UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback at DVinfo.net

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Old August 1st, 2017, 09:33 AM   #1
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UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback


The tallgrass prairie has been a passion of mine for several years now. It's probably the most misunderstood and understudied ecosystems in the world.
At one time it was one of the largest ecosystems in the world, more diverse than the Florida Everglades and maybe even the Amazon rainforest.
Here in Iowa only 1/10th of one percent of the native tallgrass prairie still exits. I've visted Hayden Prairie which is the second largest piece of native tallgrass prairie in Iowa and it is only 242 acres in size.

The last few years I've really had a strong desire to see what Iowa might have looked like before John Deere's steel plow turned over the first piece of tallgrass prairie to make way for modern day crops.

There were a couple choices. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas and Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. I ended up choosing the prairie in Oklahoma because there were no restrictions on flying my drone since it was privately owned by the Nature Conservancy. 39,000 acres of native tallgrass prairie. The first time I could ever stand in a spot and see nothing but prairie as far as the horizon. To most people it probably looked like nothing but endless weeds, to me however, it took my breath away.

I was down there only a week and only had a small window at first light and last light to film since the light was so harsh the rest of the time.

A herd of bison are free to roam 29,000 acres of the 39,000 acre preserve. It was amazing seeing these majestic creatures push through the prairie following trails that were laid down by bison generations ago.

Filming at night bison would slip past me silently, only their silhouettes standing against the faint light on the horizon marking their passage past me.

Yet even 29,000 acres of native prairie isn't enough for these amazing creatures. Bulls are shipped to slaughterhouses when they reach the age of four or five. Cows get a little longer reprieve, they are slaughtered around the age of ten or twelve.


For me, the wild tallgrass prairie no longer exists unless I choose to redefine my definition of wild. Nature still exits and finds ways to survive but for me, even 39,000 acres of native prairie is just a model of what the wild used to be.

I went back and forth on the story I wanted to tell. In the end, I decided to let the prairie and its inhabitants speak for themselves. I reverted to my original UWOL days of just setting imagery to music and letting you decide the story that unfolds in front of you.

In many ways, I feel that I've failed the tallgrass and the creatures that call it home. Do you look at the film differently if you know that the bull bison surrounded by his family will be slaughtered this fall and end up in someone's crockpot?

On the other hand, I feel so unqualified to tell the prairies story and do it any kind of justice. In the end I hope that you think of the prairie as a beautiful place until I figure how the story I want to tell and how to tell it.
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Old August 1st, 2017, 06:53 PM   #2
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Hey Kevin,

Yes, from the first scene it was pretty obvious that you weren't in Iowa any more. The prairie is so sublimely beautiful. In your last wide drone shot I could imagine the low hills covered with the black bodies of bison in an endless procession. Magical. One day they will return.

I initially was pretty sure that you were filming in Montana, and was surprised you were in Oklahoma.
Next year we are moving from Florida to New Mexico, just a few hours drive from the same prairie. I hope to join you in filming the wonders of that quiet, colorful land.
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Old August 2nd, 2017, 04:22 AM   #3
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Kevin, a great video. You captured the Tall Grass Prairie in a way that even after three trips there I failed to do. I envy you being able to spend a full week there, I usually get to spend a day there while driving to Colorado. Where do you stay? Your music was perfect and of course your drone shots were incredible. You really showed that you don't need VO, music or eye candy to produce a winner. I have also been to the TGP in Kansas, you would be disappointed after a week in Oklahoma. And, as I recall there were no buffalo there. Again, Great job!! Bob
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Old August 3rd, 2017, 01:17 PM   #4
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Nice Job!!!

I really en joyed the video. Now I have a need to visit that area. The drone shots blended well and added some variety to the whole video. I have been thinking about getting one but that is about as far as it has gone so far. Which one do you use?
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Old August 5th, 2017, 11:22 AM   #5
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Hi Kevin,

Nice film! You really master making films without a spoken word, and I think it was a good choice here.
I know you cut your films to the music, but here I think you missed some of the cuts. The images and the beats of the music kinda lived their own separate lives in parts of the film. A minor detail, but it was noticeable.

The sunset at 3:14: The horizon is almost dead center of the image. I'd prefer to have this either further up or lower, depending on how much depth you want in the shot. Personally, I'd move the horizon up to the upper 3rd part of the image, to show more of the prairie and add depth.
Same thing with the clip at 3:28. But here I would probably try out the opposite, to lower the horizon to get more of the sky, since the ground is just the same tall grass "all over". (You might compare this to the shot at 0:13 as reference)

Well done!
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Old August 6th, 2017, 12:56 PM   #6
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

well done
Very nice drone shots and i really liked the macro shots too.

I didn't know that the bison are slaughtered after a short time roaming free, i know why they do it but it still isa bit unsettling.
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Old August 6th, 2017, 10:07 PM   #7
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Kevin, great visuals as we have come to expect. Not only great landscapes, but closeups of plants and insects. They do stand very well on their own, and the music fit fairly well with the procession of images.
Definitely the choice of low sun angles for the lighting really works for the shots, and the drone gave some great sweeping passes showing the magnitude of the prairie. Drones in national parks is pretty restricted here also - need a commercial certificate from aviation authority, and a specifically applied for permit each time (from Parks Victoria). My one issue with drone footage is the camera controls don't seem to have much smoothing, which means the start and end of the camera movement (the gimbal, not the drone itself) are often a bit sudden, distracting from the shot. It's a minor thing, and more to do with the way drones are programmed. I think I only noticed it once - be nice if they offered an ease-out and ease-in option ;-)

I'm still torn as to which I would prefer style wise. This was a great piece, but I felt it might be suited to being slightly shorter in length where there was no overt narrative. For a longer piece it would want another element to tie it together, which might be a VO narrative. Maybe text could work, perhaps hard to get that balance right. But I do see what you mean about not knowing if you can speak for the prairie, if a narrative would fit in that timeframe.

Another great piece, looking forward to what the next round brings.
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Old August 7th, 2017, 06:45 PM   #8
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Wow what stunning shots! You really capture the moment & feeling in your images. Just a couple of thoughts that might make this piece even better. While the music was lovely, i did miss the natural sounds & thought that would have helped fully immerse me in the scenes. One of the drone shots sort of stopped mid shot almost & didn't have the same lovely movement & feel as the others. I would love to hear a story with it too & sort of missed that, especially after your last film.
Thanks Kevin, for another beautiful video!
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Old August 8th, 2017, 12:23 PM   #9
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Really liked the various shots of prairie life. You captured it well.
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Old August 9th, 2017, 08:02 AM   #10
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Congratulations Kevin. Job well done.
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Old August 9th, 2017, 12:08 PM   #11
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Kevin, that's twice in a row! Congratulations on you taking first place. You really earned it. And congratulations to everyone that submitted an entry. Bob
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Old August 10th, 2017, 12:26 AM   #12
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Re: UWOL 43- Wild Prairie - Kevin J Railsback

Interesting to see a Painted Lady butterfly which the same species we get over here albeit ours are summer migrants from Africa and southern Europe. Then a hairstreak which quite similar to our White-letter Hairstreak.
Wish we had more prairie type habitat in western Europe but only tiny fragments remain in e.g. Spain and Hungary.


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