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Approach to Minimal Landscapes - From start to finish


Landscape photography is indeed amongst the most loved genres in photography and so, after years of self taught journey, I've come to realize the importance of developing one's very own signature style. And yes, that takes time, and is a slow process of self realization.


I find myself today with a clear inclination towards moody and minimal landscape images telling a definite story. I'm a minimalist in my daily life too, so I guess doing this kind of work only helps me reflect on my inner self and hence gives me the "joy" - we all seek as photographers. I most often find myself using "time" as the key element in my images, as it renders a very dynamic and unforeseen perspective to the scene. Only explains my love for long exposures that often span several minutes.


Coming to the approach segment, I genuinely believe that making a photograph is never (and can never be) just "pointing and shooting".


It is in fact a "3 Step Process", starting with one's "Vision" about the final image, then "Capturing" the scene, and finally "Processing" the image towards the initial vision.


1. Vision and Execution


Every vision, whether in life or in landscape photography, starts with some sort of plan. For this reason I do indulge in a lot of web based research for ground work, location scouting, vantage point selections and weather understandings, before heading out to the location.


On location, I use my love for simple shapes (leading lines, diagonals, curves and such) and try to apply my child-like imagination in finding forms in any shooting context. Be it seascapes (my personal favorite), mountains, rocks or waterfalls.


Mostly, I try to find an object in the foreground for the eye to rest upon and use it as a hinge to lead into anything prominent in the backdrop. This helps impart a 3 dimensional perspective to the scene.


There are times, I zoom in to find a more intimate composition. Minimalism in landscape photography usually is all about isolating your main subject that provides the simplicity to the image, and yet relying on the surrounding atmosphere to bring the entire shot together.


Minimalism requires you to establish the tonal relationship between elements, like for example, a lone rock and a cloud hovering above it. I then take into consideration "meaning" or "story" in my shot and try to visualize my final image (For example, the rock and the cloud having a dialogue of sorts between them).





2. Capturing


I consider my exposure time at this point, and fine tune my intended composition. Once this is settled, I take a decision on whether or not any filters are required. Sometimes a long exposure emphasises the minimalism in an image, as it tends to draw focus towards the main subject while providing a sense of calmness to the rest of the image. To achieve a sense of time in my images, I'm usually inclined towards using a very long shutter speed. Once my gear is set up, I start the actual shooting work, which includes focus setting and exposure metering (F stop, ISO and shutter speed choice).


NOTE:

- Always shoot in RAW format for the maximum latitude it offers in post processing.

- Knowing your gear definitely helps as the ever changing weather and light never wait for the photographer. We need to respect them instead (and then use them to our advantage).





3. Processing


When it comes to working on a RAW image, my goal is to keep it true to my vision. Minimalism generally requires a simple approach without over-editing any parts of the image. I strive to get it right in-camera, and then leverage software to only realize my final intended JPEG image.


Mine is a two staged process where I first import the images into Adobe Lightroom, to which only a few initial adjustments are made, such as lens profile correction, white balance, cropping and exposure adjustments. Next, the image is then converted to 16 bit TIFFs to maximize the loss-less format ensuring that images will produce, and maintain the highest quality for future use. Each individual TIFF will then be edited in Photoshop to make use of it’s local adjustments that are non-destructive.


NOTE:

While working with multiple images, make sure to use Lightroom’s batch and sync workflow i.e importing a batch of images while making changes to just one image and syncing the settings across the batch. It will enable you to quickly copy settings from one image to another that will reduce your processing time drastically.


For the second stage, I work on the individual TIFF file in Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is still the most sophisticated digital darkroom software, as I find its tools much more powerful and providing finer control. Needless to mention, its true bread and butter - Layers and Masks.


I use Curves tool for contrast adjustment and then if it's a color image - Vibrance and Saturation tools for color development. For monochromes, I convert them to grayscale at this point.I use selective Dodge/Burn next to fine tune local adjustments. Finally, comes selective sharpening using High Pass or Smart sharpen filters. Then it's just a matter of exporting the image as a JPEG in a resolution customized for the intended medium - Web, Display or Print. That pretty much sums up the workflow involved.


4. Closing Notes


To be absolutely honest, the only thing to understand is that there are no rules in photography, and it's absolutely fine to chase one's own imagination in the whole process.


Also, in this era of social media, where it's easier than ever to learn and get inspired, we need to be absolutely cautious as well - of not getting carried away by other's works, and losing our own vision in capturing and processing.


Happy shooting to you all!






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