A bunch of my friends, including myself, turned 30 this year so we planned a group trip to Vegas in May.
We wanted to do more than just party on the strip so we decided to spend a day hiking the Grand Canyon.
We rented a big SUV for the drive. It should have only taken us four hours to drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon but we got lost several times and it ended up taking eight hours!
None of us had data on our iPhones because of expensive roaming charges so we couldn’t use Google Maps to direct us.
The lesson we learned is to buy a real paper map whenever you are traveling and also to get a Pay as you Go Wi-Fi travel hub
Here are some of my favorite photos of the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. This is a great intermediate trail with lots of beautiful scenery that you can easily do in one day.
All shot with a Panasonic GH3 and kit lens which is a great travel camera.
I shot five different bracketed exposures and then blended the five pictures together using PhotoMatix Pro to make HDR images with a more saturated and intense look.
Pictures can’t truly capture the Grand Canyon. You have to see it for yourself!
Braden Paquette, left, and Tara Jackman dance to the music of Kellie Pickler in the beer gardens at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alta. on August 3, 2012. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
The view through a night vision scope of Canadian solders on night patrol at Forward Operating Base Maiden 1 during Exercise Arctic Ram near Yellowknife on February 13, 2012. Approximately 1,500 Canadian soldiers and Rangers participated in Arctic Ram to re-familiarize the army with a harsh winter environment and to exercise Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. Journal reporter Elise Stolte and photographer Ryan Jackson were embedded with the military this week and saw the exercise first hand. Go to http://www.edmontonjournal.com/arcticram for photos, blog updates and check out The Journal on Sunday and Monday for the full story on our military in the arctic. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
8 Platoon commander Lt. Nick Ethier climbs into a snow cave built during winter survival training with the Canadian Rangers at Forward Operating Base Maiden 1 during Exercise Arctic Ram near Yellowknife on February 14, 2012. Approximately 1,500 Canadian soldiers and Rangers participated in Arctic Ram to re-familiarize the army with a harsh winter environment and to exercise Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
A couple walks down a pathway in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Wouldn’t it be cool to sit down for a chat with party leaders for the 2012 Alberta provincial election? Well, now you can. By stitching together four separate videos, Edmonton Journal videographer Ryan Jackson puts you at the same table with the leaders of the Progressive Conservative, Wildrose, Liberal and NDP parties. You can pick which candidates you’d like to hear from on five hot topics in 360-degree interactive video. So grab a cup of coffee and go to edmontonjournal.com/360election In this frame grab you can see (left to right) Alison Redford, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party, Raj Sherman, leader of the Liberal Party and Brian Mason, leader of the NDP at Cafe Rista in Edmonton on March 29 and 30th, 2012. This image was created by stitching multiple frames together. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Judith Benson, librarian at the Alberta Legislature poses for a photo in the library of the Legislature building in Edmonton on August 21, 2012. The Legislature turns 100 years old this year. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Students with St. Joseph Seminary created a giant “Snow Pope” in honour of Edmonton’s Archbishop Joseph McNeil society in Edmonton on November 7, 2012. There was supposed to be a fundraiser for the Archbishop Joseph MacNeil Society at the seminary but it was canceled due to weather so the students spent their day creating the sculpture and shoveling sidewalks for neighbors. For a fun video of the students creating the “Snow Pope” click here. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Neil Herbst, owner of Alley Kat Brewing Company poses for a photo in his brewery in Edmonton on August 27, 2012. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Simple Plan performs on the Telus Stage at Capital Ex on July 28, 2012. This image was created by stitching multiple pictures together. The Journal’s Ryan Jackson has created a fun “choose your own adventure” style 360-degree panoramic tour of Capital Ex including 360-degree videos on a roller coaster and several other rides. You can eat corn dogs, play games and watch the fireworks. The game is especially neat on a gyro-enabled iPad2 or iPhone 4. Go to http://www.edmontonjournal.com/capex360 (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
The sun sets on the Pacific Ocean along the west coast Highway-1 in California.
A panoramic view of the homes on 9th St. SE in Slave Lake, Alta. on May 23, 2011 (top) and May 2, 2012 (bottom). Nearly one-year after after a wildfire devastated the neighbourhood. Images were created by stitching multiple pictures taken taken at GPS location N55°16.411′ W114°45.859′ (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal) To see these images in a 360-degree interactive split screen view, go to http://www.edmontonjournal.com/slavelakemap where you’ll find more before-and-after photos and panoramas.
A view of the Alberta Legislature building minutes after a severe rain storm taken from the roof of the Annex building in Edmonton on August 23, 2012. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Marie Dann and Adrian Smith enjoy some A&W on their wedding day in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. on August 25, 2012. Photo by Ryan Jackson / ryanjackson.ca
Aaron Hoyland holds his soon-to-be bride Lisa’s hand while her bridesmaids keep her hidden.
A blacksmith poses for a photo at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton, Alta. on September 1, 2012. Photo by Ryan Jackson, ryanjackson.ca
The sun sets on a snowy field along highway 21 near Camrose, Alta. on December 11, 2012. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
I was invited to speak at VendAsta Technologies about the work I’ve done on 360 panoramas and video. It was really cool because I’ve talked dozens of times about photography and video but I’ve never given a full presentation about 360 panoramas.
As I explain in the video , I’ve always been fascinated with the Holodeck from Star Trek and we are slowly getting closer and closer.
“99% Preparation, 1% Pressing a Button” Ryan Jackson, staff photographer with the Edmonton Journal tells the stories behind his photos and gives tips and advice to students. Failure is always an opportunity to overcome obstacles and win. Sometimes people burn down bridges to see if you can swim across. Recorded in Victoria, BC at the Canadian University Press Conference on Jan. 12, 2012.
Ryan Jackson, multimedia photojournalist with the Edmonton Journal speaks on his “I Was There” music video, the need for multimedia journalists, trends in online video, trends in technology, and tips for student journalists to experiment with video at their papers. “Will cats save Journalism?…. I don’t have all the answers.” Recorded in Victoria, BC on Jan, 14, 2012.
You can find the GoogleDoc presentation at docs.google.com/present/view?id=dhf88d7p_549m8mxppf9
and more on my blog at punkoryan.com/training
I spent about two months on this project. The first month was mainly pre-production, gear selection and testing, script-writing and preparing for the second month when we did most of the principal shooting.
Our first real day of shooting for the music video was Paul Brandt singing the actual song. I had filmed him singing in the recording studio in Nashville but I felt that we really needed him in a hockey rink with a guitar on the ice. Paul lives in Cochrane so Amanda and I arranged to get him on the ice for a couple hours.
Country music star Paul Brandt poses for the "I Was There" song iTunes album cover for the official theme song of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Tournament at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
When I said “a couple hours” I really meant it! Paul was extremely busy with his cross-Canada tour about to start so we only had him for two hours!
Amanda and I spent four hours setting up all of the lights, cameras and doing test footage. I had originally envisioned recoding Paul in multiple locations but in the end we only had time for three takes of him standing on the ice and three takes of him sitting.
I strongly believe in the 7P‘s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance
I had spent a month of non-stop research, writing, testing, planning, scripting and practice to ensure that nothing would go wrong. And thank God I did!
Paul Brandt was such a professional! He’s made nearly two dozen music videos before and knows what he’s doing. When editing the footage, Adam Kidd with Limbo Editing noticed that he tipped his guitar up and did the same moves at the exact same time for each take.
Paul was also just a super nice guy! He stopped to sign autographs and talk to any fans that came by. He didn’t have any kind of ego or image problem …. he didn’t need to! He already knew how to look good!
Shooting test footage of my wife Ashe with our dog Mr. Woofertons. I was deciding between using Canon D-SLRs or recording uncompressed 422 video from my Canon XH-A1. I ended up using a hacked Panasonic GH2 which blew both of them away.
I did a ton of research and also tested a lot of gear before starting the project. I already had a Canon 5D Mark-II and 1D Mark-IV which are fantastic for video but also have some drawbacks.
Canon D-SLR drawback #1 was Aliasing and Moire which are strange patterns that appear in objects like fences and nets and also in clothing like hockey jerseys. Since a music video about hockey would contain plenty of both I knew this would be a problem.
Drawback #2 was the rolling shutter of the CMOS sensors on Canon D-SLRs. Basically D-SLR video looks great until you start moving the camera and then you get what is called a “jello effect” where the video looks weird. One rule with music videos is that the camera is ALWAYS moving.
Drawback #3 was just that Canon D-SLR video looks like Canon D-SLR video. There’s nothing wrong with it but it seems like everyone is shooting with 5D Mark-II’s now and I can always tell when avideo is shot with one.
The best part is that a guy named Driftwood has hacked the firmware allowing you to shoot MUCH MUCH MUCH higher quality video.
How does it work? Basically the GH2 records standard 24 Megabit (Mbit) video out of the box. However the camera is capable of shooting over 170Mbit/sec video and also capturing Intraframe (also known as GOP1) where every frame of video is an individual still image instead of other codecs that only record full still images every few frames and then guess the frames in between.
The aliasing-free GH2 solved Problem #1, the Intraframe codec produces much smoother motion which solved Problem #2 and the higher resolution and bitrate solved Problem #3.
The only drawbacks of the GH2 were:
The sensor was half the size (a 2X crop instead of the 5D’s 1X full-frame sensor) so a 24mm lens would become a 48mm lens. It would also be harder to achieve the narrow depth of field look but would be easier to manually focus since I would have more depth-of-field.
The smaller sensor produced more noise at high-ISOs compared to the Canon so I would need more light
The extremely high quality 176Mbit/sec produced 1 gigabyte of video per minute and required expensive Sandisk 32GB Extreme SD cards. A 32GB card would only hold about 30 minutes of video therefore I had to buy five of these cards at $150/each. Of course the price dropped right after I bought them!
The menus and functions of the GH2 weren’t as friendly as the Canon D-SLRs.
However the GH2 mainly excited me because the hack had only recently come out and it allowed me to capture quality that would make people ask “What did you film that on?”
So I bought two Panasonic GH2‘s and loaded them up with Driftwood’s 176Mbit patch. I bought a 4/3rds mount to Canon EOS adapter off ebay which allowed me to use all my Canon prime and zoom lenses and also control the aperture with a built-in iris.
For the music video I tried to use my prime lenses as much as possible including:
Canon 24mm f1.4L
Canon 50mm f1.2L
Canon 85mm f1.8
Canon 300 f2.8L IS
When I needed a zoom lens I popped on my Canon 16-35L which became a handy 32-70mm lens with the 2X crop and my 70-200 f2,8L which was an amazing 140-400mm lens!
I also purchased the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 which came in handy a few times but is WAY overpriced for what it is.
I purchased two Interfit Monstar fluorescent light kits. Each light has three massive 150-w bulbs for an equivalent of 1,800 tungsten watts without the heat.
Unloading all the gear at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. to film Paul Brandt singing
I wanted to light almost everything in the music video for maximum quality as well as dramatic effect.
As you can see from my portfolio I love to light my portraits and I also wanted a consistent look all through the video.
I used two Interfit Monstar lights with 48-inch Octoboxes for the main lights. For fill lights I used three 500 LED video lights I got from eBay.
I bad to bring hundreds of feet of power extension cords as there was only one power outlet in the whole arena!
The lighting and camera setup for Paul Brandt singing the song "I Was There" at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. Jackson used Panasonic GH2 cameras running the Driftwood 176Mb firmware hack and Canon prime lenses for the entire film.
Other gear I used was:
Ikan VX7e 7″ HDMI HD monitor which was a HUGE help for manually focussing as well it has a false-colour exposure guide which helps prevent you from blowing out highlights.
A wide matte box which helped block lens flare and also keep snow off of the lens. This item proved surprisingly necessary for filming with video lights.
Fader Neutral Density Filters. You always want to keep a 1/50th shutter speed with video so an ND filter helps you stop down the light so you can shoot at 1/50th shutter at f1.2 outdoors in the sunlight if you want.
15″ Apple MacBook Pro i7 Quad Core for reviewing footage and converting the GH2 AVCHD footage into ProRes422 HQ. That meant for every minute of video I shot I would get 1GB original + 1GB converted ProRes422HQ video
Here is a better look at my Panasonic GH2 with a 4/3rds to EOS lens adapter and an Ikan VX7e monitor on a Kessler Pocket Dolly.
I used the amazing Cinemover slider for my second GH2 camera on a plank of fir wood. I used fir because it doesn't warp. I had the kit lens on the GH2 for this photo but used the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 for the actual shoot.
You can see the mark I made on the ice for paul to stand on. We did multiple takes and needed Paul to be standing in the same spot every time. He was such an experienced professional and did the exact same moves every take.
Journal photographer Ryan Jackson takes still photographs of Paul Brandt for the official iTunes album cover for the song "I Was There" at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011. Photo by Amanda Ash, edmontonjournal.com
Paul Brandt takes a break from filming the "I Was There" music video to pose for a photo with some fans at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, Alta. on November 9, 2011.
Amanda Ash packing away the video lights at the end of the day.
We used the Edmonton Journal minivan to lug our gear around. Even with the back seats taken out it was completely full.
Before heading back to Edmonton we stopped for supper and reviewed the raw footage. It was a huge milestone in the project because we had a "base" for the video with Paul singing on a hockey rink.
Here is the end result. The next blog post will be about filming the characters.
Country music star Paul Brandt records the official theme song “I was there” for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, Tenn. on October 24, 2011. Journal photographer Ryan Jackson is shooting the official music video and will be traveling around Alberta for the next month capturing junior hockey players and fans.
So one day I go to work and ask one of my editors what my next project will be. “Your shooting a music video for the World Junior Hockey Championship….. oh and Paul Brandt is singing the song…. oh and you actually have a budget!” she says.
I was amazed! A few months earlier I had seen that the New York Times Magazine was creating music videos to go with stories and I thought that was so innovative… and now here I am with the same opportunity!
This was going to be a chance to really push my cinematic skills and create something cool.
The Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald were going to be official media sponsors of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship and our marketing heads and editors wanted to do something innovative and different.
The idea was that we would use the power and reach of the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald to get submissions for ideas and inspiration for Paul Brandt to write a song about hockey. The theme was to be “I Was There”
Chorus radio, which was another official sponsor would help pay for the recording of the song in Nashville and then they would get the song for their radio stations.
Hockey Canada helps pay for the music video and they get a theme song and theme music video to play before all of the World Junior Hockey Games.
The Edmonton Journal pays for me (through my normal salary) to spend two months working on the music video with the help of staff writer Amanda Ash.
The Journal owns the music video and gets exclusive behind the scenes photos, blog posts, tweets and stories for the paper.
A newspaper creating a music video is also very innovative and shows the Journal is pushing to become more than just a “snoozepaper”
Paul Brandt benefits by getting tons of promotion at the same time as his new album and concert tour begins.
Albertans and the Journal’s readers benefit through participation as we used crowd sourcing to help write the song and also find characters for the video.
So the whole project was pretty win-win for everyone and I got to shoot a music video for the Edmonton Journal!
The following are some behind the scenes videos and photos from recording the song in Nashville. We didn’t end up using any of the footage of Paul in Nashville in the final music video for continuity sake. It was still worth going down there though to meet Paul and discuss ideas for the film.
I've always thought of Nashville as a Country Music city but it really is a Music City. Bands of all genres go there to record.
Ocean Way Studios which is a old historic church that has been converted to a large recording studio.
The interior of Ocean Way Studios. Perfect for large bands and orchestras.
A fun video reporter Amanda Ash shot of our travels in Nashville. Pretty cool.
There was a surprising lack of signs that just said Nashville so I took this one at the airport.
Journal reporter Amanda Ash pushes videographer Ryan Jackson's 250-pounds of camera gear into the hotel before filming the official music video for country music star Paul Brandt's song "I Was There" in Nashville, Tenn. on October 22, 2011.
The AT&T building in Nashville looks like a transformer!
The food in Nashville was amazing in a bad-for-you kind of way.
Here is a short time lapse of Amanda Ash and I setting up the video lights for Paul Brandt.
Test photos of Amanda Ash in the studio.
Test photos of Ryan Jackson in the studio.
We checked out the Country Music Hall of Fame which really opened my eyes and ears to the historic importance of country music.
Country music star Paul Brandt records the official theme song "I was there" for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, TN on October 24, 2011. Journal photographer Ryan Jackson is shooting the official music video and will be traveling around Alberta for the next month capturing junior hockey players and fans. Keep an eye on Journal reporter Amanda Ash's blog The New Black for updates and information on the music video. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Country music star Paul Brandt is interviewed by Journal staff reporter Amanda Ash at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, TN on October 24, 2011. Brandt was there to record the official theme song "I was there" for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship. Jackson is shooting the official music video and will be traveling around Alberta for the next month capturing junior hockey players and fans. Keep an eye on Journal reporter Amanda Ash's blog The New Black for updates and information on the music video. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Country music star Paul Brandt (left to right) poses for a photo with Journal staff reporter Amanda Ash and staff photographer Ryan Jackson at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, TN on October 24, 2011. Brandt was there to record the official theme song "I was there" for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship. Jackson is shooting the official music video and will be traveling around Alberta for the next month capturing junior hockey players and fans. Keep an eye on Journal reporter Amanda Ash's blog The New Black for updates and information on the music video. (Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal)
Of course I mounted a remote camera for my parents funeral
This is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without updating my blog. Though I did leave it on a high note.
February was a crazy month. It was my 28th birthday, My 360 Dodgeball video went viral, I had three new job opportunities open up for me, I was on cloud nine.
The night of my birthday I said to my good friend Kirk “you know things are going so good for me right now I’m afraid something bad is going to happen”
And then it did.
Guess I should have knocked on wood.
On February 12th, 2011 both of my parents were killed in a head-on collision in Saskatchewan. Ironically they driving back from a Funeral.
As a journalist I have covered countless tragedies. It's weird when it's your own.
I had a freelance job that morning. I was exhausted from shooting the 360-video and I just had to do this one job and then I could go home and nap all afternoon.
I still had to mark my MacEwan student‘s assignments and I was dreading the hours of time that it would take.
Then the phone rang. The number was blocked and usually when call display says Blocked I just ignore it but this time I answered for some reason.
It was an RCMP officer calling me to say that my parents were in an accident and my mother had been killed, my father was in an ambulance heading to Saskatoon and wasn’t expected to make it.
It’s an indescribable feeling when you get a phone call like that. The world almost stands still. Everything slows down. I went into shock.
The officer needed a contact in Saskatoon that he could call. I was the first number on their cell phone so they called me first but I was in Edmonton.
My Father was in an ambulance on the way to Saskatoon and he needed someone to come meet him.
I couldn’t think so I immediately went on my laptop and went online to look up Phone numbers.
I started packing. If we left right away we could be at the hospital by midnight.
As I threw random clothes into a suitcase the RCMP officer called again. My father had just died in the ambulance.
Photography really helped me deal with this. It’s important to stay busy and have a purpose when you are going through tough times. I had two video cameras and mounted a remote camera at the back of the church. My good friend Liam Richards and Derek Mortensen were kind enough to setup a photo booth at the funeral. I’m sure a lot of people thought it was weird to have a photo booth but I wanted to have a visual record of everyone who was there. Something special. A funeral is a celebration of life.
It's okay to smile.
My brother Shawn and me.
It's amazing how far friends and family will fly to support you. Thank you all.
I captured hundreds of pictures and panoramas of everything that happened in those crazy days and this helped me understand why I need photography in my life. It freezes a moment in time so you can properly reflect and process what it means.
Panorama of the burial site.
360 view of everyone standing around the grave site.
My brother watching mom being carried out.
It doesn't matter if you have a cell phone camera or a $5,000 SLR. When you see a picture, snap it.
Understanding how my dad was an artist helps me in my photography.
My parents in 1980 being awesome.
It's amazing what photos you dig up when making a slide show.
My first front page at the Journal. This photo means a lot to me.