Did you ever wonder how you can make your everyday surroundings more special? Puddleography is the answer. Just use the reflections of water on the ground and you’ll be able to capture breathtaking shots. Brian Podolsky, a master of the art, shows you how.
Working in New York City offers a plethora of people, buildings, and landmarks to photograph. It is a mobile photographer’s dream. However, there are also thousands of mobile photographers all trying to capture the same buildings and landmarks and people.
So how do you stand out? How do you make your photographs different than the masses or the tourists?
There are many possible ways to achieve something that pops. I’ve chosen Puddleography — the art of using a simple puddle to display a subject in a way that most people wouldn’t. I like to think of puddles as almost a window to another dimension. You can add a lot of depth, complexity, and sometimes just awesomeness to what would otherwise be a simple street photograph.
In this tutorial, I’ll share a few tips and examples of how you can achieve these effects after the next rainstorm. All examples were shot with my iPhone 4.
Rule 1 – Get Low
Perhaps the most distinctive rule of Puddleography is shooting low. I mean, really low, curbside low, in the sewer low. I typically will hold my phone upside-down so the camera can get as close to the water as possible.
This will often provide the sharpest reflections. I’m no physicist, but trust me, it’s true. (You’ll also want to make sure that there is nothing coming that could splash you!). Simple edits such as brightness, contrast, and saturation adjustments can be made to enhance the reflection, yet keep it’s “realism”.
Rule 2 – Find a Subject/Composition
My second rule doesn’t apply to just Puddleography. It is a basic rule of photography, and when you combine it with the low angle and reflection, you can get incredible results.
Notice in the above example how I was able to capture the taxi, man crossing in mid-stride, as well as clear reflections of the tall buildings (which now appear beneath the street level). I was also able to include the curb to show some context.
Rule 3 – Bend the Rules
Sometimes a low angle won’t get you the reflection you want. In the above example, I found a very large puddle of water mixed with oil on 33rd Street in New York City. The sky looked gorgeous, the Empire State Building looked overbearing, and I probably looked like a kid in a candy store.
So I decided to capture all three in this puddle. The oil added some surrealism, so I didn’t even make any edits whatsoever to this image. Below is another example of bending the rules and having fun. I stayed with the “Get Low” rule, but the reflection here had so much in it, that I decided to flip the image vertically so as to have the reflection be the main subject that draws the eye.
Rule 4 – Keep Your Eyes Open
I walk about a mile each way between Penn Station and my office building. I will zig-zag across town so I have plenty of intersections, streets, and avenues at my disposal. I’m always looking, and again, sometimes the “Get Low” rule will miss your subject.
In the example below, I was walking up Lexington Avenue and noticed that my other favorite building, the Chrysler Building, was neatly tucked into this little puddle. Before I started noticing these things, I would have walked right past.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tutorial. With a good eye, and some rain, you can make magic.
Wait! Last tip! For those of you in dry areas, it doesn’t have to be rain. I’ve often shot puddles created from people hosing off sidewalks or street-cleaning vehicles.