In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball. - Anton Chekhov
Glass was the theme of today's #AmyShuttPhotoaday challenge, a photography project for this month coordinated by Amy Shutt of Amy Shutt Photography.
What is glass? Appropriately following the photography challenge theme of "water," glass is a state of matter unto itself, sharing properties of both a liquid and a solid.
Glass is a rigid material formed by heating a mixture of dry materials to a viscous state, then cooling the ingredients fast enough to prevent a regular crystalline structure. As the glass cools, the atoms become locked in a disordered state like a liquid before they can form into the perfect crystal arrangement of a solid. Being neither a liquid nor a solid, but sharing the qualities of both, glass is its own state of matter. - Corning Museum of Glass
While it is a myth that glass can actually "flow" like a liquid given enough time (which according to mistaken common knowledge leads older window panes to be thicker at the bottom than at the top), glass does have some odd non-solid properties. The molecules in glass are a bit chaotic, like a crowd of people holding hands in a rather disordered state.
Liquids flow because there are no strong forces holding their molecules together. Their molecules can move freely past one another, so that liquids can be poured, splashed around, and spilled. But, unlike the molecules in conventional liquids, the atoms in glasses are all held together tightly by strong chemical bonds. It is as if the glass were one giant molecule. - Corning Museum of Glass
For today's challenge, I wanted to visualize glass on multiple dimensions. At first I thought of photographing something that was glass-like - a still lake at sunrise for example. But yesterday as I walked Mojo (my boxer) around downtown Baton Rouge, I noticed how breathtakingly the rows upon rows of tall office building windows were reflecting the cloud-dotted sky. I didn't have my camera out with me then, for fear of the dog chasing down a squirrel and carrying me and my precision instrument with him. So I returned on this overcast and grey-lit morning to a particularly tall window-covered building a few blocks from my house.
This time I carried an optical prism with me. (Also made of... glass!) Optimal prisms are designed to disperse white light into its colored light components (wavelength separation, in fancy terms). They are also fascinating photography props when you want to throw reflections and "bend light" in your photographs. Photographer Sam Hurd is famous for his "prisming" technique which he uses for portrait and wedding photography. After following him for some time on Facebook, I was inspired to order my own optical prism and start playing.
To get the shot featured in this blog post, I stood looking nearly straight up at the glass-window building and rotated the prism (oriented horizontally) at front-bottom of my lens until I found the reflection I wanted. In my featured shot above, I reflected the tree and lamp-post behind me into the shot. I like this shot because it defies expectation, making one peer into the photo and wonder what is happening, what is real and what is reflection. The word "surrealism" comes to mind.
In another shot (below), I reflected the windows themselves into the bottom of the frame. I like this shot for its symmetry. Which one do you like better?
My camera settings were nearly the same for both shots. I was using a 40mm lens on my Canon 5D Mark III, an ISO of 100, an aperture of f/5.0, and a shutterspeed of 1/1600 seconds. I was in aperture priority mode with a slight positive exposure compensation. In post-processing in lightroom, I pulled up the tone curve in the highlight region slightly and added a bit of clarify and vibrance. I boosted contrast, sharpened the entire image and removed some dark vignetting. Luckily the windows of the building appear to be clean - I did remove a few glass spots/smudges in Lightroom.
If you try this, just keep rotating the prism to find the reflection you are looking for, and try moving it (the prism) toward and away from your lens to make the reflection larger or smaller.