Intentional Camera Movement

‘Beach Dogs’, Scratby, Norfolk
Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF55-200mm @ 140mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, 1/5 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200
LEE Seven5 Big-Stopper.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod with Manfrotto 405 geared head.
Adobe Lightroom > Adobe Photoshop texture blended layer.

“Within just a few years of photography’s invention, our pioneers quickly realised that the long exposures required to sensitise the earliest materials could be used creatively.”

Intentional Camera Movement

Crafting impressionistic imagery offers an alluring distraction for those engaged in the more creative genres of photography. Visual emphasis of a spiritual connection between the photographer and their subject, rather than a strictly literal photorealistic capture, can intensify the emotional engagement of the person viewing the final print. Within just a few years of photography’s invention, our pioneers quickly realised that the long exposures required to sensitise the earliest materials could be used creatively; either by creating double exposures by moving the subject to different positions to create a ghostly presence, or by celebrating movement within their images. Photography allowed us to visualise something that had never before been possible: the effect of visually slurring time and encapsulating it in a still image. Many easel painters, already threatened by the increasing popularity of hyperreal photographic representation, were inspired by such blurring of compositional elements. They realised the benefit of visual ‘suggestion’ by emphasising less precise brush strokes and sweeps of colour, provoking a more imaginative response for the viewer; such experimentation led to the emergence of Impressionism.

A subsequent synergy emerged, and over the intervening years photographers have drawn much inspiration from the Impressionists. Film users sandwiched intentionally overexposed slides together to create multiple exposures; the manual equivalent of Photoshop’s ‘layers’. Defocusing and perhaps blurring or zooming one of the layers to create a swathe of colour, then superimposing a desaturated but sharply focused capture of the same scene could create beautiful impressionistic results. The camera could be removed from the tripod and intentionally moved during exposure, what we now call ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ or ICM, or a single frame could be exposed multiple times by disengaging the film advance while cocking the shutter; but many attempts were often necessary to achieve compelling results and film was expensive, these experimental methods were therefore unreliable for the majority of photographers.

Since the turn of the 21st century and the advent of digital photography, such methodology has undergone a metamorphosis; the necessary experimentation and immersive repetition involved in the creation of a captivating composition suits the digital praxis perfectly.

I was overlooking the beach at Scratby from a high vantage-point as these families basked in the sun with their canine companions; a very English spectacle. ICM often benefits from an exposure between 1/15th and 1 second; we can force the required exposure in daylight by use of a dense neutral density type filter like the LEE Big Stopper. I combined the processed result with a blended texture layer in Photoshop to create my final image.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.