And the winner of UWOL #16 is.... at

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The UWOL Challenge
An organized competition for Under Water, Over Land videographers!

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Old June 4th, 2010, 12:14 PM   #1
UWOL 16 Judge
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Denver, CO
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And the winner of UWOL #16 is....

Thank you for the honor of being a part of your creative community this week. It has been such a delight to watch and digest these films. Each one of them opened up a window on the world I had not peered through before and I feel very fortunate to be the one taken on each of these "journeys and discoveries" through your lenses.

Throughout the week I've had striking images running through my vision: the tender walk of a father and daughter on a tree-shadowed path, the deep greens of farmland in Ireland from the heights of a volcano, the winding roads and fjords of Norway, the red rust of century-old farm equipment peeking out from beneath early spring grasses, the blue head of a kingfisher turning to assess its next path of flight, the jaws of exotic animals munching on the grasses of central Texas, black grouse in the early dawn charging at one another to establish dominance and breeding rights, turquoise water breaking into a perfect surfing arch, and the dark eyes of a lone barred owl squinting in the afternoon sun.

I could make a similar list of sounds from each film - I enjoyed the unique way each of you used silence, music, the natural sounds around you, and narration to bring the viewer through your film.

And now, the decision:

Mat Thompson, "Highland Journeys"
My first thought when watching this was that it was ready for National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. The cinematography is superb. The variance of light, the change in focus from vast expanses to intimate closeness, and the framing of each shot provide a wonderfully textured view into a striking landscape. The story of a single spring day in a place where countless journeys occur throughout the year fit perfectly in the short time frame of the film. The film felt complete - I had just enough information to understand the dynamic nature of the Scottish Highlands but not too much that I felt unsatisfied or overwhelmed. The concept of the "journey and discovery" was also subtle and effortless. Mat, it is very clear that you have spent a lot of time in that landscape. I was particularly impressed with the shots of the black grouses' ritual in the early dawn. The film also was technically superb. Each shot was very well executed and the soundtrack and narration were seamless.

Runner Up:
Chris Barcellos, "An Odyssey Delayed"
This is a great story that is also shot beautifully. Chris, you took the risk of being vulnerable in this piece, and I really appreciated the tenderness and intimacy of the journeys on which you bring the viewer. This was the only film submitted that really brought the viewer on a human journey and I thought the script and narration were well done. There are some great moments visually in the film as well: the opening shot of Katie packing up her camera gear, the moment where father and daughter are looking off into the distance of the reserve, and the still photos that tell the story of Katie's heath battles. I also really liked that this piece had 2 narrators.

Suggestions I would make on improving the film: bring the narration audio down slightly - it seemed to be peaking much of the time; reveal the disease that Katie has been struggling with - knowing this would have grounded me even further in the compassion I felt for the characters; the story also really focused on leaving the house and arriving at the Cosumnes Reserve, but not on the actual photographic journey that father and daughter took that day. I would have loved to see some of the photos they took on their adventure together.

Second Runner Up:
Ryan Farnes, "Strix Varia"
The element of this film that I found unique and intriguing, apart from the spectacular shots of the barred owls in their habitat, was that its exploration of the "discovery" was very transparent and was more the central focus than the other films, which focused more on the journey. The unscripted narration itself worked as an agent of discovery and the repeated "I found" lended a nice rhythm of discovery throughout the film. The silence you leave throughout the film works well also. The closeups of the owl were very well shot.

As with many of the others, I didn't know where in the world I was and I would have liked to know a particular location - which state park? The colors of the film were also quite monotone - probably because that is the landscape that you were in, but I thinking some splashes of color - a mossy rock, the white crests of small rapids on the river, yellows or reds in the bark of the trees - could have helped to expand the texture of the film.

I wanted also to comment on the films that didn't eek out a top 3 spot, but that each had some really nice elements that deserve attention.

Mike Beckett - "Volcanic Journey"
The vast views of the farmlands surrounding Slemish were gorgeous and I liked the simplicity of the journey you took the viewer on with your father. You do a nice job varying wide and tight shots and have created a nice narrative about a new journey into a once familiar place. Favorite line of narration for me in this: "A patchwork quilt of lush green fields contrasting with barren heather-clad hills." I wanted to see more of the path to the top - what it looked like to walk along it, what nooks and crannies there are to be found. The exposure of the shots seemed fairly monotone as well - all bright and sunny and I think adding some darker elements could have helped with texture.

Trond Saetre - "Norwegian fjords and mountains"
A truly gorgeous landscape you find yourself in Trond. The shots of the peaks are impressive. I would have loved more moments out of the car - perhaps a shot from the side of the road with cars in the foreground and mountains looming behind - shots of the townships along the road, or some other angles to add more texture. I am not sure the soundtrack worked perfectly with the visuals either - it helped advance the movement aspects, but more moments of quiet or stillness would have helped it feel less like as a viewer I was being driven by the gorgeous surroundings.

Dale Guthormsen- "Back In Time"
This film, much like Mike's Safari, was centered around a very local journey - the "I just stepped out my backdoor and ran into this" discovery and I like that about it a lot. I wondered where you were exactly and how you had come upon the old machines and remnants of homes in the first place. I would suggest also trying this film without the freeze frame technique - play with texture of shots - wide to close to new angles of the same object - rather than simply freezing the shot for effect. The audio also was not quite seamless - the background of the narration trumped the sounds of the shots.

Marj Atkins - "Time will tell"
I enjoyed the story of this film and your curiosity about the effects of the mining industry on a precarious wetland preserve works well as a narrative force. This narration, much like in Ryan's film, does a good job of bringing the viewer along on a discovery. You get some incredible shots of various birds, particularly in the beginning as you are describing the characteristics of Marievale. I was slightly confused of the sequence of when those shots were captured - it seemed they were taken before the current journey of the film - but I wasn't sure. There were also a few parts where the background sound interfered with the narration - I think the scenes in the car particularly.

Mike Sims - "Lone Star Safari"
I love the munching and crunching sounds that weave through this film and the concept of taking a local journey within 20 miles of your hometown. What an incredible array of species in your neighborhood. I would love to hear more about the animals - where they came from, how they got to central Texas, and what their survival in a foreign place consists of.

Bill Thesken - "The Edge Of The World"
The underwater shots are thrilling to watch in your piece Bill. It is clear that you enjoyed making this movie and I am impressed with the variance of views on a wave you were able to capture for this film. I felt that the film didn't give me as much of a story as many of the others and I would have liked to know more about where I was, who was surfing, and what was that wonderful chorus of voices that starts the film.

Thanks again for letting me be a part of the UWOL community and keep making great films!


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Old June 4th, 2010, 12:29 PM   #2
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Congratulations Mat !
And to all the others who participated. It was fun to be a part of this.
And thanks to Hannah for judging, and the critique.
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Old June 4th, 2010, 12:31 PM   #3
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Congratulations Mat, Chris and Ryan! Well done to all; great videos all around this time.
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Old June 4th, 2010, 01:10 PM   #4
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Well done Mat, and everyone else!

And Hannah, thank you for the feedback you provided for everyone. Now I need to lie down in a darkened room until the next UWOL. 'Night all!
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Old June 4th, 2010, 01:57 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mike Beckett View Post
Now I need to lie down in a darkened room until the next UWOL. 'Night all!
Chuckle. I'm going to get a few Irish pints of beer, sit in a darkened corner of the pub and plot my next film.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 01:22 AM   #6
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Thanks very much. Congratulations all!
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Old June 5th, 2010, 07:26 AM   #7
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Congrats Mat, Chris and Ryan.

Thank you Hannah for the time you dedicated to giving us all carefully-considered and constructive feedback.

(Yes, I was concerned that slipping the introduction to the wetland into my story where I did might be confusing. I tried to construct a scenario that would reflect my memory of the place as I knew it, so I could contrast it with what was to come. Of course using footage filmed the same day as though it were filmed before was bound to confuse anyone! )
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Old June 5th, 2010, 11:18 AM   #8
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Congratulations to the winners. It was well deserved.

Thank you for the comments to my entry.
Based on yours and the other comments, I plan to make an updated/extended version later.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 11:29 AM   #9
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Good Morning,

First, thank you for taking the time to Judicate the films!!

Congratulations Mat in particular and all those that finished!!!

It was a fine group of films to be certain!!!!

Time to go back and watch them again.
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old June 6th, 2010, 05:48 AM   #10
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Hi Hannah and everyone else.

Firstly can I just say want a great job you've done on critique with this round. You've obviously put a lot of time in and made some very good points. Thanks muchly!

Thanks to everyone for the positive comments on my piece. It was a great week I spent up there. In fact the reason I've not been around over the last week is because I've been up there again. More Otters, Pine Martins and lots of rare butterflies....awesome!

Just to let everyone know I will be commenting on your films over the coming days and look forward to watching them all again.

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Old June 7th, 2010, 08:10 PM   #11
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Sorry for the late comments. I was shooting all weekend, and never got a chance to log in.

Thanks you to all film makers who entered this contest and for the nice comments about our film in general. While I carried the camera and edited this, I consider it Chris Swanberg and Katie's film. My initial idea was to have it narrated by Chris from his perspective, and indeed, that is the way I initially edited it. Chris suggested adding Katies perspective, and I was glad we went that way.

I would not have wanted to judge this contest. There were so many well made and interesting films.

And thank you to our judge for taking the time to make the comments that will make our films better the next go around.

To our judge, Hannah, just so you know a bit more about the background. Chris Swanberg is a UWOL participant and a good friend. His daughter Katie suffered from a bacterial infection (menengitidus bacteria infected her blood) causing septecemia. It came on so suddenly, and in the initial moments, hope seemed something that was not even to be thought about. Chris faced a day in the not to distant future when he would have lost his daughter. This community was aware of it by postings.

This little story about Katie and her father going out on their first hike since her return from the hospital ended fairly quickly, as she tired a short way into the hike. She really did not have the energy to do any significant shooting, and we went back in fairly quickly. Still, the important thing is that she was back out there.
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old June 12th, 2010, 10:45 PM   #12
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Congrats, Mat...I'm getting so used to you winning any contest that you enter, that I almost forgot to say it!

And to Chris and Ryan as well, both fine and moving films...

And to everyone else, this was a great batch of work, and I hope you all enjoyed an adventure or two along the way.

And thanks to Hannah, for the thoughtful commentary and for helping our community move forward. Thanks!

The judges always put in more time than you could possibly know....
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