Digital storytelling: practice and place

This morning I made another digital story about winter.  It’s called “No More Mrs. Nice Winter”, and although I can’t embed it here, you can just follow that link.  Here’s a sample image from it, also linked:
reflections with trees and snow
I’ve been using Cowbird to tell these stories for a while now (examples), and I wanted to reflect on the experience.

Practically, these little multimedia narratives occur to me as I do things on our homestead.  While I’m chopping wood, building a stone wall, weeding, hauling tree limbs, etc., I’m sometimes moved by images.  Alan Levine has patiently taught me to pay attention to what I see, looking for interesting sights (check out his astonishing photos).  Most of the time I do this without a camera, since, unlike most humans, I don’t have cell phone reception at home and hence don’t carry the phone with me at all times.  When I see something that clicks for me I run inside, grab the Samsung, and race back to capture.  Once that happens, I end up taking other photos.

At the same time words bubble up in my brain.  Phrases try to capture what I felt and saw.  Then I push them together, looking for a narrative arc.

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 I don’t want to create an impression of something static, but something changing, something under pressure or evolving.  I look for the process, not the point.

Then over to Cowbird, which I commend to everyone.  It’s a dead-easy storytelling tool.  Just upload some images, type, and you’ve got a draft.  Editing is easier still.  It’s a bit like PowerPoint in its simplicity for production.  But I also admire the output.  Cowbird presents images in a lush, immersive way.

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 They make my photos look better, which they need!

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 And it’s a Vermont project.

Above all I want to practice what I preach.  I’ve been writing, teaching, and talking about digital storytelling for more than a decade (gulp), and it’s foolish not to actually do the stuff.

Occasionally I move my story-mind away from the homestead.  The impetus for doing so is similar: images that strike me, language surfacing to describe it, a narrative glimmering at the bottom.  For example, this bit about two St. Louis sites came about from being gobsmacked by vistas, then hammered by historical brooding.  I should do more of this, but folks do like hearing about our Vermont homestead.

What do you think of this practice?

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 Anything else I should be doing with digital stories?

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6 Responses to Digital storytelling: practice and place

  1. tellio says:

    You might create or use animated gifs to create a story:

  2. Bryan,
    This text and photo approach to digital storytelling is the time honored National Geographic method, and you use it well to give your viewers a slice of your everyday life and consciousness. I also find Cowbird pleasing, although I tend to use other platforms for my daily digital storytelling.
    I, too, most appreciate digital storytelling as an intimate, almost folk art–a rough-polished expression of the quotidian. Stories such as you tell here have the charm of an artist’s notebook or poet’s journal.

    I also have a daily practice of photography, videography, journaling and story making via various platforms; for example, I enjoy Storehouse. However, my current go-to app is called Replay, a video editing app that is simple to use and comes with lots of themes or looks that I enjoy. It makes it easy for me to write a poem to photographs (or videos) on the fly. I can then either post a link from the Replay server or load to YouTube or Vimeo.

    The point of these technologies like Cowbird or Replay is that they are tools that don’t get substantially between you and me as creators and our creations, and that the results are beautiful.

    I post all my diurnal reflections as stories on my digital storytelling blog at
    I want to share an example of what I mean. This story is a poem created on Replay with, like your story, photographs from a cold winter walk–although I’m embarrassed to tell you we were impressed by a thermometer drop to 23F.

    Thank you for opening a story window into your Vermont bubble of warmth in a truly cold world!

    • Thank you, Sandy, for such a rich response.

      Hm, a digital storytelling journal. That’s a provocative thought. I’ve been using Instagram and especially Flickr to stash images, but haven’t really done anything with other media in a creative sense.

      Too bad Replay’s only for iOS.

      What a gorgeous video! I enjoy the way you timed and selected images to the music.

  3. haymest says:

    Really interesting shot. I like it!

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