The World in a Water Mirror

The Dutch word for water level is waterspiegel, which literally translates as water mirror.  Such a great word! Because under the right circumstances – not too many waves, but certainly not too few – water gets magical reflective properties, distorting objects until they are barely recognizable. Ideally, the waves create a kind of impressionistic oil painting that can only be captured with fast shutter speeds.


I wrote earlier about the reflections of Rotterdam buildings in the old harbor basins. Here is another interpretation of the idea: a water level world map.

World map mirrored in a reflective and slightly undulating water surface
The Water Level World Map

3ds Max

How do you create a water mirror? You can, of course, go to a puddle, pond or lake and wait for the right weather conditions. Or you can make your own digital water mirror.

That is fairly simple, as the following setup in my favorite rendering program 3ds Max shows . An object to be mirrored, a water surface and a camera, that’s all you need.

Setup with a camera and a slightly undulating reflective water surface in 3ds max to create a wavy world map
The making of

The Americas

And once you have made such a water mirror, you do not have to limit yourself to that one world map. I have mirrored a number of continents separately, including the one below featuring the Americas. Two predominantly green shapes in the blue of the surrounding oceans and the white of the polar regions.

Map of North and South America and the surrounding regions of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the polar regions, created by mirroring in a reflective, slightly undulating water surface
North America reflected


For navigation purposes these water maps aren’t very useful, to put it mildly. But they’re great wall decorations. Especially, as shown below, when printed on wall-filling photo wallpaper.

Living room with the water mirror world map on wallpaper
Water mirror on the wall

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