My typical method for filming nature and wildlife it to visit a location and film whatever catches my eye.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that as it’s worked for me for many, many years resulting in some incredible footage.
This year however I want to try something different. I want to set some goals for myself to not only add to the diversity of my subject matter but also to improve as a nature cinematographer.
Why Make Goals Now?
So why change what has worked for me so far? Well, it’s simple…
I started thinking about my trip to Yellowstone National Park this year and had started to plan all the things I wanted to film and accomplish while I was there. I realized that by applying the same thing to filming locally I could be more productive, expand my library of nature and wildlife footage and have a method of gauging my progress.
So I decided to make some changes this year and actually map out some goals that I would like to achieve before the year is out. So let’s get to them…
Get Out More!
This one sounds like a simple no brainer doesn’t it? I mean just pick up my camera and go.
Life however always seems to have other plans for us. It seems there are never enough hours in the day to get done what I need to get done. I need to stop making some things in my life that are nothing but time wasters less of a priority and getting out filming more of one.
I bought an engagement calendar around Christmas time and everything I go out shooting video I will record that on the calendar along with a short note or two as to where I went and what I filmed.
I have no way of knowing how many days I went out filming last year so this will give me a benchmark to go by for next year as well.
Move the Camera More!
This is one I really need to work on a lot as well. When I tested the HPX250 for Panasonic, I went around and shot quite a bit of footage for them. I edited a piece together called “An Iowa Morning” and sent it off along with the raw footage so they could make their own demo for NAB, The National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.
Well, I didn’t realize that they loved the little film I put together and they showed that at NAB that year. It was quite an honor to think a company like Panasonic felt my footage was a great showcase for their new camera.
But there was a problem. I never intended for the film to be shown at NAB like that and if you watch the film you can see the issue pretty quickly. Most of the shots are static. So the film ends up looking more like a slide show than a nature and wildlife film.
So this year I want to focus on movement whether it’s panning, tilting, moving the camera itself or even rack focusing. SOMETHING to introduce more movement in my footage.
Discover New Locations to Film
When I find someplace that works for me, I tend to go back again and again and again. There’s really nothing wrong with this as every day I can discover something new or something that has changed from the previous day. So for documenting the cycle of life in a particular location what I do now is perfect and I will continue to revisit old locations time and time again.
I need to branch out though. There’s a huge world out there and so many things even in my county and state that I would love to film.
My goal this year is to seek out these new natural areas and see what they have to offer.
The department of natural resources here in Iowa lists all the natural areas in the state along with what kind of habitat can be found as well as what species of wildlife are likely to be encountered.
My goal is to branch outward from my home base and as Winter gives way to Spring, start travelling further and further away from home.
Film More Wildlife
I feel I’ve been kind of lax when it comes to filming wildlife especially on my home turf. I mean it’s fairly easy to film bears, bison, elk and other animals in places like Yellowstone but Iowa has plenty of wildlife as well.
Filming wildlife in Iowa takes more effort. We don’t have many areas where wildlife roams free without pressure from hunting. So wildlife is much more skittish and secretive.
I’m going to have to work on staying in one place for longer periods of time and possibly using a blind to conceal my presence.
Also I need to network with people about where the wildlife has been spotted and do a lot more research where I can find them.
Instead of focusing on tallgrass prairie wildflowers, I also need to be focusing on the insects that live among them. I need to document the birds that live in the woodlands and the amphibians that make the wetlands their home.
Put Together More Nature and Wildlife Films
My final goal is probably my biggest goal and most important goal I want to accomplish in 2015. I have literally dozens of hard drives full of nature and wildlife video sitting on my shelves.
While the best footage is sent off to my stock footage agency in California for licensing, I should be using that footage to make films that hopefully can make a difference.
The main reason I film nature and wildlife is to make a difference. I see films like “The Cove” or “Blackfish” and I wish I could do something like that. Not for the fame or recognition. I’d be perfectly happy to remain behind the scenes in anonymity.
What I really want is to make a difference. To give back to nature for all that she has given to me. I can’t do that with all my footage sitting on the shelf. I really need to spend some time figuring out the story I want to tell and make it happen.
So there you have it, my goals for 2015 to get out more, find new places to film more wildlife and create films that give something back.
What are your nature and wildlife filmmaking goals for this year? I’d love it if you listed them in the comments below.
And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!