When you hear the term “landscape photography,” you probably have an image in your mind’s eye that includes a large landscape with mountains, trees, prairies, beaches, or something of the sort.
What you likely don’t think of is an abstract image created by honing in on one small detail of the aforementioned landscapes.
But, as you can see in the featured image above, abstract landscape images are gorgeous in their own right, and they aren’t all that hard to create either! Consider these tips for changing things up a bit and creating stunning abstract landscape images.
Focus on the Details
When you’re so used to trying to get the “big picture” of a landscape, it’s difficult to switch gears to zeroing in on the intimate details of the landscape before you. Yet, being able to notice the little things is the first step in becoming a more adept abstract landscape photographer.
As you wander through a landscape, don’t just look out; look up and down, left and right. Get down on your knees and inspect the details of the ground in front of you. Have a closer look at trees or grasses nearby. Strive to notice interesting shapes or textures, patterns or shadows. It is these kinds of elements that will allow you to create a compelling abstract image.
A simple way to hone your detail-oriented skills is to find a small area, say 20 meters square, in which you challenge yourself to take at least a dozen photos of interesting details. You’ll likely have no problem with the first handful of images, but after that, the challenge begins!
Learn to See in Abstract
Landscape photography is about portraying the scene before you in a very literal way - what you see is what you get. Abstract photography is the polar opposite - the goal is to highlight an interesting subject that could be just about anything, depending on how the viewer interprets it.
As you strive to focus on the details in a landscape, go beyond taking smaller versions of literal landscape images and look for details that are often highlighted in abstract images. Layers, lines, and curves are typical abstract subject matter, as are textures, colors, and patterns. Don’t be afraid to get in close to objects in the landscape - really close, in fact - such that you can compose a shot that highlights the abstract qualities listed above.
Use a Longer Lens
Typically, landscape photographers work with shorter focal length lenses in the wide or ultra-wide-angle range. These lenses offer a sweeping view of the landscape that is conducive to traditional landscape photography.
However, if you’re going to focus on the small details of a landscape and the abstract qualities about those details that make for great abstract subject matter, you’ll need to work with a longer lens.
The great thing about using a long focal length for landscape photography is that it forces you to focus on a very small area of the larger landscape. Doing so helps you isolate intimate details that could prove to be excellent fodder for an abstract landscape image.
Get some practice by using your telephoto lens almost like a pair of binoculars - find a landscape and zoom in, surveying the scene for isolated areas that have the small details and abstract qualities noted earlier in this article. Then, it’s all about working on composition such that the images you create take on the stunning beauty of the sample images in this lesson. Give it a try, and see what you can create in terms of an abstract landscape photo!