ICM Reflections, Behind the Scenes

If you follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram you will have recently seen me post a dark black and white photo of some blurry trees, if not then here it is.

Above and Below
Above and Below

I entered it into a couple of regular weekly competitions on Twitter, one of which being Fotospeed Print Mondays where a photo from that weekend is chosen to win an A3 print. For those who don’t know Fotospeed they make fantastic papers, so if you print your work do check them out.

I was incredibly happy to find out I won this week and am really looking forward to receiving the print. To make it more special as the Photography Show was running at the NEC, Fotospeed printed all the entries out on their stand and invited Doug Chinnery to be a guest judge. Doug is an outstanding photographer who’s work I greatly admire, so it was a big boost for me to receive some words of praise and have him to choose my photo.

For anyone interested I thought I’d share a bit of behind the scenes from creating the finished photo.

Unblurred
Unblurred

This is how the scene looked to the naked eye, a shot straight off camera. Canon 6D with Tamron 24-70mm and Hoya Pro 1 Polariser taken at 52mm, 1/80, f/6.3, ISO 400. I saw some potential in the reflections and spent a little while looking for a shot, playing with different polariser positions to balance the reflections, different shooting heights and exposures to see what I could find.

I was just on a short walk with family so I didn’t have long to spend without getting left behind but quickly decided ICM (intentional camera movement) would be the way to go here. I’ve used this a few times recently and it can be hit and miss but managed to get a couple of photos I’m really happy with using this technique.

I fired off four shots, taken from a fairly low angle to try and match the sky with the water, placing the bank dead centre in the frame, completely at odds with the rule of thirds but rules are there to be broken. Each one was taken handheld and panned upwards during the exposure to create the blurred movement, the difficulty here is getting a steady vertical pan handheld, the first couple of attempts had too much horizontal movement but on the fourth try I got what I wanted.

ICM in Colour
ICM in Colour

This was taken at 36mm, 0.5s, f/20 and ISO 125 and is straight from the camera with just my basic Lightroom import lens corrections.

On the camera I had it set to a black and white picture style, so the on screen preview showed something more like the image below, which has no processing other than black and white selected in Lightroom. It was always going to be a mono photo so setting the picture style on the camera gives better feedback while shooting as to whether the image is working or not.

ICM in B&W
ICM in B&W

You can see with no real processing this isn’t far off the final image at the start of the blog but is a bit flat, lacking contrast. I wanted to go for quite a dark film look with a bit of vignette and graining, here are the Lightroom settings used to get from this to the finished product, any setting not mentioned was left at default.

Contrast +24, Shadows +31, Blacks -17, Clarity +21, Vignette -38, Grain 30, Grain Size 32, Grain Roughness 60

The tone curve shown below brings the lowest black point up slightly which was part of the film look I was aiming for, it compresses the dynamic range of the image giving a dark grey for the darkest areas of the trees rather than a crisp black.

Tone Curve

You can see from this that there wasn’t much editing involved, most of the work was done in camera and it just needed a few small tweaks to achieve the feel I had in mind at the time. I have nothing against doing significantly more processing and will often spend longer than this in Lightroom, but it’s nice to have less to do.

Prize Print from Fotospeed
Prize Print from Fotospeed

Hopefully this gave some insight into the process I used from first looking at the scene to the final image. I’d definitely recommend giving some ICM a try, you can end up with a lot of shots that don’t work and some can be a bit cliché but it’s great fun to experiment with and can help create something special from an otherwise difficult location.

3 Replies to “ICM Reflections, Behind the Scenes”

  1. Great photo, it takes you to a peaceful morning walk by a lake.
    Nice work.
    Think of getting a 6d, great camera, looks like it can hold its own against the more up to date ones.

    1. Thanks Dave, I haven’t had the 6D long but it seems great so far, a lot of camera for the money if you buy second hand. If you’ve got any questions on it give me a shout.
      New gear decisions are getting harder these days, there’s lots of fantastic options, I have a small Fuji setup too which is awesome in different situations where I wouldn’t use the 6D.

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