The Light Slide

fun with photography

Impressionist photography

Every morning I drink my coffee and watch Youtube videos about things I'm interested in. The things vary wildly. Lately, it's mostly photography-related. If I see a video at any other time, I'll save it for my morning queue.

That's how I stumbled across a video titled, Photographs that look like paintings about an artist named Samantha Cavet.

And it blew my mind. I just love, love, love her work.

soft and glowing forest scene, taken from deep shadows, with an opening in the tree cover and golden light

It's a kind of neo-pictorialism, and I have always loved pictorialism — photos that look like dreams, photos that feel like what a place feels like rather than looking like what it looks like.

I have always loved pictorialism for the same reason I love expressionist and fauvist art.

Well before this, my bookmarks were full of pictorialist history and techniques, including how to modify lenses for it. (I have a few inexpensive lenses already, waiting for the monsoons this summer; they're just not the right tool for the sharp, dry desert floor.)

photograph of a green field with yellow and orange flowers under a blue sky, but it is so soft and flat, and slightly textured, it looks fake

But this isn't really pictorialism. Pictorialism is about taking a single frame the way you want it. It's not slavishly real, like photojournalism is, but it's still distinctly about making a photograph. One.

Samantha's work is different.

She creates paintings, with photographs.

I immediately wanted to learn how to do it.

moody image of the moon over trees, with fall color, against a distant blue mountain… it's clearly not a single photograph and has a texture like an oil painting

Cue research montage.

Here's what I've learned…

  • This approach is sometimes called Impressionist Photography or Photo Impressionism.
  • You can do a fair amount in-camera (like pictorialism or abstract photography) but it seems like the ones I love the most are fairly heavily edited.
  • Multiple exposure is one of the major tools in the toolbox, be it in-camera or composited.
  • One special type of multiple exposure is "in the round," or the Pep Ventosa effect.
  • A lot of times the photographs are heavily edited with multiple layers, using the Orton effect, texture layers, or with multiple frames of the same or similar scene.
  • And one of the biggest secret ingredients is something I'd never heard of before… intentional camera movement, or ICM.
  • There are a lot of schools of thought on ICM, and even a magazine!

Here's what I've done

I'll document how/what/why later but here are my first attempts! It's frustrating but a lot of fun. And it's another way to enjoy photography even when the lighting and scenery is harsh.

(But I will say this: As you can see, I'm not trying to copy Samantha. There's no fun in that.)

Long exposure ICM sunset