Shooting in black and white is one of the techniques that photographers first turn to when they want to simplify the shot. The absence of color compels the viewer to pay closer attention on the composition and the story or message it carries. Bring minimalism and long exposures into the picture and you have an even more condensed form of storytelling.
A great example is the “Serenity” series by Brixham, UK-based landscape photographer Neil Burnell. With its striking simplicity and perfectly crafted mood, I find each photo to be a moment of calm and a perfect example of impeccable minimalism.
Highlighting contrast through black and white
One of the most effective ways to use black and white photography is to highlight the contrast in the scene. It works really well if you want to isolate the subject from the environment, or bring attention to the unique lines, shapes and textures of your chosen scene. For this series, Burnell used simple yet striking silhouettes set against stark backdrops made through long exposures.
With this technique, he was able to simplify the landscapes into atmospheric minimalist photography. Because of the strong contrast of the dark, singular subjects against the brighter, almost bare backgrounds, our eyes are immediately drawn to the shapes and mood of the scenes.
Minimalist long exposures in landscape photography
Minimalist styles have become increasingly popular for landscape photography, but most especially when shooting in black and white. Incorporating long exposures to blur the movement of water is also one of the tried and tested ways to make landscapes more ethereal and dream-like. As Burnell’s series shows, this technique is effective for conveying either calmness, loneliness or isolation, depending on the subject and composition.
While long exposure landscapes in color are breathtaking, black and white makes everything more mysterious and dramatic. As such, I think it’s a perfect choice if you want to craft powerful and surreal approaches to landscape photography. If you’ve been shooting landscapes for a while and want to venture into a new style, I hope this beautiful series inspired you to explore minimalism and black and white for your next shoot.
Liked this series and want to see more like it? Minimalism, moody visuals, and gorgeous long exposures are actually parts of Neil Burnell’s style. So don’t forget to visit his website and Behance portfolio to see more of his impressive landscape photography!
All photos by Neil Burnell. Used with Creative Commons permission.