I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Ironic ICM


‘Poppies’, Saint-Crépin-et-Carlucet, Dordogne, France
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, 100mm, 1/5 sec @ f/32 ISO 50
LEE Polariser filter.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“Perhaps I could create an image representing the spilt blood of all those soldiers who gave up their lives in foreign fields.”

Ironic ICM

A few years ago, I spent some time visiting the war cemeteries of France, with the intention of creating some dramatic imagery. It was an incredibly moving experience, witnessing the vast numbers of graves of soldiers killed on both sides of the conflicts.

Landscape photographers have an ingrained need to capture and express such depth of  emotion photographically. It would have been easy to frame the scene and concoct an image exaggerating the multitude of graves, full of pathos and melancholy, but at the time it seemed inappropriate; such an uninvited representation, regardless of how creatively rendered, would have felt disrespectful and inadequate.

A day or so later I happened upon a poppy field and decided to create this impressionistic image as I remembered all those unfortunate soldiers graves. Perhaps I could create an image representing the spilt blood of all those soldiers who gave up their lives in foreign fields.

A straight forward literal photograph of these poppies looked pretty, but by moving the camera during exposure, I was able to create a more abstract blurred representation; a deviation from reality, simplified by intentional camera movement (ICM). This has created a less accurate and more subjective impression of the scene, allowing the viewer to form their own interpretation.

In the world of painting, such attempts to convey an overall glimpse or impression by utilising broad non-detailed brush-strokes form the basis for the Impressionist painting movement. Impressionism emerged in a very different France of the 1860s partly as a reaction to the matchless realism of photography, so there’s a sublime irony in creating impressionist landscape photographs.

All photographs can be considered as three-way relationships between the photographer, subject and viewer. It can be challenging to create images that emphasise the ‘conversation’ between subject and viewer by minimising over-stylistic personal flavoring; by removing much of the ‘photographer’ part of the triad. Use of ICM demands a profound degree of creative involvement from the photographer, but paradoxically, the viewer is offered a much more subjective and imaginative experience. Once the detail is removed from a scene by use of ICM, there’s a consequent emphasis of everything that remains; the purer aspects of geometry, tone and colour are given centre-stage and the scene is allowed to communicate with the viewer at a deeper, more direct and subliminal level.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.