Ethereal and Emotional Seascape Photography Using Intentional Camera Movement

As is no doubt the case with many other photographers, I have spent a lot of time indoors these past few months thinking about places I wanted to go to, locations that are special to me, and with which I feel a “connection”. This is certainly the case when I think about Cornwall, and I would like to write a few words about how I feel that my connection to the Cornish Coast has helped me to create some of my best images.
Mar 21

I am reliably informed that my first visit to Cornwall took place when I was one month old, and I have been returning as often as possible ever since. In recent years the Cornish Coast has become a focal point for much of my photography.

For me, when I create coastal or seascape images, the mood, feeling, colour and atmosphere of a location are some of the most important ingredients. I want to try and create an image that represents how being at the coast makes me feel.

That is the reason I create abstract images using a technique called intentional camera movement.


If ICM is something new to you, I should explain that it involves the physical movement of the camera body during a long exposure. I find that the best results are achieved with an exposure time of between 1-5 seconds. The results of this can be absolutely fascinating, with blurred streaks of colour and painterly shapes and patterns. It is particularly suited to shooting coastal images.

The technical aspects of creating ICM images are quite simple. To achieve the long exposure I mentioned earlier, it is likely that you will need a filter. I find that a six-stop filter is the most versatile for shooting ICM, and then I set my focus to manual, and that is it. I am now ready to shoot!

I find that the best time of day for shooting ICM images is during the golden hour, either at sunrise or sunset - mainly sunset for me as I’m not a morning person! After the bustle of the day, I find there is often a feeling of solitude and calm at the beach, with the sounds of the ocean creating the perfect backdrop not just for creating images, but for contemplation. If I come home with some nice images that is great, but just being out in the open air and enjoying a stunning location is more important, now more than ever before.


Then comes the fun part! The beauty of ICM comes with experimentation, patience, and the determination to keep going. During the exposure, I physically move the camera - up, down, left, right, following the movement of the waves or patterns in the sand.

What I find so appealing about creating these images is the sense of freedom it gives me. I can work without a tripod, meaning I can move quickly and easily along the beach, and have a lightweight and minimal kit set up.

I have always wished that I could paint, and when I discovered the technique of ICM, I realised I could. I just needed to put down the paintbrush and pick up a camera.


Text and Images by Mark Cornick

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