Going through channels

shadow against fall reflections on water
So this past fall, seeing my shadow falling across a view of reflections in still water, I decided to get a little fartsy again (I’ll never learn) and make it an intentional part of the image. I didn’t really want a shadow of someone in the peculiar and recognizable position of taking a photo, so I set the camera and held it down by my hip, assuming a more natural-looking profile. Aiming blindly of course, it took a few attempts, but I eventually achieved what I was after.

Since then, I’ve never been sure if it has the effect I was after or not, which is one of those things that arises in photography. I know what I was doing, and can see the shadow and know what it is and which way it’s facing, but I’m not sure how obvious it is to anyone else seeing it. Is it too subtle, or not subtle enough, or simply not very strong overall? I lean towards the last, which is why it hasn’t appeared until now.

[Yes, this means that I do indeed reject photos from display, making me an even worse photographer than you credited me. Hard to fathom, I know…]

By the way, this shows a little trait that I like playing with sometimes, where the water is transparent close to the viewer (bottom of the image) but becomes more reflective as the viewing angle decreases towards the top. It can produce some pretty cool effects in the right conditions.

Anyway, at some point I started doing the channel-clipping trick to see how the image rendered in monochrome, and made an interesting discovery. I’ve seen this before, but never as distinctly as this. First, here is the same image in only the red and green channels respectively:

same image reducd to only red and only green channels
Neither one of these really worked for my intentions; the shadow is distinct in the red channel (left,) but the reflected tree loses a lot of detail, while in the green channel (right) it gains some of it back at the expense of the shadow.

But now here’s the blue channel:

same image in only blue channel
Wow! Completely eradicated the key part of the composition, and suddenly the twigs on shore (that you might not even have noticed before) leapt out.

Here’s what happened: The reflection of the background sky was visible throughout the entire image. But close to my feet, the sunlight behind me was able to penetrate the water to the bottom and bounce back to the camera; mostly because of the color of the leaves and silt, what came back was in the red and green channels. The shadow served to block this light and let the reflection come through stronger, but when the image was reduced to all reflection, it essentially became all shadow.

Nothing that I tried really made the image stronger, to my eye, so it was wasted effort, except for the cool effect. But now it’s something to watch for, and see if I can’t do something more interesting with similar conditions.

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