When you think about minimalism in photography, photos taken with a macro or long lens often comes to mind. These lenses can easily blur the background into a single color and make the subject stand on its own. In addition, the narrow field-of-view presented by a long lens can also help to create minimalistic images.
On the other hand, when you are outside shooting with a wide-angle lens, it’s tough to imagine creating a minimalist landscape image. No matter what composition you pick (other than a close-up macro or a detailed shot), isolating a single element with a wide-angle lens can be challenging. Despite this, it is possible to create minimalist images with a wide-angle lens. All you need are the right conditions and a bit of creativity.
Shooting in Fog and Mist
Fog and mist reduce contrast in an image and mute the colors that you would normally see on a sunny day. I took the image above during through a heavy fog in California. On a normal day, the cliff on the left side of the image is covered in lush, green vegetation. But on the day I shot this photo, the fog muted the colors and obscured the details. I used this effect to create a minimalist image composed of just the wave front (which forms a leading line), the dark beach, and the haystack rock in in the distance.
Shooting on a Overcast Day
Although the contrast of light is lower on overcast days than on sunny ones, low contrast doesn’t produce a loss of detail that you’ll find on a foggy day. This means that, on an overcast day, it’s even more difficult to create minimalist compositions. Because the right terrain is necessary for a minimalist image on an overcast day, deserts and water are ideal to accomplish the task.
I took the image above in New Mexico (White Sands National Monument) on an extremely overcast day. The background was selected to include only elements of similar tonal value… this technique allowed the vegetation to really stand out.
Slow Shutter Speed
If you are close to water you can use a slow shutter speed to remove all textures and details from the water to create a minimalist image. With the help of an ND filter, this can be done at any time of the day. The first of the two images directly above is from Bahia Honda in Florida. I used a 56-second shutter speed to capture a minimalist image of the fabulous colors of the water. Varina used the same technique to capture this iceberg (the second of the two images above) in Jakusarlon.
So… if minimalism is your thing, don’t ignore your wide-angle lens. Instead, put on your creative hat and challenge yourself. Feel free to share some of your own examples in the comment section below.