Mike Curry Used No Photoshop for His Stunning Fleeting Reflections

All images by Mike Curry. Used with permission.

Mike Curry has been a professional photographer for thirty-nine years. He grew up in Yorkshire, England, and moved to London in 1982. In the last ten years, he has been concentrating on landscape and abstract projects commissioned by his commercial clients. Mike’s work has won awards in international photography competitions and has been published in the Sunday Times Magazine and Outdoor Photography Magazine and had a book published in 2017 by Triplekite Publishing named ‘Fleeting Reflections’. Mike is also a Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography. 

Have you ever noticed flashes of colors and shapes reflected in the water and considered them not worthy of studying? Well, you may be surprised to know that they probably contain more detail and shapes than you could imagine, or actually even see with the naked eye. In this article, I will explain how, over the last nine years, I first captured my abstract Fleeting Reflections, all created solely in-camera without the use of Photoshop, and how I refined the technique by incorporating my practice of meditation. I believe your readers will be interested as there is nothing quite like it I have seen on the internet. 

Kit List

  • Nikon D500 for density its of AF points over the whole frame and its speed of operation generally
  • Nikon 70-200mm f4 lens – no need for an f2.8 lens if you are shooting f8 and smaller
  • Fastest largest memory card you can afford
  • Patience! Most of my published images were derived from 3-4 hours of solid shooting of one area averaging 2-4,000 shots to create ONE final image experimenting with different exposures and in-camera multiple exposure methods.

I was invited to work on a commercial commission for Canary Wharf Group plc in 2012. They were looking for a new angle on their iconic estate in London’s Docklands and approached me with a view to creating some images for their stock library. Given an “access all areas” pass and carte blanche to work all hours of the day and night in their estate, I had the freedom to visit whenever I could in between other jobs; being local was a real advantage. It was a fantastic opportunity and a very flexible and open-ended brief which was a photographer’s dream. As well as creating more standard stock images for them, I was expected to present them with images that surprised them.

Having taken most of the images I thought they would want, I started looking for something a bit different. Then, one day when it was sunny and still, I noticed a patch of blue on the water – it didn’t look much but I lifted up the camera to take a few snaps of it. I was astounded at what I captured, it looked like nothing I had seen before…. a riot of geometric shapes and colors and all captured in-camera. Something triggered in my head, an enthusiasm and excitement for a possible new project.

I have always thought that, for projects to resonate with you, they have to have deep roots somehow connecting things from perhaps your childhood, or your hobbies, etc. Then I realized what the connection was. I used to love playing with Kaleidoscopes and Spirograph and found them very satisfying and relaxing to play with, keeping me occupied for hours. There was my connection and I was hooked.

Having attended the On Landscape conferences regularly, I had heard some wonderful speakers extol the merits of working locally and the importance of returning to the same spots often, trying again to see something new. The idea being that unless you are enthused by a project, and it is easy to spend time on repeatedly, in a multitude of circumstances, it’s unlikely to flourish.

So, I set about trying to create pieces that resonated with me – I firmly believe that producing images that you love through a process you find enjoyable is the most important thing, it shouldn’t matter to you what other people think of your work.

Early experiments with Fleeting Reflections were a bit hit and miss. I tried various settings/locations/conditions until I finally hit upon a recipe for greater success. I worked out it was only really worthwhile setting out if the weather looked suitable (sunny and still) but, if you plotted the likely number of days in the year when the weather conditions were sunny against my availability it showed there were very few chances to get any decent shots of the caliber I wanted.

Once I hit upon this formula, I further refined the technical technique. Off the back of the right weather conditions, the task was to find some good reflections, and this is where being hyper-vigilant helped. I would sort of notice something moving out of the corner of my eye most times. Your peripheral vision is more sensitive to movement so that is no accident. I would do a test shot, as the patterns on the surface of the water move so quickly, experimenting with slower/faster shutter speeds mainly until what appeared on the LCD was looking good. Then the key to success I found was patience!

I discovered I needed patience to:

  • Wait for the correct weather conditions coinciding with my availability
  • Walk for miles to find a reflection that suited the conditions
  • Experiment with camera settings continually to get the look I was after
  • Once the above criteria were met, the patience to stand at a location for up to 4 hours taking up to 3,000 shots of the same scene
  • Then once captured and downloaded to the iMac, the patience to sift through thousands of VERY similar images purposefully, only then processing those that caught my eye in Capture One and only then using very global tools like levels, clarity, sharpness etc. never manipulating this images in Photoshop
  • Then the patience to wait initially around 7 years until I had a body of work to present to a publisher for my first book ‘Fleeting Reflections’ published by Triplekite in September 2017 and then the subsequent exhibitions at the Greenwich Gallery in 2017 and Anise Gallery in London in 2019.

Above all of the technical requirements to capture these reflection images I think the overriding factor in creating successful images was as a result of my meditation practice which taught me patience and allowed me to ‘get in the zone’ and spend hours concentrating on the same spot. I would often ‘snap out’ of such moments and instinctively knew then to stop and rest. So, if it is just one thing you learn from this article let it be that patience really is a virtue when it comes to Fleeting Reflections!

Technical Details of Images

Constellation: iso 400 – 1/1000th second – f16 – 200mm (300mm equivalent full frame) -0.7 EV – 3X in camera multiple exposure

Crane: iso 2500 – 1/125th second – f8 – 70mm (105mm equivalent full frame)

Crossing: iso 800 – 1/250th second – f8 – 100mm (150mm equivalent full frame) +1.0 EV – 3X in camera multiple exposure

Frequency: iso 125 – 1/250th second – f4.5 – 70mm (105mm equivalent full frame) -1.7 EV

Pulsar: iso 1250 – 1/500th second – f18 – 200mm (300mm equivalent full frame)

Ribbon: iso 800 – 1/500th second – f8 – 200mm (300mm equivalent full frame) 3X in camera multiple exposure

Silk: iso 4500 – 1/1600th second – f18 – 200mm (300mm equivalent full frame) – 3X in camera multiple exposure

Sunbeam: iso 800 – 1/400th second – f8 – 70mm (105mm equivalent full frame)

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.