Best Challenge Ever?

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I’m in the middle of another UWOL Film Challenge. The theme for this challenge is “Renewal.”

So far I’ve shot some fantastic footage. Maybe some of my best. I find myself chomping at the bit in anticipation waiting for the next opportunity I can get out and shoot for this challenge.

The new camera is simply amazing. The quality of the footage continues to blow me away. While they may announce a new version of the camera this month, I think it’ll be hard to beat what I’m getting right now. It’s simply stunning.

This also may be the most personal challenge I’ve done for the competition. Maybe that’s why I find myself so anxious to get out and shoot for it.

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The film is due on September 20th. So, certainly not a lot of time to tweak it so it’s just right.

I’m going to try and shoot the one crucial scene tomorrow. If I don’t get that shot then the whole film will fail. So, it’s really, really important that I get this shot and I get it right. I’ve been trying for over a week to try and find a way to make it a simple shot and still make it clear what is going on without looking too cliche. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow if I was able to pull it off or not.

I’ll be up before sunrise tomorrow working on getting some more shots to fill the gaps in the story before I head out for the big shot of the day.

There’s nothing like being out in nature that moment just before the sun peeks over the horizon. There’s no way I can describe the feeling. It’s as close to being magical as anything can be.

I hope tomorrow is a good day! I’ll keep you posted!

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Do Pictures Lie?

What do you think of this picture?

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It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? One of those Golden Graham mornings.

How about this one?

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Not quite the same impact is it? Would it surprise you to know that both pictures are at the same location? Would it surprise you even more to know that the “mountain” in the background is actually our local landfill “Mt. Trashmore”?

We’ve all heard the pictures never lie, but they do all the time. There’s an old mission in Montana that I’ve seen in books and magazines for many years. It shows this beautiful mission seemingly in the middle of nowhere with majestic mountains rising up behind it.

So one year, I made the trip to photograph the mission. As I travelled up the highway I happened to glance over to my right and there was this building that kind of looked like the mission. I was puzzled because this building was right in a town. There were telephone lines running every which way run down buildings, junk cars. It couldn’t be the same mission could it? Well, it just so happens that if you set up at just the right angle, you can eliminate all the distractions and get the iconic shot of the mission against the mountains that you see in all the magazines.

As a photographer and now filmmaker, I’ve learned that it’s not so much how things look but how you see the possibilities within them.

Here’s a shot from a recent short I did. It’s a tranquil pond seemingly set in a Waldenesque setting.
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You can feel the peace and tranquility in this quiet little spot.

In actuality, this pond is in my housing development just off a major highway, Tons of traffic on the highway, dogs barking in people’s yards. It certainly wasn’t peaceful by any means.

This is what it normally looks like whenever I drive by.
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Do pictures really lie? I don’t think they do. I think they can show us the possibilities that we’ve chosen not to see. They show, at least to me, that there is beauty everywhere. We just need to take the time to see it. I feel fortunate to be blessed with the ability to see beyond what’s in front of my eyes and find those possibilities that seemingly lie hidden away.

Silent Kingdom

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Another film for the Underwater Over Land Film Challenge.

The theme for this challenge was “Animal Kingdom.”
Unfortunately this film had to be put together in just a few hours.
Family matters kept me home for most of the time period we had to complete the film. So, on the last day I headed out and spent most of the day driving around trying to find anything to film.
I knew I didn’t have enough wildlife footage to even come close to doing a film that really addressed the theme. So, I came up with the idea of doing a film about there not being any wildlife in the “Animal Kingdom in the tenth hour.

With the film due that night, I sat down about 9:00PM and started trying to put something together. My plan was to do a voice over but as the night wore on, that grew to be less likely.

The clock struck 2AM and I was still trying to put something together to beat the deadline.

Finally I just started laying down track, hoping that it would all make some kind of sense.

Although not the film I was hoping to do, I made the deadline and hopefully it has a bit of a message.
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A New Challenge Begins

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The latest underwater over land film challenge has begun.

This time around, the theme is “Animal Kingdom.” Why couldn’t I have had this theme when I was in Africa? 🙂

This is a tough time for wildlife filming in Iowa. Archery deer season is currently going on. They even allow hunting inside city limits as well as many parks. So, I’m guessing I’m going to have to find a blaze orange vest to wear as every year several people get shot by being mistaken for a deer.

Most of the birds that migrate have passed trough. The rivers haven’t frozen to concentrate the eagles near open water.

Right now I’m thinking about concentrating on the “Kingdom” portion of the theme and not so much the “Animal” part.

If you have any suggestions for ideas on this theme, send them my way!

“The Prairie” First Runner-Up UWOL Challenge

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The results are in and my film for the international Underwater Over Land film festival took home 1st runner up.

Although the judge thought that the story line could have been improved upon, he had nothing but kind words to say about the imagery:
Kevin Railsback – The Prairie – 1st Runner Up!
The photography was impeccable – great “magic hour” light; the amazing color saturation reminded me of my days 20 years ago when I was working for renowned outdoor photographer Galen Rowell, when I’d shoot stills with Fuji Velvia slide film – gorgeous.

Having my work compared to the work of world renowned still photographer Galen Rowell is certainly an honor. Many years ago when I was shooting stills myself. Galen was an inspiration of mine and probably did help develop my signature style of deeply saturated colors that want to pop off the screen.

Tragically Galen and his wife died in a plane crash on August 11,2002. The above comments by judge Bruce Borowsky were on August 11th, the 7th anniversary of Galen’s death.

As I’ve said many times before, winning is always a great thing, but judging is subjective. Another judge may have not even considered my film for consideration while another may have thought it best of entry.

I think the important thing is to be true to yourself and always strive to do the best that YOU can do. Filmmaking is my passion. For me finishing a film puts me in the winners circle every time.

Check out my entry in the film challenge and let me know what you think.

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Silent No More

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A lot of times when I’m out in the field, I like to just sit and listen to the sounds of nature. I enjoy this so much that I invested in a Zoom H4n digital audio recorder to take out with me and capture some of the natural sounds I encounter.

The Zoom H4n by the way is a remarkable recorder. It can record fantastic audio with it’s built in stereo mics but also allows you to plug in 1/4 inch and XLR mics as well.

My first experience recording with it was in Monterey, California. My hotel was right on the beach and at night I could listen to the waves and seabirds outside my window.

Returning back to Iowa I took the Zoom with me on my trips to a tall grass prairie about 15 miles from my home. I was working on my latest film, “The Prairie” for the UWOL film challenge.

It was late in the afternoon and I could hear owls hooting in the nearby forests, birds settling in for the coming night, frogs in the nearby pond, etc. But what amazed me when I returned home to listen to the audio was how much other sounds the Zoom had picked up.

The tall grass prairie is really out in the middle of no where. Yet, I could hear the sound of tractors out in distant fields, motorcycles roaring down roads far in the distance. There were airplanes flying over head and the rumble of freight trains as they made their way across the state. I could hear dogs barking from nearby farmhouses, cars traveling down the lone road that passes by the prairie.

What amazed me even more was that long after a plane flew overhead or a car drove past on the gravel road, their sound continued to be recorded. The pristine natural sounds of the tall grass prairie were being contaminated by a world that had seemed so far away.

No matter how much I felt as one with nature while I sat in the prairie it seems that the sounds of man are still there no matter how much I wish they weren’t.

“The River” Rolling Along

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It’s been a lot of hard work but “The River” is done! It’s even finished a couple days before the deadline.

I had originally planned on documenting the entire process here. But, once it things started to go together, I didn’t want to spoil the impact of seeing it by giving you a lot of behind the scenes info.

So, once the film is up for viewing, I’ll post a link and then I can go into some of the details on how this film came together.

I think it’s one of the best films I’ve entered in the challenge to date.

Once you have an opportunity to see it, please post a comment and let me know what you think.

The River

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A strange thing happened to me this round of the UWOL challenge, I actually was able to change my mind about the subject of my film.

Normally whenever the theme is announced for a new challenge, an initial thought will pop into my head and no matter how hard I try to think of something else, my brain locks onto that first idea I had and that’s all she wrote.

Maybe at first, the idea sounded really good but upon further reflection, I realized it might be more difficult to pull off in the three week time frame that I had originally thought.

When I first heard the theme was “Habitat” for UWOL #11, my first thought was a film on vanishing forests here in Iowa.

Every year in the Cedar Rapids area, they have what the call Parade of Homes. The public is given an opportunity to tour homes built by local contractors. Homes range in price from $150k to over a million dollars.

One of the million dollar plus homes was in the middle of a great forested area. As my wife and I were being driven up the lane in a golf cart because it was tucked back so far off the road, I was saddened by the fact that such a beautiful area was being bulldozed to make way for more million dollar homes.

Oh, there were still plenty of trees and a great pond, but the natural beauty and wildness had forever vanished with the building of this development.

So, that was what my film was going to be about.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was part of a bigger story. Something that couldn’t be told in the normal span of time we have for the challenge.

Normally my brain would be so focused on this story that I wouldn’t be able to shift gears and find another story that needed to be told.

But this time was different. This time for whatever reason, a new idea popped into my head. That idea has become the focus of my UWOL #11 film, “The River.”

Stay tuned as “The River” starts to take shape.