Free Journal Style Guides (For The Journaling Impaired)



style guide_Page_1

I have to make a confession. I’m a little obsessed with journaling, even though I’m really not good at it. On Instagram, I follow artists whose grocery lists are more beautiful than anything I’ve ever made in my life. I’m entranced by the idea of filling sleek little volumes with deep thoughts conveyed by precise, elegant handwriting, observations communicated through dynamic lettering, and memories captured through charming sketches and lively watercolors.

It’s not as though I’ve never tried this… I have stacks of notebooks going back years. But they’re all more or less the same – pages and pages of scribbles, with the occasional movie or concert ticket scotch-taped into place. I mean, I almost failed fourth grade because my handwriting was so bad. Lovely penmanship is not something that comes naturally to me. I can draw OK, but it’s not as though you could easily tell whose likeness I’m trying to capture.

Nonetheless, I have this dream, and I can’t shake it. I want to be able to create journals that I feel good about.

Now, I may have lousy handwriting, but I do know a fair bit about design. If I’m making a publication or a website, I know I need to start off by creating two things: layout and styles. The layout tells me where the elements are going to go, and the styles tell me what they’re going to look like – fonts, sizes, colors, etc. So, I thought to myself, why don’t I just create a layout and style guide for my journal? Journal paper isn’t very thick, so if you put a printed page behind it, you can see the lines fairly easily.


I had so much fun with this, I wound up doing eight different layout templates, each with a different theme. There’s one with seven sections for a daily planner, one with four illustration spaces for monthly review, and even one with a space that’s the right size for an Instax polaroid photo.

The style guides were a bit more challenging, since most fonts are not easily used as reference for hand-lettering. However, I came up with two different themes, each of which has distinct headline, sub-head, and body text styles.

I’m pleased to report that, after some experimentation, they do indeed help tremendously! My journal pages may still not be Instagram-worthy, but I do feel more accomplishment than frustration, which is a dramatic step forward.





Some people might look at these, and say, “That’s cheating!” or “Those still suck!” To which I would reply, “So what?” I’m not selling anything, I’m just using these as a reference for my private work, and sharing it with others so that they may do the same. If you don’t like my font selections, you can easily find your own. The layout templates themselves are open-ended enough to be customized with infinite variations.

I present them here as a public service. If you are also a frustrated, wannabe journaler, perhaps these will help. These are all designed to fit a standard A6 notebook, and because I prefer blank pages, I made them with that in mind. The style guides should be at a scale that works pretty well, even in a lined or a grid notebook, but the layout templates may need to be adjusted a bit, to line up with your existing grids and lines.

Right-click here and “Save As” to download the PDF. Then trim, fold, and use!

Panasonic GH5 – First Footage & Initial Thoughts

First things first … Here’s some ungraded footage I shot today with my new Panasonic GH5. All this was shot in 4K 8-bit mode, using the Lumix 12-35 f/2/8.

It was downscaled to 1080p, and Vimeo adds the usual compression artifacts, but you can still see that this is a camera that captures excellent footage.

And, because I wanted to see how the GH5’s photo functionality compared to my venerable Canon 5D Mark II, here are a few side-by-side shots. In each pair, 5D2 is first, followed by GH5 (click on a photo to see a larger version).







Now, a few quick observations:

1) Highlights are not the problem I was expecting. I was worried about harsh, clipped highlights, but the rolloff looks natural and aesthetically appealing, even when shooting directly into the sun.

2) Dynamic range is better than expected. Maybe because I’ve been struggling with a Blackmagic 4K Production Camera for the last two years, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how high-contrast scenes retained detail in both brights and darks.

3) The manual seems to really push the “709 Like” setting for video. Indeed, that was what I used to shoot all this footage. However, after tweaking one of the Custom settings, I feel that I got a setting I actually prefer. I’ll write a blog post about this once I’ve done some more work on it.

4) Stills are a little weak, with visible artifacts in banding in the sky, and a little bit of an indescribable “small sensor” look. However, the RAW files are robust, and a little bit of grading makes it easy to simulate images from the Canon.

5) Overall, I’m very impressed!

5 Things I Already Love About My New GH5


I’ve been waiting since 2008 for a camera that I actually like. Finally, that wait is over.

The Panasonic GH5 is the first camera I’ve been excited about since the Canon 5D Mark II. The 5D2 opened up a world of possibilities to low-budget photo + video shooters, and no camera since then delivered that kind of groundbreaking feature set. The Sony A7 series – with its phenomenal low-light capability – came close, but the fact that Sony makes buyers choose between a great video camera that takes okay stills (the A7Sii) or a great stills camera that takes okay video (the A7Rii) was a deal-breaker for me. If I wanted a dedicated video camera, I’d use my Blackmagic Production 4K Camera (or, before that, my Panasonic AF100). I’ve been waiting for a camera that truly does it all, and I haven’t seen it.

Until now.

For Unconventional Images, Use An Unconventional Lens


I don’t know about other photographers, but for me, taking photos is not only fun, it’s almost a compulsion. If I go somewhere interesting, I HAVE to take photos. If I don’t, I feel that I’ve missed out on the full experience.

Here’s the problem though: when you visit a place you’re not familiar with, it’s easy to take the same photos that every other visitor takes. What’s the satisfaction in that? You may as well buy a postcard.

There is, in my opinion, a way to avoid that trap (hint: it’s the title of this post), but first a little background.

Over a decade ago, when I started to get serious about photography, I had the opportunity to talk to a National Geographic photographer. Like most beginners, I had one big question: what camera and lens should I get? He told me that he and most of his colleagues used a Canon 5D, and that the Canon 24-70mm / f.2.8 was his favorite piece of glass. Both pieces of gear were expensive, but I took the plunge, bought both items, and have never regretted it.

While the original 5D is now my backup for a newer model, I still use the 24-70 lens all the time. It’s almost as sharp as a prime, and the field of view is perfect for scenics, food and general travel & tourism subject matter.


BTS: Live Action + VFX for Capable Civilian Training

fury bts 2The world is, increasingly, an uncertain place to live and work. Thanks to terrorism, mass shooters, and economic unrest, it’s no surprise that more and more people are trying to learn how to stay safe. Whether correctly or incorrectly, the self-defense industry has long been associated with an over-abundance of testosterone and far-right-wing politics. I’ve recently started doing some work with a company that’s trying to change that. It’s Fury Security Consulting, and they have developed a corporate-style approach that they call Capable Civilian Training.

To communicate the company’s efforts to bring personal security out of the gym and into the boardroom, I worked with my colleagues at Pixel Method to create this promotional video for the Capable Civilian website, combining upscale cinematography with high-tech motion graphics.

Using Premiere Pro & Handbrake To Create YouTube-Friendly Files

A couple of people have asked me recently how I deliver finished files to my clients for web use (typically YouTube). Until recently, I simply used the Premiere Pro “YouTube 1080p HD” preset. However, uploading these files to YouTube often delivers or both of the following warning messages:

youtube errors

Neither of these make sense, since H264 is most certainly a “streamable file format,” and I’ve never actually had any audio/video sync issues with the files I’ve uploaded. Nevertheless, these warnings are annoying and disconcerting to clients.

So, what I have started doing recently is to export my files from Premiere as ProRes files, and then using the free video encoder Handbrake to crunch them down to YouTube/client-friendly files.

Pricing Your Video Production

I was asked recently about how I determine pricing for my projects. The three most important factors I consider when pricing a video production job are time on location, time editing, and overhead costs.

Time on location is fairly straightforward: I charge a dayrate for myself and my “crew of one” gear package that is comparable to what other professionals at my level in my area charge. You don’t want to work for nothing, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the market either!

Time editing is always an estimate, because you never really know how long something will take to edit until you get into it (especially if the client has a lot of revisions). I used to track my hours and adjust my final bill accordingly, but clients hated the uncertainty, and I hated having to watch the clock all the time, so I switched to a project rate for editing. Now, I tell the client how much I would charge to deliver what they want, and that’s what they pay. If it takes me less time, great for me; if it takes me more time, great for them.

The Untold Story of “Slaughter Nick for President”


Rob Stewart as beach-bum detective Nick Slaughter, with Carolyn Dunn in “Tropical Heat” AKA “Sweating Bullets”


The indy documentary, “Slaughter Nick For President” follows Canadian actor Rob Stewart (most well-known for playing the ruthless assassin Roan on “Nikita”) on a trip to the Eastern European nation of Serbia, where he is a huge celebrity because of a TV role he played in the 1990s.

The Canadian late-night crime show “Tropical Heat” (aired in the USA as “Sweating Bullets”) followed the tongue-in-cheek exploits of beach-bum detective Nick Slaughter, as he solved crimes on a fictional resort island. Unbeknownst to anyone involved with the production, the show aired in Serbia during the Yugoslav Wars, where it become an enormous cultural phenomenon, and inspired a generation of political activists.

In “Slaughter Nick For President,” Stewart and his friends, siblings Liza Vespi and Marc Vespi, travel to Serbia and try to figure out why “Tropical Heat” and Stewart’s character, Nick Slaughter, are so immensely popular. “Slaughter Nick For President” is available for instant viewing on Amazon and iTunes, as well as on Google Play, Vudu and DVD.

Fortunately for CrewOfOne readers, the film’s Executive Producer/Producer/Co-Director Liza Vespi was kind enough to talk to me about this truly one-of-a-kind project.

“Crew Of One” Director Tries The “One Man Crew Director”


Since I’m a video director with a blog called “Crew of One,” it’s only natural that I’d be interested in a product called “One Man Crew Director.” As a commercial shooter with 15+ years of experience, I love projects that allow me to hire my core group of freelancers, but often I find myself working on assignments in which I have to be the director, DP, audio operator, grip, gaffer and editor, all by my lonesome. On these “crew of one” jobs, it’s always a challenge to add visual interest and production value, especially to “talking-head” shots of sales pitches or interviews. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Redrock Micro’s “One Man Crew Director” (OMCD) is designed to do.

Q&A With “Heavy Objects” Director Fletcher Crossman

Fletcher Crossman

I had the pleasure of meeting phenomenally talented artist Fletcher Crossman back in 2009, when I photographed him in his backyard studio for a now-defunct magazine. At the time, Fletcher was focused on painting: his large-scale, figurative paintings – often incorporating text and political/philosophical overtones – made a big impression on me.

I found Fletcher himself to be a very affable British expatriate with a dry sense of humor, and the kind of vivid imagination rarely found in anyone over the age of three. We kept in touch after the shoot, and in 2010, we collaborated on a short documentary called “The Apple Thief.” The film followed Fletcher as he worked on a huge, controversial painting of a woman in a Christ-like crucifixion pose, while having challenging conversations with religious leaders about the role of women as defined by different faiths.

“House Of Cards” Style Photo Tutorial

I had so much fun doing a self-portrait in the style of the “Gotham” promo photos that I decided to do another. This time, I’m using as a stylistic reference the extremely cool b&w portraits done for the Netflix hit series, “House Of Cards.”


As with most promotional images, all the copyright info is for Netflix, so I have no idea who actually took these photos. I suspect that the individual portraits were shot on a Hasselblad, probably with some kind of large “beauty dish” lighting, and then stitched together in Photoshop.

But, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t do something similar, in whatever space, and with whatever equipment we have! Here are a few of the shots I came up with for myself.

House Of Cards style lighting

Without further ado, here’s my video tutorial on “House Of Cards” style photo lighting.

“Gotham”-Style Photo Tutorial


I’m a big fan of the new “Gotham” TV show. I also like the promo images that were done for each of the main characters. I couldn’t find any information online about who took the images,or how they were done, so I decided to figure out how to do something similar myself.