Can Nature Be Abstract?

An Introduction to Abstract Nature Photography

When you hear the words “abstract art” what do you imagine? Maybe a color-block painting, the splatter work of Jackson Pollock, or the cubism techniques popularized by artists like Braque and Picasso. What you might not imagine is nature. Nature seems obviously realistic, and how could realism possibly be abstract?

In this quick beginner's guide to abstract nature photography, we’ll be covering the basics of abstract art, the bridge between nature and abstraction, and how fine art photographers use their unique skills to capture abstract photographs of the natural world.

Radiant Swirl

Radiant Swirl, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of a slot canyon in Page, Arizona from his Slot Canyon gallery collection.

What Is Abstract Art?

Abstract art is art that does not aim to represent the realistic image of a reference but to convey the idea of the reference. In other words, abstract art is art that gives you a hint of what it represents while often leaving the rest to your imagination. Modern abstractionism gained steam in the early 20th century, but simple forms of abstract art can be found to some degree in art from every area of the world and every era.

Abstract art pushes the boundaries of the imagination and requires the viewer to participate in the interpretation of the piece using a combination of feeling and perception. Abstract art gives you a window into how the artist sees the world, a brief glimpse at their imagination.

When depicting nature, abstract artists use color, form, and texture to convey the essence of the visual reality they are replicating. It is amazing how well humans can interpret even highly abstract images; so deeply ingrained is our understanding of the world around us. Even without an understanding of exactly what the subject is, abstract art can convey emotion, energy, and recognizable form.

River Rush

River Rush, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park from his Abstract Nature gallery collection.

What Is Abstract Nature Photography?

Since photography captures images of reality, it can be difficult to initially wrap your head around abstract photography. Rather than mimicking the natural world with paint, abstract photographers create images using unique perspectives, unconventional photography techniques, and light to transform the world before them into an abstract impression.

Abstract photography may involve purposeful manipulation of the conditions of the subject, or could simply show the world from a perspective not often taken. The subject can be anything, but for abstract nature photographers, it’s planet Earth.

Like all abstract art, abstract nature photography is sometimes met with controversy and even anger. Abstract wall art elicits visceral responses, whether positive or negative and has been the catalyst for many a debate in the world of fine art. Whether you see one on a gallery wall or in a living room, abstract art will start a conversation.


Infinite, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park from his Abstract Nature gallery collection.

Dazzling Abstract Nature Photographs

Nature is full of fascinating elements to explore, and with a camera in hand and an eye for composition, abstract nature fine art photographers set out to find the perfect subject. Max Foster, whose work centers around the beauty of nature, particularly in mountainous, forested, and preserved ecosystems.



Colorswirl, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of Artists Palette in Death Valley National Park from his Abstract Nature gallery collection.

Photographed in Death Valley National Park, Colorswirl is a festival of near-neon pastels, earth tones, and rippling shapes. Almost like the skin of a chameleon, the peaks and valleys of Death Valley’s rocky ranges feel gloriously bright and cheerful, even in the remote Mojave desert. Somehow otherworldly yet distinctly Earthly, Colorswirl captures the baffling magic of nature.

True Colors

True Colors

True Colors, Max Foster's limited edition photography print of a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree from his Hawaii gallery collection.

Sometimes, great abstract nature photography gives you more questions than answers. True Colors is one of those images that people will pause to look at, and will most certainly want to know more about. The brilliant bright colors of the rainbow eucalyptus tree are so captivating, and this photo offers a beautiful example of its range. Photographed in Hawaii, this image is part of a series of similarly breathtaking photos.

Blue Blood

Blue Blood

Blue Blood, Max Foster's limited edition aerial photography print of rivers in Iceland from his Abstract Nature gallery collection.

Some abstract nature photographs utilize super close-up framing, while others go grand scale, and take aerial photos of enormous swaths of land. Blue Blood is a gorgeous example of the power of an aerial shot, and how abstract photography can utilize natural phenomena to take an image from immediately recognizable to perception-defying. From above, the sky blue/gray, almost milky rivers of Iceland have a fascinating ethereal quality.



Elemental, Max Foster's limited edition aerial photography print of rivers in Iceland from his Abstract Nature gallery collection.

Also photographed in Iceland, Elemental shows the rivers in an entirely different light. Another aerial image, the rusty red, brown, and creamy tan hues are a stark contrast to the cool-toned blues and grays of Blue Blood. To the imaginative eye, Elemental could be an image of a far-off planet, the eye of a giant, or cream pouring into coffee.

Take a look at the full collection of Abstract Nature Photographs from Max Foster. Each is available as framed or unframed wall art prints. While you’re at it, take a minute to check out our blog!

Posted in Fine Art Photography and tagged Abstract.