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Rothko-Inspired Minimalism

I was staring out of a train window at a foggy Bedfordshire, wishing I was out with my camera. I was taken by the way the middle-distance faded into the grey. That's a fantastic property of mist, which photographers love to employ as it emphasises the depth in a scene. It occurred to me that if I was able to find a landscape with a flat enough middle-distance, the same tone as the fog, I could use it to achieve the opposite: To obscure the depth in the scene.

Without an obvious horizon, the subject would appear to fade into the sky at some indefinable point. A landscape with a foreground and sky, but no obvious join between the two of them. The problem was it would have to be quite a featureless landscape. But if I were to use a slow exposure, I could get the sea to be that large space of grey - and that would provide the foreground interest too, as the sea meets the beach.

So that was the original brief, but not living anywhere near the sea, this was an idea I would have to put on the back-burner for a while. In fact, how often am I near the beach, and what are the chances of getting a misty day when I am? Slim to none, I'd have thought.

Well that was two years ago, and to be honest, I found those conditions far sooner than I expected. This summer, I was in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, and as sunset approached, I saw what appeared to be a sea mist on the horizon. Before long I couldn't even see the horizon. I couldn't believe my luck!

I had originally pictured these horizonless-images as being landscape orientation, but in the intervening time, I'd been subconsciously brainwashed. Behind my desk in the office was a Mark Rothko print. Rothko was an abstract painter (examples of his paintings on Google Images). Not the sort of thing I'd normally go for, but what I liked about this particular picture were the shades of blue and grey, which were landscape-like, but open to interpretation. Ironically, those images of his which could be interpreted as seascapes do effectively have a horizon-of-sorts. But what I took from them was the general tone, composition, and the portrait orientation.

I like the individual photos I got, but I think they look best as a collection, so I created this triptych featuring three of them together...

Three minimalist beach photos combined to form a triptych image
Minimalist Beach Triptych

For the record, I ended up with 4 photos making the grade in total. So if I've included them separately below. Click the thumbnails to enlarge..

It's immensely satisfying to sit on an idea and one day encounter the conditions required to get the image in your mind's eye, even if that's (as is often the case) a few years after first having the idea.

In addition, it's great to feel like I can take pointers from the masters who've gone before me. I'm a big advocate of learning from classic painters and artists. I'm not particularly well informed on the subject, and I've certainly never studied art to any degree. But to my layman's eye, there's a wealth of experience and understanding to be gained from them. I have old blog posts here on Ansel Adams' landscapes, and inspiration from old Victorian oil paintings.




Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white


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