Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques

Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques

Details in the landscape can be just as rewarding to shoot as sweeping vistas. Lee Frost gives his top tips for stunning abstract landscape images. Generally, when we think about landscape photography, the images we conjure up are of sweeping views; photographs on a grand scale that capture the immensity and beauty of the countryside. But what of the landscape at your feet? What of the many patterns, textures and details in nature; the small-scale subjects that make up the very scenes we try so desperately hard to photograph? They too can be the source of fascinating images and, unlike the grand view, they provide much more scope for personal interpretation because no one else is likely to see them in quite the same way – if they see them at all. Famous vistas around the world have been photographed many times before, so it’s hard to shoot them yourself without thinking of the images you’ve already seen, and often what you end up with is no different or better or more creative than anything else. With details in the landscape, this is never the case because you wouldn’t travel to a location specifically to photograph an arrangement of rocks or a particular tree, and if you did, chances are you would never find it anyway. The images you end up with are therefore unique because they can never be planned – you don’t know what you’ll find until you’re there, and the chance of another photographer producing an image just like yours is slim! Below I give you my top tips for abstract landscapes to inspire you to create your own. 1/14 Tip 1 Remove any sense of scale Excluding a sense of scale from your images will force the viewer to imagine it, and this can lead to fascinating interpretations. A close-up of patterns in a small rock may appear like an aerial photograph; ripples on a sandy beach look like a vast desert; a trickle in a river could be a towering waterfall cascading over cliffs. Clearly, your intention isn’t to fool anyone, but by removing a sense of scale from compositions, that’s what can happen, and it makes those images more interesting as they force viewers to take a closer look to fathom what’s going on – they challenge our sense of familiarity. 2/14 Tip 2 Forget about the horizon The first step in focusing your vision on smaller aspects of the landscape is by excluding horizons. Including the horizon in a photo immediately defines it as a vista, as it suggests open space, and all sense of intimacy is lost. Once the horizon is gone, so is that sense of space. Instead you’re concentrating on the view. That’s the great thing about shooting the landscape on a smaller scale. One minute you can be capturing an area of many square metres; the next on your hands and knees composing a detail a few centimetres in size. 3/14 Tip 3 Get the light right All types of natural daylight suit abstract landscapes. I favour the softer light of bright overcast weather, as low contrast makes it easier to capture fine details and subtle colours. That said, bright sunlight can work well, too, and the stronger shadows it casts are ideal for revealing texture or simply adding to the abstract appeal of the image. 4/14 Tip 4 Keep it simple When composing an image, think carefully about what you include and exclude. Adopt a ‘less is more’ approach and go for simplicity rather than filling the frame with clutter. The final image needs to be immediately eye-catching and arresting, otherwise it won’t hold the viewer’s attention. 5/14 Tip 5 Do a little gardening If you’re not totally happy with the natural arrangement of elements in a shot, don’t be afraid to do a little tidying up to improve the composition. Remove items that don’t serve a purpose. Add items if there’s not enough going on. Splash water over dry rocks if they look better wet. Use a brush to remove debris such as sand on rocks (I always carry a small paintbrush for this purpose). 6/14 Tip 6 Make the most of mono By converting your images to black & white, far more emphasis can be placed on the patterns and textures in a subject or scene. It’s often possible to reveal powerful patterns that weren’t obvious, because the colour provided too much of a distraction. Black & white reduces everything to a bare minimum and reveals the bones of a scene. Lines, shapes and the play of light and shade become far more important, and the viewer finds a photograph is appealing because of the visual strength created by the elements within it. 7/14 Tip 7 Beside the seaside The coastline is especially rewarding for details. You could spend days exploring beaches, photographing pebbles, shells, sand ripples, the patterns and shapes in rocks, driftwood and seaweed. Intertidal zones are especially interesting because they’re in a constant state of flux and every time the tide recedes you never know what surprises it will reveal. One thing’s for certain though – there will be surprises! 8/14 Tip 8 Go graphic Some landscapes just lend themselves to the abstract treatment. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to produce bold, graphic images. Deserts are a good example – vivid orange sand dunes against blue sky are irresistible. Rocky landscapes like the type you find in places such as Utah and Arizona are the same. Use a polariser to deepen the blue sky and saturate the colours in the landscape, and try to keep the composition nice and simple. Dark shadows can be a welcome addition, revealing texture in the landscape as well as enhancing the graphic feel of the scene. 9/14 Tip 9 Change your view Shooting from different viewpoints and angles can make a big difference to the look of the final image. Get higher up and look straight down on your subject matter, or get lower down so you’re physically closer to it. Experiment with tilting the camera to unusual angles – the more you move away from convention, the more abstract the shots will be. 10/14 Tip 10 Move the camera Try panning the camera during exposure. In woodland or gardens pan vertically and trip the shutter as you’re panning. Try shutter speeds from 1/30sec to 1/2sec – the slower the shutter speed and the faster the pan, the more blur you’ll get. By the sea, pan left to right, and the beach, sea and sky turn into horizontal streaks of colour. 11/14 Tip 11 Close to home 12/14 Tip 12 Reflections in water Lakes, lochs, tarns, pools – the British landscape is full of water, thanks to all the rain we get! When that water calms you get a perfect mirror image of the landscape, but ruffle the surface and abstract patterns in colour are created. Either way, use a telezoom lens to home in on interesting areas and focus on the reflection rather than the water’s surface. Ideally, shoot in sunny weather when the light is strong and colours are well saturated. 13/14 Tip 13 Ice and easy Winter may be behind us for a few months now, but once the mercury starts to plummet later in the year, why not explore the landscape in search of icy details? Frozen lakes, ponds, river and waterfalls are all worth checking out, and if you move in close, you can capture amazing patterns, especially if there has been some freeze/thaw action going on. 14/14 Tip 14 Improve during editing If needed, images can be improved in post-production. Cropping allows you to remove unwanted elements and simplify the composition. Square crops change the balance and feel of an image compared to the normal 3:2 ratio – they have a more ‘fine art’ look. Where the colours are naturally subdued, try boosting vibrance.
abstract landscape photography techniques 1

Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques

For this series of photos Alfonso Calero was inspired by Russian-American painter Mark Rothko. He shares the camera techniques he used to create an abstract look, and explains why libraries are such good places to search for inspiration.The following photos take their inspiration from Russian painter Mark Rothko. Rather than capturing a literal view of a particular place, these images hint at a location and mood but are entirely open to interpretation.Rothko always resisted explaining the meaning of his work. “Silence is so accurate,” he once said. He felt that if he explained his art it would limit people’s ability to interpret his work.Here is my tribute to the artistry of Mark Rothko and some thoughts on how you can start creating your own abstract photos. No.8. Mark Rothko, 1952. 01 SLOW SHUTTER SPEED The blur effect in these images was created by setting a slow shutter speed and moving the camera. Experiment with different shutter speeds and try moving the camera at different rates. Generally speaking, blur will appear in your images at shutter speeds slower than 1/30 or 1/15s. The slower the shutter speed, the more blur you will get. In these pictures I set the camera’s exposure mode to Shutter Priority (abbreviated as S or Tv on the top dial) and switched the shutter speed to 30 seconds.Photo by Alfonso Calero. 02 MINIMUM ISO Use your camera’s lowest ISO setting – usually 100 or 200 ISO. This will not only reduce the appearance of noise in your image, it will also allow you to choose a slower shutter speed.Photo by Alfonso Calero. 03 NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTER If you are shooting during the day you will probably find that it is too bright to select a really slow shutter speed. You can reduce the brightness of the scene, and access a slower shutter speed, by placing a neutral density (ND) filter in front of the lens. ND filters work a little like sunglasses, reducing the amount of light that enters the lens. By darkening the scene you can choose a slower shutter speeds and/or a wider aperture. ND filters come in different strengths (ND2 reduces light by 1 stop, ND4 by 2 stops, ND8 by three stops) and are available through most camera stores. (Near dawn and dusk it should be dark enough to use a slow shutter speed without having to use an ND filter.)Photo by Alfonso Calero. 04 TRIPOD It seems counterintuitive but a tripod can be useful when creating blurred images. In these pictures I mounted the camera on a tripod and slowly panned from left to right. I used a small spirit level to make sure the camera was perfectly level when I took these shots. Experiment with different variations of movement and see which one you like best. A fluid and steady movement will help you avoid jagged edges on the lines.Photo by Alfonso Calero. 05 INSPIRATION The options for abstract photography are almost endless and I encourage you to experiment with different camera settings, subjects and post production effects. This project began because I was interested in the abstract pantings of Mark Rothko. I often find myself in the local library reading about artists and art movements that interest me. Often we look to photographers for inspiration, but the wider art world can also be a rich source of creativity and ideas. Who and what inspires you?Born and raised in the Philippines, Alfonso Calero moved to Australia at the age of 15. He graduated from the Sydney Institute of Technology with an Associate Diploma in Photography in 2001 and has been professionally photographing food, portraits, landscapes and travel subjects ever since. He started a travel education and tours company four years ago delivering workshops every Saturday morning in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle. He also takes groups of four people to Japan, Philippines, Spain and Tasmania once a year for 10-14 day photography workshops. You can buy cards and prints of Alfonso’s Rothko inspired images here.Photo by Alfonso Calero.Photo by Alfonso Calero.Photo by Alfonso Calero.

Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques

Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques
Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques
Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques
Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques
Abstract Landscape Photography Techniques