Sometimes a posting comes together quickly. I’ll get an idea for a topic, throw something up on the screen, and publish within an hour or so. Other posts take a long time to come to fruition.
This is one of those latter type of posts. If you don’t want to know the gory details of how it came together, I’ll put the video right up here near the top for you.
The idea was simple. With all the snow we’ve been getting this Spring, I had plenty of time to sit down in front of the computer and look through thousands and thousands of images and try to select some favorites for inclusion in a retrospective slideshow. Hmm, when I actually say it that way it sounds rather daunting, but it seemed simple at the time.
When that process was done, I loaded the pictures into Wondershare Filmora and started building the slideshow. I expected this part to come together quickly, but that project sat open on my desktop for three or four weeks. Out of every YouTube video I have created, this one took the most hours to actually complete.
The first problem was I had too many images. Even at only a few seconds for each one, the video would have ended up being way too long for anyone to actually watch. I started dumping images. I went through many rounds of cuts. It was at this point I also decided to drop any plans of including drone footage and instead focus completely on still photographs.
The next question was around style. Should I include only “artsy” photographs or pictures which I consider to be some of my best? What about all those photos that Emily and I have nicknamed “documentation shots”? Those are the photos where we’re passing through a place and don’t have time to stop so we just point and shoot so we have some record of the places, knowing many of them will not be there the next time we come by again. I left in a mix of all types, including some from when I was in my “HDR the hell out of everything” phase.
Then it was the ordering of the images. I started chronologically, with some of the oldest photos being scans of shots I took on film back in 1997. As I built that storyboard, I realized I was losing a big part of the story. One of the great things about exploring for so many years was seeing the changes in the places I have visited multiple times over the years.
For example, Dorothy. Some of the oldest images I have on my computer are from my initial trip to Dorothy circa 1997. (Since I didn’t scan the images until several years later, I don’t know the exact date but that is my best guess based on context.) The churches in Dorothy were in horrible shape when I first saw them. Since then they have undergone an amazing restoration and look nothing like the shells they once were. Meanwhile, the grain elevator has continued to deteriorate. I think it is an incredible visual story, but just putting the images in chronological order meant that narrative was lost — too many subjects came into play between the 1997 Dorothy images, the 2006 Dorothy images, the 2011 & 2012 Dorothy images, and the 2017 pictures.
So, I scrapped the whole thing and started again, this time basing the order on locations instead of time. All the Dorothy images were together, allowing one to see the changes that two decades can bring to a ghost town. But then I found the video lost a sense of discovery. If all the images of Dorothy are together, there is no sense of anticipation over what will come next. Plus, some of the places where I only had images from one visit seemed out of place — what’s the point in focusing on telling the story of an evolution if you’re not going to carry that theme all the way through?
Scrap the whole thing and start again.
I finally settled on a general theme based on the type of building. You’ll see the video front loaded with grain elevators, then move into service stations, then churches and schools, and other old businesses. Given those themes and trying to fit the whole thing to the piece of music I selected meant dropping more images. Old cars? Gone. Abandoned houses? Gone. Old buildings that aren’t really abandoned? Gone. Well, mostly gone. There are a couple of places that survived those cuts such as the grain elevators in Nanton, which are far from abandoned. Some of the photos I simply liked too much to leave out.
Of course, those themes went under multiple revisions too. Maybe mixing themes was too much? Instead of one four minute video maybe I should create four one-minute videos each with a unique theme? Nah, stick with it and see where it goes. By this point I was just trying to get this thing done and off my screen.
And, finally, subtitles. I originally wanted to highlight the year the photo was taken and the location. I also wanted to mention which locations no longer existed and how/when they were lost. I went through many revisions on this idea and many styles of fonts and lettering, trying to find something that worked. In the end, I decided to drop the subtitles completely. I found they distracted too much from the photos and giving away all the details takes away some of the mystery.
So, after all that, I invite you to scroll back to the top and take a journey with me through time and place. We’ll travel from 1997 to 2017 with multiple stops in between. We’ll see highlights from three provinces and even one photo from Montana that made it into the mix. You may question some of my selections, but each of these photos has some meaning to me. Whether it was the place, the time, the people…there is likely a thousand word story behind every photo. If any of them pique your interest, please tell me in the comments as I would love to give you more context.
What a wonderful presentation Dan,very well done.
Capturing the beauty of our history is something we can all enjoy.