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Minimalist Photography

Lesson 10 of 27

Location Session - Apex Beach

Curtis Jones

Minimalist Photography

Curtis Jones

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Lesson Info

10. Location Session - Apex Beach
Head outside with Curtis to the frozen shores of the Canadian Arctic as he walks you through his process of using color to create a minimal photograph in a historic location.

Lesson Info

Location Session - Apex Beach

Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. I came down here to Apex Beach just outside of a calla with this beautiful little quiet little beach. Wanted to demonstrate that not all of this middle minimalism photography necessarily has to be in black and white uh and show like strong shadow and stuff like that. But sometimes you can really use like a pop of color, a really contrasting pop of color, like this beautiful red on the boat here against all of this white snow. So earlier in the day when it was snowing a bit more, it really was popping quite a bit honestly, when I came down, the primary composition that I had in mind framed out was just that sort of small red boat against this big snowy backdrop of the frozen bay. And then like just basically detailed, subtly following off into the distance, through all the rough ice, across to the mountains. We didn't quite get those conditions. There's a lot of visual clutter down here, a lot more than I anticipated. I thought there'd be mo...

re snow on the ground, Things have started to melt a little early here, so it was a little hard to find an angle or perspective to isolate that red boat, but knowing that it was quite red and it would pop, I knew that if I could get rid of the visual clutter, it would bring a strong focal point and a strong anchor to my image. So I spent a bit of time going higher and lower, kind of moving around the subject a bit and eventually landed on uh using some of that visual clutter because I have a couple shots where I kind of got rid of everything, but it did feel a little flat and a little boring. What I did to kind of combat that flat, boring effect. Of that one dimensional sort of effect is I noticed that some of these old Hudson Bay company houses here and buildings have this lovely red uh accents to them, shingles and strapping and stuff like that are kind of tied in the red from the house. Some nice lines of the house, some strong horizontal lines and the planking on the side with the red boat and then this distant Monument island just off in the distance, kind of anchoring the background, bringing three layers into the image. Still, it's pretty clean, it's pretty white and simple. I mean there is still quite a bit of snow. There may be a little bit of cleanup and post that I have to do to get rid of some patches of sand and gravel and some rocks and stuff like that. We'll see. I'm not really sure. For the most part, I quite like this balance of the building, the boat and then uh, the islands in the far distance and I still had enough snow in the air or atmospheric haze that I didn't get. Too much visual distraction and clutter from the mountains and things like that across the bake, Another thing that I really leaned on today was using that telephoto. I thought originally I maybe I could go a little wider on this like 24 or 35 or something like that, but there was just too much, too much exposed beach. The boardwalk was exposed. There were other pieces of equipment and things around, so, uh, there really was just a little too much visual clutter for a wide lens. So I elected to put on the telephoto, my 200 I kind of just zoomed it in somewhere between 70 and 100. I'll have to check the data to see, but I wanted to shoot past all of that. So I got a little further back, zoomed in, got past all that clutter and still was able to kind of frame out a nice shot that really highlights that pop of color, that pretty red boat against a vast, exposed kind of white backdrop. And then finally, one of the last things that happened just by chance, somebody walked into my frame while I was shooting and it actually looked like it might work like as a as another piece. So again, working from this premise of what I quite often do is I go and I strip everything away, I get the very barest most minimal image, I can find add of a out of a composition uh and then start to add elements back up until the point where I see if I've gone too far. and then all of a sudden I've kind of lost that thread. That clean visual style, that one additional element of a human seemed to kind of have a nice little catch. So uh after they left because they didn't really stick around, I basically set my camera on a tripod turned on the inter kilometer and then ran down to the scene to a couple of different spots where I thought maybe the balance of a human being in the shot would kind of help it out as well. I'm not really sure. I'll have to wait and see when I get home which of those two images I think work best. Which one's stronger. But it was nice to have the option. Now we're back here in Photoshop and I have both photos open. This is the shot without the person. Here's the picture where I jumped in using my camera's internal timer, which is just a fun little device on the Canon five D. Mark four where you can set to take a number of shots over so many seconds And allow yourself to kind of walk into frame and be part of the part of the composition without having to beat a 12th timer or run back and check the camera. It's also, it's primary purpose is to capture time lapses. So you can set the camera up to shoot a number of shots every three seconds, five seconds, whatever, until the battery runs out. And a lot of cameras have that built in. And if not, you can you can get external interferometers that you can plug in that do the same thing. So that's that's what I use. That's how I kind of put myself down into the photo. It allows me to walk around within the frame, get a bunch of different variations and then choose which one feels right, the most natural. Moving on from there, just comparing both of these photos, side by side. I already know that I like this photo without the human element more than this photo. There's a couple of reasons for that. This one feels cleaner, it feels more minimal, it definitely feels less cluttered and I like the combination of Red House here and red boat here and how my I slowly drifts back to lonely monument Island in the snow and then kind of, you know, spend a little time here in this negative space before making its way back to the Red House, back down to the boat, slowly drifting out. And so this is what I like about this kind of photography and these sorts of shots is the ability to give your I a chance to move around the frame without its screaming too much and pulling you in one direction and kind of keeping you there. It feels balance. The weight feels good. If I turn that layer off, you can see that we were working with a fun little triangle sort of and all of this negative space up here balances with this little bit of negative down here. Mhm. For my I I feel like this balance as well. It's wade well and my eye doesn't get stuck even though there is a very pop, big pop of color with the red boat. My eye doesn't necessarily stay there. It does go back into the scene and back over to the house, which is what you wanted to do. Kind of move around the frame, compare that with the shot with where I stepped into the frame of the human and there's a few things working against this one. Number one is we had less snow at this point in the day. It was a little later in the afternoon, so things in the background here are a little sharper. There's a more clarity going on. So it doesn't feel the soft, it doesn't feel as clean your I can get hung up on a bunch of things here in the rough ice, the island, there's a little more texture in the clouds into the mountains here in the background. Also the biggest thing that's happening and this is why I prefer not to have myself in the frame or any human element down here. When if I sort of follow that same logic as before going from the house down to the boat and then hoping that my I kind of drifts out to the island. What happens for me is it arrests or get stuck here and then you do make your way over to the boat because it is red and it's definitely screaming for attention, but it's not necessarily instantly recognizable as the primary focal point of the shot. Compared to this one, where I think you instantly look at it and see that the boat is what I want you to look at when you open up this file. Mhm. In my mind, the eye comes down to the human stays there, kind of plane goes back and forth between human and boat and maybe tries to make its way out through this rough ice. But, you know, really all the attention wants to be going back down here. And so for that reason alone, I feel like the first images a better, minimal composition, it's cleaner and it's less cluttered. And secondly, take that layer off. I just feel like the weight is off on this one. So, as I was explaining before, I liked how we have a point here, a point here and a point here and it feels balanced. We've got this negative space, this negative space. I like this triangle here. I feel like we have a point here. Very strong point here. A point here. Some points here. This is a point. So again, there is a there is a triangle. But what we have going against us for Weight is that this edition of the human element is even though it's a small person in a big space, the human body shape, like were designed to see importance in ourselves. So naturally our I wants to put all the emphasis there. It thinks it's the most important part of the image. We recognize it as an important thing. We see humans as important when we look at images. And that for me, even though it's a small edition, throws the whole balance of the composition off. It doesn't flow as well and it doesn't feel visually. The weight just doesn't settle is nicely in my mind as it does in this shot. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Mhm Yeah. Isolate your subject with color with the telephoto lens with the atmospheric conditions like whether today's snow and then start adding little bits back in to kind of help tell your story up to the point where maybe you think you're starting to clutter the image again. That's essentially what I was up to today out here on apex Beach. I think maybe we got something cool. Hope so and we'll see what you guys think. Listen, it feels like a pretty good little platform I've made for myself, I guess. We'll see. Yeah. Did I hit all my points? I think I hit all the points. If I didn't hit all the points, this will be a voice over and you will never have seen this face unless I did it all my points. And then you're going to see my face. Lucky you. That's what you signed up for money. Well, spent guys, Congratulations.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Understand and apply the fundamentals of creating strong minimalist compositions.
  • Use negative space with intention. Establish mood, control balance in your frame, and elevate your subject from the visual clutter.
  • Avoid common traps that can lead to flat or boring minimalist images.
  • Explore how much information to keep and how much to take away from the image before it loses impact.
  • Understand common gear and technique choices that complement the minimalist style.


Do you ever wonder why certain photographs linger with the viewer long after they see them? Why sometimes the smallest point of interest makes the biggest impression? How so much “nothing” can feel so compelling in a scene? Minimalism photography techniques can add a powerful storytelling element to any genre, they can evoke emotion, and bring balance to your frame. Using Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic as his backdrop, this class will outline Curtis’s approach to creating stronger images with a minimalist mindset.

Learn to use the creative techniques of minimalism to intentionally account for every inch of your frame. Discover how to minimize clutter, work with negative space, and master visual balance to boost the overall impact of your compositions. Working in a clean visual style students will learn to look for strong anchors, shapes, and lines while eliminating visual distractions. Curtis will share his experiences and images from some of the world’s most remote destinations to help kick-start your journey toward simplified, cleaner photographs that capture the essence of our world.


  • Beginner and intermediate photographers interested in outdoor and landscape photography.
  • Photographers who want to understand and create with elements of minimalism to help capture the strength and essence of your subject.
  • Photographers looking to create cleaner, simplified images that leave an impact on the viewer.


Adobe Lightroom Classic (8.4.1)
Adobe Photoshop CC (20.0.8)

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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This is a brilliant course which I can highly recommend. I have done some Minimalist photography but still found the lessons very interesting. I enjoyed the discussion on colour vs. B&W. My favourite part was to learn how long it takes to plan a shoot, wait for the right conditions, even change the subject if the initial idea doesn't work and see the other images taken during the shoot before (or after) the final image. The presentation is excellent - love the cat :-).

Bradley Wari

Great Job! Great course! loved the bloopers, had a few laughs. I really enjoyed how he showed a little of how he worked the scene of a few of his images. showing multiple images and how he got to THE shot.

Deb Williams

Great class, good length and easy to follow along. A fantastic way to challenge yourself to look at composition differently and a course full of useful tips to try out.