The Abstract ICM Landscape

I’m new to NPN and this is my first posting. Going out on a bit of a limb to share something different. I’ve been primarily focused the past couple years on shooting abstract landscapes using the technique of intentional camera movement (ICM).

I do enjoy photographing landscapes in the traditional way, but it has become a passion to capture them in less literal interpretations that are more about light, color, line, and movement as the subject. I like to think of my abstract ICMs as capturing the fluidity of nature…which is elusive and ever-changing.

Does anyone else here do this kind of work? I’ve only briefly had a chance to look around the site and haven’t seen any other ICM images just yet.

What are the thoughts about this kind of landscape work? Do you see value in it as a nature photographer? Does it elicit a different kind of response for you than a traditional landscape? Does it compel you to connect with nature in a new or unexpected way?

Although my photographic work is the product of what drives me creatively, and I do the work for me because I’m passionate about it, I do sometimes feel I’m perhaps not taken as seriously as a landscape photographer because this kind of work is so dramatically different than the traditional work of most landscape photographers. Is there a place for this kind of work in the discussion, lexicon, and vernacular of the landscape photographer?

At any rate, this is a recent image I’ve not previously shared before. It was taken at sunset, at Lake Macbride State Park, in central Iowa.

Image details:
Canon 5D Mark III
EF 70-200mm f/4L at 100mm
ISO 100


Welcome Stephanie, and you do wonderful work! Different is a very good thing in my book, especially when it comes off so well.

Closest I’ve come is zooming a lens during a long exposure (on the order of 2-4 seconds, usually with the aid of an ND filter and small apertures to stretch exposure time), managed just right to create a “halo” or “starburst” effect around a clear central subject. It takes a very stable tripod and head to get the central image tack sharp, but it’s a pretty amazing affect. All in the days of film and with no scanner at the moment, no way to share. But with your interest in ICM, you might try it if you haven’t already done so.

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Welcome Stephanie. This image has very pleasing lines and varying colors. Abstracts are not seen too often so welcome and thanks for bringing new and interesting works of art to NPN. My favorite subject in the abstract venue is what I call “ripples” or designs in water or rock formations, all of which have a nice tonal range, textures and interesting lines and shapes. There are a few others that post this type of image or occasionally a photo art project, but most prefer realistic scenes. I, for one, look forward to seeing more of your work. If you want to have an image critiqued, please post it in the critique forums.

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Thank you so much for your response, Hank @Hank_Pennington, as well as your thoughtful comments. I’ve also done some zooming types of images…in fact, that’s really where my love of ICM began. I don’t do it quite so much these days, but occasionally I’ll play around with it.

I also originally started out doing a lot of my ICMs on a tripod. But, I now handhold all my ICMs…even when I do zooming images.

I’ve shot somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 ICM frames over the past couple years, and I suppose I’ve developed enough muscle memory to be able to shoot free hand and still capture nice straight lines…when that’s the effect I’m going for. But, I do like variety with the lines, so I experiment with a lot of different movements to create different effects. :slight_smile:

Anyway, I look forward to seeing your work, as well. Have a lovely rest of your day!


Thank you, Patricia @Patricia_Brundage, for your thoughts and response. I do also like those kinds of abstract images you mention, as well, for much the same reasons you described. :slight_smile:

I’ve set my notifications to track images posted with the type_abstract tag, so I’ll hopefully see more of these kinds of images, and I’ll share more of mine, as well.

I’ll also have a look at posting an image in the critique forums. I suppose for this one, I thought perhaps it would work well as a discussion about the technique in general and about the value of abstract work in the landscape arena…not necessarily about my image in particular.

I’m really interested and curious to know what others in the world of landscape photography think about this kind of work. I believe there is a place for it…especially with regard to encouraging and inspiring people to see, think, and act in nature differently…because it’s more about an underlying essence than it is about a literal translation. But, perhaps I’m just too deep for my own good! Lol! :blush:

Lovely structure of colors. I believe the brightest line at the horizon is most compelling. I believe NPN would find an Art Gallery to be popular with the members.

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Welcome to NPN Stephanie, I really enjoy seeing ICM image’s like this, and I dabble in it myself from time to time. In general, I definitely believe that there is a place for ICM images in landscape photography. People that I’m sure you are familiar with such as Freeman Patterson, Andre Gallant and Tony Sweet produce some amazing work along these lines.

While not a lot of this type of work is posted at NPN, I think you will find that members here will be very receptive to seeing and commenting on ICM images. NPN is known for placing value on all types of landscape image, whether that be grand scenics, intimate scenes, abstracts or ICM, unlike some other websites that place more value on the shock and awe, rainbows and unicorns grand scenic type images. Personally I enjoy seeing a variety of images here, so I say bring those ICM images on.

I agree with you that these type of images can help inspire creativity and original thinking, and that is always a good thing in my book. Although not about ICM images per se, @Sarah_Marino recently published an article here at NPN about soft/selective focus images, which addresses concepts of seeing nature in non-literal ways. You should give her article a read, I think there are some parallels to the type of images that you are talking about.

Posting this topic in the Gallery section should foster the type of discussion you are looking for. In addition, you should read some posts in Landscape Critique to get a feel for how it “works”. Then post some of your images for critique. You will probably get some interesting feedback, both favorable and critical (but usually in a constructive way). I find that seeing my work through the eyes of others, who both like and dislike a given image, to be a very valuable learning process.

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Stephanie, I love this photo! It is very painterly. I have often thought that a lot of abstract expressionist paintings seem like they were lifted from nature and could be what we photographers call “abstract photos”. Look at Clyfford Still"s paintings: some look just like tree bark or various other patterns in nature. Your beautiful photo could easily pass as a painting and be hanging in the painting section of a modern art museum. Fabulous job! I absolutely love the composition and colors.

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Welcome to NPN! What a gorgeous image and first impression.

The color gradient is wonderful of course - but it’s the addition of the unusual and abstract lines created by the movement that take this one over the top.

I think Hank mentioned and I’m guessing most folks that have been around for a while have played around with camera movement - mostly zooms and or vert/horiz movements from a fixed tripod mount. I know I have. Over the years have captured some good ones, but often don’t share them as I felt they were sometimes cliche. But recently, I’ve also played around with handholding and I think it’s a whole new game. The photographer, the artist not only has more freedom of choice, but can alter the motion - to fit the scene - whether it be a static sunset, or the dynamics of an ocean wave or mountain stream - or waterfall. Hmmm, lots of potential out there.

Your work is beautiful! We look forward to your images and participation on NPN.


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Welcome, Stephanie. As someone mentioned, ICM photos are often cliche. Yours rises above cliche, with the composition, that wonderful line, and the color transition. Beautiful. I’ve been messing about with ICM lately, but haven’t posted any here because they are just so-so (or worse).

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Thank you @bob4, @Ed_McGuirk, @Tony_Siciliano, @Lon_Overacker, and @Bonnie_Lampley for your replies, thoughts, comments and warm welcome to my post! I appreciate each of your different perspectives and feedback, as well as each of you taking time to respond to my image and questions.

There are a few things I’d like to comment on, so I’ll try to do that in this one reply to all of you, rather than individually.

Ed, I am familiar with the photographers you mentioned, but admittedly I perhaps need to study them a bit more. One of things I do like, though, about the NPN community is the value and knowledge each of the members here brings to the landscape photography community in general…and especially that it’s not about the ‘shock and awe’ you mentioned. I’ve grown very weary of these kinds of images and sites, as well as the general public’s response to them. And, it really is not about getting ‘likes’ or follows for me. It is about making a statement and about expressing my own personal vision…regardless of what anyone else thinks. But, I also do want to grow as an artist, as a creative, and as a photographer. So, I do see the value in how this community differs from so many others in that regard, and it is a welcome change. :slight_smile: Although, I’ve not had time to find and read the article by @Sarah_Marino yet, I will definitely do that. Thank you for sharing that bit of information!

Tony, I’m glad you like the image, and I appreciate your reference to the abstract expressionist painters. I do take a good bit of inspiration from the abstract expressionist artists and movement with the work I do. Thank you for your kind thoughts and response! :slight_smile:

Lon, thank you for your thoughts and feedback, as well! I appreciate your warm welcome, and I look forward to interacting more with the community, also. I suppose playing around with camera movement is something a lot of photographers have likely dabbled with. But, for me, I have found it to be something I’m drawn to do more as a primary focus than as a secondary thought while out shooting the landscape. Honestly, it has been one of the most freeing things I’ve done with my photography, and it has been one of the biggest boosts to my creativity! Plus, I find it actually helps me ‘see’ differently when I do set out to capture the literal landscape. I started out doing ICMs on the tripod, as well, but once I took the camera off the tripod and started hand-holding and freestyling my ICMs, I grew by leaps and bounds with the work I began creating, as well as the vision I was trying to convey. I have tended toward sharing my work mostly in ICM groups, abstract groups, and other groups where a more creative approach seems more acceptable. But, I often find a lot of the images shared in those groups to be just what you described…cliche…or lacking any sort of real vision or intent behind the work. It does, admittedly, seem that ICM has become all the rage in a lot of ways…but, I personally don’t care for a lot of it. I do see a certain value in it, though, that I would like to see expressed with more intent and vision behind it in a way that complements the same kind of intention behind all the great landscape photography work out there. :slight_smile:

Bonnie, thank you also for your feedback and thoughts. I’m glad to hear you’ve been trying some ICMs lately, and I would encourage you to keep at it. I’ve taken more than 60,000 frames of ICMs over the past two years, and my work and my vision have evolved tremendously in doing that much focused work. It has taught me that there really is no substitute for doing the work, and I’m grateful for the lessons ICM has taught me. I’m not sure I could or would have learned those lessons in quite the same way had I not made a conscious dedicated decision to pursue ICM as a primary focus with my landscape work. :slight_smile:

Thank you again for all your thoughtful responses! I appreciate them all, and I look forward to more of these kinds of meaningful conversations across the gamut of styles in the NPN community!

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Stephanie, I love your work, keep it up. I tried doing some of this the other day and it was a complete failure. =)


To me this is exactly what NPN is all about, I couldn’t have said it better myself…


Thank you, Matt @Matt_Payne! I don’t foresee stopping with this kind of work anytime soon. :slight_smile: I have taken a bit of time off the past few months to regroup after my very special animal companion passed away…which was emotionally crushing and devastating to me, because he was such a huge part of my creative journey. But, I’ve started getting back out again. And, I’m working on an exhibition for the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, which will display only these kinds of abstract images. But yeah, the technique seems easy enough on the surface…but it does take a bit more practice than I think a lot of folks imagine. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Ed @Ed_McGuirk! I think that sort of thing has gotten lost in this “everyone is a photographer” world we live in these days. :frowning:

Welcome, hope to see more.
These are pictures of light. They do not suggest the earth, they have no land, they are not landscapes. Calling them Lightscapes may work. What exact message are you trying to communicate with this type of images? What do you want people to think or feel when looking at them?
TY for post

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Stephanie, this layering is beautiful. The technique is something that’s always intrigued me, but for some reason I have never pursued it. Nice work, and for the brief time I spent there, looks like you have some nice pieces. Will have to explore it more, and I look forward to more of your work.

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Thank you Steven and Bill for your responses and warm welcome! I appreciate that! :slight_smile:

@stevenm, I do agree with your comment that these images are of light…and color, and movement. But, in my view, they are ultimately landscapes, even if no land is literally visible. In this particular image, the darkest part of the image is the land…the horizon line, with the sunset sky above, and water from a lake below. The bright red line streaking across the image is light from the fading sun, just as a sliver of it was still above the horizon.

The intention behind the work I do is to capture the fluidity and the essence of the landscape, of nature, to encourage and inspire the viewer to ‘see’ the environment differently…to make new and different connections to the natural world, to ‘feel’ the energetic flow of the landscape rather than see it as a literal shape and form.

There is a universal energetic flow that pulses through all things, and my hope with these kinds of images is that people will be able to see that and to connect with it on a more meaningful and personal level.

With that said, though, I think it really is up to the individual to decide for themselves what they think or feel when they look at the images. Much of the feedback I get about my work is aligned with my intent…people feel a sense of calm, peace, and serenity. They see the flow of nature and the images resonate with them on a more intimate level. But, there are also plenty of people who don’t get it and can’t see it. Abstract art, I believe, requires a different kind of processing, and some people just don’t have the ability to process in that kind of way. So, I know these kinds of images aren’t for everyone.

I began calling this kind of work Landscapes Reimagined, because it is a reimagining of the landscape, in my mind. It is asking the viewer to think less literally and more abstractly…to reimagine what they know of the landscape and natural world. I hope this answers the questions you posed and makes sense. Please do feel free to follow up with any questions to my response that may have arisen. And, thank you for your thoughtful inquiry!

@Bill_Leggett, thank you for having a look at more of my work and for your thoughts, as well. I do hope you will give this technique more of a go in the future. I always do encourage people to try it and to not be discouraged by early attempts at it. The more you do it, the more you are able to determine what works and what doesn’t work for you, so if it is intrigues you, I definitely recommend trying more of it. :slight_smile:

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…and thank you.
Big space for all in here.

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Welcome @StephJohnPhoto!

As someone who is mostly drawn to shapes, patterns, and textures in nature, this kind of photo resonates with me. I know how it feels to think you’re not being taken as seriously… but screw that. Do what YOU want to do. The second you let that thought enter your head is the moment when you start making compromises on your creativity because of it and that’s when your art says more about those people than it says about you. So I say own it, run with it, and enjoy it. That’s what this is all about, right?

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Thank you, TJ @TJ_Thorne, for your warm welcome and thoughts. I appreciate your philosophy of beating to your own drum, regardless of what everyone else is doing…and I do live by that same philosophy, as well.

I have most definitely owned my style, have run with it, and totally enjoy it. I’ve never let what anyone else thinks compromise my creative vision and style. So, no worries there.

I suppose mostly what I mean when I say I feel I’m not taken as seriously is more about being welcomed into a community of serious landscape photographers…if that makes sense. I don’t know. It’s difficult to explain.

I want to be in community with photographers who take their art and their craft as seriously as I do, but I sometimes feel those photographers don’t perhaps understand that what I do is every bit as intentional, and meticulously thought out, and serious as the work they do in literal form.

Anyway, my photography represents who I am as a creative, as an artist, and as a sentient being, and I’m not willing to compromise that for anything or anyone. :blush: So, I do appreciate your encouragement to continue on that path! :blush: