Bob MacDonnell Photography | MOVING PICTURES


June 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

On New Years Day,  Jim Brandenburg, one of my favorite nature photographers, and film director Laurent Joffrion launched a video journal, posting a short video of the midwestern wilderness every day for the entire year. Nature 365  is the result of an accumulation of video clips Brandenburg shot while photographing with DSLR cameras over the past seven years. Brandenburg admits he had no project or idea in mind for them while making them. I love watching these short videos and find them very inspirational, and would encourage anyone who enjoys nature and photography to check them out. I have to confess though, that I have resisted getting into into video for the most part. 

Toward the end of my time as a newspaper photographer, for certain assignments there was a push to have us shoot and produce short videos for web viewing, in addition to shooting still pictures for the paper. I always saw this as a "splitting the baby" approach because it didn't allow you to do either job as well as it could be done. In fact, I thought the videos were usually pretty poor quality. It also involved the cumbersome process of carrying two sets of gear and switching back and forth between cameras and digital video equipment. There were times, though, when a video just captured the story better than any still photos could. Sound and motion often reveal far more than a still image and written words can. Now that many DSLR cameras also capture HD video of amazing quality, many creative still photographers have adopted the new technology to produce amazing videos and even full length films. DSLR cameras are better suited to producing cinematic quality video than the lower end digital video equipment we were using. 

This winter, inspired by the Nature 365 project, I spontaneously decided to shoot video of a fast moving snow squall crossing the Connecticut River. I made a 90-second video using iMovie that I think captures the feel of the dramatic weather visually, but the sound quality is so poor that it's unusable. My camera's built-in microphone is very limited and proper audio recording suffers without the use of an external video microphone. Since I don't shoot video that often, it seemed superfluous to carry one around with me.

Since making the squall video I have occasionally shot video clips of other situations I was photographing, without really having any idea what to do with them either. Again, they usually suffer from bad audio. Another sound issue that I have encountered is that it's really difficult to record nature in Connecticut for any length of time without some type of man-made noise in the background. Passing traffic, distant power equipment, speed boats on the water or planes flying overhead, some distracting sound can be heard in many of my video clips, even in the deepest woods. This shows how few truly wild places there are in the state, and I think I will appreciate the quiet of true wilderness much more now, if I ever get there again.

This spring I was fortunate to find a Barred Owl nest near my home that I was able to photograph several times over a couple of weeks. It involved a lot of patience, standing still and waiting for something to happen. After getting some still photos, I decided to start shooting video clips of the chicks in action and the adults when they were present. With the camera mounted on a tripod and trained on the nest, alternating between video and still photography was pretty convenient, just a matter of flipping the switch, but the situation didn't allow me to move around much and get different angles to vary the perspective. Using iMovie, I made a basic four-minute video to document the nesting owls. I did not put much into the production of the video, but there are some scenes that just don't translate as well in the still photos I shot. So, here are my moving pictures. Hopefully some day they might end up in something that approaches the beauty of Nature 365. At least it's a start.

P.S. - I reduced the image quality of the original HD files since they take so much time to upload. iMovie is a pretty basic tool compared to the Final Cut software which I used for video editing at the newspaper. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve the editing and especially the audio in iMovie, please let me know, and definitely check out Nature 365.



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