Want to Shoot Video – Just do it!

A man next to his canoe at Zack Woods Pond, Hyde Park, Vermont.  Early morning.
A man next to his canoe at Zack Woods Pond, Hyde Park, Vermont. Early morning.

A little more than a year ago, I was fumbling around with my Canon 5D MarkII, wanting to add video to my repertoire, but having no experience I was wondering if there was really any point in trying to call myself a "mutli-media producer" when there were plenty of people out there who had been producing this type of content for decades.  I then attended a lecture by Brian Storm, whose company MediaStorm was in the process of redefining what photojournalists do by producing some of the most compelling multi-media stories out there (you really should check them out: http://mediastorm.com/.) Most, if not all of the stories that MediaStorm produces are shot by still photographers, but incorporate video and audio as well. Brian made the technical end of producing video seem relatively simple, with his main message being that the story is of prime importance. Get that right and add good visuals, and you'll succeed. He ended his talk by encouraging wannabes like me to just grab a buddy and start shooting. That one statement gave me the confidence to just get out there and "do it."

A year later, I've completed four short conservation documentaries that mix varying amounts of stills with video and interviews. By far, the hardest part is figuring out the story and editing all the content in a way that tells the story well. As still photographers, we have the visuals down, and I believe most of us are technical enough to figure out how to capture sound well and then use the editing software. I'll admit, I've cursed my computer numerous times in the last year as I grappled with the software end of things, but that stuff always seems to work itself out. It's a bigger challenge to watch a few hours of footage and pick out the highlights and then weave it together into something that's coherent and watchable. I've relied on several friends, experts, and clients to help me cut the boring stuff and identify the highlights. Video, much more than still photography, often requires more than one person to get the shot. Sound and lighting are especially challenging to do by yourself in some cases, and there is often just a lot of gear to carry around that requires an extra hand or two.  That said, it is possible to do things by yourself, and most of the projects I've done so far have been solo efforts in the field, except for the cooperation of the people who I've interviewed. Even if you don't have a buddy to shoot with, but you want to take the video plunge, just find a story you like, get out there and start shooting!

Below is a link to the latest project I finished, a short documentary about the endangered New England Cottontail rabbit.  Since this was a personal project that wasn't funded (meaning I didn't get paid) I could only work on it when I had spare time between other projects, but it was something I could shoot without having to travel and it gave me the chance to learn a lot of skills at my own pace.

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