Intentional Camera Movements

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Intentional Camera Movements
09/07/2014 - 11:56


Although it is an ‘old school’ technique pioneered by Ernst Haas, Douglas Barkey, and Kōtarō Tanaka - the creation of abstract camera-motion representations of the world around us has been gathering momentum again in recent years.


 The technique(s) come under various names such as ‘drag landscapes’; ‘ICM’ (intentional camera movements); zoom bursts and ‘panned abstracts’. The basic gist is of the use of deliberate long-exposures ranging from around 0.5 second to several seconds in general.


To create these abstract images of the landscape, the photograph will use motion techniques such as:


  • Left to right (or vice versa)  horizontal panning, either using:



the panning movement of a tripod head...




'The Fleeting Moments of Daylight' - looking along 'The Fleet' - a tidal lagoon between

the 18 mile long pebble barrier beach known as Chesil Beach and the Dorset mainland.


Pentax K-X  + circular polarizer at f/11, 50mm, 0.7 seconds and ISO -200




or as a hand-held motion:




'Occident Flow' - looking from the ancient drover's route known as Glazegate Lane,

above Berry Pomeroy, towards the distant Dartmoor hills during the afterglow light.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 + 3 stop Graduated ND + circular polarizer at f/8, 39mm, 2.5 seconds and ISO-160




  • Zoom bursts where the zoom barrel is moved during the exposure to change the focal length





'Rypen Yarn' - looking from the ancient drovers track called Glazegate Lane,

above Berry Pomeroy, towards the Rypen Clump and Dartmoor beyond, at sunset.


This effect here was created by initially focussing on the clump of trees and 'zooming out' the zoom lens during a 0.7 second exposure at an aperture of f/27




  • Up & down movements are used frequently in woodlands, accentuating the vertical form of the tree trunks



'Dolbury Wood' - an abstract study of the old woodlands of Dolbury Hill. The hill itself is an extinct volcano and lies within the grounds of the National Trust's Killerton House.



  • Here is one I did pivoting the bottom left corner of the camera body onthe side of my nose for about a 1 second exposure duration, which produced these oval ring patterns


  • Some people rotate the camera body around the lens axis during the exposure, the rest is down to combinations and your own creative ideas!



 From fine art painting we can take inspiration from the latter abstract works of JMW Turner, his dramatic abstractions still convey an emotive and at times viscersal essence of time, space & place. I personally believe that abstract images that I make should still portray an emotive response, despite their most loose adherence to the ‘rules’ of composition.



Woodland scenes often work well as introductory experiments due to the lower light levels (in contrast to an open space in strong daylight). Open landscapes and seascapes do well in the gentle light of the mornings (from pre-dawn’s ‘first light’ – through to the tail end of the golden hour) and during the late evening (2nd golden hour to sunset, afterglow and early to mid twilight).



Polarizers are good for making the best of natural rich contrast and eliminating glare (such as ultra-bright specular highlights on water). Neutral Density (ND) filters can help extend the exposure time if the light is bright. The use of low ISO sensitivities of 100 or 200 will also be employed to attain long exposure times. If the dynamic range is high then Graduated Neutral Density (ND Grad) filters are also worth using.



Counter-intuitively, pre-focussing and locking the focus (by keeping the shutter button half-pressed) before employing the motion techniques seems to make for a smoother abstract image too.


If you have a camera that lets you change the Aperture / Time value or gives you full Manual control then I highly recommend giving this kind of experimental photography a go.




Thanks for reading,






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