Creating amazing photos can be much easier than you think. The simplest images can be the most striking. Keeping your image simple means minimalism. In this article, you’ll learn about creating minimalist landscape photos. The creation of these type of images requires the correct use of a lens, and often the correct selection of location. Read on and find out all you need to know to create minimalism in your landscape photos.
In this photo, the main subject is the mountain in the distance. The remainder of the frame is kept simple.
The location for a minimalist landscape
Where you take your photo will determine your success with minimalist landscape photography. You’ll have more success in remote locations, but urban environments can also be used for minimalism as well.
When photographing in a busier environment, you’ll need to use the correct lens and camera angle to maintain minimalism with your photo. More remote locations naturally have a minimalist feel, but the challenge in those locations is locating a strong main subject.
The following are locations you could use for minimalist landscape:
Coastal – This is a great location for minimalist photography. The great expanse of the sea invites minimalism. You can further build on this by flattening the sea through long exposure. Interesting rock formations or a lighthouse can make great main subjects.
Deserts – Whether you’re photographing on the sand or on the ice, deserts are the land equivalent of the sea when it comes to minimalism. Vast, uniform in their features, and without the clutter of human development.
Mountains – Another area that is remote are mountains. These also offer opportunities to create a minimalist landscape. With too many mountains in the one scene they can also be potentially cluttered, so choose compositions with care. A lone hut surround be the green foothills of a mountain range would make for a good subject.
Deserts make excellent locations for minimalist landscapes.
The lens you choose is equally as important as the location for a minimalist landscape. There is no absolute rule over which lens to use; it depends on the location you find yourself in. If you have chosen a location in the wilderness, the chances are you can use either a wide angle or a long telephoto lens. However, if you’re photographing in the city, the lens becomes important.
Wide angle – A lens that works well for minimalism, as you can use that wide angle to create the nice negative space required for a minimalist landscape. Think how you can get down to a low angle for those ripples in the sand on a sand dune. In a more cluttered environment, you need to be careful though, as the wide angle could easily cause unwanted elements to appear in the frame and make it too busy.
Long focal length – The longer focal lengths allow you to zoom in on a particular portion of your scene. Here, the challenge is to avoid compressing too many things into the same photo. Choose an area on the horizon that’s interesting but devoid of too many extra elements. This focal length can be a big advantage in an urban setting that’s generally too chaotic for minimalism, yet has portions of the skyline that can be zoomed in on to create a minimal image.
This photo uses a wide-angle lens. This really captures the interest in the foreground from the shapes in the sand.
Adjust your perspective
Photos that are taken at eye level work well for many situations. However, when you’re looking for minimalism, changing to a new angle works wonders.
The following are good choices when it comes to simplifying your image:
Bird’s eye – Things looks very different from a high angle looking down. The higher you get, the more dramatic this becomes. One of the reason’s drone photography works so well is its potential for minimalism.
Worm’s eye – At the other extreme is the worm’s eye view looking up. You could include a small amount of the horizon line, and make the remainder of the photo about the sky. This will give you a landscape photo with a very minimalist feel.
Framing – The use of a frame around the landscape portion of your photo could give you a minimalist photo. The landscape itself need not be minimalist in this case, so long as the surrounding frame provides enough negative space to tick the minimalist box.
Lensball – A lensball, in effect, frames a landscape inside a spherical object. That allows you to take a minimalist landscape, and keep the area surrounding the ball simple. This will give your photo a minimalist edge as well.
A lensball can be used to capture a scene that’s not normally minimalist, and capture it in a minimal way.
A good main subject
Every photo type is strengthened by having a main subject. In some cases, the inclusion of that main subject can be more of a challenge. Portrait photos, for instance, always have the main subject – the person you’re photographing. Landscape photos may not always have an obvious focal point – in some cases, it’s not needed – but for most photos, it will give you a stronger image.
In a minimalist landscape, that main subject will leap out of the photo strengthened by the minimalism across the rest of the frame. So what type of object could you use for this main subject?
A lone tree – The classic, a lone tree. There’s a good reason for this, of course. It’s a clear focal point in an image, looks beautiful, and works well for a number of composition types. It’s also relatively easy to isolate a lone tree.
A single person – A lone person silhouetted against the horizon. Someone riding their bike up the ridge of a hill. Whether you decide to stage this or it was more spontaneous, the photo will have more narrative.
A building – A red-walled building against green hills is a good combination for a photo. In a coastal setting, a lighthouse can make for a great subject.
The single yurt acts as the main subject in this photo.
Use other techniques
Minimalist landscapes naturally dovetail with several other well-known photography techniques. You can apply one or more of these to your photo, for a better image. Take a look at some of these techniques, and look at why they’ll improve your photo:
Silhouettes – In order to photograph a silhouette, you’ll be photographing towards the light, and quite likely towards a sunset sky. This means landscape features in your photo will likely also be black with a colored sky. This will give you a good chance of creating a minimalist image.
Long exposure – Blurred clouds moving across the sky, or flattening the sea are both potential results of long exposure photography. Use a tripod and expose for more than 5 seconds to flatten the sea, and usually longer than 30 seconds to see cloud movement.
Refraction – The use of a lensball for refraction photography is a good way of creating minimalism even in a busy setting. Place the more complicated scene within the lensball, and surround the ball with a blurred bokeh background for minimalism.
Harmony – This means keeping the same set of colors within the same photo. So try cold colors or warm colors. Even better for minimalism is keeping the same color, but in different shades. There is lots of potential for this in landscape photography, especially when the photo is taken from a bird’s eye point of view.
Contrast – One of the reasons black and white photography works so well is its intrinsic minimalism – especially those black and white photos with the highest contrast. Look to experiment with two main colors, and not more when creating a minimalist landscape.
In this photo, there are a number of elements in the frame. The minimalism is provided by the single tone of the image. The main subject is silhouetted against the background.
Landscapes and minimalist photography are two of the most popular photography genres there are, so it makes sense to combine them.
Have you experimented with this type of image? Did you use any of the approaches mentioned in this article? Having read this article, would it make you approach your landscape photography in a slightly different way? What approaches do you use for landscape photography?
As always, we’d love you to share your opinions and photos with the community. Please share in the comments section of this article.
is a specialist in creative photography techniques and is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His work has featured magazines including National Geographic Traveler. With over 8 years of experience in lensball photography, Simon is an expert in this field. Get some great tips by downloading his free e-book!
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