Updated: Aug 22, 2022
This technique guide focuses on how to use ICM, or Intentional Camera Movement to create abstract coastal scenes. The images that accompany this article are from a larger body of work entitled "Fathom", and form a body of work that was all captured on the Cornish Coastline, most notably at the beaches of Sennen Cove, Gwenver, Porthcurno and Gunwalloe.
I often get asked about the technical process involved in creating this style of seascape photography, so I thought I would create this guide which can hopefully explain the process and encourage some more people to try the technique for themselves
My Artist Statement
The late evenings on the Cornish Coastline, as the last rays of light fall across the beach and ocean, bring a mysterious and ethereal feel to the landscape, which these images aim to capture and explore. After the bustle of the day, there is a feeling of solitude and calm, with the empty expanse of the beach and the noise of the waves making the perfect backdrop not only for creating images, but for contemplation.
I often speak about the important role that photography plays with my mental health, and no where is this more evident then when I am creating images on the coast. Cornwall as a location is also a very special place to myself, and my family, and is a place where I feel I produce my best work, and also feel at peace and fulfilled.
The technique of ICM involves the physical movement of the camera body during a long exposure. Exposure times can vary, but I have found that anywhere between 1 and 5 seconds often produce the most pleasing images.
The result of combining theses two actions is a blurring and streaking of objects, which can produce stunning abstract, painterly and elegant photographs, especially in a coastal setting.
I believe ICM is a way of capturing a scene that becomes truly unique to you, and your vision and connection with your surroundings and the conditions. Two people could both stand and capture the same viewpoint, but come away with totally different representations of the scene, depending on which wave, sand pattern or dune they choose to focus on, and the way in which they move the camera.
Firstly, there are a few bits of kit that are essential to creating an abstract seascape such as the image above. BUT, great news - we can work without tripods. I love the freedom of being able to shoot handheld.
You will need:
1) Any Camera that has manual controls - there are even apps for you smart phones that will allow you to create this type of effect.
2) For shooting at sunset - A 6 Stop ND Filter - This will allow us to create the neccasary long exposure. For me, with filters, you get what you pay for. I use the Lee Filters Little Stopper. Visit the Lee Filters Website to learn more.
If you want to shoot ICM during the day, you may find you need a 10 Stop filter to create a long enough exposure time.
Disclaimer: I am a Lee Filters Brand Ambassador, but have not been paid to produce this post.
3) At least a 32GB SD Card - we are going to be taking a LOT of images! ! I always now go out with a 258GB memory card to be safe.
4) Patience and the willing to experiment! ! !
Thats it for kit, we are now ready to get to the fun part.
Now its literally time to experiment. Click the shutter, and move the camera.
That's it for rules. During the exposure, you can create whatever movements you like. Its all down to experimentation, and what results please you. Move the camera up and down, left and right, shake it, walk with it, move in little circles, its entirely upto you!
Just remember - you will create a high volume of images that are not great. But dont be discouraged, and when you find a movement and a composition that pleases you, keep shooting, and shooting.
And one final thing - If you are shooting at sunset, remember the light will be changing with every passing minute, and you will need to keep adjusting your settings to compensate.
For me, this is one of the most important elements in the whole image making process. when I look at my seasapes, I am transported back to the beach on which they were taken, with the sounds of the ocean, the colours of the sky, the smell of clean, fresh, salty air, and it gives me a great sense of joy.
I also want the people who view my images to have an emotive response. wether that be a moment of reflection, or just the enjoyment of a coastal image.
The fact that these images are "blurred" is one of the key factors in creating mood. These are otherworldly representations of the coast.
One of the key ways to create the mood I was talking about earlier is with the use of colour. Colour is vitally important in portraying the emotion of the scene, and creating a sense of atmosphere in the images. There are so many amazing colours to take advantage of at the coast, especially during the golden hours, with the colours of the sky changing with every passing minute, the sensational variations of aqua in the ocean, and the yellows and greens of the sand and grasses.
Sunset colours are stunning, but I find there is also a great beauty to be found in stormier conditions, with the opportunity to add drama by utilising heavy skies and dark clouds.
There is very little heavy Lightroom or Photoshop work involved in processing these images, and no manipulation. My editing platform of choice is Adobe Lightroom, and the two main adjustments I make to an image is the colour temperature, and increasing contrast across the image.
I find that experimenting with the colour temperature can really influence the mood and feeling of an image.
I like my images to be bold, vibrant and striking, so I often push the contrast slider to the right to achieve this, taking it all the way, and then slowly bringing it back to the left until I have found the sweet spot.
One of the reasons I use Lightroom is the versatility of the brush tools. These can be used to great effect for enhancing exposure and texture in certain elements of the image, especially wave patterns.
I like to finish the editing process by adding a slight vignette, to draw the viewers eye to the centre of the frame.
So, in conclusion, if you've never experimented with ICM before, maybe now is the time to try, and hopefully this guide will help you to get started.
Please feel free to leave any comments, ask more questions, share work with me, or just reach out to talk about photography, here on the blog, Instagram, Twitter, and especially now on Vero where I am posting work most consistently.
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