Livestrong Triathlon Portrait – Life After Cancer


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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.

Triathlon Portrait

Livestrong Triathlon Portrait – Life After Cancer

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.

Livestrong Triathlon Portrait

Livestrong Triathlon Portrait

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.

Livestrong Triathlon Portrait

Livestrong Triathlon Portrait

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!

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JP Danko


JP Danko is an active lifestyle photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.


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