How to perfect a reflection using the Campanile di San Marco

We had a lot of rain the first couple of days in Venice. Too hard to shoot photos in, from time to time, but in the spells without too much rain, we took out our camera's. A good thing about the rain, is that many people disappear into restaurants, shops and cafes, and you can get a photo of the Piazza San Marco without too many people. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

A small pool of water after the showers used to photography a reflection the Campanile di San Marco.

We had a lot of rain the first couple of days in Venice. Too hard to shoot photos in, from time to time, but in the spells without too much rain, we took out our camera’s. A good thing about the rain is that many people disappear into restaurants, shops and cafes, and you can get a photo of the Piazza San Marco without too many people.

The making of this photo

I literally sat down my Nikon D800 on at the edge of this pool of water and shot my HDR 5 shots. I have got an L-plate on the camera, that makes it very easy to snap on and off my ball head and change from horizontal to vertical. Another advantage is, that it gives a sort of a foot to have the camera on, and I just placed that straight on the ground.

Campanile di San Marco before

One of the five bracketed shots unedited. As you can see the surface of the water is not perfect.

The surface is of the poodle is not perfect. What I did to compensate for that, was to make a duplicate of the layer, flip it vertically, and blur the flipped layer slightly, using Gaussian Blur. The purpose of the blue is to match the blur the water gives. I don’t like a too perfect reflection.

Then I placed the new flipped layer in the right place and put a black mask on it and painted through with a white brush. In Photoshop it looks like this:

01 -Campanile di San Marco flipped

First the layer is duplicated. This is done by pressing CTRL + J or on a Mac CMD + J. The next step is to to blur the newly flipped layer, to match the blur of the tower in the poodle. Pick somewhere, where you like the blur level. It is a part of what makes it balance between the unreal and the believable.

02 - Campanile di San Marco rotate

The next step is to place the layers exactly on top of each other. To do this I use the Rotate tool, found under Edit->Transform->Rotate. I will end up using the flipped layer completely in the pool, but it still have to look like a straight tower. To be able to place the tower correctly, I change the opacity of the top layer momentarily. It’s a classic mistake to forget to set it back to 100%, and then you can’t figure out what is wrong.

03 - Campanile di San Marco Paint Through

The last step is to mix the two layers. That is done by using a mask. I prefer to work with a black mask and use a white brush to paint through.

I did some extra clean up in the photo. The person in the very green jacket I removed by using some of the bracketed exposures. The person is moving quite fast and is not in the same location in any of my shots. By blending the layers, changing the exposure to the appropiate level, I could completely remove the person.

2 thoughts on “How to perfect a reflection using the Campanile di San Marco

  1. Hi Jacob,
    Thank you for this very useful tutorial for perfect poodle reflection !
    You talk about L-plate, Can you tell me which model of L-plate do you have for Nikon D800.
    I haven’t decide to buy yet…maybe it’s worth the purchase.

    Thanks again
    Ciao
    Massimo

    1. Hi Massimo,
      Thanks a lot. Funny that you should ask, I have an upcoming buying guide for tripods and l-plates. But you get the necessary details here. For my Nikon D800 I have the Really Right Stuff l-plate, but I find it insanely expensive. Also I live in Europe, and have to put tax on top of it. I therefore end up with a price $140 + 30% = $182, for a piece of metal. Recently I bought a Sony A6000, and there was no way I could get myself to buy an l-plate worth half the price of the camera. No way! So I started searching, and I found the Neewer on Amazon and got it home for a price around $35, this is the D800 version (I got the A6000 which is $10 cheaper) Neewer Black Aluminum QR Quick Release L-Plate for Nikon D800 and D800E. And how do they compare? Well, seen from my perspective, Neewer and Really Right Stuff are made equally solid. I don’t have the exact same l-plates, but I have three Really Right Stuff and one Neewer, and I won’t be buying anymore Really Right Stuff plates. Neewer feel the same, look the same at the cost of 1/5th – it’s a no brainer.

Leave a Reply to massimo cuomo Cancel reply