By Will Pattiz
After a road trip with friends to see the Grand Canyon, my brother Jim, co-founder of production and photography company Sea Raven Media, and I were absolutely enamored with our first national park experience. In response, we created “More Than Just Parks” to share the wonders of the national parks with as many people as possible.
“More Than Just Parks” is an organization and film project designed to encourage the exploration and conservation of national parks through short films. (To view more of these videos, visit the More Than Just Parks Vimeo channel.)
So far, we’ve hit 13 of the 60 U.S. national parks. To achieve our vision, we initially selected the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K before upgrading to the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K.
We first started using the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K because the quality of its footage was at a much higher level than we could get with any DSLR, and it was just as portable. Then when the URSA Mini 4.6K came out, we jumped on the opportunity to upgrade. Its small form factor and lightweight design made it possible for us to easily bring it on shoots all over the country. In addition, its 15 stops of dynamic range gave us the ability to recover the shadows and highlights in our footage.
The URSA Mini 4.6K’s five-inch touchscreen is great because it lets us keep the camera stripped down as much as possible while we’re hiking through these remote regions. We eventually equipped it with an URSA Viewfinder, since with certain lenses it’s easier to focus with one. Using the URSA Viewfinder, we get a high-resolution color display that lets us get incredibly accurate focus, eliminating any sort of guesswork and making the image really crystal clear.
To make the series as eye catching as possible, we shoot anywhere from 150 to 300 time-lapses per park, ranging from as brief as 10 minutes to as long as an entire day. We shoot a combination of familiar visual landmarks, as well as never-before-seen compositions and landscapes. To determine the most interesting locations to shoot, we do a lot of research beforehand by looking at images, blog posts and more about the parks.
We start by finding an interesting composition that includes a moving component, usually water, clouds, or lighting. Next, we set up the camera and adjust the settings to what we think will work best for the duration of the shot. One feature we love about the URSA Mini 4.6K is that unlike DSLRs and most third-party time-lapse gear, when we press record on the camera it just records until we want it to stop. Many systems force you to input the duration for the time-lapse to run or a specified stop time, which can cause you to miss the shot. With the URSA Mini 4.6K, we don’t have to worry about that.
Naturally, we encounter all kinds of crazy weather and varying climates as we explore the parks, so we need a camera that is durable. The URSA Mini 4.6K’s magnesium alloy build makes it lightweight and keeps it cool even in hot temps. For example, we once were filming in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park on a 120-degree day and the camera continued to run all day; it didn’t overheat. Even despite all the extreme conditions that we face in the field, the URSA Mini 4.6K has never faltered.
The size, ergonomics, durability and overall quality of footage we can capture with the URSA Mini 4.6K allows us to deliver on our mission: to share these natural wonders with as many people as possible.
Will Pattiz, along with his brother Jim, are the founders of “More Than Just Parks.” Will can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.