‘E-motional’ Inspirations with Intentional Camera Movement from Michael Orton

Many of you know Michael Orton for the Orton Effect which he originated in the film days by sandwiching an overexposed sharp slide with an overexposed blurry slide of the same subject to create a painterly looking image. This can easily be replicated in digital during post-processing or by using the multiple exposure capabilities of many of the newer digital cameras. We use the Orton Effect regularly in many of our images (see recent example here) and we have instructions on how to do it in Photoshop here. Users of Photoshop Elements have the Orton Effect built right into the software!

But Michael has moved on from his popular effect and now is using Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) to create amazing ‘e-motional’ photographic art. Check out the article, images and videos below from Michael!

The Magic of Intentional Camera Movement  

Imagine yourself walking in the pre-dawn, up a winding trail to an elevated overlook. You weave your way through the forest, and as you near your destination, an ethereal glowing light begins to filter through the trees. Stepping into the clearing you witness one of the most incredible sunrise skies you have ever or may ever see again. Crimson, gold, magenta, orange, for as far as the eye can see, and for a moment you just stand, awestruck, speechless. These moments are what photography is about, but as we all know they don’t happen every day, that is until now. Working with ICM, this same sense of wonder is what I can experience nearly every time I step out with my camera. The difference is that instead of waiting and searching for these moments I can now create them. ICM photography is like a continuous voyage of discovery, that allows you to travel in one direction today, and then a completely different direction tomorrow.

©Michael Orton - Inspiration The ability to blend, mix, and combine the colours in somewhat humble subject matter with ICM, continues to amaze me.This is a bush with some fallen autumn leaves tangled in it's branches. Most photographers, myself at one time included, would have walked past this, thinking, "Too cluttered." Now these moments become my sunrises.  

©Michael Orton – Inspiration
The ability to blend, mix, and combine the colours in somewhat humble subject matter with ICM, continues to amaze me.This is a bush with some fallen autumn leaves tangled in it’s branches. Most photographers, myself at one time included, would have walked past this, thinking, “Too cluttered.” Now these moments become my sunrises.

If you sense that your photo life could use some element of creative discovery, and you are open to wherever this might take you, here are some beginning pointers to get started. While the actual process is moving the camera, “seeing” like all photography is really the key. ICM is only as successful as the photographers ability to recognize lines, forms, and tonal differences within the subject. Some situations , like a stand of parallel trees, are easy to attach a compatible camera movement to. Start with these obvious subjects to begin with and mimic the apparent line with a movement. I shoot at my lowest ISO setting with a polarizer and 2 stop ND filter on my 18-70  99% of the time. I use handheld only because I move the camera as if it where a movie camera on a track and not pivoting from a fixed point. Use manual focus to prevent the camera from focus searching during the exposures. Cradle the camera with one hand with your arm into your chest as support for smooth long lines. I use shutter speeds of 1/60 to 4 seconds and numerous actual camera movement speeds for example, slow, medium or fast. Rehearse your chosen action or movement while looking through the viewfinder, then begin making exposures while the camera is moving and continue moving after the exposure is complete.You can move your camera any way you wish. Lines, arcs, circles, ovals, the decision is yours based on what you choose as subject matter. In the past years I have developed what I describe as compound movements which are two combined and then to add a twist I will alter focal length (zoom) or change focus during the exposure. These take practice, but yield diverging lines when the subject matter is appropriate.  ICM is not unlike solving a puzzle that when you do, you have an “Aha” moment, followed by “So that is how it works.”

©Michael Orton - Westwood Trail. This popular trail in Nanaimo is a relatively easy situation to use ICM in. Strong vertical lines were accentuated with a simple vertical, slightly modulating, camera movement. The blue you see is in fact the reflection of the sky on the slightly wet tree trunks. This is a well used trail so I didn't have to wait long for two hikers to appear and give this forest  a sense of scale.

©Michael Orton – Westwood Trail.
This popular trail in Nanaimo is a relatively easy situation to use ICM in. Strong vertical lines were accentuated with a simple vertical, slightly modulating, camera movement. The blue you see is in fact the reflection of the sky on the slightly wet tree trunks. This is a well used trail so I didn’t have to wait long for two hikers to appear and give this forest a sense of scale.

 Give yourself enough time to honestly get some results, not just one outing, take a few weeks. It takes patience, this isn’t another “App”. Stay with it and you will know what I am talking about. Marko Kulik has experienced this and now has a wonderful gallery of Montreal streets at night. I use landscape, but any source of lines, form, colour and light can be a starting point. When you have had some successful results you will begin to realize how many combinations of choices of movements and camera speeds there are. Add to this the ability to actually blend and mix colours at the same time, and ICM becomes a process where the given subject matter and your response to it are constantly changing. Unlike going to a favorite landscape I have no preconceptions as to what the outcome will be when I walk into the world armed with ICM. It almost feels like my  first few years when everything surprised and excited me, which after 35 years of carrying a camera , is exactly what I needed at this time.

©Michael Orton - Melting Mist I have always loved working in fog or misty conditions, when the landscape becomes transformed. These are some large leafed Maples in late autumn, with only a few leaves left , which I simplified with a camera motion that  you can see in the image.There are so many motions and combinations that I often think of some I could have used after a shoot. It is these possibilities that keep me looking.

©Michael Orton – Melting Mist
I have always loved working in fog or misty conditions, when the landscape becomes transformed. These are some large leafed Maples in late autumn, with only a few leaves left , which I simplified with a camera motion that you can see in the image.There are so many motions and combinations that I often think of some I could have used after a shoot. It is these possibilities that keep me looking.

If you are travelling or photographing on Vancouver Island, contact us to view our prints.These new images make impressive prints, especially in larger sizes and are available in very limited edition (10) prints, on canvas or watercolour paper.  The video ” The Liquid Landscape ” features some recent work, while the video “A Walk in the Palm Grove”  demonstrates the use of ICM in just one location.

©Michael Orton - Oasis This photograph is one of dozens made in two visits to a small palm grove in Southern California. As I walked through the palms image after image became appararent in continuous succession. I have been fortunate to have many of these days in the last couple of years, thanks to seeing with an understanding of camera movement.

©Michael Orton – Oasis
This photograph is one of dozens made in two visits to a small palm grove in Southern California. As I walked through the palms image after image became appararent in continuous succession. I have been fortunate to have many of these days in the last couple of years, thanks to seeing with an understanding of camera movement.

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

8 Comments

  1. Allison
    June 6, 2014

    Thanks for Sharing this Darwin…Michael is a true inspiration to any photographer!

  2. Dave Benson
    June 6, 2014

    Wow… I have dabbled with the effect before… but incredible seeing it through the eyes of The Master…

  3. jmeyersforeman
    June 6, 2014

    wow, I vaguely remember Freeman Patterson talking about intentional camera movement, back in the days of film, and occasionally used camera movement in landscapes, but these images far exceed what I have been able to do, and inspire me to try again! thanks for sharing this.

  4. Jane Chesebrough
    June 6, 2014

    Orton’s video is a combination of brilliant images and moving music – very meditative. I love his work.

  5. Henrik
    June 7, 2014

    Yes this is really a nice example of the ICM technique. Once you leave the concept of trying to picture the world around us as it is (at least, at times) and rather try to picture it, as you see it, you can create some cool things!
    I also tried the ICM, too, but Michael’s Photos are much more vivid in color and reduced to the max:
    http://www.mopswerk.de/2013/04/spring-woods-bokeh-monster/

  6. Jeff Cruz
    June 9, 2014

    Thanks for introducing me to Michael Orton. I have to admit, I haven’t heard of him before. I have bookmarked his site for future reference and enjoyment.

    I would live to hear what you think of my ICM pieces that I started in 2013: http://www.jcruzfineart.com/category/works/abstract-expressions/

    • Michael Orton
      June 13, 2014

      Hi Jeff , Sorry for the delay. My favourite is Emerald Lake. As you produce more and more of these and I encourage you to do so, your ability to assess situations and extract the essence will continually refine. Stay with it long enough and your vision and results wll become distinctly yours. I look forward to seeing your future images. Michael

    • Jeff Cruz
      June 16, 2014

      Hi Michael, thanks for the comment on my work. Please keep in touch, I would love to chat more in person someday. Please look me up if you’re ever in Calgary.

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