#1006. Lake Surfaces: Variations on a Theme

By Nancee Rostad | Art & Creativity

May 22

It’s amazing how much the coronavirus pandemic has dampened my ordinarily good spirits and, thus, my creativity. Each day of persistent uncertainty has drug on in a most alarming way, so much so that I had to have a firm talk with myself about picking up my camera and taking a few photos. Sort of a personal “just do it!” demand. So, adhering to social distancing and experiencing an extreme need to leave my house, I decided that my car could quite simply be my “mobile safe place” – if I didn’t leave the vehicle, of course. This series of images came from five or so of those safe forays into the great outdoors.

The theme that I chose was water, as in lake water. Living close to Lake Washington has its benefits, such as being able to see weather conditions over the lake which alert me to the possibly of a good day for reflections. It takes all of thirty minutes or so to reach my favorite spot on the opposite side of the lake, where I’ll wait and watch for cloud formations to do their magic on the surface of the water.

Chance, without risk, is the method behind the madness, and all the components must be performing on a certain level to make an interesting reflection. I’m not looking for trees or mountains to reflect on the lake, I’m looking for the artistic imprint of clouds and light.

Early on I decided that water would be the canvas – be it glassy and clear or opaque and dull. Clouds and light would be the paint – whether bright or soft filtered light and towering white clouds or dark and brooding rain clouds. Wind and wakes from watercraft (or waterfowl) would be the brushes – gentle breeze, strong gusts, a change of direction, waves or choppy waters.

Each day that I ventured to the other side of the lake produced the variations: sometimes painterly with individual brushstrokes, or abstract splashes & designs, or amusing lava lamp like blobs appearing. Many of the resulting images don’t appear to be water at all, which is quite pleasing. The only thing remaining the same from day to day was the basic color palette of blue, white, gray and even taupe.

Since my watery subject is a moving target at the best of times, multiple images must be taken in an attempt to capture the fleeting designs as they dance about on the surface of the lake. it’s definitely hit and miss, but even the “misses” can be keepers. Post is just a matter of sorting through hundreds of images trying to choose my favorites. A simple contrast adjustment, maybe a crop, and sometimes a dimming of the most vibrant blues are all that’s needed.

More variations of the lake surface occur than I can possibly capture with my camera. They’re never-ending and I always find it difficult to choose a time to leave the lake behind. What if a better reflection occurs? What if the next 10 days are totally overcast and worthless for reflections? What if…what if? It’s definitely a project that can and will be added to over time.

While waiting for passing clouds to cast their reflections upon the surface of the lake, I have time to daydream about where I will travel when this pandemic has passed, or at least retreated. When my darker side gets a toe-hold, it occurs to me that it may never pass and that I will be destined to live out my days within a small circle of safety. Somehow observing the soothing, repetitive motion of the wavelets brings me back to a happier place, one where I’m free to fly away whenever and wherever I desire. Such are the contradictory thoughts of the creative mind. As William Wordsworth so aptly wrote, “A lake carries you into the recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.”


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  • Paul Perton says:

    Another great post from my photo textures buddy.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Odd co-incidence!

    Only a few hours ago, I was sitting in the waiting room at my dentist’s, 5 minutes walk along the street from here – staring at three painterly photographs with a very shiny finish – all three seemed to relate somehow to water, but I couldn’t figure what they were – except to register the fact they were holding me spellbound.

    When my dentist was ready to see me, he sent his assistant out to bring me in, and she had a bit of a job peeling me away from those pictures.

    Afterwards – since you can’t talk coherently with a mouthful of dentist! – I inquired who had created these images, and were they shiny because they’d been printed on metal?

    The answer was startling. No metal – on canvas – and I think they said that the shiny finish was some kind of epoxy resin finish. But then came the king hit – the answer to my “Whodunit?” The creator of these images – which left me impaled on the arm of a sofa in their waiting room, unable to get up till shouted at! – was . . . . the dental assistant! I bet none of you saw THAT coming! 🙂

    And then there was the exhibition of photos of Australia’s Lake Eyre, that I saw last year. Those images haunted me for WEEKS afterwards – and as I said at the time, if I’d been asked to adjudicate on them, out of the 12 photographs on exhibition I would have felt compelled to give the first prize to six of them, equally!

    So, yeah! [Aussie expression! Water is a fascinating subject.

    Nancee I don’t know how much you like fooling around with your images in post processing, or whether your target is SOOC. If you like to play, you can do wondrous things with reflections on water, in Affinity Photo. You can get it on a 3 month free trial, I think that’s still available – and if you twiddle the sliders (particularly the top one) in the “haze” filter, you’ll find it’s amazing with reflections on water.

  • Jean-Claude Louis says:

    Brilliant, Nancee ! I look at the images, sit back, close my eyes, dumbfounded, my thoughts wandering 🙂 Brings back memories of crossing the South Pacific, at sea for days, sitting on the deck looking at the water for hours at a time, colors and textures ever changing – hypnotizing.

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you, Jean-Claude for your lovely comments. Crossing the South Pacific sounds like a dream vacation – I must give it a try. I’m happy that my images took you back to such a happy place.

  • philberphoto says:

    Nancee, you put a very difficult question for me to answer. What is more important: the images or the messages? (I just had to use the plural form for symmetry and rhyme) 🙂
    Your images are a startling demonstration that less is more -or at least can be in the right hands-. I must resist any thought of trying to emulate them, it leads me only down the road to self-pity… Superb, inspiring, awesome…. what else? Congrats and kudos, that’s what else… Note to self. Never post after John Wilson. Never post after Nancee Rostad. And never ever post after Nancee Rostad following on a John Wilson piece of brilliance!

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Oh, Philippe, you do flatter me! You must try your very capable hand at photographing reflections, it can be rewarding, frustrating, and humbling all at the same time. I know that doesn’t sound tempting, but it does shake your creativity back into action!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Thank you for sharing!
    The photos are just lovely, and the text!

    It’s interesting how these impact on my vision and brain.
    Larger surfaces leave my eyes free to enjoy details if there is enough of a pattern; smaller surfaces do that even without a pattern; larger patternless surfaces are much harder on my eyes until I have looked a long time.

    ( Which is also true of music.)

    They change every time I look…
    #1 stays, I believe it’s that the play of light almost takes away my feeling of water.
    The last one stays, small enough to feel calm (without a pattern) and full of beautiful shapes to explore … and that play of light!
    #7 feels very dreamy, I believe it’s the light making the waves seem to move away into it (although they’re probably approaching).
    – – * – –

    You must have had a *lot* of patience with many of these! I would guess that with some of these high resolution double speed video is the minimum to have a reasonable chance of catching a frame of what one wants without too many retries?

    Thank you also for the inspiration, I’ve tentatively tried sky reflections in water a few times, but as yet with only occasional results.

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you, Kristian for your very kind words. It was indeed a lesson in patience, but a very pleasurable and humbling experience. I’d encourage you to try again with the sky reflections on water – the elements do all the work, so all you have to do is capture them!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Thanks, Nancee, for your encouragement!
        I certainly will, water is just around the corner where I live.
        With luck my learning curve of what works will occasionally overlap with happening to make a catch.

  • Patrick says:

    Beautiful captures and formations….opening doors to endless thoughts and imaginations. Tnaks for sharing.

  • John W says:

    Nancee what a wonderful idea. I can see all sorts of possibilities with these images. Wonderful collection.

  • Pascal O. says:

    Dear Nancee, yet another enlightening post, thank you!

    You demonstrate how something that most will consider bland, indifferent can offer so many variations in texture and hues in the hands, better, thanks to the eyes/lens of an artist.

    Your mention of the need to go through hundreds of shots just gives a glimpse of the attention given to produce this post.

    As far as I am concerned, I remember some interesting attempts on a lagoon, thus still water, at very low speed with the help of a tripod, generating a close to milky surface.

    Thank you again. Stay safe.

  • Lad Sessions says:


    Sorry I didn’t comment sooner. But I have found this project, and its images, wonderfully absorbing, as it must have been to you in the making. What a great idea for a constricted time of our lives! (Possible next project: How about looking up and pondering the ever-shifting clouds?) Every moment’s ripple is unique, and there are some deep lessons herein. One, of course, is that through patience you can see deeply into things most of us pass over lightly. Another is the transience of all things–not just a Buddhist thought! A third is that beauty lurks everywhere, and deeply; I am coming to appreciate Whitehead’s value theory through your photographs.

    So: Thank you!

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Lad! I love the idea of lessons learned during the experience – patience, transience of all things, and beauty lurking everywhere are certainly true. It was a very rewarding project, especially since I had to really use my creativity to bring it to fruition. I’m often gazing at clouds, so that might be a good follow-up project.

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