10 Tips for Photographing ‘Abstract Landscapes’

As a landscape photographer I’m a big fan of grand vistas and photographing with wide angle lenses. But sometimes the smaller things can be just as impressive. In this little article I’ll be sharing some tips that will hopefully give you some inspiration when photographing abstracts. And when you start to see them, you can’t stop photographing them. It’s very addicting!

1. Look down

We tend to look forward and see the bigger picture, but beauty is often just at our feet. Go low to the ground and look down occasionally. You’ll find all kinds of interesting things. Think of textures on stones, lines little plants, patterns, contrast. Lots of interesting abstract shapes can be found on the ground.

A simple mud cracks pattern
Autumn vegetation on the ground

2. You don’t need a macro lens

Abstract landscapes can be shot with any kind of lens. I usually shoot them with a 24-70 (close focus is a pre-requisite) or sometimes a longer lens to capture patterns in the distance.

Black sand ripples caused by the tide in Iceland

3. Look at lines

When looking at subjects, find lines and try to balance them in your frame. Lines going from a corner into the frame often work well. Flowing lines also give a nice feel to an image.

Interesting lines and textures on a hill in Iceland
Grassy hills in Kyrgyzstan
Lines on a piece of ice going from bright to dark

4. Look at color and contrast

A combination of two distinct colors or dark and bright tones often work well in abstracts.

A combination of colour contrast and lines on a close-up of a house in Burano, Venice.
Little sand bumps hit by the sun turn to gold. The dark and bright works well here.

5. Lose perspective and scale

This has to do with looking at the smaller things in the “bigger” picture again. When photographing abstracts, it’s important to not show the surroundings. This way the viewer has no idea about the scale and perspective.

When you photograph a sand texture the right way, for example, it can look like a desert from above. It’s fun to trick the viewer and let them think about your photo.

This could be an image of a desert shot from a plane, but its actually just a shot of some sand ripples shot with a 24-70 lens.

6. Find single objects in negative space

Showing a lot of emptiness, or negative space, in the frame with a small subject makes for a nice abstract look.

7. Go to the beach!

The beach often has lots of sand textures. Especially when the tide is low, you can find patterns in the sand everywhere. They sometimes look like aerials, allowing the viewer to completely lose perspective.

A sand texture hit from the side by sunlight.

8. Water.

Water by itself is just incredible. Think of falling water from a waterfall or just the tap at home! Falling water in different strengths creates beautiful patterns. When photograph falling water, use an extremely fast shutter speed (1/1000 or faster) and just shoot away. You’ll see you come up with lots of interesting shots!

But not only falling water. Ripples in the sea can create interesting photos depending on how the waves are behaving and how the light hits. And then there is frozen water—frozen water creates cracks and interesting ice textures.

Falling water from a waterfall
A frozen piece of ice from up close looks like a hallucination pattern
Shapes in a frozen puddle

9. Harsh light and shadows.

Harsh light during the day is often not great for landscape photography, but it can be great for abstracts. By playing with shapes and lines in harsh shadows you can sometimes create interesting abstract looks.

Shadows, lines, shapes and contrast create a pleasing flow in this image of a piece of ice

10. Look up close.

Abstract landscapes are everywhere, you just have to learn to see them: textures in stones, lines in plants, clouds. The trick is to look closely. Look closer at everything you see in daily life and you’ll be surprised how many interesting things you see.

But be careful, it’s very addicting! :)

About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.