I haven’t posted in awhile for a couple of reasons. I’ve been working on securing sponsorship for the 19th Friends of the Refuge Tualatin River Bird Festival. It’ not very photogenic work. Also, I broke the camera I was using for photography for this blog. It was a nice point-and-shoot that I could carry in a pocket. It could do a lot of nifty things, but durable it was not. I dropped it while getting gear out of my car, and that was that.

While figuring out what to do about another camera, I decided to tackle a project I’d been thinking about for a while. There are many activities on the refuge that are fun and interesting. I think video captures the “aliveness” of these events better than still photos. So I’ve wanted to try shooting with inexpensive, readily available equipment to demonstrate that video is possible without a lot of cost and fuss.


One such activity has been an epic project to plant nearly 13,000 trees and shrubs on a section of the refuge on the south side of the Tualatin River and a couple of miles west of the public Atfalati section. It’s called the South Riverboat Unit because, back in the 1930s, steam riverboats used to stop there on their trips up and down the Willamette Valley. It involved numerous partner groups and a ton of work every Wednesday and Saturday from January into March. I went out several times digging and planting, and, alternately, shooting video clips of what was going on with my iPhone.

I learned some things. Firstly, getting video worth people watching isn’t so easy. While on vacation a few weeks ago I downloaded a book by writer/director Steve Stockman titled: How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck. He contends that about 99% of video shot by amateurs is really poor compared to the work of highly-paid professional videographers and filmmakers we see on TV and the movies all the time. So his book is about how to do a better job. He really raises the bar, and that made me raise my standards. You can’t expect to get worthy video from going to an event, grabbing a bunch of candid or chance video, and patching it together later. You’ve got to plan ahead, know what story you want to tell, and take control of the situation enough to get the carefully thought-out shots you need. Also, while you can get some really good images with today’s smartphones, you’re going to have some real limitations within which you’ll need to work

Well, most of the pre-planning and negotiating control opportunities for my video clips had already passed by the time I read Stockman’s admonitions, so I was kind of stuck.  At the end of the planting project a busload of Fulbright Scholars came to get some “dirt time” planting. It was a beautiful day and the scholars were fun and enthusiastic. They were literally from all over the world. I toiled for a lot of hours to do the video below with material from that day. I could spend more hours tweaking the edits to compensate for things that are rather artless, but I also learned that you need to finalize one project so you can move on to the next, hopefully applying what you’ve learned.


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