The definition of abstract landscape photography is somewhat subjective depending on who you ask, but the overall object of abstract landscapes is to essentially present the landscape in a way in which is different from how a human would normally perceive a landscape.
This is most commonly done by composing your image in a way that removes or distorts some of the surroundings–presenting it in a fashion where it is not necessarily nor immediately recognizable as a landscape.
For example, a traditional landscape usually features a natural horizon and may include some trees, maybe a pond, and some mountains. Traditional landscapes are highly recognizable to the eye meaning we immediately know we’re looking at a landscape.
But, an abstract landscape may take the viewer a moment or two to study before they really “see” what it is they’re looking at.
Let’s take a look at some examples as we discuss some of the ways we can turn an ordinary landscape into an abstract landscape.
1. Use Textures
Using texture may be something you’ve already practiced incorporating into your photography, but if you haven’t worked with texture as a compositional tool yet, abstract landscapes can be a great way to start. You can capture interesting textures in abstract landscape photography with numerous approaches. One being example being aerial photography where you can photograph large portions of land from a very high vantage point such as an airplane or using a drone.
Another way to capture textures without having to leave the ground is by looking for textures on a smaller scale. Perhaps the tall flat side of a rock wall or the inside of a canyon like we see in the image below.
2. Use Geometric Patterns
Geometry has a large presence in nature, but it often goes unnoticed because we tend to take in the bigger picture of things rather than spending a lot of time breaking down the scene into lines, shapes, and angles. As a photographer, you may have trained yourself to notice these things more quickly, which is perfect because geometric patterns can make for excellent photos.
Start by looking for lines, and/or shapes. When you notice an interesting pattern, begin examining different ways you can compose your photo to make the pattern the subject of the photo. You may need to zoom in or out, or test out higher or lower vantage points to see the pattern from a different perspective.
To make the example photo above, the photographer found a way to photograph the tea field from a high vantage point to make the intersecting lines and row patterns stand out. Besides utilizing geometric patterns, the photographer also added a touch of color theory by incorporating the red umbrella in the lower right hand corner. Color theory is another handy tool to use to make your photos stand out even more.
3. Use Motion Blur
For most landscape photographers, motion blur is big no-no when shooting certain things like trees and other inanimate object. But, when it’s executed properly, a little motion blur can go a long way when you’re creating an abstract image. Using motion blur can give a photo a painterly feel to it, like we see in the photo above.
There are different ways to create motion blur, but one of the easiest ways is to use a slightly longer shutter speed and “dragging” your camera as you snap the photo. You can drag the camera in any direction you’d like to create the stroke like effect. The stroke marks will be in the direction in which you drag the camera. You can also drag the camera in multiple directions or shake or wobble it for a similar effect, so don’t be afraid to get out there and experiment!