In Constant Motion: How We Use Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) to Create Dream-like Photographs

The thing about art is that it occurs naturally, like liquid.  Creation is a process, and if you think your product is ever really “finished,” then you’re not doing it right – there are still endless places where liquid can flow.

Another thing about art is that so often ideas come before we have the words for them.  Before we learned the technical term for it, we stumbled upon ICM, or, “intentional camera movement.”

When daylight was fading on a beach in Maui, we found that the longer exposure necessary to compensate allowed for beautifully dream-like photographs of others walking along the beach.

Hawaii Beach Sunset Watching

Basically, this technique involves using a long exposure, managing light carefully, and moving the camera to capture somewhat of a “trail” or passage of the objects across the lens.

ICM is similar to painting in that we manipulate the tool in order to manifest a certain image.  The creativity comes from imagining how the image will look when dragged across the frame in a certain way.  

The photographer has a different kind of creative freedom with ICM, and the result is often a ghostly representation of foggy lines and clouded, paint-like images.  ICM work can appear as though it’s in constant motion. (ICM…in constant motion…see what we did there?!)

Here’s ”Starburst Willows”:

Starburst Willow

We took this shot of some young willow trees on ice using the 16-35mm ultra-wide angle lens, at 1/13th of a second, and zooming in during the exposure.

After learning more about ICM and refining our process, we captured “Winter.”  In this one we moved the lens side to side to blur the scene and reveal colors in the snow we couldn’t detect with still photography.

Winter Barn

The more we study and experiment with ICM the more we learn about the infinite ways we can manipulate the lens during exposure.

“Yellow Bouquet” was created by moving the lens in fast tiny circles during the exposure:

Yellow Rose Bouquet

For “Winter Sky Cattails” we used the flash and up-and-down motion:

 Cattails by the water at Fitzgerald Lake Conservation area.  Photo shot using Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) technique.

Zooming the lens towards a sky through the trees at sunset:

Zoom to Summer Sunset

Zig-zagging the lens across an ice-encrusted field of corn in “Winter Corn”:

Winter Corn

Shifting the frame up halfway through the exposure created two riverbanks:

Blue Hour Riverbank

And sweeping the lens side to side and up and down over the rocky coastline in Maine resulted in this abstract image:

Maine Seacoast in Fog

So, what’s your work in progress? What creative juices are flowing for you? We’d love to see your work in motion.

~Laurel and Brian