A Filmmaker, A Combine, and A Wheat Field

North Dakota / Aug. 24, 2012 / by Steven
A Filmmaker, A Combine, and A Wheat Field

North Dakota has tons of farmland, and recently I was able to spend some quality time in a wheat field filming some pretty impressive machines for an upcoming story.

combine in background

A combine is a massive machine used to get the grain from the wheat stalks. It first strips away the outsides, shakes to separate the grain from the waste, and then grinds and disposes the scraps out the rear of the vehicle. The combine is a huge help to the farmer, allowing acres of land to be harvested very quickly.


I needed to get a lot of different shots of the combine as it was harvesting. Something I learned is that combines do not move very slowly. In order to get in position for each shot, I had to run all over the field. At times I was running right next to the combine, feet away from the blades, as if we were just on a Sunday stroll. I am really glad that the guy steering and I were on good terms.

running after combine

Usually as I am filming, there is an order of operations to the shots I get. I start off with getting all my establishing and wide shots, then get medium shots, and finally get the close ups I need. This helps me edit the pieces using maximum coverage of the subject. On the field, with the combine, was a completely different story. I only had until the rest of the crops were harvested to capture my shots. I spent the majority of the time working on the fly grabbing what I could as the combine made its passes back and forth. Once I get all my basic shots, I try and make things a little more interesting and creative. I grabbed a few really close handheld shots of the combine and I also played a little game of chicken. I climbed into the last strip of wheat and planted my tripod while allowing my camera to sit just above the top of the stalks. I waited as long as I could before climbing out of the stalks and avoiding being chopped up with the grain.

grain in hand

filming more

It is shoots like this that get my mind and body operating at full capacity. I love thinking on my feet and going with my gut feelings while filming. I never expected that I would be in a wheat field, in North Dakota, and filming a combine this time last year. Every day is always a new experience.