Back in March I had the oportunity to photograph beautiful ballerina Claire Beauchamp at her ballet studio in Toronto. I arranged the photography session with Claire as a self directed portfolio piece – I had been doing a lot of industrial and medical photography at the time and needed a break to photograph something a bit more elegant and dynamic – hence a beautiful ballet dancer. The ballet studio had the typical wall of mirrors, a fairly light wood floor, white ceilings and light blue walls. Going in, I was planning on shooting a high-key series by overexposing the background to white. I brought some random black backdrops with me to flag off the mirrors – one of which was a black on black damask pattern Bad Sass Backdrop. Lighting was a three light setup using Elinchrom strobes – two Westcott stripbanks for rim light, an Elinchrom Rotalux Octa as the keylight and a set of Nikon speedlights for the background. The high key setup was working OK – but the photographs just didn’t have the punch and drama that I had in mind. So we went with Plan B – the black on back damask Bad Sass Backdrop. Problem was, the backdrop was only five feet wide, so we had to improvise a little. I had always planned on putting the fabric portions of the photograph together as a composite, so I ended up building the entire backdrop as a composite photograph as well. Here is a little video that shows all of the layers of the finished image in Photoshop – it was a little tedious to align the damask pattern – a lot like doing wallpaper! Any questions about the setup, lighting or post-production editing – hit me in the comments. Cheers! If you want to find out more about us – follow us on Twitter @blurMEDIAStudio, or add us on Facebook / Google Plus or check out our portfolio on 500px. Cheers, John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Toronto Dance Photographer Toronto, Ontario, Canada blurMEDIAPhotography.com email@example.com 905 818 5711
Shooting time lapse photography – or very long exposure astro photography, requires a lot more battery life than a single charge on the camera’s regular battery. We use Nikon D200 and D300s which use Nikon EN-EL3e lithium ion rechargeable batteries. However, there is no good commercial option to use a supplementary external battery. The approach presented herein would also apply to other DSLR cameras – most of which use a similar battery. It is possible to use an AC adapter (such as a Nikon EH-5a) to power the camera – but this option has several limitations. It requires either a long extension cord or an AC generator. But that sacrifices mobility. Alternatively, you could use a 12V power source, such as a car battery and a DC to AC inverter. But converting 12V DC (battery power source) to 120V AC (inverter) and back to 7.4V DC (camera adapter) incurs a lot of losses – it is much more efficient to eliminate any conversions and simply use the same voltage battery, with a larger capacity. The problem is connecting a suitable external battery to the camera. To do this I chose to hack an inexpensive aftermarket EN-EL3e and connect it to a larger external battery. (You could also connect the camera end of an EH-5a adapter to a car battery – but a 12V DC to 7.4V DC adapter would still be necessary, and an EH-5a is pretty expensive to use just for for the connecting socket.) The Nikon EN-EL3e is rated at 7.4 volts and 1500 mAh. A Canon BP970 high capacity camcorder battery is also rated at 7.4 volts, but 7200 mAh. That means a single BP970 battery (theoretically) holds nearly five times the capacity of a EN-EL3e (1500 mAh x 5 = 7500 mAh). This same approach will work for a Canon 5d or any similar DSLR. The key thing is to match the specified voltage of the proposed external battery to your camera battery – but look for a high capacity model – the higher the milliampere-hour (mAh) rating, the higher the capacity, the longer it will run your camera. For this project I used: Lenmar 7.4V 7200 mAh camcorder battery (aftermarket replacement for a Canon BP970) Lenmar PC911 Adaptor Plate Lenmar OmniSource Charger Flashpoint EN-EL3e (aftermarket replacement for Nikon EN-EL3e) You will also need a few feet of high gauge wire (I used 28 gauge from an old infra red extender I had lying around) a soldering iron, hot glue gun, phillips screwdriver and a multimeter. You should probably also know how to solder (its not hard – practice first if you are not sure) and a have a basic understanding of parallel versus series wiring. The following is a step by step tutorial on two ways to connect a sacrificial EN-EL3e to an external high capacity battery. Taking apart a lithium ion battery is a potential hazard – all batteries warn you to not disassemble them – so do it at your own risk. Note: Nikon and Canon camera batteries have a built in circuit board that tells the camera how much charge the battery has and controls charging. You cannot remove this circuitry from the sacrificial camera battery – or the camera will think the battery is dead and will not function. If you have a camera that doesn’t have a battery charge indicator, or one that can be turned off – you can simply remove the small circuit board in your sacrificial battery. Carefully cut open your sacrificial battery along the seams – without damaging the innards. Separate the two halves. Components of the battery may be taped to the plastic cover, so be gentle. Identify the circuit board at the terminal end of the battery. Note the positive (B+) and negative (B-) inputs to the circuit board from the battery cells. The common connector (VC) is part of the safety and charging circuitry. The outputs from the circuit board centre (C), positive (P+) and negative (P-) are connected to the corresponding battery terminals. Identify the lithium ion battery cells and carefully remove them from the circuit board. Remove the circuit board from the terminals (Note: At this point I proceeded to remove the entire circuit board and connect the wires directly to the terminals. It wasn’t until I put the whole thing together and tested it that I realized that the circuit board has to stay. So I put it back). Remove the terminals from the battery case (this is not necessary if you are good at soldering and are not worried about melting the case). Solder new leads to the terminals. At this point I put the battery back together without the circuit board. However, as noted – the camera didn’t work, so I had to splice the circuit board back in. Here the battery terminals center (C), positive (P+) and negative (P-) are connected to the corresponding terminals on the circuit board. The external battery leads are connected to the positive (B+) and negative (B-) circuit board inputs. The common safety/charge control (VC) is left unconnected. Components held in place with hot glue (do not use silicone – it is corrosive and will kill the circuit). Sacrificial battery re-assembled. After finishing this battery, I decided to do another one with a slightly different approach. Instead of removing the lithium ion cells from the sacrificial battery, I left them in place and just connected the leads from the external battery directly to the terminals of the sacrificial battery in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative). This keeps all of the original circuitry intact and also provides a 7.4V battery with a total of 8700 mAh (7200 mAh from the external battery plus 1500 mAh from the original cells). In hindsight, it was quite a bit easier. External positive (+) and negative (-) leads from the external battery connected directly to the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals on the sacrificial battery. To hold the external battery I used a compatible baseplate. This way the external battery can be easily removed from the system for charging. Unscrew the baseplate and separate the two halves. Remove the connecting wires. Connect the positive (+) and negative (-) leads from the external battery to the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals on the baseplate (you might want to remove the terminals first if you are worried about melting the baseplate components). Re-assemble the baseplate. Connect a charged external battery to the baseplate and check the voltage from the terminals on the sacrificial battery. Make sure you haven’t reversed the polarity along the way. In this case the external battery is reading 8.27V even though the battery is only rated at 7.4V (this is normal as a fully charged battery will have a slightly higher voltage than a depleted battery). If somewhere along the way the safety mechanism in the sacrificial battery’s circuit board has been tripped, you may get a reading of zero volts. However, the safety should re-set after a period of time. (This happened to me – I went out for dinner and when I got back it was working again.) Fully charged genuine Nikon EN-EL3e battery reads 8.11V. Place sacrificial battery into the camera. Close the camera battery door. The wire I used is small enough, and there is enough play in the battery door that I can close it without having to modify the actual door. You might have to notch out the door if you can’t get it closed – the camera will sense that the door is open and won’t work unless the door is firmly closed. Connect the external battery and turn the camera on. For some reason, the system with the sacrificial battery cells removes shows just shy of full power. The system with the external battery leads connected in parallel shows full power. Full power and ready to go with four to five times more battery capacity. If a single 7200 mAh external battery isn’t enough for your requirements – you can also connect two together in parallel for 14400 mAh (or more – within reason). Any questions – hit me in the comments. Cheers! If you want to find out more about us – follow us on Twitter @blurMEDIAStudio, or add us on Facebook / Google Plus or check out our portfolio on 500px. Good Luck, John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Time Lapse Photography and Video Production Toronto, Ontario, Canada blurMEDIAPhotography.com firstname.lastname@example.org 905 818 5711
We recently photographed three potential Olympic swimming athletes from McMaster University following the 2012 Olympic Swim Team trials. Thank you to Natasha Strass-Hundal, Konrad Bald, Cameron Bailey and coach Andrew Cole for your hard work and assistance. All three swimmers recently competed in the 2012 Canadian Olympic Swim Team Trials and are busy training for the upcoming varsity season, so we were very lucky to work with such amazing athletes / models. They posed, helped position light stands and even retrieved my eighteen-pound dive weight belt from the bottom of the sixteen-foot-deep pool after every shot in the deep end (’cause I could barely pull it up on a rope…). My photographic collaborator / wife Dawn and our intern Isaac assisted with the shoot. Isaac captured the behind the scenes video – and Dawn did a great job sitting pretty on an inner-tube holding a boomed softbox for several hours. This was a very exciting shoot for Dawn and me. In this case, Dawn and I were both active swimmers at one time – so we have always had an interest in being in the water – and creating underwater photographs of swimmers is a natural fusion of our talents. The Concept Our overall goal for this assignment was to produce a series of images for McMaster University to showcase some of its top athletes in a very dynamic and exciting way. There was no question for us that we had to shoot potential Olympic swimming athletes doing what they do best – swimming in the pool. We chose to approach the shoot from (mostly) underwater – athletes, camera, lighting, everything. We essentially took what would be a fairly typical studio lighting setup and submerged the whole thing underwater. That of course let to some pretty significant technical challenges…(to say the least)… Lighting and Shooting Prior to the assignment, we carefully planned three image concepts along with the associated lighting details. We chose a dramatic, but fairly simple three or four light setup – at least two underwater rim lights and a key light in a small softbox at the surface. Occasionally, we added an additional rim light for definition. Some of the time I was shooting from the bottom of the pool with a really heavy dive weight belt to keep me there. The rest of the time I was a few feet under. The Rig The biggest technical challenge to overcome for this assignment was to find a reliable way to trigger our strobes positioned above and below the water’s surface from an underwater camera position (radio triggers do not work underwater, optical slave triggers would be too unreliable and create too much backscatter as the on camera flash would light the particles and bubbles in the water column in front of the lens). Because of the number of variables already present when shooting in water – we wanted a trigger system that was bombproof. There is nothing worse than having the perfect shot composed and one of your strobes misfires…unless you’re at the bottom of a pool holding your breath at the time – that’s worse. To trigger our strobes, we built a custom fiber optic optical trigger system. (The system we built is similar to the approach used by underwater strobe manufactures such as Ikelite, Sea & Sea and Fantasea – but instead of working at arms length, our strobes are firing 20 to 40 feet away from the camera). For the strobes, we built custom housings using Pelican boxes (which are apparently only water resistant…) and added 5/8″ studs so that the underwater strobe housings could be mounted onto lightstands. The lightstands were set up on the bottom of the pool and weighted down with dive weight belts. Conclusion Overall, I really enjoyed the challenge of pulling this photography assignment together – it took a lot of detailed planning and problem solving before we even got to the pool. The McMaster University swimmers were fantastic to work with – its truly amazing to see how they move through the water. Dawn and I have made a commitment to get back in the pool – and after spending time with guys like Cameron and Konrad (ie. Greek statues of physical perfection), Dawn has been making noise about sending me in for some laser back hair removal. I wouldn’t object if she works on getting her legs to look like Natasha’s. Any questions about the setup, lighting or post-production editing – hit me in the comments. Cheers! If you want to find out more about us – follow us on Twitter @blurMEDIAStudio, or add us on Facebook / Google Plus or check out our portfolio on 500px. Cheers, John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Underwater Portrait Photographer blurMEDIAPhotography.com email@example.com 905 818 5711
I really enjoy underwater photography – but its something that is incredibly difficult to consistently do well. With that in mind, I thought I’d try some “training” at the rocky beach in front of our cottage on Georgian Bay. These photographs were taken from the bottom of the lake, about 25 to 30 feet down. I had Dawn wait a few seconds, then swim overhead. The exercise here was to simply swim down to the bottom, find my subject in the viewfinder and shoot a few well composed frames before returning to the surface (without running out of air and drowning of course). I’m shooting with my old Nikon D200 in program auto in a EWA Marine underwater camera housing. I find that with the EWA Marine lead weight and by sucking all the air out of the housing, the camera sinks pretty well. The technique that I find works best is to swim hard about three quarters of the way down, then get into a vertical position, look up, compose the shot while gently sinking the rest of the way to the bottom, focus and capture a few frames. At this point, I’m pretty much out of air, so I need to be on bottom to push off and swim back to the surface. Its pretty rare for me to need to swim that far down, but its good practice for the more usual 8 to 10 feet. The next couple underwater photographs are of our big ol’ Bernese Mountain Dog Daisy (she never liked the water – but seems to have decided to take up swimming in her old age). With Daisy, I was practicing tracking her while looking through the viewfinder underwater, controlling the focus and creating a decent composition. Its really hard to see through the viewfinder underwater, but I find that its important not to bail and shoot from the hip (which usually just results in a bunch of out of focus images of with no subject). Kids on Raft – Shark’s Eye View I would like to have created some underwater photography of the kids swimming too. However, the water was a bit cold for them, so they spent most of their time sitting up on their little raft. Cheers, John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Underwater Portrait Photographer blurMEDIAPhotography.com firstname.lastname@example.org 905 818 5711
Dawn and I had our good friend Stephen Jackson and his family up at the cottage for a few days last weekend. I took the opportunity to create a few portraits of Stephen in his triathlon gear down at the beach. Stephen was recently treated for testicular cancer. He noticed that one of his testicles was getting to be the size of a softball. Then, over the span of a couple weeks, he went from perfectly healthy, to tests, to a diagnosis of testicular cancer, and finally, surgery to remove the offending testicle from the ballgame. As far as cancer goes, testicular cancer is very treatable. But life for Stephen now consists of regular chest x-rays, CT scans and bloodwork to make sure that any cancer cells left behind after surgery have not spread. On top of all that – just the monitoring increases his risk of other types of cancer later in life. The biggest stress in my life this month is keeping my bookeeping up to date. I can’t imagine the stress of having to face cancer screening every month. But Stephen isn’t the type of guy to just sit around and wait for cancer to catch up with him. Instead, he’s doing everything he can to adjust his lifestyle to prevent cancer. That means making a real commitment to eating as well as possible, and some serious personal fitness – embracing Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong philosophy. “Diet and fitness are two of the only things I can control right now. I want to know that if it (cancer) spreads to my lungs, I am in the best shape of my life to fight it. Anything I can do to stay healthy – I will.” “I think the Livestrong Foundation means something different to different people. To me, Livestrong provides empowerment on the road to survival. Whether I am slugging it out on a bike ride, or having an unpleasant test done, a glance down at my Livestrong bracelet gives me that little extra drive. Livestrong is my symbol of courage.” Luckily for Stephen, he has a great family behind him – you can’t make a complete change to whole foods, wheat grass shakes and training for triathlons without a little help. Triathlon is one of those sports that just plain scares me. The commitment to the level of training involved to just finish a race, let alone be competitive, is more than my beer gut can fathom. Stephen has always been relatively fit, and he’s a lanky bugger, so he’s got potential. (I’m a good swimmer, but I swam about 200 meters drafting behind him in the open lake and I could barely keep up). Its funny how we all know we should livestrong by eating well and being active – but somehow, we never get around to it. Chances are, all of us will face some serious health issues at some point, and several of the big ones are directly related to diet and fitness: heart disease, stroke, diabetes … So its really inspiring to see a guy embrace life in the present, in order to do what he can to create his own future. Its time to get back in the pool and get me one of them sexy wetsuits. The concept for Stephen’s Livestrong triathlon portrait was to simply create a really cool photograph that highlights what life can look like after cancer. We set up at the beach just before twilight and I dragged one of my Elinchrome strobes and a midi octa softbox down to be beach to light the scene (along with a really long extension cord plugged into a GFCI outlet). The midi octa is about 10-15 feet away, on shore with a whole lot of rocks on the light stand, pointing directly out to the lake. The strobe is at full power (500 watt-seconds), the camera is set to capture the twilight ambient. I had Stephen pop out of the water to simulate the swim/bike transition stage of a triathlon, while I shot from water level with my camera in a waterproof housing (EWA Marine), approximately perpendicular to the light. In post, I used Topaz DeNoise, a little Topaz Detail and some dodging and burning in Photoshop to finish the photograph off. Any questions about the setup, lighting or post-production editing – hit me in the comments. Cheers! If you want to find out more about us – follow us on Twitter @blurMEDIAStudio, or add us on Facebook / Google Plus or check out our portfolio on 500px.
I think the coolest thing about this Grey Cup video is that it was produced purely for the purpose of creating a sick video! I have a lot of respect for cinematographers – filming and editing film is no easy task. This video was edited and filmed by Vancouver based cinemetographer Dan Rizzuto and videographer Jeremy Diechen and features Grey Cup Champion James Yurichuk (BC Lions). Interesting conversation between Dawn and I about this video that pretty much summarizes why guys like action movies and girls don’t: Me: “Want to see a really cool video?” Dawn: “I don’t get it – what’s the point?” Me: “To make a really cool video.” Dawn: “It doesn’t tell a story.” Me: “Ya, but its got helicopters, and the Grey Cup, and mountains in BC…” In the words of the Lonely Island: Cool guys don’t look at explosions, they blow things up and they walk away… Cheers John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Lead Photographer blurMEDIAPhotography.com email@example.com 905 818 5711 ,
This past week I was in Barbados. Here is a quick self portrait from the balcony of our condo in St. Lawrence Gap. Barbados – HDR Self Portrait We had a bit of rain on and off – which is unusual for Barbados – but makes for cool clouds. For this shot, I put my trusty old Nikon D200 on a tripod with a 10-24mm wide angle lens. I thought that the clouds and ocean would look the most interesting in HDR (High Dynamic Range) – so I shot a seven image HDR sequence with a one-stop separation between images. I metered a neutral image and then set the camera to manual everything – manual white balance, manual shutter, manual aperture etc. I focused the lens and then set that to manual focus too (so that the lens wouldn’t re-focus between images). The D200 is set to high speed continuous capture – to take the seven images as quickly as possible, while I stayed as still as possible. To trigger the D200, I used a Pearstone Shutterboss Wireless Trigger, which is in my right hand. In post, the seven images were merged to an HDR image using Photomatix. I also applied a Topaz Adjust filter to pop the details a bit – and some selective dodging and burning in Photoshop. Oh and just a bit of liquefy to bring in my gut (even though I was sucking it in as much as possible…) and to sharpen my chin a bit. I don’t love the palm tree coming out of my chin – but I had about a minute to setup and execute this shot (while getting things together to go out the door) and I was just guessing where I was going to be in the frame – so its not bad composition for a personal image. Now for something completely different… Here is my favourite surfing video from the trip! Surfer extraordinaire Arih ripping it up at Dover Beach. I shot this video with my super-fun-time Canon G9 in its waterproof housing. Its only 640x480p – but its still pretty awesome to be able to capture video in the water. Thanks to Barry’s Surf School for teaching three first-time Canucks how to get up on a board (OK – technically my second time – but I did get up first try 🙂 Here’s instructor Dave showing us how its done! Kind of interesting backstory of how we ended up a Barry’s that highlighted for me just how handy a smartphone has become – especially while travelling (the fact that you can have a phone and internet pretty much anywhere is cool enough). Speaking to a few local Bajans at a bar the night before, they recommended we check out Barry’s Surf School. I looked up Barry’s on my phone and sent them an email at 3:00am. Barry’s wife Christine called back at 8:00am the next day. I looked up a map on my phone’s GPS to make sure we knew where we were going – and we were surfing my 9:30am. Awesome. Not pretty – but I did get up! Cheers, John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Editorial Photographer – Barbados Surf Photography Hamilton, Ontario blurMEDIAPhotography.com 905 818 5711
Renovation Contractor Magazine – by blurMEDIA – Toronto Magazine Photographer The November / December issue of Renovation Contractor Magazine, featuring contractor Andrew Saari of Saari Home Improvements is finishing up its print run. So, now I can post a few tear sheets. Renovation Contractor Magazine, is published by HGTV personality Jim Caruk. Toronto print designer Two Creative put the magazine spreads together. Renovation Contractor Magazine – November Cover John-Paul Danko blurMEDIA Photography Toronto Magazine Photographer blurMEDIAPhotography.com firstname.lastname@example.org 905 818 5711