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From Puddles to Portals: The Enigmatic World of Reflection Photography

A corporate-mall on Great South Road in Auckland on a winter’s day may seem like an unlikely place to find artistic inspiration. Yet, in the three-quarters-of-an-hour I found myself waiting to pick my partner up from her two-day course, I re-discovered the allure of reflection photography. With a keen eye and an open mind, I ventured into the discipline of abstract shots, where wind-induced blur served as an accomplice, unveiling some interesting shapes and colours within the reflections.

Abstract photography, reflections in a puddle, great south road auckland nz by Tim Butler-Jones

Though, as a young man, (in the 80's, under Thatcher) I was aware of reflection photography, it was as a tourist that I encountered a piece of artwork that would forever leave an indelible mark on my creative journey. It was a photograph of Prague Castle, majestically reflected in a puddle upon a cobbled street, all rendered in captivating black and white. This singular artwork became the cornerstone of my appreciation for the transformative power of reflection photography and the immense artistic potential it holds, and was also the first piece of artwork that I bought with my own money..


During the era of film photography, capturing reflections in puddles became more than a mere artistic pursuit. It emerged as a remarkable way for local artists, particularly those residing in tourist areas of their countries, to connect with visitors and support themselves through their craft. These talented individuals would stake out picturesque spots, armed with their cameras and an eye for captivating reflections, waiting to capture unique moments that would resonate with tourists and locals alike.


For these artists, reflection photography served as a conduit for storytelling, encapsulating the essence of a location and transforming it into a tangible, transportive experience. Each reflection captured within a puddle carried a narrative of its own, whispering stories of grandeur, history, and the soul of the place. Visitors were drawn to these evocative images, longing to possess a tangible memory that encapsulated the beauty they had witnessed.

Abstract photography, reflections in a puddle, great south road auckland nz by Tim Butler-Jones

Back in Great South Road, I’ve noticed that not only is it unseasonably sunny, but also that the fallen leaves have clogged up the drains and post heavy rainfall, there are some huge puddles ready to frame my reflections. To achieve the elusive puddle framing effect, one must dare to embrace the unconventional. By defying the norms of angles and perspectives, we unlock a world of creative potential. Crouching low or lying down, we are no longer confined by the limitations of eye-level observation. We enter a domain where ordinary scenes morph into extraordinary abstract compositions, each frame a testament to our willingness to see beyond the obvious.


Allowing the reflections within puddles to guide us, and without any landmarks of note in the vicinity, I went on a journey of abstraction. Through the interplay of light, texture, and the fleeting nature of these mirrored glimpses, we capture the intangible essence of our surroundings. In this abstract arena, we shed the burden of literal representation and instead focus on distilling the world into its purest form. It is through abstraction that we can evoke emotions, provoke thought, and transcend the mundane.


As you embark on your own reflection photography journey, I encourage you to embrace the creative process wholeheartedly. Set aside your preconceptions and allow your imagination to roam freely. Seek out those intriguing puddles that hold hidden worlds within them. Explore the interplay of light and shadow, the dance of colours, and the unexpected shapes that emerge. Let serendipity be your guide, for in these unplanned moments lie the seeds of inspiration.


The advent of digital photography has brought both new possibilities and challenges. With advanced cameras and editing software, artists can now push the boundaries of their creativity even further. Techniques such as long exposures, intentional blurs, and colour manipulations open up avenues for even more expressive and abstract reflections. The digital medium has allowed artists to experiment, refine, and redefine their visions, breathing new life into the genre.

Abstract photography, reflections in a puddle, great south road auckland nz by Tim Butler-Jones

While the technical aspects of reflection photography can certainly be explored, it is in the creative process that true transformation occurs. Don't be afraid to experiment, to push the boundaries of your perception. Allow your lens to capture the beauty that others may overlook. Whether you choose to capture these reflections with a smartphone or a professional camera, the essence of the art lies in your unique perspective and creative interpretation.


Abstraction in photography mirrors the abstractions of our own minds. It is through the lens of our perception that we reinterpret the world, capturing the fleeting moments that speak to the depths of our souls. So, immerse yourself in the captivating world of reflection photography. Embrace the transformative power of abstraction, and let your images reflect not just the visible, but the unseen, the intangible, and the profound. In the end, it is in the reflective moments that we truly come alive, seeing the world anew through the lens of abstraction.



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