Updated: Dec 8, 2022
By Lee J. Burton
Nov 5, 2021
Summer of 2021: pandemic fourth wave is starting to rise; capacity restrictions and masks abound. For a law-abiding citizen it was enough to make your head spin. What was a human to do to escape the new normal? Let us peer through a lens.
Summer and fall of 2021 were very productive for the Aquatic Biosphere Project and the ABN. With a budding amateur film team and letters of support, we tackled prairie ponds, aqueducts, and mountain lakes. Through this lens we discovered something unique. Something peaceful.
The Water in the Wild video series was not intended to be hard documentary, we have other series’ for that. This series touches on perspective. An alternative, calming perspective that is set apart from the new normal.
Take for instance the Alberta Lake. We have discussed in previous entries that the amount of biodiversity in these lakes is astounding… literally every drop is teeming with organisms. And organisms often have other things living on, in and around. I don’t say this subtly, but after a summer filming there - Mind adequately Blown.
Instead of discussing the animals, which admittedly need a macro level view to appreciate, we landed on a bit of a negative space concept: Water in the Wild focuses on the space between spaces. The art and not the science, which fulfills in a different way.
Case in point, the aquatic insect episode had beautiful macro and micro footage of all sorts of lifeforms. But it was not produced to display the differences in body type or the quality of the water. This film was produced to display the beauty and uniqueness of the lifeforms. Set to a calming background music, the viewer is taken from auteur shots of one organism to the next, often in a fish tank, often with its ecosystem in the background. The ballet of life through this medium is simply paint strokes on a calming canvas.
Who is the audience that can appreciate this type of film? It is a broad audience indeed. A painter or sketch artist may find the closeups and slow-motion inspiring. The student may find the ballet of life riveting, and the teacher may find the common names provided in the video to be helpful. Few films display the visible difference between a mayfly and damselfly as well as this one, which is special to me because I had the two confused my entire life. But the viewer will draw their own conclusions.
What about a soothing paddle on a prairie lake at dawn? This film did not delve into the detail of the lake, nor its ecosystems, but portrayed a calming experience with a perspective normally reserved for those lucky enough to access a canoe. Not riveting footage, but it is not supposed to be. Through this lens we can appreciate a world different from the new normal, that has perplexed and annoyed for the last 20 months.
A personal favorite of the series is the cold mountain lake. Where do you get an opportunity to view the glorious living ecosystems of the rocky mountain lake? We took the ROV, David Attin-Drone, and placed it in one of these environments. What we found were schools of trout, dashing minnows, and draping algae sunlit by a late summer sky. This film does not contain any descriptions of the animals. Its purpose, like the remainder of the Water in the Wild series, is to introduce the viewer to a new ecosystem, and let them absorb the environment to draw their own conclusions, and inspirations. This film is calming, interesting, and unique in its capture, like all the Water in the Wild series.
So, we have a series that is less educational and more atmosphere. This fits with the overarching cornerstones of the Aquatic Biosphere, Education, Community, Experience, and Research, in a unique way: it is a proof of concept that aquaria are calming, inspiring, and motivating. Truly an inclusive environment, with a common goal to learn the stories and experience the majesty of a little seen world.
While the largest criticism of the series is that is seems incomplete, without narration or much hard information, the series is in fact not designed to be a hard nature documentary. It is a different spin, more in line with calming scenery for relaxation, but with an extra inspiring pop in that the subject is the inaccessible environment for the average viewer. A bit of an exploration of the art, and not the science of the natural world. After all, art is an expression of things and ideas in a non grammatical way.
We hope you enjoy the art that is our waters.
UPDATE: "Water in the Wild" can now be found on the Telus Optik TV Community Channel for Edmonton! Look us up there or on our ABN channel, www.ABN-Stories.Earth