Calder man finds passion in video

Home-based studio | Raymond Lacusta 
shoots, edits and produces prairie videos

CALDER, Sask. — Videographer Raymond Lacusta documented Mother’s Nature power in July as water roared two metres above normal levels over the Shellmouth spillway near Roblin, Man.

Images of the Assiniboine River churning under a bridge and water rushing over the road at Bear Creek represent his latest project focusing on flood waters on the Lake of the Prairies.

The natural world is a good fit for the Calder outdoorsman, who also shoots weddings, reunions and celebrations.

Raymond Lacusta Productions represents a second career for Lacusta, who spent 30 years working at a potash mine.

“It keeps me active and keeps me dreaming,” the 70-year-old said about his current job.

“One day I might be a big producer.”

His love of photography dates back to a Brownie camera he bought from the Eaton’s catalogue for $14.95 in his teens.

He likes watching films about African safaris from the safety of his couch.

“I’m scared to travel,” Lacusta said.

The living room of the modest home where the father of three lives alone is littered with the tools of his current trade, which has added up to more than $50,000 over the years. The walls feature his oil paintings, hinting at a previous preoccupation.

“I got into video and it took over,” Lacusta said.

“It tells more of a story than a photo. I like the action.”

His canvas is now three monitors and a high definition TV, and his tools are editing software and an HD video camera. He recently acquired a GoPro to take underwater shots.

“I go with a person’s interview and build from that,” he said.

“I go with an open mind and film what’s there. I set up my camera and let people do their thing.”

It can take six hours of footage to create 15 minutes of finished product, Lacusta said.

“I can’t show what I don’t have. The more footage you have, the more you can feature,” he said.

Shooting depends on the week and the assignment, but he is careful not to overdo it.

“If I sit too long, I hardly can get up. At my age, I don’t need a blood clot.”

He spends hours editing and adding sound, music and narrative.

“You need an interesting intro to capture their attention,” he said.

He produced numerous shows for SCN TV about Saskatchewan and Calder centennial year celebrations and Old George, the owner-curator of a large mansion-house museum built in 1885.

He has featured retired schoolteacher and violin maker Wally Oucharek of Melville, Sask., a T. Eaton house and prairie flowers.

He recalled shooting Norman Manweiler of Theodore, Sask., and his hunt in the backwoods for his Natural Wood Creations.

“He selected a tree with burls, cut it down taking the portion he wanted. Back at his workshop and his lathe, he began shaping three beautiful wood bowls, each individually displaying its own wood grain uniqueness. Within five and a half hours, we went from a green tree to … a shellacked bowl ready for sale,” Lacusta said.

In Loon Voices, he tried to show the harm done to the birds from human activity. The wake from boats can knock eggs out of the nests, he said.

Lacusta has a penchant for wildlife and spends many hours silently recording them.

“I walk upright, no threatening stances,” Lacusta said.

“When they sense you are not a threat, they relax and do their thing.”

He recalled one close call when he scrambled out of the way to let a moose pass by him.

He prefers to work alone and is careful to keep bear spray handy and work close to his car, which is equipped with a window mount for his camera and often doubles as a blind.

“I can’t make movies from my couch,” he said.

A current project focusing on turkey vultures called Vulture of Destiny connected him with Saskatoon naturalist and bird bander Stuart Houston.

Houston called Lacusta an interesting character who studies his subject matter to get his facts right and has a light footprint in the wild.

“You have to be careful that you don’t have your camera so that you keep turkey vultures from feeding its young or scaring it away. They can desert their nest if (you’re) an obnoxious type photographer,” he said.

“He’s appropriately careful,” he said.

Lacusta also scored highly with the organizers of last year’s centennial celebrations in MacNutt, Sask., who hired him to produce a DVD of the festivities.

“He probably put a lot of work into it, and it is a nice keepsake of the event,” said Jayne Andres, one of the organizers.