The little things: A guide to quiet landscape photography (part one)
Landscape photography is commonly recognised as depicting scenes of ‘grand’ landscapes and wide sweeping vistas. In a way, it is the wow factor these images possess that catapulted this genre of photography into the mainstream with the advent of social media.
However, over the past few years I’ve noticed a gradual shift occurring in the landscape photography community towards a different style of nature photography that is providing many with a greater sense of fulfilment and joy in their craft.
Small or ‘intimate’ scenes of the landscape are gaining more attention on social media as an increasing number of landscape photographers begin to experiment. This article delves deeper into this style of landscape photography, the reasons why it has become increasingly popular, and how it may change your relationship with photography and nature.
What is an intimate landscape photograph?
The term ‘intimate landscapes’ has been around for many years and goes as far back as the early pioneers of landscape photography. An intimate landscape distinguishes itself from a classic grand landscape scene by revealing details about a place that most would often overlook.
Intimate landscapes are often photographed with a narrow field of view to isolate a particular subject and reduce distracting elements in a scene.
Finally, intimate landscape scenes also allow the audience to experience a place up-close and personal as if they were standing in the landscape rather than viewing it from afar. This closeness allows a photographer to reveal more about a place and tell a more in-depth story.
Why photograph intimate scenes?
Intimate scenes have commonly been used as a way to convey a deep connection with the landscape. Spending long periods of time in one place or making return visits has the advantage of revealing certain details that may not have been apparent upon first inspection.I personally have found these scenes will often only begin to reveal themself after a second or third visit to a location.
This style of photography provides an opportunity to create unique and meaningful work that is also unlikely to be replicated. It forces a photographer to slow down, take in their surrounds, and be truly present in the landscape.
This is one of the key fundamentals in learning to ‘see’ in nature and to find compelling intimate landscape scenes.
Photographing the intimate landscape also provides an avenue for artistic expression. It provides the photographer with the ability to offer a glimpse into how they see the natural world and in doing so can begin to shape their own unique style.
So what’s the approach?
The approach to photographing intimate scenes is commonly regarded as a ‘slowing down’ in nature. It requires a certain level of curiosity and exploration to begin identifying these types of scenes. Taking the time to slow down when in the field, and be truly present in your surrounds will help reveal certain details and opportunities for intimate landscape images.
Spending time getting to know a location will also help photographers gain a stronger understanding of a place and help with telling a more interesting and unique story.
Finding an interesting part of the grander landscape may be a great place to start if you are used to photographing traditional wide-angle scenes.
Focus the attention of the scene around an interesting part of the landscape that initially caught your attention. It may be the way the light hits a certain part of the landscape or a tree sitting alone on a mountain ridgeline.
Starting to see more abstractly is another great way of identifying and creating intimate landscapes. Identifying key graphical elements in nature such as line, shape, texture and pattern will help you see things more conceptually and allow you to utilise nature’s naturally found design qualities to compose intimate scenes.
There are a number of things you may wish to consider when composing intimate landscapes.
First, is the the arrangement of elements within a scene. Where you have multiple elements in a scene it’s important to consider the arrangement of these elements. Will the elements be arranged evenly across the scene or will they be grouped together on one side? If they are grouped together on one side of the frame is there another element or subject on the other side to balance out the scene?
Next is the framing. The sense of closeness of an intimate landscape scene often means that the subject will fill most, if not all, of the frame. It is therefore critical to consider what will be included and more importantly, what will be excluded from the composition.
Avoid distracting elements around the edge of the frame that may pull the viewers eye away from the main subject. Aim to have a frame that helps keep the viewer’s eye focused on the main subject.
Finally, consider your vision for the scene and what exactly it is you are trying to convey. Whether it be a concept, idea, or an emotion, use your unique perspective and knowledge to create an expressive piece of work that tells a story. Your images will be stronger for it.
Look out for part two next week.
About the author: Jeff is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Victorian High Country, where he has lived with his family since 2017. He spends his time trying to understand the intricacies, and capture the beauty, of this special part of Australia. See more at freestonephotography.com.