Reflections of Rotterdam at Windforce Zero
It look like the months have a theme this year, in terms of weather. In January it has been foggy for days on end; in February, we were hit by storms Corrie, Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin. And in March the theme apparently was dry, sunny and windless, as if nature needed to catch its breath after all those storms. It was a great time to walk along the old harbor basins of Rotterdam, hoping to capture some beautiful reflections.
Sunny and windless, those are ideal weather conditions for creating reflectifications. That’s what I call photos of buildings, trees and other objects, mirrored in slightly undulating water.
It’s been a few years since I made an extensive series of reflectifications, after which I wrote this blog post. Painting with waves, the water as a canvas and coincidence as an artist, impressionistic scenes with oil-like qualities, I used those poetic words to describe it at the time.
Flipping the reflection
The method is as follows: I take a photo of only the reflection, without quays, revetments or other context. I use a very fast shutter speed; the images in this blog post were taken with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. I then flip that photo around its horizontal axis, with the alienating effect that you seem to be looking up from below the water’s surface.
Wind force zero
The right conditions are very rare in the Netherlands. Preferably the wind force should be zero and it almost never is. Moreover, it must be sunny, which produces the most beautiful colors. Reflections of objects in the shadows tend to become a bit gloomy.
Of course, the depth and size of the water feature also has an impact on the result. As well as the degree of shelter around it. A pond in the park can often use a breath of wind, but a canal or a harbor provide the most beautiful reflections when it is almost perfectly windless.
Ducks and coots
These types of photos don’t have to be completely without context. In fact, that is almost impossible; there are almost always twigs, leaves or duckweed floating in the water. Or, less magical, a plastic bag or paper cup. And otherwise there is a duck or a coot that messes up the reflection with its swimming. But actually that can also add something to the picture, provided that it is well timed and/or compositionally sound.
And on rivers with a strong current and a lot of shipping you can forget about those reflections. For example, I have never seen cool reflections on the river Nieuwe Maas. All photos with Erasmus Bridge or Hotel New York mirrored in the Maas are fake. But that’s okay, I make those digital reflections as well.
Since that previous hunt for reflectifications a few years ago, a number of remarkable buildings have been added to the city. And of course the question was whether they would create interesting reflectifications. With the Zalmhaven Tower, that was certainly possible; we see it mirrored here in Wijnhaven, Scheepmakershaven, Westersingel (3x) and in a pond in the Park.
As mentioned, the perfect conditions, with just the right amount of waves, are extremely rare. A mirror-smooth water surface usually does not produce a very exciting image, but with a little movement in the water it quickly becomes too abstract. However, sometimes also an abstract picture has a mesmerizing beauty.
In the meantime it has become April and that month seems to have adopted the cold, wet and windy theme. This gives these pictures an instant nostalgic value. A beautiful memory of a time, so recently, when spring seemed to have started. Fortunately we still have the photos.
And if anyone is interested in one of these Rotterdam reflections to decorate a wall, they are available in various materials and sizes in my online gallery.