WARNING: Mixing water and electricity – however inadvertently – can lead to serious injury or death!  Only responsible, experienced personnel should participate in the mounting of this type of effect!

Students often ask about the best way to get a dappling reflection off standing water.

The effect relies on the angle at which the light hits the surface of the water.  Place the lamp as close to a 180˚ axis to your subject as possible.  Though it can take a bit of experimenting, find the right height and distance that allows you to point the lamp head at the water and “skip” the light off the surface to the subject.

Use as big a source as possible – at full flood.  The broader the beam projected on to the water, the wider the reflection’s spread.  Also, a certain amount of exposure is lost in the process, so the more light you have in reserve the better.

The reflection from the water should be the only illumination that hits your subject.   Take special care in flagging off any spill that will lessen the effect, especially as it emanates from the lens of the lighting unit.

Use a shovel or something similar to stir the water; this will create the constantly changing, dappling look.

Several specialized units in waterproof housing were placed at the bottom of the pool.  They were DC powered and thus posed no threat of electrocution.



  1. I figured out a way that involves no water. lol It should really be on shittyrigs. You use a diffuser to bounce a source through a gel. The gel then will reflect, not the color but the specular highlights from the plastic. Then you or your assistant “tickle” the diffuser from underneath, while the gel is on top. This will cause the highlights to ripple. It’s not this level of good, but hey it works for a closeup in a pinch. hahaha I am not a proud man.

  2. Michael – there are many ways to get the effect, but we can only work with the tools at hand. It sounds like you did exactly the right thing!

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