For more than a decade I’ve been part of an international film challenge called UWOL which stands for Under Water Over Land. It’s a group of nature and wildlife filmmakers from the four corners of the globe that get together several times a year and create a four-minute film based on a theme that we are given the day the challenge begins.
Since we only have four weeks to complete a film, it’s pretty common that our ideas have to be reworked due to a whole host of issues. The weather may not cooperate with our idea, we might not be able to find the wildlife we were hoping to film, our jobs may interfere with getting out. It’s one of those things that all the stars have to align in order for us to get an idea and be able to execute it all the way through to the end.
In our discussions in out Tales of Woe and Wonder thread, we discuss what is going right and what isn’t. Oftentimes it’s here that filmmakers will say they are moving on to Plan B since it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to complete the film that they started to make at the beginning of the challenge. Sometimes filmmakers will go on to Plan C, D E and even F. If all else fails, they end up in the “Shark Tank” swimming with the fishes. I’ve been there more times than I would like that’s for sure.
You Need a Plan B out in the Field too
Usually when I decide to go out to film nature and wildlife, I have a plan on where I’m going and what I hope to film. I usually go to some of the same places like Indian Creek Nature Center close to my home and I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll find there most days. Even so, nature will throw me a curve ball.
I’ve gone out to film a little rapids in Indian Creek only to find the water too high and no rapids to be seen,
Went to film a sunset only for clouds to obscure the horizon.
Hoped to capture a controlled prairie burn only to have the wind too high to safely burn.
You Have Two Choices
When nature throws you a curve ball, you can do one of two things. You can pack it in because the sunset isn’t going to happen or the rain didn’t hold off long enough to get your shots, or, you can move on to Plan B and make your time in the field productive.
It’s certainly disappointing to have your mind-set on filming something in particular only to have it not happen but why not make the most of it. I don’t know about you but my time in the field is far too brief. nature doesn’t hit pause because you have to pick your dog up from doggy daycare or stop and get groceries or work overtime at the job. So when you are able to get out into nature make it a productive time.
You can be productive in the field in many ways, it doesn’t always have to be hitting the record button. You can scout some locations that you haven’t visited before. One of the things I like to do if it looks like my Plan A isn’t going to happen is scout locations for night-time shots during the day. It’s much easier to see things that may distract in a shot in the daytime then trying to figure it out in the middle of the night. I have apps on my iPhone that will show me where the moon will rise and set as well as where the galactic core of the Milky Way will be. So it’s a good time to find locations for future night shoots without burning moonlight trying to find them in the dark.
There’s Always Just Being in Nature
If all my plans fail, there’s always one backup plan that has never failed me and that’s just being in nature and enjoying the moment.
When we walk through nature we’re like a ship cutting through the water. We make ripples that extend out for quite some distance. However, if we just stop and take in nature, those ripples subside and life in the prairie or the forest or the marsh, return to normal. So often we barge through fields and hike up and down trails without realizing that we’re sending a shockwave ahead of us alerting everything around us that a human is here. It usually sends most wildlife into hiding or running the opposite direction. So next time you feel that everything has fallen through and you’ve wasted your time, just stop and enjoy the moment and let the ripples settle. You might be surprised at what you discover!
And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!