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Minimalist photography is a highly effective, and often emotive, way of representing the world that we live in. It focuses on simplifying the composition of the image in order to focus the viewer’s attention on the fewest number of subjects as possible in one frame.
Photographic minimalism originally evolved out of the 1950s avant garde artistic movement by the same name but has since been accepted as an important artform in its own right. Minimalism uses simplicity to highlight the beauty of a single object, scene or subject.
Minimalist Landscape Photography.
Minimalism has played an important role in landscape photography and is known for its sparseness of content and harmonious composition. The popularity of minimalist landscape photography has consistently blossomed since its inception, and although many of the classic landscape photographers employed similar techniques it’s only in recent decades that it has taken on such a major role in the public consciousness.
Applying the concepts of minimalism to landscape photography allows the viewer to focus on a limited number of elements and appreciate them in a more intense way. By decluttering the scene the photographer creates impressive compositions that speak to the subconscious of their audiences and can therefore have a surprisingly powerful impact.
What Are The Best Types of Locations for Minimalist Landscape Photography?
Not all scenery lends itself particularly well to minimalist landscape photography. Landscapes that have multiple points of interest can take away from the sparse elegance that a minimalist photographer will be seeking in their compositions and so selecting the right locations is vital to get the best results.
This is one of the most critical factors to get right in your minimalistic landscape photography. Of course, you can use cropping and clever framing techniques to cut out distracting features of the scenery – and this is highly advised – however, when you are presented with the perfect landscape for minimalist interpretation you should be able to recognize it immediately!
Some of the best locations for minimalistic landscapes include:
- Coastal Areas. The vast sky stretching into the distance and textured ocean makes the perfect background to pick out a particular detail in the foreground – such as a boat or tree.
- Desert Areas. In a similar way to coastal regions, the large expanses of empty space in deserts are an ideal canvas to work with.
- Mountainous Areas. Oftentimes, mountains have very minimalist features because there is unlikely to be many houses or human developments on their rock faces. You can work effectively with the sky and sharp angular forms of the mountains to create powerful compositions.
Compositional Tips for Minimalist Landscape Photography.
Minimalism can be understood as a form of subtraction – whereby the photographer removes everything from the composition except that which is necessary! Always try to keep your compositions uncluttered and as simple as possible.
- The Rule of Thirds. When you select a subject within your landscape photo you don’t want it to dominate the image too much. To achieve this you can use the rule of thirds to place the focal point in a visually pleasing way within the frame.
- Use Negative Space. It’s the empty spaces in minimalist photography that gives it the signature impact. You can include some positive space in the image, for example a lone figure, however let the negative space dominate the photo.
- Incorporate Texture. When you use negative space in an image it can often be more powerful if it has an interesting or unusual texture. You could use a geological feature in a minimalistic desert landscape or the waves on the ocean to achieve this effect.
- Use Lines and Other Elements of the Scenery to Draw the Viewer’s Eye into the Image. When you’re taking a minimalist shot you can still incorporate leading lines or other natural features of the landscape to create depth, subtle drama and interest amongst the negative space.
- Look for Isolation. The feeling of isolation in a landscape can be used to capture the true essence of minimalism. If you spot a lone object in the scenery it can be used as a fantastic focal point for your photo.
- Color is a Powerful. When you see contrasting or complementary colors in the landscape you can use these to add interest to your photos. When you’re photographing a minimalist landscape, always keep the palette of colors in mind and try to use them in ways that add to the pathos and narrative of the image.
What Kind of Lens Should You Use For Minimalist Landscape Photography?
Selecting the right type of lens for your minimalist landscapes will not only facilitate better photos but it will also help you to cut out unwanted distractions in scenery that might not be perfectly suited to a minimalist shot.
Wide Angle Lens.
One of the top choices for your minimalist photos of scenery is the wide angle lens. This lens works best in landscapes which are already quite minimalist, such as the seashore or a desert. It will allow you to get a good wide perspective that lets you capture as much of the scenery as possible in a single shot.
If you are using a wide angle lens then you need to be aware that it will also distort the landscape a little bit. You may not notice it too much in an empty landscape but the wide angle will actually make objects that are closer to the lens seem like they are bigger than objects which are further away even though they look the same size to the naked eye. However, it does give you a better perspective that can be a really useful tool in minimalist landscape photos.
A wide angle lens is not suitable for busy landscapes though because you won’t be able to cut out unwanted parts of the scenery. To make the best use of a wide angle lens you’ll have to be in a location which is already well suited to minimalist photography.
Long Focal Length Lenses.
A lens with a long focal length is extremely useful for minimalist landscapes because you can compress the scene and focus on a certain part of it. This means that you can easily cut out, or crop, objects or parts of the landscape that you don’t want; thus keeping your photo simple and uncluttered.
With a long focal length you can choose the exact part of the scenery that you want to focus on, even if it’s far away. This lets you select the focal point in the scenery even if it wouldn’t be possible with other types of lenses.
Another technique that you can use with a lens that has a long focal length is to use it in conjunction with a large aperture setting. This will let you blur the background or create a graduated fade away effect – both of which can be effective in minimalist photography.
Can Post Production Aid Minimalist Landscape Photography?
Post production is always helpful in photography and if used correctly you can improve many of your shots.
- Minimalist photos can be cropped in post production to remove unwanted elements in the photo which you couldn’t cut out while taking the shot itself. This will make the images more striking and focused on the elements that you wanted to highlight without any other distractions.
- Increase the levels of contrast in the image to bring out differences and emphasize the color gradients in the photo. This lets you brighten or darken the photo and even subtle variations in the contrast can have a huge impact on the finished product.
- You may need to use a lens correction tool in post production if you were using a wide angle lens. This will clean up any distortions around the edges of the frame which can take away from the quality of the image. You can also straighten horizontal or vertical lines that have been distorted.
Generally speaking though you should try to keep your post production editing to minimum. It’s always far better to capture the image on site rather than try to fix it later in the editing suite. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make some fine tuned adjustments later on but you should not be relying too heavily on editing to correct things you could have got right in the field.
Minimalist Landscapes and Drones.
Since the advent of lightweight, high quality cameras and affordable commercial grade drones, a whole new world has opened up for minimalist photographers! By using a drone you can get bird’s eye view of landscapes that would have been absolutely impossible just a few decades ago!
Many landscapes are filled with negative space and are perfectly suited to minimalist photography when viewed from a higher perspective and with the help of a drone you can easily explore this concept.
Minimalist Landscape Photography is a Thriving Artform.
Despite the seeming simplicity of minimalist photography there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye! You’ll need to have excellent compositional skills and an understanding of how a dominant negative space can effectively interact with tiny areas of positive space.
Concentrating the viewer’s gaze on a single subject amongst a vast expanse of empty space can create some of the most emotive photos of any genre. Never before has minimalist landscape photography been more popular and if you can learn to master this elusive artform you’ll always find a large audience for your work.
Is minimalism in photography something that you are interested in?