It’s Important To Get Out In The Field Even If You Don’t Feel Like It

It’s no secret that one of my greatest passions is filming nature and wildlife.

I’ve been taking photographs or shooting video since I was about eight years old. No matter what my day is like there’s something almost medicinal when I get behind a camera and take in what nature decides to share with me. All the stress flows from my body, my spirit is renewed and I never fail to leave feeling better than when I came.

This year however has been a rough one for me. The final straw was when Sadie, my miniature schnauzer, crossed the Rainbow Bridge after a short but fierce battle with liver cancer. As she rested her head in my arms and took her last breath, my creativity, my desire to go out and film nature and wildlife died in that room as her heart stopped beating, forever.

Typically even when my schedule prevents me from getting out in the field to shoot video, I’m still thinking about it no matter what I’m doing. Now however, it was the furthest thing from my mind. Even an international film challenge wasn’t enough to get me to take the camera out of the bag and head out into the field.

The tallgrass prairie was starting to bloom and I still hadn’t taken the camera out.

Dew Covered SPiderwebAs silly as it sounds, I knew if Sadie knew she was the cause behind my lack of desire to film and my loss of creativity, she would be very upset. They say energy can’t be created or destroyed so maybe a little bit of what came together to give me such a great little dog was still with me in some way.

So with no desire and no creativity, I picked up my camera bag and headed out to the tallgrass prairie at Indian Creek Nature Center. Really wasn’t feeling like being out there but I know Sadie would want me to get back out into nature.

We’ve been having a lot of rain here in Iowa and my of the trails at the nature center were still under water. The tallgrass prairie was dry but the flooded areas of the nature center had produced so many mosquitos that within seconds of stepping onto the prairie I was engulfed in clouds of these blood sucking vampire insects. Since I hadn’t picked up my camera for so long I hadn’t yet stocked my camera bag with bug spray.

Luckily I found a couple blooming wildflowers just feet inside the prairie’s edge. I set my bag down, set up my camera the whole time swatting the swarm of mosquitos that followed me wherever I went.

I knew the was going to be a quick trip with no bug spray or protective netting but I wanted to take the first step in getting back out there and hopefully recapturing my creativity.

What happened next really surprised me and was totally unexpected. No, my creativity didn’t come flooding back. What happened was that I reached to add the built in neutral density filter built into my camera and it wasn’t there. Well, it was there, just not where I thought it was when I reached for it. In just that short amount of time not up taking the camera out into the field I was already forgetting camera control locations.

Use It Or Lose It

It doesn’t matter if you’re a carpenter, computer programmer or nature and wildlife cinematographer. If you don’t use the tools of your trade religiously, you not only start to lose your edge, but like me, you even start to forget how to even use the tools that had been as familiar to you as the back of your hand.

This wasn’t a situation where I had put down my cameras years ago and decided to go out and film something. This was just in the span of a few months.

When you have to stop concentrating on your subject to look where a control is located on your camera you start to miss things. Your focus shifts from trying to get the best footage possible to figuring out how our camera works again. Out in the field is not the place to break out the manual to figure out how to enable something you should instinctively know how to do. Prior to my lull in filming, I could operate all the controls on my camera merely by touch thus being able to focus exclusively on the subject I was filming. Now I have to go back to school and relearn all the ins and outs of my camera again.

School’s Back In Session

So now, instead of working to improve my cinematography, I need to relearn the things I’ve forgotten just to get back to the level I was a few months ago. So what’s the gameplan?

Spider and WebMost evenings now you will find me in my living room, camera and tripod set up running through all the controls of my camera. I’ll do things like change the shutter speed, add a ND filter, change the iris and then pick an object in the room and keeping focused on the subject adjust my camera to get a proper exposure and composition. I will keep doing that until it once again is second nature and I can do it without having to think about it.

The camera should be an extension of myself and if I have to think about it then my full focus isn’t on my subject.

Once I feel that I can operate the camera without having to think about it, I’ll be ready to work on getting my creative mojo back.

Finding Your Lost Creativity

Now that I’m getting back to speed from a technical perspective, the much more difficult task that lies before me is finding my creativity again. This, I’m afraid might be a much larger hurdle to get over.

Creativity at least in my mind is kind of like a tornado. Conditions have to be right and all the necessary elements have to be present for a tornado or creativity to take shape. It doesn’t matter how well your technical skills are or how much you love wildlife and nature, if all the pieces of the puzzle aren’t in place you’re not operating at full creative capacity.

Creativity Lost and Found

I’ve been working this past week on things I can do to get my creativity jump started again. Maybe you could use a jump start to get your creativity flowing again or maybe you feel you’re just not as creative as you want to be.

In my next post I’ll outline the things I’ve done and am doing to get back into a creative frame of mind.

Until then, at least try to shoot the ordinary but make it extraordinary.

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker

By | 2016-11-06T09:39:02+00:00 June 24th, 2013|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|Tags: , , , , |16 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. Gabriel June 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    You say you live in Iowa? Where in Iowa do you live?

  2. Adrienne June 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Oh Kevin, that’s so sad and I’m so sorry! Unfortunately, I know how you feel. I lost the will to live after my Dad and then my dog two years later.

    I fought depression for two years after I lost my Dad and right as I was finally getting back to my old self I lost my dog of 19 years. Talk about kicking me down.

    I knew that neither one of them either would ever want me to be lost because of them. That would have never been their intention but my heart was just so heavy with their loss that it was hard to concentrate and get back to actually living. After my Dad it really did take me years.

    But I’m glad you’re getting your groove back and I know that time does help. You’ll never stop thinking of Sadie and she’ll be with you always but it will get easier. Hard to even think about that now.

    My heart goes out to you as you deal with this at this time. Sending prayers your way.


    • Kevin J Railsback June 26, 2013 at 6:19 pm - Reply


      Losing a parent takes grief to a whole different level!
      Sadie’s loss was devastating enough for me, can’t imagine when I finally lose my parents.

      I think the important thing is that we know it’s not normal and even though we may not be able to find out way out of the dark fog of depression right at that moment, realizing that this isn’t how we’re supposed to be is a huge step.

      I totally understand how hard it is to take the next step though and actually try to do something to get back to normal. That has been the most difficult for me. I knew not going out and shooting was wrong but I really didn’t care to do anything about it.

      I’m sure there is a certain grieving process while you come to terms with your loss before you can really get your life back on track. I think people that just jump right back in with both feet are still going to have a grieving period when they come up for air.

      So I’ve been working at getting my creativity mojo back. It’s been hard to say the least. But hopefully the things I’ve learned along the way may help someone else going through the same thing.

      Than you so much for stopping by and sharing a bit of what you’ve endured as well.

      I really do appreciate it!


  3. Jennifer Kennedy June 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Love this post because, unfortunately, I’ve lost what little photography skills I had!

    When I lived in Africa, I had my camera with me all the time. I snapped photos of everything I saw.

    Now, I rarely take my camera out. And, all of the neat stuff I learned in photography class has disappeared into thin air! 🙂

    You’ve inspired me. I’m going to carry my camera with me at all times and when I’m inspired, I’ll take a picture of the beauty around me! Thanks a bunch.
    Jennifer Kennedy invites you to read…What MC Hammer Can Teach Us about Creating Online CoursesMy Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback June 28, 2013 at 9:48 am - Reply


      Thank you s much for stopping by!
      BTW, I broke out my MC Hammmer CD’s and have been jammin.
      A friend of mine lived in Freemont and use to see him and his family all the time. Said he really is a great guy.

      Where did you liv ei Africa? I went to South Africa to test a camera for Panasonic and fell in love with the place. Would love to get back and visit some other countries as well. It should be on everyone’s bucket list!

      It really is amazing how if you don’t keep up your photograph skills they do deteriorate. I just didn’t think it would be that quickly.

      I’m so glad you feel inspired to pick your camera up again.
      I’ve also found that as I get older photographs and video help keep the memories more vivid.

      That really made my day knowing that you’re picking your camera up again. Thank you for that!


      • Jennifer Kennedy June 28, 2013 at 10:57 am - Reply

        MC Hammer gets you moving doesn’t he?!Ha.

        I lived in Cameroon, West Africa for two years and taught at an International School. Loved the experience because I traveled all over the country and was able to visit Ghana, Ethiopia, and South Africa. And, I must agree with you, I LOVED South Africa. But, I only visited Capetown — it was absolutely beautiful there.

        I’ll probably be indoors mostly this weekend, but I do plan on snapping photos when I’m out and about! Thanks a bunch! And, have a great day.
        Jennifer Kennedy invites you to read…What MC Hammer Can Teach Us about Creating Online CoursesMy Profile

        • Kevin J Railsback June 28, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

          I’ve seen Hammer in concert twice. First time I’ve ever seen a performer get off stage and go into the crowd.
          Great guy, great entertainer.

          I was only in South Africa for about three weeks. Stayed in Kruger. Was still an amazing place. The people were so kind and generous. I will be back one day!

          If only I had more time and money! 🙂

          Have a great weekend!

  4. Christopher James August 10, 2013 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Hear, hear. I’m still waiting for my creativity to come back.

    • Kevin J Railsback August 30, 2013 at 10:20 am - Reply

      I think mine has finally returned. Now I just need to find the time to go out and shoot!

      Hopefully this weekend I can get out nd shoot some tutorials and some other footage.
      Been blistering hot here this week so I’m hoping for cooler temps after Saturday!

  5. Ponds, Lakes & Streams by Biologists August 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm - Reply


    In my field of habitat creation, I’ve always maintained no inspiration has ever come from the office. Professionally I have gained so much from just going out and observing. Great article!

    • Kevin J Railsback August 24, 2013 at 6:03 am - Reply

      I agree, there’s nothing quite like getting out into whatever field you are in and actually doing it!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I appreciate it!


  6. Mark
    September 8, 2013 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Hey Kevin, I appreciate the stop by my site and you leaving the link to this post. I must have missed it…. and can I ever relate to the hole that is left in your life after losing one of the best ‘people’ you know – your dog. We lost our Alaskan Malamute many years ago now and do this day it remains a hole that will never heal. I don’t think they ever do. We did get another Malamute, and she has been wonderful. It was hard at first because I didn’t want to be “replacing” such a dear friend. But a rescue kind of dropped in our lap, and we have given a great life to another dog who’s life is much better having found us I hope.

    So I can fully understand how such a loss impacts your motivation and creativity. It doesn’t really “get better” with time, only that you perhaps have other pleasant things that help as a pain reliever.
    Mark invites you to read…Going to Law SchoolMy Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback September 8, 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply


      Having dogs is certainly a sweet and sour relationship.
      They bring us so much joy with their unconditional love but are only with us for far too short a time.

      When I lost my last dog before Sadie, I felt that was it, no more dogs. However it was only a couple weeks before I couldn’t stand the loneliness of an empty house. That’s when Sadie came into my life.

      I was fortunate that her awesome vets were able to give me one fantastic month with her. She was like a puppy again. I knew it was only temporary but it allowed me to spend every moment I could with her and let her know how loved she was.

      Her “sister” Sasha was a rescue dog and she certainly helps lessen the pain of losing Sadie. Like you said, you never get over the loss.

      Thank you for rescuing! I really think rescue dogs understand they are getting a second chance and really find ways to show how appreciative they are that you stepped in to save them.

      I think the older we get, the harder it is to lose a dog. I’m not sure what will happen when I have to say goodbye to Sasha.

      Hopefully it’s something I don’t have to worry about for a very long time!!

  7. Susan Neal November 24, 2013 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    I’m so pleased you still have Sasha to keep you company. I hope she gives you joy for many years to come.

    The main lesson you’ve shared with us here explains why I’m hopeless at taking photographs – I hardly ever do it! I even struggle to find the button on my smartphone 😉

    But it’s a bit of wisdom we can transfer to any discipline – it’s why I started keeping a diary a year or so ago, because I knew I needed to find a way to discipline myself to write something – anything – every single day, no matter what. The less I write, the harder it is to put pen to paper – the more I write, the more easily the words flow.

    Whatever creative field we inhabit, we all have to work at our craft – I think sometimes people think of creativity as some magical thing that just descends on us from above. Whereas, in reality, it always involves a lot of commitment and hard work.

    However, we’re all bound to go through times when life hits us on the head and we can’t carry on as usual – then it’s picking ourselves up and getting started again that’s the difficult part, as you’ve found.

    I’m so glad you’re getting back to your photography after going through such a distressing time. Thanks so much for sharing this challenging part of your journey with us, because I think we can all learn from your experience.

    Thanks, Kevin – I just love those sensational images of spiders’ webs, by the way – absolutely stunning 🙂
    Susan Neal invites you to read…How To Write Tutorial Blog Posts That Go ViralMy Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback November 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm - Reply


      Yeah, Sasha certainly helped ease the pain of losing Sadie. I think at times she misses her big sister too.

      I totally agree with you that writing, painting, whatever it may be, you lose your edge if you don’t do it every day.
      My ex-wife is an attorney and people don’t understand why she carves so much for just a bunch of words on paper. Well a misplaced comma can mean the difference between one party winning or losing. So tell me that writing isn’t an art! 🙂

      I think the thing that helped me get back in the field and probably would help you when you don’t feel like writing is we have a passion for our art. For me to not be out filming is like locking me in prison.

      This year was a bad year for trying to capture dew covered spider webs. It was so dry here that we didn’t have much dew in the morning and the lack of rain really kept the insect population down.

      Hopefully next year will be a better year and I’ll be out getting some great new footage for you to enjoy!


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