on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Fractal Factor

Why we like to photograph natural forms and patterns

Gilly Walker

Gilly lives and works in Newark, Nottinghamshire. She writes about and teaches photography and is particularly interested in the intersections between photography and other subjects, especially psychology, philosophy and art. Her own photography is mostly centred around abstract nature and landscape, and she is at her happiest when spending time in wild spaces.

gilly-walker.com



If asked to list the reasons why we love landscape photography, there are many possible answers – beauty, fresh air, an excuse to visit wonderful places, and so on. But there’s one reason you may not have thought of – indeed, may not even know about – and that is that we are biologically drawn towards fractal patterns in nature.

A fractal is a complex pattern that repeats itself indefinitely over different scales – one example would be the branches on a tree, where the basic branching pattern is repeated on a smaller and smaller scale towards the top of the tree. The repetition isn’t necessarily exact. Fractals can be created in two ways: the first is mathematically generated and the repeating pattern is identical, albeit on different scales. But what concerns us here are the latter - the natural fractals found in the landscape which tend to be more random and differ in detail while still holding this mathematical relationship.

A fractal is a complex pattern that repeats itself indefinitely over different scales – one example would be the branches on a tree, where the basic branching pattern is repeated on a smaller and smaller scale towards the top of the tree. The repetition isn’t necessarily exact.



This article is open to paid and unpaid subscribers so requires at least a free subscription to access. Please take a look at the subscribe page for more information.

On Landscape is part of Landscape Media Limited , a company registered in England and Wales . Registered Number: 07120795. Registered Office: 1, Clarke Hall Farm, Aberford Road, WF1 4AL