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Spring Impressions

Spring Impressions

There was a real feeling of spring in the air on our Aysgarth workshop last weekend! Although it seems winter is back this week, it won’t belong until our woodlands burst into life. As the fresh foliage emerges and woodland flowers come into bloom it’s a great time for a woodland visit with the camera. And while you’re there, why not create some Spring Impressions images by using intentional camera movement (ICM)?!

In fact, we did some experimenting with ICM in the woodland near Aysgarth Falls on our workshop (see the featured image at the top of this post). Despite the bright sunshine and lack of foliage we were still able to make some effective abstract images. The trick is to find a spot with fairly tightly packed vertical trunks with few confusing horizontal branches. Then it’s just a case of forgetting about the tripod for a few minutes and whizzing the camera up and down…

Birch Trunks and Bluebells
Abstract impression of birch trunks and bluebells in Middleton Woods near Ilkley

Everyone tends to develop their own preferred method of making these images but I tend to start with picking a slowish shutter speed. Around 1/15s seems to work well. Next, I compose the area of woodland that I want to capture and take my exposure reading from that (half-depressing the shutter release). Then I move the camera upwards and sweep it back downwards quickly, releasing the shutter as I get back to my original composition. That’s the theory – obviously it’s a bit hit-and-miss so it normally takes a few attempts to get a pleasing result!

Get creative with ICM

The key thing is to be bold with the camera movement – it’s counter-intuitive at first, but if you do it a bit gingerly it’ll probably just look like a bit of camera shake! But with a bit of practice you can produce some great impressionistic images. It’s normally best to stick with movement in the direction of the strongest lines in the image. So up and down with tree trunks in a wood, side to side along the horizon in a landscape or seascape. But there aren’t any rules, so you can get creative with twisting the camera or zooming the lens too!

Bluebells in Spring
Bluebells in spring in Middleton Woods

One of my favourite images that I’ve made using this technique was in Middleton Woods near Ilkley a few years ago. I’d gone of a still, overcast day when the light works best for woodland photography. There was lovely fresh green foliage and a carpet of bluebells which looked vibrant in the diffused light. Here I moved the camera up and down whilst shimmying the camera from side to side to produce a wavy, almost painterly effect.

Abstract impression of bluebells and spring woodland
Abstract impression of bluebells and spring woodland at Middleton Woods

In fact, when printed on cotton rag fine art paper I’ve occasionally been asked “what medium did you use?” and was met with disbelief when I said “It’s a photograph”!

If you’d like to join us for some woodland photography, we have spaces on our Bolton Abbey workshop in May and November – and we always have a break from the tripods to do a bit of ICM in Strid Wood!

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