angle/tilt using Transform’s Skew tool. I basically aligned the proper horizon alignment of the water in order to make up for the lack of a tripod for a stable foundation. Even with one however, imperfections of the ground may have caused a slight tilt; thus, I aligned it properly using a ruler in Photoshop to measure a perfectly straight horizontal line. This very much satisfied my OCD nature.
In the end, I am proud to present the Reflection series to you, with a more behind the scenes analysis here. I am beginning to find these very fun, although I sort of worry that I may come off as indulgent or arrogant. To me, I kind of look at it with neutral eyes, detailing what I’ve been told in terms of feedback and years of artistic knowledge. Writing about these things, is also a form of expression of art to me.
While this was the first serious photography project, I was very surprised that I enjoyed the outcome of it. I honestly dreaded this, thinking I would not do well. After all, my older sister is the pro at this specific genre of the major, not I. But, I suppose that also lends itself to my advantage — she advised me a lot throughout the course of this entire class after all.
And somehow, a small part of me is starting to enjoy photography recreationally. 🙂