Stills Experience is Still Experience

I have been a travel photography columnist in one or another major American magazine non-stop since 1986. That’s a long, and I’m fairly sure, unmatched, continuous, 28-year-tenure as a photo columnist that began at Travel&Leisure, moved to National Geographic Traveler, then to Popular Photography, Endless Vacations, and currently at Outdoor Photographer magazine.

Many times over the years, I’ve written about how video didn’t interest me because, while I love the storytelling aspect of it, to do it well, you needed a crew. And I always have worked by myself, or with just one assistant or fixer, and I’m not about to change my ways at this late stage of the game. As it turns out, I was wrong….

Thanks to the DSLR revolution and the addition of video capabilities to still cameras, that crew requirement is no longer true. Combine that with the fact that print outlets are dropping faster than the income of the American middle class, and the amazing capability to share your stories worldwide on the web, and you’ve got the perfect storm that allowed me to explore my desire to tell visual stories with the added elements of motion and sound.

And so, for the last few years, I’ve been indulging my inner filmmaker and learning to shoot and edit video and multimedia stories. It’s a long hard road, but it’s certainly a rewarding one, and although I’ll never live long enough for my film chops to match my stills chops, I’ve learned a ton (and have a few hundred tons more to learn). But I realized that for most of my career, it was the story, and not the individual images, that excited me the most and this new form is all about story.

So the purpose of this blog is to share what I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, from the point of view of a traveling, one-man-band, former still shooter of a certain age who abhors anything that is one iota heavier or bulkier to travel with than it needs to be. And that will be the critical difference in the point of view of this blog, because the one thing that you pick up when you cruise most filmmaking blogs is that these folks have a completely different frame of reference than we do.

The same piece of gear that a filmmaker might describe as “compact and reasonably-priced,” most of us would call “huge and cripplingly expensive.” That’s because they come from a Hollywood or big-production house environment, where a $12,000 Canon Cinema Camera really is considered to be a tiny piece of bargain kit.

So, when it comes to gear needed to tell our visual stories, the credo of the Old Man in Motion will be: smaller, lighter, faster, and hopefully, cheaper.

For the most part, I won’t be dealing with post production issues like editing, color grading, etc. …that I’ll leave to the experts.

Instead, I’ll be concentrating on fieldcraft and travel issues, where my 38 years of professional still photography factors in and stands me (and you too, dear reader) in good stead as we venture together in the world of cinematic storytelling.

23 thoughts on “Stills Experience is Still Experience

  1. Bob
    Delighted to read this.
    In my own experience, still photographers often make the best transition to video.
    All too often, particularly in television, we pay little attention to the visuals.
    (just watch it!)
    The ability to bring the sensibilities of a great photographer to video opens the door to an entirely new level of sophistication for video.
    Your work is the example I constantly use.

    1. Thanks Michael: You were and continue to be one of my two main inspirations and guiding lights for this entire motion enterprise…I may never forgive you:-).

  2. Bob – Thank you for taking the time with this wonderful blog. I had the honor of meeting you a couple of years ago at the CNPA conference. I was the older women that came up to and told you that 70% of my work is now video. I am staff photographer for Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet South Carolina. Told you about having to teach me myself everything about this DSLR VIDEO new concept. It has been a long road and making progress. Have to be carful on what is on written on the internet about DSLR Video, a lot of miss information. Working for a non-profit, there is no money available to be sent to a DSLR video training workshops. This is why I am so excited about your new blog and looking forward to learning. Thanks Again for helping us newbees out. Anne Malarich

  3. I was extremely fortune enough in my career as a Navy photographer to attend Syracuse University to specialize as a photojournalist. I was later sent to the Navy’s Motion Picture Cameraman School. My education as a Mopicer, as we called them, made me a better photojournalist. A completely different way of looking at a scene and subject for story telling.

  4. Love the new site, Bob. Learning video is on my list–just picked up the D810, passing on my D700 to my brother. This highlight reel is extraordinary, but that’s you for you.

    1. Thanks, Eric, very kind of you. Hope you’re getting in some beach time this summer…heading to LBI in a week or two, just for a couple of nights.

  5. Brother Bob – Love the paradigm as we are both of like minds on this topic. I hope to one day meet you face to face – hopefully out here on the west coast and we’ll enjoy some fine craft hard ciders or amazing Pinot’s. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say!!!

  6. I just came across your blog via sonyalpharumors. I’m also older, now in my mid 50’s and I started with video 3 years ago coming from a Stills background. I’m looking forward to learning from your experience so as to be better able to tell stories using video. I switched to Sony SLTs for its video implementation 3 years ago. A year ago, I started using Sony video cameras (NX30. CX900) because I was missing too much with the DSLR (a99, a57, a68), and none of my clients and friends has ever asked me what I used as a camera. Im now 80%videocam/20%DSLR. Too much misinformation and withheld information out there.
    Thank you for your blog!

  7. Hello Bob,
    Been following you in stealth mode for years and you’ve been a marvelous inspiration for my travel / NGO shooting career. Very nice video — I admire your transition to motion, though I am still motivated to capture the stories in still frame(s). Even in video, as I saw in yours, there are moments of joy and “aha” that are embraced in a one-second capture. I am still curious and challenged to find ways to reproduce the equivalent impact in stills. Thanks again.

  8. Still finding my way around, looking at your posted projects, and developing a severe case of wannabe. If you ever feel the need of a shelfer for lack of something new to add here, a look at the Rojo’s Roastery piece with comment on equipment and approaches used would be nice. They’re all above average (not unlike the children of Lake Wobegon), but the Rojo’s piece is a standout.

  9. Bob, I just did find this site. I have your video from N.G. on taking travel photos and love what you do. I also try to tell stories with my camera, and since I read that my Lumix GX7 does good video I would give it a try. I was and still am lost. I went online to see just the basics about moving from still to video and found very little. The I saw your site, and knew I had found an old friend. I want to follow your blog.
    Chuck Pike

    ps. I started with photography back in 1959 while serving in the Army when I was stationed in Munich with the 21st Inf. Division. I stayed in the Army for 7 1/2 years, and would have stayed longer if they would have let me go to photo school. My last tour was in Vietnam, and the re-up Sgt told me my only option was my own job. I came home and never looked back.

  10. Hi Bob,

    I like the “old man in motion” label! Some of the best photographers I know are over 50!
    Thanks for tne blog! Very nice!

  11. Great highlight reel!
    I know you said you weren’t going to get too much into post production but… one quick question if I may?
    I was wondering what video editing software you use/prefer?

    Thanks again for both the great site, and inspiration!

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