UWOL #9 Among the Prairie Bells Steve Siegel at DVinfo.net

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Old June 23rd, 2008, 04:28 PM   #1
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UWOL #9 Among the Prairie Bells Steve Siegel

My vacation this year corresponded to UWOL 9. I had planned a trip to North Dakota to film Sharp-tailed Grouse and Western Grebe doing mating displays, and other birds. I was pleased to see Meryem's choice of theme. It was late in the season for the grouse, but just about right for the grebes. Despite the weather I was able to get a few quiet sunny mornings.
I have wanted to see Western Grebes doing this dance of theirs since they first appeared in an "Adventureland" episode on the old "Wonderful World of Disney" TV show back in the mid 1950's. I couldn't understand how their chins got so round, while their beaks pointed in the air, like their heads were on backwards. It took 50 years, but now I see. They just seem to be puffed out.
Sharp-tailed Grouse are one of the prairie's "chickens" that set up dancing areas called leks (that's a Norwegian word, isn't it?) each year for courtship purposes. This bird's dance is different from the more sedate booming and puffing of the Prairie Chickens, and it is thought that certain dances of native american tribes featuring circling with arms outstretched may have been modelled after it.
For bird photography, the number of species in the Dakotas can't compare to Texas or Arizona, but their visibility is superb, the singing is unmatched anywhere, once you get there, you practically have the whole state to yourself, and the bratwurst is unbeatable.
To see the video in a larger format, go here:

http://www.vimeo.com/1213325
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 04:39 PM   #2
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Steve,

A fantastic piece of video!!!!! It is definitely in my top 4 list !!!!!! Terrific opening and closing shots. I lived the closing shot, a beautiful composition!!!! After seeing this one I should pull mine out of the list!!!!! truly awesome.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 05:18 PM   #3
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What a great vacation and a wide variety of bird and other wildlife. It was nice to see the mountain bluebird male/female coloration. Much different than our eastern bluebird. I'm sure none of these great shots fell in your lap. Very nice work.
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Old June 24th, 2008, 12:37 PM   #4
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Hi Steve:

The Grebe dance on water was amazing as was the Grouse. I don't think you could capture Prairie life in 3 minutes better than this. Very well done and impressive. Excellent narrating and informative. Rock solid camera work and great footage. Not to mention a perfect title for your piece. Awesome.

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Old June 24th, 2008, 12:49 PM   #5
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Wow Steve, I really liked your video. Kept coming up with new surprises, just when I thought you were about to get stuck. Kept my interest peaked. Really great closing shot of the wagon contraption. Said prairie all over itself.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 02:56 AM   #6
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A nice subject Steve, I liked it a lot. Good sound and nice shot of the bird. I don’t know if its you compressing or if it’s the way you plant it, but I get a feeing of 8mm film, it’s a bit “jumpy” almost like you don’t got enough frames/sec. I like you film, for me it’s one of the best this round, good subject, good VO, story and pictures, well done Steve.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 03:07 AM   #7
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Steve, that was a very nice entry! The Grebe dance was stunning to watch! You have very good compositions in your film. This is one of the top entries in this round.
Keep up your good work!
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Old June 26th, 2008, 09:16 AM   #8
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Hi Steve.

Great visuals which obviously come from a well planned trip. It looks like you reaped the rewards here.

You captured a great range of species which is exactly what this theme asked for.

Well done mate.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 03:04 PM   #9
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Okay, this was fantastic. Steve, what was this shot with ? Camera, lens, fps, etc.?
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Old June 26th, 2008, 03:17 PM   #10
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Steve, this was great. I learned something about birds in on the prairie that's for sure. Good narration and shot selection too.

As a child I always wondered if I could just move my feet fast enough I could walk on water, your footage of the Grebe proved this to be true.


Nice work!
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Old June 26th, 2008, 03:36 PM   #11
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Hi Steve,
Just watched the vimeo version, and waht amazes me, looking back on it, is that it's only three minutes long. It felt much longer - simply on the fact that you managed to fit so much in and tell good stories without making it feel rushed. That's talent.
Particularly loved ..... what the heck, I loved the whole thing. Spot on, man!!!
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Old June 26th, 2008, 06:19 PM   #12
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Thanks, everyone, for all the encouraging comments. I really do appreciate them.

Marcus, the "jumpiness" you noticed was probably in the grouse dancing sequence. It was shot, and edited at 30 fps. These birds began their dancing in March, and this late in the season were pretty much worn out. They would go for a few steps, stop, and go for a few steps more. I edited out the stopped time to simulate what these dances look like when the birds are truly active, and that lead to small discontinuities.

Chris, I shot this with a Canon XLH1 (hi def) with a 300mm zoom atop a really heavy Gitzo tripod and Bogen 516 head. Part of the grouse sequence was shot from a blind next to the lek, part from my car, about 30 meters away. For the tight close-ups I add a 2x Tamron teleextender, which gives an amazingly sharp image if the bird is really still, permitting careful focusing.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 08:42 PM   #13
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What a memory you brought back. I read in your post about the Wonderful World of Disney and the clip of the Western Grebes doing their dance on the water and thought, “No way!” But then, there it was! Great to see them dancing again.

The Mountain Blue Bird shots took my breath away. Here it is Idaho’s state bird, yet I’ve only seen one in all my years, and that was from a distance. Thank you so much for giving me such a close look at this beautiful little bird and all the other prairie bells.
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Old June 27th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #14
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Another wonderful video from you Steve. You have a neat, well-constructed story supported exceptionally well by your footage and sounds of the different bird calls. I found it interesting and informative - we’re learning so much about the wildlife living in other parts of the world this round.
One of my long-time ambitions has been to video the Great Crested Grebe swimming about with a chick on its back - now I have an added ambition - to get footage like this of their displays. I have lovely footage of the pair displaying just before mating but none of them “walking on water” as you have so beautifully shown us. This video is another one at the top this round.
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Old June 27th, 2008, 10:44 PM   #15
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Dear Steve:

Thank you so very much, my friend, for this amazing entry. Like I have explained in a few other entries, the agenda is to crank through and comment on all the films. Then after, I (and my husband) have the privilege to soak up and bask in a handful of films that simply overwhelmed me in their beauty and execution. You are on my shortlist... this is beautiful work. I am humbled by your cinematography and content. It is simply a joy and an inspiration to watch and indulge in, again.

Bless you,

Cat
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