Being Out In Nature Is Never A Waste Of Time

I’m always trying to be a better nature and wildlife filmmaker. Every day I try to get a little more insight into animal behavior, plant identification, weather, anything that helps me capture footage of the natural world.

I also like to see what other filmmakers and photographers are doing. So I read a lot of blogs. There’s a lot of incredible talent out there doing some amazing things.

Every now and then however, I run across a post that I don’t agree with and that I think hinders their readers from not only getting great video and photographs but denies them from really experiencing nature.

I read an article recently talking about going out into the field after a storm in anticipation of some great light after the storm passes. Awesome I thought. Then I read this: “Yes, it might all be in vain and remain gray and unappealing until nightfall and be a complete waste of time, but what if it isn’t?”

I disagree wholeheartedly with this statement and here’s why…


Being Out In Nature Is Never A Waste Of Time

If filming nature and wildlife is your passion how can being out in nature ever be a complete waste of time?

If you go out into the field and don’t come back with any images and think it was a waste of time, then you’re filming nature and wildlife for the wrong reasons.

Here’s the reasons that I go out and film nature.

tallgrass prairie goldenrodWhen I watch clips of something I’ve filmed, it takes me back in my mind to that moment and helps me remember more clearly the experience than just relying on memory alone.

I remember how the air was crisp and the dew glistened like diamonds. Seeing that on video intensifies all of that.

The other reason I go out filming is to share my love of nature with people and hopefully somehow through my work, make a difference.

That’s it. I’m not in it to make money, I’m not in it to win film festivals and I’m certainly not in it to boost my ego.

I love nature and I want to remember my experiences and share them with others so hopefully one day they can experience it as well.

So if you think going out and coming back without recording something is a waste of time then you’re not hearing nature’s message.


I’ve Prefer Gray Sky Days to Blue Skies Any Day

Gray skies may be unappealing to you only if your goal is to film blue sky.

I guess if my job was to film a tropical beach resort for a commercial I’d want blue skies and white puffy clouds but when I wake up and see a gloomy day unfolding, I know I’m coming home with some great footage.

If you haven’t heard it before, gray skies are nature’s softbox. Harsh shadows are eliminated and you don’t have to worry about overexposed highlights. On most gray days there’s still enough directional light to give you depth in your subjects and you can usually shoot with your iris open enough to give you some great shallow depth of field.

Waterfalls, plants, wildlife all look great in overcast conditions.


Magic Hour Lasts For Minutes. Gray Skies Can Last All Day

If the skies are clear the first and last light of the day can be simply breathtaking. After a storm they can be even more spectacular. Dark skies in the East and last light from the West can make for once in a lifetime shots.

Magic hour however lasts only for a few minutes and it’s never a guarantee. I’ve spent many an evening in the field under clear skies only to have clouds form low on the western horizon preventing the golden light from falling on the landscape.

Gray skies on the other hand can last for days. So think for a moment what that really means.

tallgrass prairie at sunsriseMagic hour gives you time for typically one shot. Once the light is right, it passes quickly and the moment is over.

Gray skies on the other hand just keep on giving.

Once I’m done with a particular subject, I can continue on looking for another one to film. I can stay out as long as I have batteries and something to record onto. Oftentimes I’ll go back to my office, plug-in some batteries to charge, offload all my footage, do a quick review to see what worked and what didn’t then pack everything back up and head back into the field.

I’ve even returned to film something that I’ve filmed earlier in the day when I thought up another way I wanted to film that subject.

When the skies are clear I tend to look for areas that are in open shade to film, this kind of limits me as to where I go, but in gray sky conditions, I can roam anywhere!


Is It Really That Important That You Come Home With The Shot?

If your goal is to get a beautiful sunrise shot, is it a total waste of time if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate?

Will you pack up your camera gear in disgust, head home and sulk?

If you’ve learned anything from filming nature and wildlife you should know that nothing is set in stone. I think you’re doing yourself as well as nature a disservice by going out in the field with a single shot mentality.

When I was working on a charity film challenge, I knew the theme was trees, but I never went out with any particular shots etched in stone. As I moved further along in the process I had a better idea of what I was looking for as far as particular shots, but if I didn’t have the opportunity to get them, I filmed whatever I saw that interested me. Didn’t have to have anything to do with the charity film challenge but everything to do with enjoying the day and being out in nature.

I plan on leaving a comment on the website how any time in nature is never a waste of time. It’ll be interesting to see what I get back in response.

So what do you think? Do you think if you go out for a specific shot and don’t get it your time was wasted?

Let me know in the comments below one way or another and let’s talk about it.

And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker

By | 2016-11-06T09:39:01+00:00 June 3rd, 2015|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|2 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic. His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.


  1. Stephanie Volkert
    June 10, 2015 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Living in western Washington, after coming from the Chihuahuan desert, I have really come to appreciate overcast days. I enjoy sunny days if I don’t intend to take photos, but otherwise, I find it too bright and too hot. I think it’s easier to get a great photo on an overcast day than one with the sun washing everything out, and same goes for filming. When I would go out with my friends to film for their YouTube channel, we’d wait until early evening, for the sweet spot between when the sun is setting and when night has fallen. We’d stay out late, until midnight or one sometimes, because even if we found nothing to film, we still had the need to explore.

    So, ramble complete, I completely agree with you.

    • Kevin J Railsback June 10, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Hey Stephanie,

      Blue skies and white fluffy clouds sure have their place but if it’s not magic hour, I prefer overcast days.

      It still boggles my mind that the author of the article felt that if you were going out to film a sunset and it was overcast that it was a waste of time.

      Anyone that photographs or films nature should know that you need a Plan B, C, and maybe a D,E and F as well when you’re out in the field.

      Most of the time I just have a general idea of what I’d like to film. I’ll decide I want to go to this prairie or this woodland and I have an idea of what idlike to film. But so often I get sidetracked by something I didn’t intend to film. This dragonfly taking off was one of them.

      I didn’t think I’d find dragonflies so far in the prairie and away from water. So I never intended to be out that morning to film them, I literally just stumbled across them.

      So it’s ever a waste of time ifi end up filming something other than what I set out to film or even if I never even take the camera out of the bag. Being there is 90% of it for me.

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