Wyoming Cattle Drive

I’ve posted two Cattle Drive videos from my youtube account on this blog. One is 3:25 and the other 1:57. Both were edited using the same video and information.

When I got up at 5am, I really didn’t plan to shoot a story…I originally was just shooting anything that looked interesting along the road as I took my daughter and her friend on a road trip during fall break. They’d been promised a chance to help out on a cattle drive from my sister’s ranch if they let me drive nonstop from California to northern Wyoming.

So here I was driving along a deserted road as the sky began to color. I’m a sucker for sunrises and sunsets, so I pulled over and shot for about ten minutes, making sure one shot lasted several minutes so I could play with speeding it up later when I edited. Still no plans to shoot anything.

We caught up with the cattle drive just before noon…as we came over a rise in the road we saw the herd moving towards us several miles ahead. I drove up, tossed the girls out and turned around to pick up a few distance shots. The compressed telephoto shots of the herd coming down the hill got to me. Shooting became a compulsion. I set up and got a variety of shots as the herd moved my way…cowboys, dogs, cattle. As they passed I fooled around with low angle shots and even tried a soft focus (focused on the stalks of grass as cattle drifted by in the background out of focus). Turned around and got them moving away.
My brother in law, Winn Brown, came by and made some comments about how good the plants were for the cattle…and I began to see what covered the ground. At first glance the ground was covered with a greyish cover…but in going in close-up I saw spots of color. The tiny purple flowers, the burst of purple in some low-lying bushes.
All the while traffic was passing us by. You could tell the out-of-staters – they stopped to look at this living moving history. And the cowboys and cowgirls knew when they were being watched. They rode a little straighter.
By the time we hit a long stretch of road just after lunch, I asked Winn if I could talk to him on camera. He’s shy – and fascinating to listen to, once he gets going. The interview began with the basics…how many cattle, why and where were they being driven. We moved over to the age range of the drivers – everything from children (7 or 8 and older) to Winn. He also told me a bit about the history and politics of raising cattle.

Winn’s interview cemented it: I was actually shooting a news story for the first time since leaving news. It was a soft feature, but still I was operating in news mode. Once I knew this, I made sure I got a few more interviews. Both the little girl and the boy on horseback were more for color. Winn was my main resource, but I needed something to pull the viewer in, and kids are great for that purpose.
Once I got the interviews, I began shooting to them. Shots of kids walking and riding. More closeups of ground cover. Shots of Scott Brown counting cattle and Cowboy Will riding fancy for the tourists.

Since I can’t ride a horse and couldn’t leave my van behind, I would shoot as the herd approached and passed, then drove ahead. Also got to help out a bit with flagging down traffic and feeding the troops.

Along about dusk my sister arrived, we grabbed the girls and took off. We’d been on the road since 5am and helping with the drive for five hours. The cattle and cowboys/girls had been at it since 6am and would continue for another hour.

My mindset once I decided to make this a story was to try to give viewers a feel for what a cattle drive is about. Most of the shots were tripoded, but I walked with the herd at times too.

A week after getting home I sat down and captured and logged the tape. Total running time of video shot of cattle drive was just over 30 minutes. When writing, I try to write to the sound…examples from the three minute version:
The Brown family of Lovell leads into an interview about how the day began
Everyone helps out…even the children leads into interview about what a four year old can do…which leads to the interviews with the kids.
And right now the count is…leads to Winn saying, “Close to 200 head.”
Interviews are used for two purposes. Winn was the expert interview – the cowboy giving information about his trade. The children were used more for emotional purposes, to humanize the story.

Regarding choosing shots when editing: Start with a strong visual, use good natural sound and end with a memorable visual/nats. I try to find ways to make the viewer see the ordinary in ways they may not have seem it before. So I took almost four minutes of sunrise and reduced it down to about :05. The dog and cowboy were slo-motioned. I put the camera on the ground…walked through the herd to pull the viewer in. Closeups showed details a person driving by might not even realize were there.

Music is from a royalty free CD by Gary Lamb. If you are going to post to the Internet or use music for any commercial purposes, don’t even think about using music unless you own the rights. This music began in an almost hesitant manner then got up to speed – perfect for a sunrise leading into a working day.

Total time shooting – about a five hour period
Total time logging and writing – about an hour
Total time editing – about an hour

4 thoughts on “Wyoming Cattle Drive

  1. Hi,

    I tried to send you a message through YouTube, but I don’t know if you’ll get it. I work for a small production company in Bastrop, Texas, and we were wonder if you would be willing to sell a few seconds of footage from this cattle drive video for a production we’re putting together. Please email me if you would like to discuss it.

  2. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » Blog Archive » Great video story: Wyoming Cattle Drive

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