WHY I’VE BEEN ABSENT

I haven’t posted in awhile for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve been doing some fund raising work for the Tualatin River Bird Festival (save the date: Saturday, May 16!!). It’s not a very photogenic activity and this blog format is picture-oriented.
  2. I broke the camera I have been using for the photos on this blog. It was a point-and-shoot I could carry in a pocket and yet it could do some pretty nifty things. But withstanding a two-foot drop was not one of it’s qualities. It wasn’t worth the expense of repairing according the the camera repair lady I talked with.

While I figure out when and with what to replace my busted camera, I decided to tackle something I’ve been interested in. I have wanted to try getting some video of refuge activities using simple equipment, hopefully to demonstrate that it can be done inexpensively and easily. There are many fun and lively things that happen on the refuge, and I think video captures the “aliveness” better than stills. Besides, the media of today is switching away from text and even still photography at a rapid rate. Pretty much all social media have both still and video options baked in.

One very active project that’s been going on is the planting of over 12,000 trees and shrubs at what’s called the South Steamboat Unit of the refuge. It’s a piece of land on the south side of the Tualatin River a couple of miles west of Roy Rodgers Rd. It’s really an epic habitat restoration project that has involved hundreds of volunteers and who knows how many hours of free labor. I’ve been out several times since January sometimes digging holes and planting, and, alternately, taking some video with my iPhone.

The thing I learned is: There’s a pretty steep learning curve to acquire all the techniques necessary to do good video. Shooting, recording sound, editing footage (an archaic term in today’s world where images go to chips rather than to film or tape), titling, and making a sound track all require some skills and judgement. A phone these days can shoot some pretty good video, but it’s less than optimal, for sure.

The great challenge is getting quality story-telling out in the end. While on vacation a couple of weeks ago I downloaded a book titled: How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck, by writer/director Steve Stockaman. He contends that about 99% of video shot by amateurs is really lousy when compared to the work of highly-paid professionals who do the work we see constantly on TV and the movies. So he raises the bar and gives tips about how to do a better job.

So I’ve been toiling away over clips I shot at the tree planting and trying to get it into respectable shape. I could go on for many more hours, but I realized you have to bring one project to a close some time so you can try to do better with another effort.

This video was taken March 7 when the Nature Conservancy brought a busload of Fulbright scholars to Steamboat. This group–literally from all over the world–was fun and enthusiastic, and they helped reach the final goal of getting those plants in the ground this month.

This video isn’t going to win any film festival awards, but I’ve learned a few things and I hope everyone gets the flavor of human activity I’m aspiring to capture.

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