Master abstract photography with reflections

June 2, 2021

Discover another world of abstract photography. All you need is a little creativity and a lot of patience – Mike Curry shares his technique

Your guide: Mike Curry
Mike has been a professional photographer for 39 years. Her work has won awards in international photography competitions and has been published in the Sunday Times Magazine and Outdoor Photography magazine. In 2017, Mike published a book at Triplekite Publishing called Fleeting Reflections. Mike is also a member of the British Institute of Professional Photography. Visit

Have you ever noticed flashes of colors and shapes reflected in the water and considered them unworthy of study? Well, you might be surprised to know that they probably contain more detail and shape than you can imagine, or even actually see with the naked eye.

Sun ray. Nikon D500, 70-200mm, 1/400 s at f / 8, ISO 800

In this article, I will explain how, over the past nine years, I first captured my fleeting abstract reflections and how I refined the technique by incorporating my meditation practice. I was invited to work on a trade commission for Canary Wharf Group plc in 2012.

They were looking for a new angle on their iconic London Docklands estate and approached me with a view to creating images for their stock library. Given an access pass to all zones and a carte blanche to work any time of the day or night in their area, I had the freedom to visit whenever I could between other jobs. ; being local was a real advantage.

It was a fantastic opportunity and a very flexible and open brief which is a photographer’s dream. In addition to creating more standard stock images for them, I had to present them with images that surprised them.

Crossover: Nikon D500, 70-200mm, 1/250 s at f / 8, multiple exposure built into the camera ISO 800 3X

Change of point of view
After taking most of the pictures that I thought they would want, I started looking for something a little different. Then one day when the weather was nice and calm, I noticed a patch of blue on the water – it didn’t look like much but I raised the camera to take a few shots. I was amazed at what I captured and it was unlike anything I had seen before…. a riot of geometric shapes and colors and all captured behind closed doors.

Something went off in my head, enthusiasm and excitement for a possible new project. I’ve always believed that in order for projects to resonate with you, they need to have deep roots that somehow connect things from your childhood, your hobbies, etc. Then I realized what the connection was.

I loved playing with the kaleidoscopes and the Spirograph and found them very satisfying and relaxing, keeping me busy for hours. There was my connection, and I was hooked. Having attended On Landscape conferences regularly, I had heard wonderful speakers extol the merits of working locally and the importance of returning to the same places often.

The idea being that unless you’re excited about a project, and easy to spend time on over and over again, under a multitude of circumstances, it’s unlikely to thrive. So I set out to try and create pieces that resonated with me – I firmly believe that producing the images you love through a process that you find enjoyable is the most important thing no matter what others think of it. your job.

Pulsar Nikon D500, 70-200mm, 1 / 500sec at f / 18, ISO 1250

Experimentation is the key
The first experiences with Fleeting Reflections were a bit hit and miss. I tried various settings, locations and conditions until I finally found the recipe for greater success. I understood that it was only really worth leaving if the weather seemed suitable (sunny and calm), but that if you calculated the likely number of days in the year the weather conditions were sunny compared to my availability , it showed that there was very little chance of getting decent photos of the caliber I wanted.

Once I found this formula, I further refined the technique. Thanks to the good weather conditions, the task was to find good reflections, and this is where hyper-vigilance helped.

Crane: Nikon D500, 70-200mm, 1/125 s at f / 8, ISO 2500

I kind of noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye most of the time. Your peripheral vision is more sensitive to movement, so it’s no accident. I would do a test shot, as the patterns on the surface of the water move so quickly, experimenting with slow and fast shutter speeds until what appears on the LCD screen looks good.

Then the key to success that I found was patience. Above all the technical requirements to capture these reflective images, I believe that the primary factor in creating successful images was the result of my meditation practice which taught me patience and allowed me to “Enter the zone” and spend hours concentrating on the same place.

I would often “get out” from such moments and instinctively I knew how to stop and rest. So if this is just one thing that you are learning from this article, it is that patience really is a virtue when it comes to Fleeting Thoughts.

Constellation: Nikon D500, 70-200mm, 1/1000 s at f / 16, multiple exposure built into the camera ISO 400 3X

Mike’s kit list

Nikon d500
Excellent AF point frame coverage and fast overall performance.
Nikon 70-200mm f / 4 lens
You don’t need a fast lens when shooting through narrow apertures.
Memory card
Get the fastest, biggest memory card you can afford.
Most of my published images were derived from three to four hours of solid shooting an area with an average of 2,000 to 4,000 shots.

Essential tips for better abstract thinking

Mike suggests finding a good place to start before experimenting.

  1. Set the exposure mode to Manual – f / 8 and 1/500 s.
  2. Set ISO to auto with a minimum of ISO 800.
  3. Shoot hand-held, never use a tripod.
  4. Don’t be tempted to use a polarizing filter, as they kill the reflection colors.
  5. Set the exposure compensation between -3 and -5EV for very bright scenes.
  6. Use weighted highlight metering if your camera supports it.
  7. Shoot on a clear, windless day in areas with no tide or calm water.
  8. Experiment with the multiple exposure built into the camera for simpler scenes.
  9. Use continuous AF and automatic area selection and high-speed continuous shooting mode.
  10. Leave the white balance on auto as it can often create surprisingly good results.

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