Now, Something Totally Different: ICM abstract expressionism

Hi Folks,
As a total departure from my Iceland work, I’m sharing a new project I’m working on: Long exposure ICM landscapes. My goal with this series is to create something like color field abstract expressionism in landscape photography. I’m tentatively calling the collection “Palette of Place” as my hope was to create abstract expressionist images that have a vaguely recognizable color palette and shapes/lines for those familiar with the location.







I’m sharing several from Clear Lake, a lava blocked section of the McKenzie River in Oregon.

I have a lot of questions about these images, but I think my biggest one is whether the images work best when there are some details to help guide the viewer to location or whether that element simply makes the images look a failed attempt at a clear image.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Let me know if in the process of adjusting clarity (usually downward) and texture (occasionally upward) I have introduced noise or other artifacts.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Lots of feedback here:

  1. Do any of these appeal to you, and if so why?
  2. Do you like some resonant shapes (trees, boat, etc) as in 2, 4, and 6 or do you prefer a more abstract color field approach as in 1, 3, 5
  3. If you are from the PNW, does this “feel” like this location? Would the location have tickled a dendrite in the brain without knowing?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)
All are single images, processed in LR
All are slow shutter, intentional camera movement images using an ND filter to allow slower shutter speed (3, 4, or 10 stop depending on day and location).

If you would like your image to be eligible for a feature on the NPN Instagram (@NaturePhotoNet), add the tag ‘ig’ and leave your Instagram username below.
You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Hi @Marylynne_Diggs,

First i always were a bit sceptical abaout ICM (shame on me i know ahah) but i have to really give it a go before i do make a decision if it is a thing that i could enjoy or not.
So, answering your questions:
1- My favorites are, without a doubt, are #5 and #6, maybe because there’s still a lots of definition even with the ICM, i think it help to be more pleasent to the eye.
2- The waves and the trees are interesting for sure ( on #6 i assume the top part is trees, right?)
3- I’m not from the area so i can’t tell you if the images ressemble the area or not (sorry)

Honestly i still strugle to enjoy some ICM images, but those two (#5 and #6) make me wanto to try it someday.


I like 1,3,4 & 6. The front of the boat in 4 is distracting to me.

I lived in Idaho for a while, and I can’t see PNW at all. I doubt anyone would pick out location.

I like the painterly feel and soft colors. These feel peaceful to me when a lot of these feel uneasy. I seen others that started giving me a headache. I have a slight preference for ones with some recognizable shapes since they look like watercolors.

I’ve tried this a little bit but never had anything I liked. I like yours a lot. I’m gonna keep working on it after seeing these. I think it’s a great method for when I’m responding to a scene but it’s not so photogenic.

Thanks @bradley and @João_Ferrão.

Bradley: Clear Lake is unique in that its colors are super clear and not the usual dark greens of the Columbia River Gorge or other locations. Yeah, I suppose it doesn’t resemble PNW in general, but like Crater Lake (gotta get back to that one with ICM), its colors are recognizable to those familiar with it.

I’m not sure how important that element is for me. Originally, it was part of my reason for the project, but that original rationale might diminish over time.



What type of camera movement do you use? Vertical, horizontal, etc. How long of shutter speeds?


Hi Bradley,
In all of these except the one with the boat bow, I did horizontal movements. I’ve found that vertical v. horizontal depends on the subject. Waterfalls benefit from vertical, while lake, beach, horizontal layers of color do best horizontally.

Regarding ss, it has varied wildly, but generally 6 seconds or longer to get any level of abstraction, and to get some detailed shapes, I go shorter (6) and for full abstraction I go longer (15-25 seconds).


Interesting series of images Marylynne. I will have to look at them some more before commenting. But please forgive my ignorance but what does ICM stand for?

@Youssef_Ismail: ICM stands for Intentional Camera Movement.


Funny, dang it, I’ve been getting ready to post my own ICM’s from a recent outing and you beat me to it. I’m hesitant to post back to back, so I’ll wait a few days.

I personally have been interested in these for a while now. I find them fun and the results can be quite beautiful and of course abstract with great colors, shapes and motion. I think there is an art to it - if anything by being able to recognize the potential - colors, light, shapes, directional flow, etc. Anyway…

I’ll start with the two that aren’t working so well for me, #2 and #4. Both these still have too much reality - if that makes sense. And could be more easily be viewed as mistakes, "dang, I accidentally kicked the tripod, or something like that.

The others all work beautifully in the abstract with great colors and impressions.

#1, #3 are little bolder with strong graphics along with the colors. I enjoy both, perhaps favoring #3

#5 may be a little to simplistic, however I LOVE the color and the gradient. There is a hint of texture that perhaps could be enhanced simply by maybe trying a tighter crop? You can still maintain a nice gradient of color, but a tighter crop would bring the viewer closer to the texture and soft details?

#6 is a bit of a mind bender; in the sense that the aqua blue could be sky and this image is actually upside down? The white in the middle could be a wave line? This one I think is a bit more of a mystery, which is engaging.

As far as location goes, IMHO, using the technique almost by definition loses all reference to a place or time. The last one here could be a swimming pool in Miami… #5 could be a hot air balloon in Reno… not sure if that makes sense, but that’s my view on location.

Like Marylynne mentions, the shutter speed varies widely. It’s not only the shutter speed, but the speed and motion by which you move the camera. My post in the WC was a 1/20th of a second - But if you move the camera fast enough you can blur with shutter speeds much fast than seconds…

Thanks for sharing Marylynne. I think we’ll be seeing more experiment with this.


I like 2 the most because it’s a creative distortion of reality yet it’s clear what reality is. I generally don’t like ICM’s but that one is different.