Create Impressionistic Garden Images

I love to create abstract, impressionistic, creative images in the garden. Using the technique of intentional camera movement will help you achieve this look in the camera.  In a prior post, I shared how to capture ICM images in landscape scenes. The techniques are similar, but let’s review the best strategies for creating these “Monet” like images in the garden. 

First, what is the method of intentional camera movement?  It is moving the camera in small, short directions while pressing the shutter release. The motion can be slow, fast, vertical, horizontal, or even circular. Shooting images this way adds some creativity to a typical garden scene and creates soft painterly images. 

Shooting Tips: 

Location: You can choose to shoot with ICM in a small patch of flowers or a larger garden bed for garden scenes. The key is to think about your subject. 

  • Tall flowers on stems will stretch more as you move the camera. You will want to take it slow to show more of the flower details.
  • Shooting tall flowers with a fast movement will produce many blurs and a much more abstract image. I like to capture those to use for textures with other photos. 

Lens: I have created these images with a variety of lens sizes. I find that anything between 24-105 works excellent. It depends on how much of the scene you want to capture. If I have a larger garden area, I will use the 24MM or 50MM lens. If I have a small flower patch, I will use my macro 105MM. Having an ND filter or polarizer available can help with lighting. 

Light: Light is critical in ICM photography. You want to have some light hitting your subject, but too much and, you cannot capture the movement and, the image will be blown out. I like to shoot these in the early morning, early evening, or on an overcast day.  If you try to capture a scene and are just getting everything blown out, you will need to use an ND filter or even a polarizer on your lens or wait until the sun is not directly on the scene. I often swap between an ND2 and ND 8 filter for the best results. 

Camera Settings:  Set your camera to shutter speed priority. Target the correct shutter speed and let the camera determine the aperture. Starting with 1/2 sec up to 1 sec will produce the best results if you move slowly in any direction. Try 1/15-1/2 sec if you want to try to capture the scene with faster movement. 

Tripod: Shooting these images handheld works excellent most of the time. If you want to capture solid lines in trees or stems, using a tripod can help. You will want to have a tripod with a ball head mount so that you can loosen it and then move the camera up or down as needed for the ICM. 

Movement: When you are getting started, try moving the camera very slowly in small directions up as you press the shutter. Just a few inches can get movement in the scene. Then you can gradually move in larger sweeping gestures and faster swipes. Remember that slower movements will provide more detail in the photo. Once you have camera settings working for good exposure and get the hang of the movement, try various movements. You can take the camera and sweep it down from the top of the scene to the bottom, pan the camera right or left, move the camera in an arch. Get creative and test various speeds of movement. 

Editing: To make final tweaks to these images, focus on bringing up the contrast and using a brush tool to lighten or darken parts of the image. I like to bring a pop of exposure to the photo’s subject to make it stand out a little. Some images may be blurred; these make great textures that you can use to layer with other photos. I always save them in a file to use later. 

ICM in the garden is a way to capture in camera the beauty of nature creatively. I encourage you to take a few minutes when you are out shooting nature, macro, or close-up images to capture a painterly image using intentional camera movement. 

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