Minimalist photography by and large captures my imagination far more compared with traditional landscape photographs. I also I find that the less that’s in the frame, the more challenging it is to photograph. Go figure.
The thing about minimalist landscape photography is that the use of negative space is what sets it apart from traditional landscape photography. It’s also negative space that makes the difference between a good and bland photograph. Unlike traditional landscape photographs where leading lines, vectors, horizon lines, or curves to create a sense of movement, you instead have minimal (obviously) textures, shapes, or colors. Instead of filling the frame, you make efforts to leave much of it blank. The effort is to maximize the photograph’s negative space while leaving enough context to stir up emotion. That’s not to say that the use of leading lines, vectors and such aren’t still important.
Everything is Minimal
One thing that I’ve learned that has made the largest difference in improving my work is that in most respects, all attributes of the photograph should be minimalized. I know, this seems like should go without saying. For my initial attempts, however, I allowed for a cloud in the sky or a range of colors on my subject. In principle, there should be more negative space than textures, colors, or shapes. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be any of those attributes. Indeed, then you would just have a blank sterile photograph. Instead, it is about practicing creativity and beauty while being restrained.
Another thing that I’ve found to be helpful is to avoid foregrounds. In my experience, while foregrounds can add an element of interest when using a wide-angle lens, they have a tendency to complicate the frame and make it more difficult to pare down what is in the frame. To do this, I find it much easier to get a fair amount of distance between me and the subject, get some height if at all possible to avoid noise finding its way in the frame, and to use a telephoto lens to keep the environment out.
Why I’m Not Good at Minimalism
The fact of the matter is that I find this type of landscape photography most beautiful but most difficult. Try and try as I do, high quality work eludes me. I know that my work has progressed but there is still a lot of progress to be made. Namely, I would like to focus on cleaner transitions from subject to sky. So far, I’ve found my best work has been monochromatic. In my case, that is black and white but monochromatic can be for any color – not just black.
Compared to this time last year, my favorite landscape work remains mountain photography. The lenses that have used to produce these images have been my 150mm and 300mm which for a 645 medium format camera equates to approximately 90mm and 180mm lenses in full frame format.
If you have similar experiences with minimalist landscapes or if you have any advice, please leave a comment. If you have some examples a minimalist landscape photograph, please feel free to share in the comments.