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Tips & Tricks for Great Outdoor Photography

Photo Tips for Shooting Water and Reflections

The sun has risen but the wind has not kicked up yet. The lake is still mirror smooth. Time to take some pictures.


With the sun still low in the sky, the trees around the lakeshore cast interesting shadows like these in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.


You need to keep low as well. Sit or lay down on the shore if you can. Try not to keep the camera at normal eye level. That's what everyone else sees and does. It will make a dramatic difference in your photographs

As the sun climbs in the sky, don't just look at the scene in front of you, look how it reflects on the water and frame your picture accordingly.


Do you want a mirror image? Then put the far shoreline in the middle.


Nice, but kinda static. I like asymmetrical photos. Put a bit of foreground into your frame to break it up. Wouldn't you like to be camping here?


Adding some foreground and using a tree for the right border gives the image some energy. Here is a question for you. Look at that photo for a minute. What do your eyes keep being drawn to? The screen house on the right? That is because our eyes search for a focal point, a main point of interest. It doesn't have to be in the center of the frame. We see the sky, the mountains, the reflection, but our eyes like linear lines. A pathway. So they end up looking at the far shoreline and follow it left to right (the way most of us read). They bounce off the tree border and settle on the screen house. Then you notice the covered boat next to it and your eyes relax and you start thinking about your camp setup. Right? And how it would look there.

Leading lines are a big part of photography, painting, and art in general. You want to lead the viewer into, not out of, your image and it's focal point. Unless it is some abstract art that is meant to be confusing and headache inducing.

But enough of my babbling. Oh, that is Stanley Inlet campground in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Highly recommended!

Focus Underwater

I don't mean for you to strip to your skivvies and pretend you are a fish, I mean don't focus in the distance. Focus on the lakebed in front of you for your next lake picture. Here is an example. Alturas Lake in Idaho.


I focused on the rocks at my feet. Just aim at the lake bottom, hold your shutter button down halfway so your camera sets focus and exposure, then without letting go recompose your shot and press the shutter button.

My eyes move from the rocks underwater to the reflected clouds, the reflected mountain, the mountain, and finally the clouds. They end up back on the rocks. Like my love life.

I did this in the photo below as well. It allows you to see detail under the water.


Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Oregon. If I had focused on the mountains in the background I would have lost all definition on the patterns of the sand in the foreground. Another example.


I don't care if the background is a little blurry because the point of interest for me is the foreground. Indian Springs campground near Yuba Gap, CA.

Add Props

So your favorite reservoir has been drawn down and you want to "reflect" your feelings? Do something like this.


Little Grass Valley Reservoir near La Porte, California, was about 18 feet lower in 2008 than 2006. I dragged my canoe down to the muddy shoreline to create a shipwrecked look, waiting for the right time of day to have the reflection brighter than the shorelines.

I waited again on the sun for this next photograph.


The clouds in the sky are blown out but it doesn't really matter. I just want to get in and paddle!

By incorporating the gear you have in an image, you can make the picture tell a story.

Like this final one.


North Cascades National Park in Washington. Mid-day, choppy water, nothing much going on. My office. Enough said.

Regards, Park Ranger


Thanks for sharing! Happy camping!

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