Thinking Video

By Jim McCloskey

Back in 1999, when WaterShapes magazine was brand-new, we engaged in lots of discussions about our need for good-quality photography to illustrate the points we wanted to make about superior construction and the minute details involved in producing excellence in watershaping.

To a certain extent, we leaped before we looked, finding in many cases that our contributors had excellent finished shots of their projects, but that relatively few were taking photographs of the work in progress.

To a huge extent, we had David Tisherman to thank for changing the way watershapers looked at photography:  His careful documentation of every phase and element of his projects blazed a trail, and every article of his that we ran was something of a clinic in how it should be done.  To be sure, it took some time for the mass of watershapers to catch on to our passion for documentation, but as time passed we ran into fewer and fewer problems when the inevitable question “Do you have photos of the work in progress?” came up. 

The transition to digital photography helped significantly:  The advent of good-quality point-and-shoot cameras and leaving behind the inconveniences of film processing made our lives much easier.  Of course, we ran into occasional problems when an eager watershaper had shot countless hyper-low-resolution images and was upset to learn that they were too small for either printing or publication.

More often, happily, we encountered embarrassments of riches, as when Kathy Marozs sent us six CDs packed with 1,600 multi-megapixel images of one of her projects.  That was great, spectacular even, but it left us with the jolly, multi-day task of winnowing the collection down to the 20 images we were finally able to fit into the printed magazine.

Now that we’re all-digital, we no longer have the physical limits of a printed magazine to consider – no set page counts, no set deadlines and no constraints at all when it comes to how we communicate.  Consider my own Travelogues:  Usually, these features include not only photographs, but also links to videos that expand the perception of what a project is all about.  In our latest newsletter, for example, my essay on Logan Circle and Philadelphia’s Swann Memorial Fountain is accompanied by a nice photo, but the videos gives a much fuller sense of the dynamics of the space.

That’s the future I want to define here:  The Internet makes it possible to upload and share videos with disarming ease, and I believe this is a technology of which we all should be taking advantage. 

Videos bring motion and sound to the table, and as the items from Randy Beard that we’ve run recently in our Video Gallery section ably demonstrate, it doesn’t take much more than a smartphone and the willingness to tell a story to make things happen.  In fact, I’d single out Randy as a true pioneer of this emerging technology:  The production values may be limited, but the communicative values shine through in just about every frame.  And he’s also figured out that brevity is the soul of wit, making a point or two in a few minutes and then moving along. 

So if you haven’t already, start thinking video – and not just for finished projects but for works in progress as well.  And be sure to contact me if you think what you’ve recorded will be of value to others who need to know how things are done – and done right.

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