Abstract landscape photography is one of the best ways photographers can show off their creativity and uniqueness.
This genre is quite different from traditional landscape photography, which is more about capturing detail and showcasing the beauty of a landscape trying to reproduce its realistic look and feel.
Through abstract landscapes, you can, quite literally, see through the lens of the photographer. The viewer can interpret what the photographer has captured, and that is different from any other form of photography. By capturing small details or highlighting portions of a scene it’s possible to create artistic images that evoke emotions and force both the viewer and the photographer to exit the usual way of looking at things.
An excellent abstract photograph is not just an aesthetically pleasing sight. It gives viewers a peek into the photographer’s vision and ability to inspire emotion. Here are a few tips to help you get started with abstract landscape photography.
Related article: Landscape Photography Tips For Beginners
What is Abstract Landscape Photography
The purpose of abstract art is to generate thought and evoke emotion in the viewer.
This is achieved through the aesthetic nature of the photograph rather than the descriptive information conveyed by the image. Abstract landscape photography is an extraordinary “tool” to showcase one’s mastery of photography and art.
Abstraction forces you to focus on the essential elements of a picture, such as color, tone, form, and texture. Your goal is to create a piece that the viewer can interpret freely. Rules can be applied in a different way, broken, or even reinvented.
That doesn’t mean pointing your camera at anything and start shooting. It’s a matter of not being limited to traditional forms of landscape photography.
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How to Take Abstract Landscape Photos
Like everything else in abstractionism, this answer is very subjective. Any landscape photographer would know that the picture lies in the grandeur of the scenery in front of them.
However, in abstract photography, the subject can be a close-up, and the image does not necessarily have to be in front of the photographer! Textures, lines, patterns, and contrast are all crucial aspects of abstract landscapes. You just have to start actively looking at the scenery around you to notice.
Read also: Intro to Desert Landscape Photography
1. Composition in Abstract Landscape Photography
The single most crucial factor in abstract landscapes is composition. In abstract landscapes, the generic model of using the subject and the light as the focal point of the image goes out of the window.
The literal way to frame a shot is no longer required. Hence, the composition of the picture plays a considerable role. A common way to do this is by removing unwanted elements from the image that takes away the ‘meaning’ of the landscape. The goal is to put the focus on the broader imagery rather than the detail.
2. Use Lines
When taking pictures, one of the best ways to represent the abstract nature of the image is through lines. If you can find lines in the subject that are spread across the landscape, try to balance them in the picture.
Flowing lines in an image also lend it a very soothing feel. Through lines, you can also split the composition of the image from light and dark areas. If your scenery has lines, it is imperative that it fits the composition of your image and does not take away the meaning.
3. Negative Space
One of the hallmarks of abstractionism is using negative space. The emptiness in the scenery helps give the subject of the picture more importance.
The usage of negative space with the right contrast and shadow can help raise the visibility of the subject even more. A common theme in abstract landscape photography is to use a small subject and cover the rest of the image with negative space; it lends the image a beautiful minimalist look.
4. Create a Double Exposure
A feature in modern photography that allows the camera to use two images and merge them into a single, double exposure is hardly used in photography.
However, when talking about abstract photography, double exposure can help you create some beautiful pictures. To achieve the maximum out of this feature, you can use different settings for the two pictures. By varying parameters such as the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, you can take multiple photos, and then superimpose two or more images and create a new one.
5. Create a Bokeh Effect
Although the bokeh effect is considered a staple of portrait shots, you can also use it to your advantage in creating beautiful abstract landscapes.
You can create a blurred image that shifts the focus to the background instead of the foreground. The reversal of the technique leaves little to no detail in the picture, thus leaving it to the discretion of the viewer to interpret the image as they see fit.
6. Intentional Camera Movement
With Intentional Camera Movement (also knowns as ICM), you can deliver artistic photographs that resemble a painting. Instead of keeping your camera still while shooting, you move it while the shutter is open to create unique artistic effects. Panning is an example of ICM.
In panning, you try to keep a moving subject sharp by moving the camera following the subject’s direction and create a blurred effect on the background. Intentional Camera Movement photos are usually taken in low light conditions with slow shutter speed.
Related: Experimenting With Intentional Camera Movement
7. Black and White Abstract Landscapes
Playing with shadows and light, and taking advantage of the neat separation of blacks and whites tones you’ll produce dramatic photos with a great sense of profoundness.
Choosing to shoot black and white is an effective way to create abstraction by removing the superfluous. In this case color is what’s “not needed” to convey an intriguing feel to the image.
9. Get Closer
Close ups of natural objects in your landscape allow you to capture details and use it for your abstract photos. A macro lens is not needed, you can either zoom or if possible walk closer to the subject.
A flower, a tree or patterns from distance are all good examples of details that can help telling a story without showing the entire scene.
10. Water in Abstract Landscape Photography
Use water as an element to either generate a sense of calmness or energy and dynamism. A fountain, a waterfall, ripples on a pond or calm water on a lake all give space to your creativity.
Water allows you to shoot abstract landscape photography in various ways, the key is to choose the right shutter speed to freeze motion or create motion blur. Experiment with different compositions, and see how shooting from different angles give you different effects.
Abstract photography is perhaps the best way photographers can express their ideas, emotion, and vision. By using landscape photography as a means for abstractionism, you are able to showcase the best of both worlds.
You don’t have to apply these tips all at once, which one will you experiment with? Will you try abstract black and whites? Or use lines and patterns? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Great article Stefano. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best photographs don’t look like photographs at all; the camera is merely used as a tool. The best photos come as a result of chance and happy accidents. I’ve recently been experimenting with ICM (intentional camera movement) for landscape photography and I’ve managed to achieve quite a few happy accidents. Everyone’s photos look exactly the same, so it’s nice to try something different. I wouldn’t mind writing a blog post about it, so if you’re interested then let me know. Again, thanks for the great article. All the best, David
Couldn’t agree more David! Experimenting with new photography techniques is the best way to learn, improve, and have a lot of fun. As you said, often one can achieve remarkable and unexpected results by just trying new, different things. Would be great to read about your experience with ICM. I’ll send you a private message. Cheers