In this day and age of fast paced and highly active lives, everyone it seems owns a digital camera and everyone wants to be a photographer. Let’s face it, the cost of taking pictures these days is very small (after the initial expense of buying the equipment); the costly film-processing days are gone. However, a serious problem arises from all this. We are made to believe by the advertisements we see from the major brands that, with all this technology at our disposal, everything will fall into place and our pictures will look stunning.
So, imagine the scenario: every newly inspired landscape photographer, well equipped and armed with a variety of gadgets, is on location, waiting for the 'right' light, as it is well known. When the time comes, the pictures are taken and there is a rush home to see the results, only to find out that those pictures do not look as good as the ones in the photographic magazines.
What now? What went wrong? After all, that lovely ultra wide angle lens was used which captured as much of the scene as possible, including that glorious sky. Actually, this is where the problem starts most of the time. Lack of confidence makes us include as much of the scene as we can in our compositions. I have said it before, a glorious sky in itself will not produce a stunning image; it will produce a very pleasing picture – desaturate the picture and view it as a black and white and you will see my point. Thoughtful compositions make superb images, colourful skies don't.
Minimalism is a term I am sure you have all heard before. Great painters of the past implemented this technique in their paintings, resulting in breath-taking masterpieces.
But the questions are, why does minimalism work and why should it work in landscape photography? And the answer, simply, is because less is more. Minimalist compositions allow our brains to concentrate on the subject and, of course, the subject will be, and should be, something simple and easy to comprehend. I am displaying a few images in this article, as well as some advice. Hopefully they will illustrate my point on minimalism, and will inspire you to set out to create your own ‘masterpieces’.
• Slow down and look at your surroundings. Be there early and scout the location and I am sure you will find the best subject to include in your composition. A tripod will slow you down and help you to fine tune your framing.
• Do a bit of gardening while fine tuning the scene. Make sure there are no objects in the frame that can detract the viewer’s eye from the main subject. You can clone them out in software, but it is best to take care of them on location if possible.
• Use filters. ND grad filters will help to balance different exposure values and will offer a more pleasing final result. Other filters such as neutral density can be used to improvise, to alter exposure times and to create images, rather than merely capture pictures.
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• As you are aiming for a minimalist effect, your subject needs to be simple yet impressive in the frame. It is very important to know all about the rule of thirds and implement it when it suits you.
Most importantly, remember the waiting game. If you are not a person with unlimited patience, then you will need to become one. You need to make sure you can stay on location and wait for the right moment, when the light will be at its best and will reveal to you all its glory. It is vital to combine a really beautiful and simple composition with the best possible light. It is only then that you will be certain you have a masterpiece in your camera.