How to take mini­ma­list forest photos

Mini­ma­list forest shots are anything but boring. They can exude an incre­dible sense of calm and rela­xa­tion, but still offer plenty to discover. But how do you manage to capture such images with a photo­graph? Do the bare forests of late winter lend them­selves to this? In this blog post, I’ll get to the bottom of these ques­tions and give you some helpful tips on how you too can take great mini­ma­list forest photos. 


Sony a7III
Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS
Sony FE 100–400 mm GM
DJI Mini 3 Pro

Late winter, or even early spring, is often parti­cu­larly dreary and rarely invites photo excur­sions into nature in our lati­tudes. Yet it is precisely this drea­ri­ness that can make for beau­tiful mini­ma­list shots in the forest, I thought to myself as I drove into a nearby beech forest this morning in a plea­santly thick fog. You can see how I took the pictures for this blog post in the video at the end of the post.

Beech forest path | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 173 mm, f/8, 1/5 sec, ISO 400

What should you pay atten­tion to?

The choice of loca­tion is parti­cu­larly important for this type of forest photo­graphy. To create mini­ma­list shots, a beech forest should be parti­cu­larly well suited. I find the dark, straight, elon­gated trunks of the beech trees ideal. But I’m sure other forest scenes will also come into question.

Sucht zwischen den lang­ge­zo­genen geraden Bäumen, nach außer­ge­wöhn­li­chen Elementen. Bäume die “aus der Reihe tanzen”, schräg liegen oder eine beson­dere Form haben. Viel­leicht findet sich noch ein kleines Bäum­chen oder einen Ast, der als einziger noch Blätter des letzten Jahres trägt, in Mitten der kahlen Natur.

Elegance | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 274 mm, f/8, 1/25 Sek., ISO 400

Reduce the scene as much as possible, but make sure you don’t photo­graph the subject alone. Without context, the best motif can simply look boring. A curved tree only looks special if there are many trees with straight growth around it. Or pay atten­tion to whether two or more trees are in propor­tion to each other. Of course, a context can also be empty space if a tree is parti­cu­larly free-standing.

Held | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 253 mm, f/8, 1/20 sec, ISO 400

If you are not sure whether more or less makes sense in the scene, take several shots. If neces­sary, you can always crop the image in image editing. Don’t be afraid to take out more than usual. However, as soon as the image becomes unclear, you have probably cropped too much.

For mini­ma­list shots, forget the wide-angle lens. It will probably pack far too much of the scene onto the sensor. A mini­ma­list shot is much easier with a tele­photo focal length.

Discord | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 253 mm, f/8, 1/13 sec, ISO 400

This and all other shots of this post you can request under “Prints” as an art print for your wall at home directly from me. 

Helpful weather conditions

Certain weather condi­tions help to create such mini­ma­list shots, of course. Ideal condi­tions should be a really nice dense fog. But haze or rain can also help to reduce a scene. Such weather condi­tions also create a very special mood in the image in addi­tion to the reduced detail of the scene.

Veins | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 333 mm, f/9, 1/60 sec, ISO 400
The Dead Man’s Hand | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 200 mm, f/9, 1/100 sec, ISO 400

Of course, you can also create mini­ma­list photo­graphs in any other season. Even in less than ideal condi­tions. Make sure that you get strong contrasts. Back­light situa­tions can turn trees into silhou­ettes that are reduced enti­rely to their shape. Or try to reduce the colours in the picture. This is not much of a problem in a summer forest, for example.

If it is humid, then defi­ni­tely test the use of a pola­ri­sing filter. It helps to reduce the shine on leaves and makes the colours shine.

Flaking | Sony a7III + Sony FE 4/24–105 mm G OSS @ 60 mm, f/9, 1/80 sec, ISO 400
Flaking II | Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 100 mm, f/9, 1/40 sec, ISO 400

Another way of redu­cing details to make an image more mini­ma­li­stic is to use other tech­ni­ques, such as ICM (Inten­tional Camera Move­ment). This involves deli­bera­tely moving the camera during the expo­sure time. This requires some prac­tice and produces many images, only a few of which are used. 

Sony a7III + Sony FE 100–400 mm GM @ 185 mm, f/8, 1/10 sec, ISO 400

VLOG to the BLOG

In my Youtube video “Mini­ma­list forest shots — How to do it!” I show you how I took the mini­ma­list forest shots in this post and you can see how I put these tips into prac­tice. Check it out and get inspired! Feel free to comment with any other helpful tips you think of and leave a subscribe! I’m looking forward to it!

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