10 Types Of Landscape Photography

By July 3, 2019 May 26th, 2020 Photography

When you hear the term landscape photography, it wouldn’t be surprising if you lumped it all into one category. 

After all, a landscape is a landscape, right? Not really, as it turns out.  

There are multiple types of landscape photography, each one focusing on a different aspect of the art. 

Some forms of landscape photography focus on natural scenes free from human interference, while others capture the grandeur and grit of cities and urban landscapes.

Further, others focus on the beauty of the endless reaches of the night sky.  

If you’re interested in exploring more about landscape photography, below are ten of its sub-categories you should know about.

1. Nature Landscape Photography

Nature Landscape Photography: Isle of Skye, ScotlandNature Landscape photography focuses on capturing wide scenic images of natural landscapes. 

History:

In the 19th-century, people were pushing west across the United States. They were seeking new vistas, new homes, and an open frontier. 

People who remained in the East were hungry for news of the wild frontier. And landscape photographers worked to bring these new discoveries to light.

Some of the most renowned names in landscape photography got their start due to a growing love of these unexplored places.

For example, Henry Jackson, an early pioneer of photography, was crucial in Yellowstone becoming a national park.

Carlton Watkins, another pioneer,  first headed west as part of the Gold Rush in 1851.

While he would never manage to make his fortune from gold, he did discover a deep and abiding love for photography.

Today, he is one of America’s most respected and admired landscape photographers. His collection of Yosemite was one of the critical factors in the decision to preserve Yosemite as a national park.

Ansel Adams, one of the most well-known American landscape photographers, was also inspired by Yosemite National Park

During his youth, he went to see Yosemite National park and was overtaken by its natural beauty.

“The splendor of Yosemite burst upon us, and it was glorious…a new era began for me.”- Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams first took to using soft focus and etching techniques that photographers of the time were using.

Before long, he realized that the beauty of Yosemite needed no tampering, and started focusing on a more natural approach.

His impact on conservatism went hand in hand with his often spoke philosophy of “Beauty comes first.

Types Of Natural Landscape Photography

These incredible photographers paved the way for the myriad of styles of landscape photography that we have today. 

These sub-genres of natural landscape photography typically focus on different natural environments, some of which are mentioned below.

Coastal Photography

This type of landscape photography focuses on locations where the sea meets the land. 

The possibilities and inspiration provided by coastal photography are without end.

You can freeze the motion of the waves or let its movement create traces of blur across your images.

Photographing initial reflections mirrored on the water is another popular way to take coastal photos.

Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Seascape Photography

Desert

The desert is full of exciting shapes, colors, and patterns you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

Photographers everywhere find themselves drawn to the rich palette of golds and browns the desert offers.

That said desert photography does pose some serious challenges. Besides the oppressive heat, the ever-changing surface of the sand makes finding compositions difficult.

But none of these diminish the sheer beauty that is the desert. Though it’s one of the world’s harshest environment, it remains to be a popular photography destination.

Resource: The Ultimate Guide To Amazing Desert Photography

Forest

The forest provides some of the most visually stunning compositions in nature. Elements such as mist, fog, and rain can create exciting backdrops when paired with the vertical lines of the trees.

Resource: 21 Tips For Amazing Forest Landscape Photography

Mountains

Mountain landscape photography doesn’t focus purely on the mountain against the sky.

It also focuses on using the mountains as a backdrop for other natural elements such as valleys and river streams.

Hidden mountain lakes and mist-filled valleys are some of the things you can capture when shooting mountains.

2. Astrophotography

Astrophotography: Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

Astrophotography involves turning our lenses skyward and capturing the beauty of the night sky.  

There are main types of astrophotography. 

The first focuses on capturing vast landscapes with the night sky in the background. This style of astrophotography is much less technically involved than the other option. 

The second type of astrophotography is time-lapse photography.

This type of photography requires capturing many exposures over time and then combine the images to create a video. 

History:

The first astrophotographers are referred to as “gentlemen scientists.” 

These intrepid explorers would turn their camera lens to the night sky using the primitive technology of the time. This only allowed photographers to capture the night sky as a small spec on their images. 

One of these pioneers was Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, the inventor of the first camera. He tried to capture the moon as early as 1839. 

However, technical difficulties meant that he wasn’t able to capture the moon as anything other than a blurred spot.

It wouldn’t be until 1840 that John William Draper would successfully photograph the moon. Using a 5-inch reflecting telescope with a 20-minute exposure, he was able to capture the moon. 

Resource: How To Photograph The Moon: A Complete Guide

3. Architecture

This type of landscape photography is the subject of philosophical disagreements.

There are those who claim that cityscapes are not, in fact, landscapes and therefore are their own form of photography.

But, I don’t agree, as all too often cityscapes are part of a larger landscape.

If, however, you’re in the streets and focusing on the people, then the style changes from Cityscape photography to street photography, which is another field entirely.

The origins of architecture photography can be traced back to the first photo ever captured. The first permanent photograph, captured in the 1820s was a photo of other buildings from his window. 

Architecture has always been a point of interest in the early days of photography.

Though, it didn’t start to gain respect until the 1960s, when architects began ordering commissioned work.

During this time Architects began producing lavish buildings. This made the profession more popular and respected by the public.

As the popularity of architecture grew, so did the interest in architecture photography.

Classifications of Architectural Photography

Architectural photography focuses on structures and buildings as subjects.

Its two most common sub-genre are interior and exterior architecture photography.

Exterior architecture photography falls under landscape photography. This type of photography focuses on the artistic representation of city landscapes.

Cameras used in this form of photography don’t need to worry about speed or continuous shooting.

As an architecture photographer, you need to concern yourself with image quality.

Some specialized equipment often used in this category are wide-lenses and tilt-shift lenses.

4. Impressionistic Landscape Photography

Impressionistic Photography: Snow, Germany

Impressionistic landscape photography produces painterly like images.

The goal is to create a feeling of etherealness, causing images to walk the line between fantasy and reality.

Viewers are presented with a surreal impression rather than a realistic presentation of a landscape.

An effective image will evoke feelings that will stay with the viewer long after they have stopped looking at the picture.

Impressionism as a style has an important role to play in landscape photography.

Today some of the most highly acclaimed landscape images have many impressionistic elements. 

These images go beyond using good light and angles to produce a realistic image of a location.

If you want to take steps to get into impressionistic photography, there are a few things you can try.

The first is long exposure photography. Long exposures can create a dreamy effect. This is especially when include moving water or clouds. 

Another option is using selective focus. Taking photos using a shallow depth of field will soften the presence of other items around the focal point of your image. This provides your image with a dreamy glow in the background.

You can also play with underexposure and overexposure to create evocative images.

If none of the technique mentioned works for you, consider learning how to composite images.

This style of photography will require more effort, but it will enable you to create an image that is a unique production of your mind.

5. Representational Landscape Photography

Representational Photography: Canyon

Of all the forms of landscape photography, representational puts the most emphasis on realistic representations of an environment.

Rather than trying to alter the image or manipulate light, they focus on bringing the natural world to the viewer unedited.

This doesn’t mean that representational photographers don’t give their images any thought.

Quite the contrary–they pay very close attention to the composition of their images.

When doing representational photography, remember that you must adapt to nature. Nature will not adapt to you.

This is both the most vexing part of this practice and its most exciting trait.

By removing the expectations of what nature will bring you in a photograph, you get to focus on what’s there.

An example would be heading out to the desert for a shoot. Since the weather is unpredictable, the key is to take photos regardless of the situation.

Suppose you arrive and there aren’t clouds, this doesn’t mean your shot is ruined.

Likewise, if are clouds and you didn’t expect them don’t let it bother you.

Adapt what you focus on each day based on the conditions of your environment. If there are clouds, photograph them.

If there aren’t any clouds, spend the day focusing on the dramatic contrasts.

 Shooting on the coast brings similar challenges due to the mercurial nature of the ocean.

You may be hoping for rolling waves only to discover that what you get instead is a glass-calm sea.

 For the representationalist, unwanted conditions don’t ruin the shoot; they provide new opportunities for you to capture.

 It’s the utter simplicity that makes this one of the most challenging forms of landscape photography to master. Minimalism, for its part, may come as a close second for many of the same reasons.

6. Minimalist Landscape Photography

Minimalist Landscape Photography: Snow, Germany

This type of photography got its start in the 1960s. It began as part of a movement of photographers trying to separate themselves from the flood of abstract expressionism.

Photographers such as Kenneth Noland, Robert Ryman, and Frank Stella set out to produce art that explored this new idea.

When people discuss this philosophy, it is most often summed up in a simple three-word phrase.

Less is more.” Though this is an oversimplification of the philosophy, it serves as an excellent starting point.

Minimalism in photography starts with focusing on the most essential in your photos and cutting away everything else.

Photographers do this through framing or using a shallow depth of field. In either situation, it’s vital to remember your images should have a central theme or subject.

Minimalism has done amazing things for countless forms of media. And its introduction to photography has yielded the same results.

By stripping our images of all unnecessary clutter, we can tell captivating visual stories.

7. Abstract Landscape Photography 

This style of photography represents ideas with little concern given to realism or traditional imagery.

Abstract photographers aim to create thought-provoking images using basic visual elements. These elements can include texture, tone, lines, and color.

By letting their imaginations run free, they discover new ways to convey emotions through images.

Whether that’s capturing irregular reflections or the chaotic shapes, they find new inspiration in unexpected places.

History of Abstract Photography

The first abstract photographs were taken for scientific purposes.

Anna Atkins and John William Draper are among the first scientist and photographers to explore this new method.

The result was images that were unlike anything captured before.

Atkins made incredible images of plants using a newly developed form of photography known as cyanotype.

Using the cyanotype process, she captured beautiful patterns in photographs (see image below).

These were later published in the first botanical book to use photographic illustrations.

 
 

After, different artists began incorporating abstract art into their work. Photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn was one of its pioneers.

In 1912, he created one of his most famous abstract work, The Octopus. Abstract photography would continue to grow and develop over the next century.

 
 

If you’re considering getting started with abstract photography, here are some tips:

Start Experimenting With Every-Day Objects

Abstract photography is all about playing with new perspectives on everyday objects.

Using a book, a mug, or even a random piece of lint, you can start exploring the world of abstract photography.

The trick is in seeing the potential in the mundane. Start thinking of ways you could photograph objects outside the obvious and add interest.

An easy way to do this is to photograph  ‘ordinary’ objects really close.

Doing so enables you to remove the object from its framework and transform it into something more conceptual.

Turn Design Elements To Your Advantage

The way that someone views your photography has a lot to do with how you utilize the design elements within that image. 

The texture, shape, form, pattern, line, and color within your frame all play a central role in how an image is perceived.  

For example, by emphasizing texture, you can heighten how your viewers experience your image.

They may not be able to touch your subject physically, but by highlighting its textures, you could provide them the same sensations of touch. 

Capture Motion

Blurry images are often considered to be negative in photography.

However, this is not the case if you’re working with abstract photography. 

Blurring is just one more tool that you can utilize to give an image depth and meaning.  

A simple movement of your camera as you press the shutter can produce colors and lines that mimicking brushwork.

An excellent way to take advantage of this is by slowing your shutter speed down to 1/10 or more.

If the shot ends up overexposed, you can try using shutter priority mode or switch to a lower ISO level.

You could also use a smaller aperture setting to help minimize the amount of light that enters your camera. 

If you need to use extremely slow shutter speeds and you as shooting handheld you may be getting the wrong types of blur. 

To avoid the blur from camera shake, use a tripod. A simple yet sturdy tripod will give you the stability you need. 

I use the Manfrotto Befree series , its a great lightweight carbon fiber option that is built extremely well and inexpensive compared to other carbon fiber tripods. 

Practice The Art Of Subtraction

Similar to minimalism, “less is more” in this case as well.

Either limit your field of view or be selective about the number of objects you’ll include in your frame. 

Take care not to remove objects recklessly.

Think carefully about the objects you’re excluding and what they add or take away from the image.

Mystery can be added by keeping your shot down to a single object or set of objects.

8. Aerial Landscape Photography

Aerial Photo Over the San Francisco Bay

Aerial photography takes capturing picturesque landscapes to the air. 

High vantage points create an awestruck feeling for a viewer.

This is likely due to our ancestors’ tendency to climb to high points to learn about the lands over the next horizon.  

Similar to climbing on high ground, aerial photography provides viewers with a privileged point of view.

It enables them to observe the entire breadth of a scene, unattainable for images shot on the ground.

As such, aerial photography create astonishing emotional responses in the viewer.

It provides them with a sense of importance or of being in a place of grandeur. 

For years the only way to take part in aerial photography was to rent a small plane or helicopter.

But with the flood of affordable drones on the market, aerial photography is now more easily accessible.

Landscape aerial photography has exploded in the past few years with the rise of drones.

Every year, new drone models are released with improved image quality and greater flying range.

If you want to get into aerial photography, buying a drone is a great way to start.

It will enable you to capture the vastness of entire cities or landscapes without paying a hefty price. 

Drones can vary drastically in price and ease of use. But don’t worry you can get a drone that can take high quality images for around $300. 

If you are a beginner I highly recommend the DJI Mavic Mini, its easy to use and captures great images without having to spend thousands of dollars. 

Below are my drone recommendations depending on your budget. 

Model CameraBudgetPrice
DJI Mavic 2 Pro21MP / 4k VideoHighCheck Price
Parrot Anafi 21MP / 4K VideoMidCheck Price
DJI Mavic Mini12MP/ 2.7K VideoLowCheck Price

9. Travel Landscape Photography

Wadi Rum, Jordan

A travel photo has been defined by the Photographic Society of America as being an image that presents a sensation of space and time. 

These images capture culture in its natural state or bringing images of a land and its people to the rest of the world.

Photographers who focus on landscapes revel in capturing images of exotic landscapes. 

Modern examples of travel photography emulate the styles of National Geographic and other travel magazines.

Travel photography challenges the photographer to capture their images in less-than-perfect conditions in most cases. 

Even in uncooperative weather conditions, travel photographers strive to capture the fleeting moments on their camera.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about travel photographers over the years, it is that they are driven by the need to explore.

They derive a lot of joy in seeing places where few feet have fallen or eyes have seen.  

The travel photographers’ eye is ever roving, taking in their surroundings to capture notable moments on camera. 

Everything they encounter is a potential subject, and they find themselves charged with energy from all the potential they see.  

Travel photographers are also driven to share their experiences with others.

Their choice of compositions is typically motivated by how well it’s able to tell a visual story. 

If you want to become a travel photographer, be sure to explore places that are off the beaten path.

For instance, instead of photographing the Eiffel tower, spend some time walking around the city.

The streets are likely to have the most potential for unique and exciting compositions. 

Resource: 

24 Tips on How to Take Great Photos When Traveling

Packing Guidelines for Your Next Travel Photography Trip

15 Tips for Planning Your Next Photography Trip

10. Storm Chasing and Landscape Photography

The only thing more stunning than a beautiful landscape is one that is experiencing one of the mother natures impressive events. 

These images show us the fire and fury of Mother Nature at her most tempestuous, and it takes the bravest photographers to capture these moments.

The raging clouds of a thunderstorm towering thousands of feet into the sky create some of the most compelling images out there. 

I personally have never photographed a tornado before, but I can only imagine how humbling such an experience can be. 

Capturing such a powerful yet ephemeral subject is likely why storm chasers place themselves in harm’s way to capture the perfect image.

Storm chasers typically travel thousands of miles in a single day just to be there for that critical moment.  T

hey watch the sky with an eagle eye and pour over maps, data, and radar feeds to determine the best vantage point for capturing them.

If you’re interested in taking photos of the storm, I suggest you find a local storm chasing group to go with on at least your first few runs and pay close attention to the instructions they give you.  No matter how powerful, no image is worth your life.

Don’t try doing this kind of photography without traveling with an experienced pack of storm chasers. 

Conclusion

The world is full of beautiful sceneries and capturing them is a humbling and fulfilling experience.

Here we’ve discussed some of the different types of landscape photography and the different ways you can explore this incredible and versatile field.

About The Author

Photographer. Explorer. Story Teller. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel, capture beautiful moments, and live life to the fullest.

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