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Reflection Tanks - Two Images for the Price of One - part 1 of 1 2 3

by Mike McNamee Published 01/12/2015



Who doesn't like a bargain, we've all seen BOGOF promotions? So applying the BOGOF philosophy to photography Charles Farnell arps set about constructing a reflection tank to capture that extra image. We showcase few features of a really practical nature and so this one redresses the balance a little, but bear in mind as you read that the methodology explained could easily be translated to child or fairy photography with little more than a change in scale. A tap on the surface of the water would reflect a 'fairy' more realistically than a mirror, although you would have to ensure that electrical safety was given serious consideration.

I had done a fair amount of the usual garden-bird photography over the years but wanted to do something a little different and then it occurred to me that capturing a reflection of my subjects could be what I was looking for. I decided that I didn't want to spend hours lying on the ground next to a pond and in addition I wanted a muted background which was not going to be easy at ground level. This then lead me to think that I needed to raise the whole set-up off the ground to give me the control I needed. After one or two experiments I found a set-up that would produce images to my satisfaction.



Here's how I set about building my rig.
Take a standard sheet of exterior grade ply (8ft x 4ft x10mm) available from most good builder's merchants. Then cut a section measuring 1ft x 4ft and set aside for later. The remaining sheet will now measure 7ft x 4ft. Next fix four roofing battens (40mm x 20mm) around the edge to give maximum depth (see fig 1). The section removed earlier should now be cut to fit and positioned on an angle to provide a sloping shelf (see fig 2). Strengthen the underside by running three or four battens the full length countersinking the screws' heads well into the ply from the top side.

The frame is now ready to be placed on a convenient 'staging'. This could be a set of pallets or suitable table, etc, set at approximately one metre off the ground (see fig 3). Position the tank so that the raised shelf is furthest away from where you will be positioned when taking your images, remembering too which direction the light will be coming from. The next step is to cover the ply sheet with a butyl liner (available from good garden centres). Now is a good time to check the background of your proposed set up and reposition if necessary. Additionally a quick check with a spirit level will give you an indication as to the overall level of your reflection tank which when flooded will need to be as perfectly horizontal as possible. When satisfied with the level, you can start to flood the tank and the fun starts as you attempt to set the assembly into that truly horizontal plane (see fig 4). Adjustments can be made by moving wedges at the necessary corners until the shallow tank is completely flooded and level.

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1st Published 01/12/2015
last update 25/03/2020 12:33:26

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Updated 25/03/2020 12:33:26 Last Modified: Wednesday, 25 March 2020