Landscape photography is all about trying to capture a scene in such a way that the awe we feel while looking at it in person is also felt by anyone who sees the image. To do this, many landscape photographers focus on filling the frame from corner to corner with light, pattern, texture and color — from foreground flowers to the mountain range or cloud-filled sky in the background.
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However, landscapes can also offer a quiet stillness, a calm in the simplicity of the view. Capturing something visually compelling while keeping as few elements in the frame as possible requires the same skill as filling the frame. Minimalist nature photography is an art that takes practice. Sometimes the most masterful landscape photograph — the one that leaves us staring at it for a while — is the one with the least complexity. The following images prove that oftentimes less is more.
Tip: Weather is the friend of the minimalist photographer. Not a sunny day? Perfect! Take advantage of mist, fog, rain and clouds to blot out extra distractions and leave only a few elements to draw in the eye.
Tip: Even minimalist photos need a point of interest and leading lines. Find something to draw in the viewer and keep them there. In the photo above, the rocks draw the eyes from the lower frame to the center of the image and let us just rest there in contemplation.
Tip: The rule of thirds plays a big role in minimalist photos. With so little in the frame, composition is everything. Remember to utilize techniques such as the rule of thirds, the golden ratio and other techniques for a balanced composition.
Tip: Sunrises and sunsets are always ideal times for landscape photography because of the beautiful quality of light. But they hold extra help for minimalist photographers. Sunrise and sunset — particularly in coastal areas — often mean fog, mist, low clouds and other weather conditions that make it easier to find minimalist landscape scenes.
Tip: Minimalist photos can still tell a story. They're sort of like a six-word memoir, where so much is said with so few words. Try your hand at using as few elements as possible in your scene while still creating a sense of adventure, tension, longing, excitement, loss, joy or other emotions.
Tip: Minimalist landscape photos are not only about cutting the clutter, but also mastering minimal color. Too many colors counts as complicating an otherwise simple scene. The color palette of the shot should be just as selective and balanced as the elements in the composition. The images above and below are great examples of bringing in just enough color and varying tones to be interesting while still keeping things simple.
Tip: A minimalist landscape doesn't have to be flat. The photo above shows great depth to the scene, drawing viewers all the way from the foreground to the distant shore of a calm lake. And it does so with just three very simple shapes. This photo also takes advantage of other tips we've discussed including haze, leading lines, the rule of thirds and balancing color.
Tip: Use a polarizing filter to cut reflections in water. This simple tool will help reduce the glare and distracting reflection in your landscape shot. A circular polarizing filter lets you adjust just how much reflection you take out or leave in, for ultimate control over the simplicity of your photo.
Tip: If you want to create your own moodiness in watery landscapes, use a slow shutter speed. This technique turns moving water into what looks like soft mist. Click on the headline below for a tutorial.