OP Home > How-To > Shooting > Minimalist Landscapes


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Minimalist Landscapes

No matter the conditions, remove yourself from expectations and focus on what’s there and not on what you wish was there

This Article Features Photo Zoom

This eerie white landscape posed a challenge for Theo Allofs. He used the salt flat as a reflector for the colors of the predawn sky to convey the mood of this desolate, but fascinating location. Salar de Uyuni, the Altiplano, Bolivia.

It's early morning; your camera gear is packed. With a cup of steaming coffee in your hand, you hike to the viewpoint you selected the previous evening. You're full of hope that this morning the sky finally will be filled with the dramatic clouds you've been waiting for. Without these clouds, the majestic landscape you've been exploring over the last few days will lack drama. You want this picture to be perfect, you want nature to cooperate. Twilight comes, and the first golden sun rays are breaking into a star at the top of a mountain ridge to your right. Above your head, the sky is as clear as the night before. Disappointment takes the place of anticipation. You lose interest and focus, dump the rest of your coffee, and hike back to your car.

Star trails can be combined with a strong foreground subject like this saguaro cactus for an evocative image. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona.
I learned a long time ago not to expect nature to cooperate. Nature does what she wants whenever she wants, not when you want. Expectations can destroy our ability to be creative. Instead of waiting for clouds to show up and getting frustrated if this doesn't happen, we should explore all our opportunities with open eyes. Use any kind of weather or light condition to your advantage. This is the challenge of nature photography. Instead of walking away, you should have explored your photographic options by excluding the sky and zooming in on landscape details.

Deserts usually lack clouds. If you're lucky enough to get a cloud-filled sky in the desert, shoot as much as you can, but don't expect that to happen on the day you'll be there. Instead of relying on a dramatic sky, use the strong contrast between the sunlit areas of the dunes and the shadows to create dune abstracts. Sand dunes are among my favorite topics in nature for creative abstracts. It's amazing to see what the effect of the sun low at the horizon can do to a landscape that's a boring monotone without any contrast at midday.

A telephoto lens is an excellent tool for isolating and flattening the perspective on a scene. North Island, New Zealand.
The opposite scenario can also occur. You can have striking cloud formations, but no grand landscape to match it. I was driving along a very isolated road in Australia's Outback when small puffy white clouds started to form in the sky. The landscape was barren except for small bushes and drought-resistant trees. I found a tree near the road that somehow would make a nice silhouette. I first photographed the whole tree including some grass and bushes in the very lower part of the frame. Then, I decided there was too much distraction from the beautiful cloud formation. I turned the camera up and included only the top part of the small tree.

A similar situation is demonstrated in the photo where I used a saguaro cactus in the foreground of a clear and moonless night sky with star trails caused by an exposure of about eight hours. The star trails accentuate the background without taking anything away from the cactus as the main subject.

1 Comment

Add Comment


Popular OP Articles