On Reflection – Tips for photographing natural reflections that occur in rivers and lakes.

Mark Gilligan is an award winning landscape photographer. In this blog we hear his advice on capturing breathtaking natural reflections.

Venturing out across the landscape, we are often presented with some of the most rewarding sights that literally are breathtaking. One of the most spectacular is the natural reflections that occur in rivers and lakes.

Known as the ‘Mirror Of The Gods’ they are unpredictable but when they do show, you always remember them.

Some locations are more prevalent than others and likely to display because of the landscape that surrounds them. Aided by windless days, those that naturally nestle in the shelter of surrounding mountains can offer the best opportunities to witness and subsequently photograph them.

I enjoy them whatever the season but winter, with the added attraction of snow- capped fells just gives them that little bit more. One location that seems to deliver is Blea Tarn in the shadow of the Langdale Pikes.

I often refer to this view as the Marilyn Monroe of the lakes. It has a timeless beauty about it. The gentlest of breezes can disturb the surface of the water but when that stillness arrives? Wow!

That particular location has become a regular haunt of photographers who adorn the shoreline, capturing their perspective of ‘that view’. I applaud that because isn’t that what photography is all about? Our own personal perspective on a scene? That’s how I view it. No pun intended….

I personally love the serenity of this location, irrespective of the numbers who visit there and whilst ‘Blea’ is not exclusive to the phenomenon, photographing there is always a pleasure. You see it and want to capture it.


Sometimes we stumble across the reflections but there are occasions when we as photographers go out in search of ‘the mirror’.

I have been fortunate enough to observe it at various times of the day in many different places. You simply need the right conditions.

Whilst there is the standard approach to capture, namely photographing the scene with as much interest for the viewer, i.e. a ’normal’ landscape photo, I like to see if I can find another way to reflect what I see. My perspective.


All manner of shapes can and will appear before you and looking through the lens to see how they frame up rather than just with the naked eye is what you should do. Don’t simply ‘click’ and then consider cropping later.

You have bought a camera with a specific number of pixels so as to maximise the quality. Either zoom in or move and ‘frame up’ to attain the best image you can. Balancing out the mirror with the natural light contrast and shadows will usually mean utilising some form of neutral density graduated filter.

During most daytime exposures, that will require a soft grad. If the sun is over your shoulder you might find that you can take a perfectly good shot of it anyway. However, as the light begins to intensify during the ‘golden hour’ you will more than likely need to use a medium or hard grad.

It is all about balance of the image and exposure. Much harder as the light begins to fail but that can be extremely spectacular.

A tripod and cable or remote release are a good acquisition too but if you do not have them simply ‘up the ISO’ to around 500 so that you can hand hold the camera. Oh yes and over the recent winter months the Berghaus Scafell Jacket has been a great addition to my kit. Lightweight but warm enough for me to enjoy the freedom of movement I need.

I hope you manage to get out and capture a few of them in the coming year.
All you need to do now is go and look at the mirror!

Mark Gilligan