Behind the Lens: Dylan Page

Canadian Photographer uses a complex strobe setup to capture kayaker ear-dipping into complete darkness

With the autumn colors come shorter days. This photo was taken while Emrick Blanchette boofed into complete darkness. The only light lasted 1/1250 of a second...  Jacques-Cartier River, Quebec, Canada

With the autumn colors come shorter days. This photo was taken while Emrick Blanchette boofed into complete darkness. The only light lasted 1/1250 of a second…
Jacques-Cartier River, Quebec, Canada


The Shot:
Canon 5D MKIII with a Canon 17-40L F4 at 25mm
1/80 sec at F/4 – ISO 1250
4 Strobes

CanoeKayak.com: This is such a unique image. What was the creative direction or idea behind it? Does this type of photo define your style as a photographer?

Dylan Page: I had wanted to do a night kayak photoshoot for a while, and when I came upon this easily accessible boof on the Jacques-Cartier River in Quebec, I decided it was the perfect spot. It was in October and the autumn colors were at their peak. I knew that the contrast between the darkness of the night, the bright kayak and the warm tones from the trees would make for a striking image. I called up Emrick Blanchette and the Quebec Connection boys who, as usual, were super motivated at the idea of boofing this waterfall feature into complete darkness.

I love shooting with strobes because of the creative freedom it offers. With strobes, you build the aesthetics of the image piece by piece. In my commercial work, I use these tools all the time but I wanted to apply these techniques to create a different kayaking photograph. I can't say if this image represents my photography style but making this type of image definitely appeals to my need to always try and attempt something new and especially, something more challenging. I guess it's just like the quest most whitewater kayakers have to paddle bigger and bigger rapids. Once you can paddle at a certain level with ease and confidence, it's time to step it up…

Can you take us through the technical setup? How many lights were used to make this photo?

To create this image I used four strobes. My friends JP and Guillaume helped me carry six backpacks full of gear through the bush. I planned on setting up my lights while I still had some daylight. As it happens, the sun sets quite rapidly in October. They say always bring a headlamp in the bush, but they should have said to bring more than one. So we struggled in the darkness to setup my lighting for the session ahead. I placed my strongest flash so it lit up the trees and the mountainside in the distance. I then placed my two key lights just out of view behind the kayaker. I wanted a backlit image to bring out as much detail as possible from the water splashing off the lip of the drop. Two speedlights were placed in front of the subject as fill. The strobes were all triggered with wireless radio transmitters. The boys started dropping, and after a couple tries, they got used to throwing themselves into complete darkness. It was a fun session.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Triggering my lights turned out to be the biggest challenge. The signal difficulties were caused by a combination of factors. Firstly, the distance between the furthest flash and me was 300 feet over water through a thicket of trees. Secondly, a huge rock blocked the ideal line of sight signal between me and my keylights. Finally, the huge body of water all around me absorbed the signal. I ended up using two extra transmitters as signal repeaters and still got a lot of misfires. As the shoot went on, I learned where to stand and where to place the camera so that all the lights triggered in unison. No equipment was harmed in the making of this photo.

What’s next on your list of photographic adventures?

I'd like to step it up and find a larger feature to photograph using the same technique. I already know which one but I'm not telling. I learned a lot during this previous session and now that some of the technical difficulties are figured out, I think we can make something even more impressive. Maybe this time a full moon would help the boys…

Where can we find you online?

You can find my work on my website: dylanpagephoto.com/

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