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16 Varieties of Landscape Pictures

Despite the fact that I have severely practiced the art of landscape images for much more than two a long time, I’ve under no circumstances questioned the definition of the expression. It’s pretty evident, is not it? If I am using most of my images outside – in the landscape – then I ought to be a landscape photographer.

But is this constantly the scenario?

In this write-up, I will delve further into what landscape images can be considered to be – and, possibly much more importantly, what it shouldn’t be.

Wikipedia defines the genre as photography that “shows the spaces inside the world, sometimes wide and never-ending, but other instances microscopic. Landscape photographers usually capture the presence of character, but can also concentrate on person-built options or disturbances of landscapes.”

This doesn’t sound like a very definitive definition to me, however: it could occasionally be this, but at other instances it could also be that? For me, there are much too quite a few variables in this sort of a definition, and this is what I’d like to explore in this write-up.

Pure Landscapes

Some images depart us in no question. All images of grand all-natural vistas undisturbed by any signals of human presence are indisputably ‘landscape images.’ When these scenes are bathed in the proper light, they generally evoke robust psychological responses. Typically they make us wish we were being there to working experience the attractiveness for ourselves: in my individual daily life, they absolutely have inspired me to travel to sites I may or else under no circumstances have visited.

This is why these kinds of photographs attractiveness to the journey industry. They inspire us to check out and to expertise and capture our possess awesome moments. It is also why so numerous landscape photographers who look at on their own purists choose to photograph only pristine landscapes, devoid of all human impact.

I adhere to the operate of several exceptionally gifted photographers of all genres, mostly simply because their photographs encourage me to see their earth as a result of their eyes. Lots of of them could be referred to as purists, but most are prepared to make exceptions to the no-human-impact rule. Some acquire photos only at the coastline, even though other individuals appreciate exploring the mountains.

Taking a quick search at some of the other satisfactory (and not-so acceptable) sub-genres of landscape photography, it’s appealing to request how several sub-genres basically exist, and also when can a non-purist landscape picture no longer be called a landscape photo?

Landscapes with People

There are often very very good explanations for such as people in a landscape photograph. Given that we all know the dimensions of the common particular person, such as folks in our shots typically assists us to consider the relative dimensions of the other characteristics in the landscape, thus adding a perception of depth and scale to the scene.

Any time we see human figures in landscape photos, we can also imagine ourselves to be one of individuals men and women, encountering all that splendor ourselves.

But this is also in which points start to get a little bit murky. Our brains are instinctively hardwired to acknowledge the human condition (primarily the encounter) among all the other visible muddle that frequently surrounds us. Whenever we see people today in a landscape photograph, we just cannot assist concentrating on them. This implies that any seen individuals will normally finish up as the key topics in our pics – no issue how smaller they are in the scene.

It is not only a question of how major the people are in our pics: it’s also about the style of landscape they’re in, and how significantly of our visual consideration is diverted away from the landscape and in direction of the individuals. If the lone seashore walker in the photograph previously mentioned was changed by a recently-wed couple, could this nonetheless be thought of a landscape picture? Or would it then promptly be classified as a marriage ceremony photograph? This will usually be debatable.

Landscapes with Animals

And what if we decide to include things like animals in our landscape pics?

We can use our standard understanding about the dimension of highlighted animals to identify the scale of the landscape, but if those animals develop into too visually distinguished in our compositions, we could possibly relatively be referred to as a wildlife photographer.

In the picture of the penguins and the landscape below, was I intentionally trying to capture a biologically-specific picture of the birds, or was my intention to depict them in their all-natural landscape or setting?

You be the choose.

By the way – sharing this beach with these penguins at sunrise that early morning was just one of the highlights of my lifestyle. I went deliberately to photograph the penguins – and they may possibly be compact in the body, but they do seize all of our visual consideration.

This is the primary motive why the big difference in between wildlife and landscape images is a person of the most contested debates in our field.

Who would argue that a picture of a grand mountain landscape scene together with an eagle in flight was a wildlife picture, or that a photograph of a lion, an elephant, or a giraffe in the African bush could be anything but wildlife images?

So although (to some purists) including persons or animals in your landscapes should really quickly disqualify you from the landscape pictures club – get cozy with becoming excluded, since there is practically nothing stopping you from which includes both equally individuals and animals in the same image.

Urban Landscapes

Even when we never involve any individuals or animals in our landscape photos, the question gets a lot more fraught when the symptoms of human influence raise.

Is the city panorama below a landscape image?

It is if you’re an city landscape photographer – yet another sub-style of landscape photography, the place the photographer intentionally involves one or a lot more human influences in their landscapes, often to convey to distinct stories.

But there are limits here, much too. The story requires to be about how the properties alter or increase the landscape. When you give also a great deal prominence to an personal developing or construction, the picture will come nearer to becoming classed as an architectural photograph.

As generally, even inside the city landscape pictures sub-style, a amount of sub-sub-genres surface. Quite a few urban landscape photographers are now specializing in roof-topping (images from the top of skyscrapers) or exploring abandoned buildings, to title but two. All of their photographs might also be thought of to be genuine landscape pictures – but this depends on the subjective opinion of the observer.


Considering the fact that most people today all around the entire world are living near to the coastline, it can make perception that quite a few landscape photographers would invest a great deal of their creative time exploring for compositions alongside the beaches and amongst the rocks.

This is seascape photography – the place the shape, texture, and colour of the waves and the ocean turn into the key emphasis of our pictures. Other factors of the scene – rocks, mountains, etc. – will surely include to the visible effect of our compositions, but seascape images will normally be about the ocean and its moods, and about capturing them in the ideal doable way.

Most men and women would right away recognize Desk Mountain in the graphic earlier mentioned, and lots of would be forgiven for considering that it was the main issue in this composition. The major issue here is obviously the motion of the ocean, though: the mountain and the pink sky are good additions – but for me, this photograph was all about capturing the h2o in the most exciting way attainable.


The better we climb in the mountains, the clearer the air gets. Large-altitude landscapes are frequently absolutely devoid of human affect, so numerous of these photos would also easily match into the (remarkably prestigious) classification of ‘purist landscapes.’

Mountain photographers strive to go where no one has at any time been prior to, to capture unique pictures of items that no one has ever viewed right before.


But what if we never reside anyplace near the coastline or mountains? Certainly passionate landscape photographers are not ever discouraged by a deficiency of anything. In its place they examine what they do have, and then they try to seize the best feasible compositions of these particular geographic options.

Deserts and dunes may well search bleak and featureless or even dull to some individuals, but they do offer you an infinite assortment of photographic chances for purist landscape photographers.

We should really hardly ever forget that just about every man or woman who views our landscapes pics will have their individual interpretation of that scene. For occasion, a wonderful sunset image of a wave breaking above the rocks (a seascape) could possibly have a a great deal stronger psychological affect on another person who has never noticed the ocean ahead of, than on a person residing on the coastline.


Something can seem astounding with just the appropriate light. A single of the most frequently-questioned questions among the landscape photography neighborhood is: “If you had to decide on between shooting an awesome subject in tedious light, or a tedious subject in wonderful mild, which would it be?”

I’ve generally picked out the latter, often believing that everything can seem astounding with a strong composition and the ideal gentle. There’s no denying that smooth, heat, golden-hour light will generally boost the overall look of geographical or other capabilities. Also, no image would be achievable with no light, so it follows that the high quality of the mild need to be the most significant element of our landscape photographs. Properly, yes and no.

Just about every excellent photo is composed of a few principal factors an interesting issue, a balanced composition, and fantastic light. If you can seize all three of all those in a single photograph, you generally have a winner.

But fantastic mild does not essentially suggest golden light (this was one particular lesson that took me a lot of a long time to find out). The light-weight should really only ever spotlight the main components of our landscapes, and ought to preferably hardly ever grow to be the most important topic of our photos. The light at dawn and sunset commonly does make points search better than the mild at noon, but in some sub-genres of landscape photography, the light may possibly be most effective at other instances – and of course, occasionally even at noon.

I believe that it’s usually much additional crucial to notify plausible stories with our landscape pictures than it is to chase just after impressive light-weight. We’ve all found wonderful sunrises and sunsets, and as landscape photographers, we’re inevitably drawn to capturing them. But it doesn’t issue how technically fantastic a photo of a dawn or sunset might be, unless of course the impression tells a story, it will just be nevertheless an additional image of a dawn or a sunset.

Be aware my words and phrases in the former paragraph: “we’ve all seen astounding sunrises and sunsets”. Though it does make a whole lot of sense to wait around for the very best gentle, it doesn’t make any perception to disregard the landscape and its tale when making the sunlight and gentle the principal subjects of our pictures. Why not? Well, largely due to the fact we all expertise one dawn and just one sunset each one working day of our life, and while some of them might be more stunning than other folks, without any fascinating landscape characteristics, those people photos are normally dull.


Forests and woodlands offer you landscape photographers a bottomless bucket of photographic options, but they also provide us a quantity of major problems. In addition to some of the much more evident specialized constraints – like capturing all the specifics in both of those the highlights and shadows – one of the biggest issues is locating anything that’s extra interesting than all the things else, and then composing that detail in the most attention-grabbing possible way, without the need of any clear visible distractions.

It was in the Knysna forest that I discovered some really hard truths about landscape pictures. While the high-quality of the mild will always be a single of the important components in every image, forest images is mainly about subject matter and composition, with the mild only taking part in a small element. We might be fortunate ample to come across some misty disorders, but the light in the forest is usually only possibly on or off. It is hardly ever orange or pink.


The Snowscape is yet another sub-genre of landscape pictures in which light doesn’t automatically perform a major part. Right here it is typically the bleakest and gloomiest mild which is greatest able to convey the stark and featureless temper of a severe, sub-zero landscape.

If you dwell in the severe northern or southern latitudes wherever snow and ice are popular, then be sure to do keep on using photographs like the one above. Even devoid of a one trace of orange or pink, photographs like these will generally inspire folks like me to discover components of the entire world that we might in any other case hardly ever see. (This photograph was shot on one particular of the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I grew up in balmy South Africa, so I can truthfully say that despite the several thermal layers I wore on that day, I have never been so cold. But I was there to capture snow scenes particularly like this one, so that was what I did. No soreness, no obtain.)


If you live anyplace near the coastline, you are heading to encounter a several storms in your life time – though they are not limited to the shoreline. Violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornados, and many others., come about frequently in many parts of the globe. As the skies transform darkly ominous, so the air results in being electrical.

Some landscape photographers shell out most of their time researching climate designs and chasing after storms. But although storms constantly materialize outdoor earlier mentioned the landscape, storm photography is generally only about the sky, frequently with the landscape barely noticeable in the excessive decrease area of the image. Our landscape pics ought to usually 1st tell tales about attention-grabbing landscapes, and only then about the mild and/or the weather.

If you shot an incredible thunderstorm and received some awesome sharp shots of lightning strikes but excluded any of the landscape, should really all those also qualify as landscape photographs?

When the primary issue of our shots is only at any time the weather, then we’re no lengthier landscape photographers. As a substitute, we have come to be temperature photographers.


But why restrict our landscape photography to earthly attributes? The landscape doesn’t abruptly end in which the sky commences – which is why it is not possible to generally exclude the climate from our landscape photos.

I definitely do not have all the answers, but I have appear to the conclusion that it all boils down to our main subjects: what are we photographing, and what information are we seeking to express through every single photo?

If the most important subjects of our pictures are not existing functions (purely natural or artifical) of the earthly landscape, then I don’t experience that individuals shots must be classed as landscape shots.

The panorama over was diligently composed and uncovered to contain as considerably of the Milky Way as achievable. This picture is evidently all about the stars, and yet stars are not a section of the earthly landscape. So in accordance to the logic by now expressed, this picture shouldn’t be classified as a landscape photograph. Nevertheless it is.

This is due to the fact the stars aren’t the major topic below. The radio-telescope is, and the story (in situation you didn’t get it) tells of how the human species has developed to the point in which we’re now wanting for symptoms of clever lifestyle on other planets.

If our shots of the stars don’t have any connection to the earth (if the most important subjects are only at any time planetary), then we most likely should be categorised as astrophotographers, not landscape photographers.

Aerial Landscapes

The truth that the key topics of our landscape shots really should often be earth-certain does not always imply that we must often be standing on the earth when we capture those topics.

Some landscape photographers are lucky sufficient to have quick access to the air. As with mountainscapes, this sub-style of landscape photography enables those photographers to go to destinations where several other individuals ever go, allowing them to seize distinctive and unusual compositions of recognizable earthly attributes.

Aerial landscape images offers a few specialized issues that we won’t come across with other sub-genres. We can’t, for case in point, use a tripod, given that the vibrations of the plane would be transmitted to our digicam and our shots would all be blurry. Window reflections can frequently also existing a huge dilemma.

But passenger aircraft are not the only platforms for aerial landscapes: if you just cannot afford to pay for to charter an aircraft to fly you to your wished-for aerial place, you may be capable to capture related compositions with a drone.

There is no far better way to capture extensive and never-ending landscape pictures than from far earlier mentioned the earth. But several of us are capable to afford helicopter charters – so until we can manage a superior drone, we’re probably likely to have to stick to photographing the earth from the earth.

As very long as we’re photographing something on Planet Earth, the consequence really should be observed as a legitimate landscape photograph.

Personal Landscapes

The good news is there is extra than enough appealing things down listed here on earth. We only have to open our eyes a bit broader to the normal earth around us, to learn to prevent and pause and to glance up… and then down. There is a thing intriguing everywhere you go. Landscape photographers who concentration only on capturing broad and endless scenes often overlook out on a lot of (normally a lot more interesting) intimate landscape possibilities that are proper beneath our ft.

You can get as personal as you’d like in this sub-style. Having shut to your subjects generally reveals facts that we wouldn’t usually see – and the closer we get (as in both equally macro- and micro-photography), the far more we see.

It does not make a difference how huge or compact they are, as extended as our major topics are normal functions connected to the earth, then our images will most probably qualify as landscape photos.

Abstract Landscapes

Natural features linked to the earth really don’t even have to be instantaneously recognizable for our shots to qualify as landscape photographs.

Abstract photography is all about the shapes, textures, and colours of factors, relatively than the items on their own. But listed here our definitions commence to turn into murky again due to the fact there is a difference concerning summary pictures and abstract landscape images. If we just cannot usually be guaranteed what it is that we’re searching at, then how could we know for absolutely sure that it’s a natural function linked to the earth?

It’s for this rationale that some photographers feel that abstract images must only ever be its personal style, and never a sub-style of landscape images.

Nevertheless, the photo previously mentioned certainly falls into the two the abstract and the landscape types, so in my opinion it shouldn’t be disqualified from either. There are sufficient visual clues here for most of us to function out what this photograph depicts. It could be an abstract study of designs, shades, and textures, but it is also clearly related to the natural, earthly landscape.

Altered Landscapes

A person ultimate (seemingly suitable) sub-style of landscape images for discussion here is the area of altered landscapes.

In truth, an altered landscape is merely a composite (bogus) picture in which numerous pics are blended to make a wholly one of a kind landscape image.

When I carefully mixed the two shots earlier mentioned in Photoshop (a rather cumbersome process involving plenty of masking and color corrections, etc.), I was in a position to develop a one image of my own particular fantasy landscape:

Why Any of This Matters

Quite a few readers will by now have considered of a few sub-genres of landscape pictures that I haven’t included right here: underwater pics, for case in point. Definitely they could qualify as landscape images? (By the way, I have not incorporated that a person simply mainly because I’ve by no means taken any underwater pictures).

But why would any of this make a difference to any individual?

Truth of the matter be informed, it typically does not (and shouldn’t) issue. The legitimate essence of a stunning image will usually stay difficult to outline. Elegance is in the eye of the subjective beholder, and nit-choosing about irrespective of whether a image matches into a unique class definitely should not matter to any one at all.

However, I hope this post will enchantment to any rookie or sophisticated photographers who enter their perform into photo competitions, which often demand images to check out sure themes or established subjects. Though most competitors judges are usually quite lenient, lots of judges (me involved) would promptly disqualify a picture from the level of competition if it didn’t suit the mentioned necessities.

And now, just after all these words and phrases, I continue to haven’t managed to arrive any nearer to getting a crisp, clear, one particular-paragraph definition of the style of landscape photography.

About the writer: Paul Bruins is a semi-retired South Africa-primarily based expert landscape photographer. The opinions expressed in this posting are entirely all those of the author. For the earlier 20 many years, Bruins has worked to discover and photograph each and every corner of his hometown and state. He has structured and hosted a number of photographic exhibitions, workshops, and excursions close to the globe. His photographs have also won various competitions and awards and have been posted in calendars, journals, and books. You can obtain far more of his get the job done on his Flickr and Fb.

Picture credits: Header image from Depositphotos