A study in ICM photography

Soft Sundays

On my last post I mentioned that I went to Monterey on the week of May 22. I wanted to take some more pictures to add to my ocean collection. But since the weather was bad for long exposure (high winds, harsh sun), I tried different photography techniques I am not familiar with. One of those techniques is ICM (see Tips for more details).

Since the end of 2019, the idea of doing ICM has been stuck in my head. I joined a Facebook group dedicated to it and browsed a few thousand pictures there. I also read about what is involved in getting these kinds of pictures and went out shooting with a friend who taught me the principles. Despite my theoretical “studies” on ICM, I did not get to practice it much in 2020.

The picture above was my favorite of all the ones I took in Monterey. The morning was cool, and the sun had not been out for too long. I like the pastel colors, the ethereal look, and the golden sunrays on the sand and water, the lines, the implied movement, and the fact that I can still figure out what’s going on despite the general softness of the picture. 

Location: Asilomar Beach in the Pacific Grove, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8, tripod; 

Settings: 70 mm, f/22, 1.3 s, ISO 50;

Tips:  ICM is a photographic technique where you move the camera as the image is taken. To obtain this photo I gently rotated the camera to the side while pressing the shutter, with the camera sitting on the tripod. The exposure needs to be long enough to capture motion blur, or conversely, you need to move the camera fast enough. I recommend anything from 1/3s or 1/2s to multi-second exposures. Experiment with faster or slower shutter speeds and liberate your creativity.

The few thoughts I have on the technique after trying it for such short period of time, are as follows:

  1. It will be difficult to make this technique work in black and white. When I take color from the resulting pictures, there is very little interest left in them;
  2. If I decide to do this on a regular basis, I will buy a few round ND filters. Closing down the lens to f/22 with the sole purpose of obtaining a long shutter speed requires that the sensor is kept extra clean: every piece of dust shows up and they are hard to get rid of in these types of pictures;
  3. Using a tripod helps to keep the horizon line somewhat straight if you are shooting the ocean.

Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

14 thoughts on “A study in ICM photography

  1. Like you, I find the horizontal sun rays on the sand and water pleasant, and there’s enough recognizability in the image for viewers to understand what they’re seeing. I removed all color from your picture to see what it was like that way: not bad, but I agree with you that the original is more appealing.


  2. Beautiful photo. I am particularly struck by how the sense of movement seems to magically grow the further out from the shoreline you look while in by the shore things are quite identifiable. Great shot!


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