I love being immersed in nature, whether it's trudging through woodlands with my camera and tripod slung across my shoulder, or sitting concealed in a blind during a “wildlife stakeout,” it doesn't really matter. It's being out there that counts, and if I'm lucky enough to get one or two good shots, then that's the icing on the cake.
Over the past few years I have been very fortunate to photograph wildlife in many parts of North America and even Japan. But I think it may be a little misleading to imply that you have to go "somewhere" to do that.
Perhaps I'm fortunate to live in Lethbridge, a southern Alberta city bisected by the Oldman River Valley, where I have spent many happy hours watching and photographing wildlife, literally within fifteen minutes of my home. True, there are no "Spirit Bears" or snow monkey's here, but the diversity of wildlife may surprise you.
MuleDeer-0111A mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) buck looks out over the snow covered frosting of the Oldman River Valley.
Yet as convenient as this location is, I appreciate that not everyone is able to enjoy the river valley in quite the same way, or with the same frequency that I do, and although it is a very enjoyable experience, I am also aware that for the most part this is pretty one-sided. I seem to take so much from it, but what's in it for the wildlife?
It was for these reasons that last fall I decided to undertake a challenging project, to create a documentary film about wildlife in the Oldman River Valley, and to film it throughout each of the four seasons. By doing so, I hope to help raise awareness about our local wildlife and the ongoing challenges they face living in an urban environment. Since I believe that we will only protect the things we care about, it is my hope that this film may inspire us to work together to help protect our remaining wild spaces and to better understand our dependency on nature.
RiverOtter-8687North American River Otters (Lontra canadensis) are uncommon in the river valley, yet still put in the occasional, albeit rare appearance.
Another important goal I want to achieve in this documentary, is to not only showcase the areas wildlife, but to present it in ways that even frequent visitors to this river valley may have never seen before, and to accomplish this I realize I may need to take a slightly different approach than that I have been using for still photography. My DSLR cameras have served me very well for this purpose, and because of their superior image quality, they will likely continue to do most of the heavy lifting. But since they are not always the best choice for shooting video, I decided to supplement my existing equipment with a few new acquisitions.
TrkyVultr-3677A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) roosts in a cottonwood tree in the Oldman River Valley.
The first was a GoPro camera that I have already used to create a time lapse sequence of the night sky, as well as low-angle shots of beavers swimming in the river. Since it also came with a waterproof housing, I have a few ideas for some underwater shots that I want to attempt in the upcoming summer months.
My second acquisition was the addition of two 20 megapixel trail cams that also shoot video. Because they are also equipped with infrared LED’s, they have already captured some interesting nocturnal footage of white-tailed deer, coyotes, raccoons, porcupines and beavers.
My latest acquisition is a palm-sized High Definition camcorder with a built-in zoom lens that far outreaches my longest (500mm) wildlife lens. While the image quality may not be as good as my "big glass," the compact size and versatility of this camcorder will allow me to collect footage that otherwise may be unattainable.
Finally, in recent weeks I have also been in touch with an old friend who is an accomplished musician, and I'm very happy to say has graciously consented to write and record some original music that I can then add as a soundtrack to the film.
As you may have now gathered, I'm very excited about this project and have high expectations for what could be accomplished. When completed, I plan to post each seasonal video to my You Tube channel where they can be easily accessed for viewing, so you may want to subscribe to my channel so that you can be notified whenever new segments have been added. In the meantime however, I will also be posting some behind the scenes footage (e.g. Night Sky Time Lapse sequence) to demonstrate how some of the more technical segments were filmed.
So stay tuned, I think the next year is going to be challenging, exciting and very interesting!