Growing up together in a small town in the middle of Nebraska, Ryan Deboodt and Joshua Straub spent a lot of time finding ‘creative’ ways to keep busy. Although not all these endeavors could be considered constructive by any stretch of the word, they went on to form a band and produce their first music video several years ago back in high school. Little did they know, this would be the beginning of a long process of learning, studying, traveling, that led to this opportunity to combine their creative powers in a remarkable collaboration.
Ryan went on to study engineering and computer programming in college while always having a knack for being tech savvy. He also began taking photographs as a hobby during these years. Meanwhile, Josh went on to study classical piano, conducting, and theory. The two caught the travel bug around the same time and Ryan moved to Munich, Germany while Josh frequently attended summer festivals abroad. After one of these festivals in 2008, Josh met up with Ryan for a life-changing trip backpacking in the Balkans. Josh had by this time noticed Ryan’s unique abilities as a photographer and Ryan was aware of Josh’s passion for music. They decided that they would ultimately like to find a way to work together in a professionally and personally rewarding collaboration.
Many ideas were thrown around, but finally several years later, Ryan’s success as a professional photographer has provided a platform for the two to merge their unique skill sets. The results are a visually captivating journey through some of the most beautiful natural locations in the world augmented by music written specifically for each video.
Best friends and cousins, the two also have a special ability to work through details and communicate the desired effects without knowledge of the technical aspects of the other’s given field. This ability to convey artistic goals, along with open-mindedness and flexibility, pays dividends in the final product.
H Shot during a two-day kayaking trip, this film takes you on a journey through Tham Khoun Xe on the Xe Bang Fai River. Tham Khoun Xe is a river cave carved by the mighty Xe Bang Fai River and is located in Hin Nam No National Protected Area in central Laos. At 7 km long and with an average width and height of 76m and 56m respectively, it is considered one of the largest active river caves in the world.
After being contacted for an online magazine to interview Ryan about this trip, Ryan was asked to provide some pictures and a 3-minute video of some of his footage that includes traditional photography, time-lapse, and drone video from inside and outside of the cave. Ryan then contacted Josh to write some music for the video and the two only had a few days to get the music written, recorded, and edit everything to effectively combine the the music and video. The video can be found on my watch/listen page.
Ryan’s inspiration for this piece came from showing the world unknown, unexplored, and otherworldly locations. In order to present Tham Khoun Xe in this way, he decided to film with both handheld and aerial cameras enabling the viewer to experience the enormity of this cave from multiple perspectives. The numerous vantage points intend to provide the audience with an immersive experience of this immense, unique, and inspiring space. Since this is a river cave with spectacular green water, he used high-power LED lights illuminate the water with bright-green glow to enhance the mysterious beauty of the cave. Paddling through the cave was a peaceful experience and Ryan’s photography intends to present the cave from the tranquil and majestic viewpoint he experienced while on location.
Josh was inspired by the sheer beauty of the cave as captured in Ryan’s photography and his Meditation #1 sought to capture the essence of the cave and footage. The initial spacious chords intend to promote a sense of expansiveness and to capture the sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity upon approaching the cave. An A-Major triad arrives triumphantly to correspond with the grandeur of the time-lapse footage of the moon, clouds, and stars in the open sky. The following melodic theme simultaneously conveys a sense of movement and repose for the first shots in the cave. This melodic figure and harmonic progression remain consistent after the transposition, but become more active and vivacious to align with the increased movement of the drone through the cave. The remaining material also uses the same basic progression and melody to slowly guide the listener deeper into beauty of the cave and promote contemplation of the vastness of the cave. The final shimmering notes in the upper register, sparkling over the lowest notes on the piano represent a nostalgic memory of the the stars, shimmering effervescent water, and power of nature that Ryan’s footage so convincingly captures.
This past December, the two had a chance to see and hear each other’s work and saw the potential for several exciting new projects on the horizon. The goal of this collaboration is twofold: First and foremost, it is a manifestation of each of their commitments to and passions for their respective art forms. Furthermore, the combination of the two art forms creates a synergy that enhances their respective disciplines. Secondly, Josh and Ryan hope that their work inspires others to be creative, and moreover, to combine talents across disciplines for rewarding experiences that would otherwise be left unexplored.