It's been nice seeing abstract and intimate scenes coming back into style among the landscape photography community. Of course the wide, grand views of epic skies, dramatic mountains and complex foregrounds are awesome, but over time I have actually come to have a greater appreciation for the smaller kinds of scenes in nature. There is something about them that makes them feel more special to me. Perhaps it's because they are harder to find and replicate, making them more unique and one of a kind. Or maybe it's because I can get lost in the details of more intricate scenes. Or it might be because they challenge my creativity and skills so much more than the obvious scenes do. Whatever the reason may be, I think these scenes are definitely special and every photographer should have them in their gallery. Once I started looking for these kinds of scenes, photography also became a heck of a lot more fun and interesting. It's easy to get bored when you limit yourself to only big, wide landscapes with epic light, as they don't all come together that often.
For me, an abstract scene is one that doesn't give the viewer a clear sense of scale, or of where it was taken, or what exactly the object is. Abstract photography is such an artform because it takes a lot of creativity to produce. You are really transforming whatever it is that you are shooting into something much more than just a mere object, you are turning it into a feeling or an idea.
If you're like me and you want variety in your gallery, then you will need to start using different lenses, looking in different places, and using your brain in different ways so you can find and capture these hidden scenes. It's important to remember that the same compositional principles apply such as balance, light, subject, color, flow, etc. These are five ways to think that will make it easier for you to notice these principles and organize these scenes in the field.
1. Showcase Light: Focusing on the way light transforms an object or a surface is a great way to find really colorful or dynamic, small scenes. Try zooming in and focusing on the separation between the highlights and the shadows, or the different hues that the light causes to appear. Reflective surfaces like water, bright rocks, ice, or sand are particularly great for this, because they really radiate with ambient or direct light.
2. Showcase Colors: A nice color combo of two complementary colors can really provide for an interesting and balanced close up scene. Look for small areas that have an interesting color pair and move your camera around until you can frame the scene to have an equally distributed amount of hues.
3. Showcase Layers: While it may be obvious that this is a photo of icicles, what the viewer has no way of knowing is their size, their location, or at what point they end. Finding repeating layers is a great way to capture a scene that will keep your viewer interested. The endless depth will let them get lost in wonder as they try to make sense of what they are looking at, giving it the illusion that it goes on forever.
4. Showcase Designs: Instead of thinking about shooting an object, think about using that object to show a design. Look for designs like repeating patterns, interesting formations, and curving lines. Move your camera around until you find a nicely balanced or symmetrical frame. This will allow the viewer to forget about the literal object and force them to focus on what they are seeing beyond that.
5. Showcase Movement: A longer exposure of a moving subject or moving your camera while shooting a static subject can add a mysterious sense of motion. This is a great way to add more emotion to lifeless, boring objects or scenes. Blurring the image can also get rid of distracting textures or simplify the scene by only focusing on principles such as shapes, colors, lines, tones, etc. This is another technique that can give you control to make your viewer only focus on what you want them to.