The art movement of Pictorialism began in the mid 19th century and was given prominence at the turn of the century (early 1900's) to advance the artisitc appeal and qualities of photography. The promotion of photography as an art rather than just a means of documenting events, people, history etc...
Pictorialist photographers wanted to capture expressive and emotional artwork by concentrating on the feel of the image as a dominant feature over the subject being recorded.
A soft feel to the images, graininess, sepia tone, elements of blur and a style similar impressionism painting can contribute the Pictorialism style. Atmospheric conditions such as fog, humidity and rain can add to the emotional impact as well.
Note-able photographers who were at the forefront of Pictorialism included Gertrude Kasebier, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. In 1902, Käsebier was a founder—along with Stieglitz—of the Photo-Secession, an organization that promoted Pictorialism. See examples below of their work...
There are elements of pictorialism evident today in surf photography and I think the atmospheric side of this style blends well with surf photography. Surfing itself is an expression of art. It's been said many times before...the wave is your canvas and the lines you draw are the brush strokes...it is open to interpretation and limited by your free will and inventiveness to discover new ways to approach surfing a wave. I like the way Woody Gooch has captured the feeling of isolation in many of his images and used environmental conditions to add to the pictorialism style. Rain drops creating bokeh on the lens, using shallow depth of field, shooting low or soft light low contrast / mid tones. The images here are a few I selected which I can relate to as a surfer. They may not evoke the same feeling with everyone but for me surfing is not just about catching waves, it's everything else you experience that gets you to that point of being in a position of presence - just you and the ocean.
My Attempt at Pictorialism
To reproduce the pictorialism style, a stocking was used over the lens filter. I tried tan and black stockings not worrying too much if there was a ladder or hole or rip in the stocking as this seemed to add to the effect.
Vaseline on the filter (not on the lens !!!) around the edges of the frame smeared lightly also works well to give a blurred vignette look.
A couple of approaches to camera settings worked for me.
1. High ISOs (2000+) for added noise and shallower depth of field (f5.6)
2. Low ISOs (200 or less) and greater depth of field (up to f18) allowed for slower shutter speeds and motion blur which added to the feel of the image.