Most of the time when I pick up my video camera and head out into the field, I never really have a set plan for what I want to film. I guess I tend to be an opportunist and film whatever nature and wildlife catches my eye.

I’ve worked in the past with award winning filmmaker, Sophie Vartan from South Africa on planning shots for a film before I even pick up a camera, but I still tend to just go out and film whatever catches my eye and figure out how it all goes together later.

But let me shift gears for a moment and you’ll have a better understanding why I’m writing this post.

This past weekend I had to put my ten year old miniature schnauzer Sadie to sleep. She was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and it had finally progressed to the point where she would be suffering if we hadn’t made the heartbreaking decision to let her go.

Sadie and her sister Sasha

Sadie and her sister Sasha

My ex-wife and I had spent over $13,000 to slow the spread of her cancer and buy her more time. We actually had an incredible month where she was happy and felt great. We spent the days running, playing and giving her as much love as we could. I told my friends she’s collecting sunshine and love for her long journey after she leaves us.

I was lucky knowing that my time with Sadie was limited and I shot a lot of video and photographs to give me something to look back on long after she had gone.

It’s funny when you know you’re going to lose something forever how you wish you had spent more time documenting the time you had. I was so happy that I had captured the
little things like the way she crossed her front paws in order to rest her head or the way her entire body wiggled when she was excited to see me.

Sadie always crossed her legs like a lady. :)

Sadie always crossed her legs like a lady. 🙂

Although she will always be with me in my heart, the footage I shot keeps the details from fading.

I realized while I was spending all my time with Sadie during her last days, I had done the same thing when it came to filming nature and wildlife. There was always next spring to film woodland wildflowers, always next month to film the full moon. The tallgrass prairie would be there next summer and the leaves of the sugar maples would turn again next fall like they do every fall.

But There Are Never Any Guarantees

Last year Iowa experienced a severe drought. It’s impact on nature and wildlife was immense. The butterflies and dragonflies I wanted to film were almost impossible to find. The tallgrass prairie flowers were not as prolific as they had been in the past. Even the tallgrass prairie grass failed to reach the top of my head when typically it towers over me. Fall color was pretty much non-existent.

Food for wildlife was scarce and I’m sure a that a lot of young animals didn’t survive.

An Iowa Sunset

An Iowa Sunset

It’s important that if you want to film something that you film it while you’re thinking about it. Even a day can make a difference.

I remember seeing some tallgrass prairie wildflowers I passed on my way to look for some dragonflies to film. By the time I passed by the wildflowers on my way back, I was tired and thought I would just, film them the next day when I was fresh and rested.

When I returned the next day to finally film the wildflowers, I found that insects had also discovered them as well and the pristine flowers I had seen the day before had been destroyed by their voracious appetites as they fed upon the wildflowers.

So I guess the moral of this story is, take nothing for granted. You never know when you’ll have another opportunity if ever to film something.

I am grateful that I had a month with Sadie to capture the things I should have been filming all along. She left a hole in my heart that will never heal, but I’m so happy that she gave me the gift of time to capture all the things I loved about her on film. I think she knew I would have regretted not filming her when I had the chance otherwise.

So when you have an opportunity to film something whether it be nature, wildlife or your dog or cat, take it. You never know when or if you’ll ever have the opportunity again. Follow this advice and you’ll never have regrets that you didn’t take the time to film it.

Here’s a little bit of footage I filmed of Sadie and her sister Sasha with my iPhone during the month that she was doing well. You’d never know she had terminal cancer. I’m so glad that I took the time to get footage and photos of her while she was feeling great!

And as always, keep shooting the ordinary but make it extraordinary!
Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker