Black Hills State University mass communication student Randall Iverson was part of a crew that shot photographs and video this summer at Custer State Park for an upcoming segment of America’s Wild Spaces for National Geographic Channel.

Black Hills State University mass communication student Randall Iverson and Steve Babbitt, professor of photography, say their experience as part of a four-day photography and video shoot with National Geographic will have a transforming effect on their educational goals and careers.

The two were part of a crew that shot photographs and video this summer at Custer State Park for an upcoming segment of America’s Wild Spaces for National Geographic Channel. The segment will focus on buffalo during a series about the desert and high plains.
Iverson, who is originally from Rhame, N.D., says “being a part of the National Geographic video crew was an awesome learning experience.”

When Babbitt received a call requesting student assistance for the project, he immediately contacted Iverson due to the student’s experience and exceptional dedication to his work. The crew later requested that Babbitt participate as well.

In addition to shooting video, they shot still photographs that will be used for promotional materials and on the website.

At one point, Iverson was sent out at 3 a.m. to record the sounds of buffalo in the night. He says the animals were much quieter than he expected. He wore big earphones to magnify the sounds of them breathing.

“It certainly helped me develop a new appreciation for buffalo,” Iverson says. “I know much more about buffalo than I did a few months ago.”

The BHSU student also knows a lot more about working in the field with a professional video/photography learning from a crew that included some of the best in the industry, including a producer from England, and helicopter pilot from Los Angeles, Calif.

“Everybody we came into contact with was unbelievably professional and great to work with. We really felt like we were part of the group, and they expressed their appreciation for my work,” Iverson says. “Working on a production of this level really showed me where to ratchet up my skills and be prepared.”

Babbitt noted the four days of shooting will be edited extensively for the final show. He estimates it will amount to a small portion of one segment – probably about 10 minutes or less and notes that it’s important for students to understand and appreciate the entire shooting and editing process.

“The experience was what I expected it would be. I was impressed with the level of cooperation and courtesy among the crew. They were very relaxed but very focused,” Babbitt says. “It was a remarkably productive environment.”

Babbitt says it was great to see his photography student immerse himself into this professional shooting situation and emerge with the praise and admiration of other crew members.

“There’s not so much that separates a student like Randy from the people in the crew,” Babbitt says. “It really comes down to envisioning a project and making it happen.”

Iverson noted that being involved in this professional video shoot piqued his interest in working in a situation like this in the future. He will graduate in May and is already considering an internship or employment with National Geographic in the future. In addition to this experience Iverson has worked on several high profile projects, including assisting with the creation of a video about Sanford Lab for the South Dakota Governor’s Office, creating a BHSU promotion video “My School Rocks” that received national attention, and several other freelance activities.

A photography professor at BHSU for 16 years, Babbitt has an impressive background in fine arts photography. Babbitt, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, works with digital, silver and non-silver photographic processes in black and white and color. His photographs can be found in the collections of The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; The Getty Museum Library, Malibu, Calif.; the Sioux Falls Civic Fine Arts Center, Sioux Falls; The Dahl Fine Art Center, Rapid City; and the San Francisco Art Institute.

In recent years Babbitt has expanded his photography expertise to commercial, architectural, and industrial photography which has led to his most recent work helping to photograph the transition at the Sanford Underground Lab as it changes from gold mine to science lab. His work at Sanford Lab includes photography portraits of the scientists and miners who are employed there, industrial photography to record the changes, as well as artistic expression of the underground environment.

The BHSU photography professor will be leading several workshops at the Black Hills Shootout, a national gathering of photographers that is being held in the Black Hills this weekend. For details on the Black Hills Shootout see www.blackhillsphotoshootout.com.

His leadership and inspiration in the classroom is evident by the accomplishments of photography graduates. The mass communications program is one of the most rapidly growing disciplines at BHSU. Babbitt says the National Geographic experience has given him a renewed zest to remind students to reach for their goals.

“If students aspire to work for National Geographic, don’t just say that, make it happen,” Babbitt says. “Get an internship, do the work and make it happen.”