Testing Gadgets

Earlier this summer I started putting together a waterproof housing for an off camera flash. My design was an adaption of THIS device that was posted on STROBIST a long while ago. I had a bunch of ideas for things to do with it, mostly involving wake/surf but this summer has been difficult in regards to shooting that kind of stuff. So, I've been itching to use this thing and I finally had a perfect opportunity a couple weeks ago. Every year my family has a family reunion weekend  in northern Wisconsin and there is a famous rope swing that affords some sweet action shot opportunities. This would be perfect to test out this new housing. I actually tried to do the same thing last year with some plastic bags, but that didn't work out very well. #deadflash. The actual construction of the unit was fairly simple, the supplies cost around $25, and took less than an hour to build. I used 3" pipe and fittings, a 12" section of pipe fits a flash and pocket wizard with ease.  The goal was to make a rugged, waterproof unit that was affordable, and not too bulky.  Because I used 3" pipe, some larger flashes will not fit (vivitar 283/285 some canons, sb-900. If you plan on using any of these flashes then you should be using 4" pipe and pack it with some foam chunks for a snug fit. It is also important to note that this device is intended for surface use and not for underwater photography. If you plan on using it under the surface you will need to devise some fitting so you can use a hard sync, as radio triggers are useless under water. You also want to make sure you use solid pvc, as most of the large diameter pipe sold at home centers is cell core and won't handle the pressure.

I improved on the original design by adding removable/interchangeable pistol grip/ (1/4-20) mount for increased adaptability. The handle is made out of 3/4" pvc sheet. I drew a pattern for the grip freehand, cut it out with a jig saw and finished the edges with a spindle sander and router. I mounted a section of the same pvc used for the body of the housing to my drill press covered with medium sand paper to contour the mounting surface of the grip fit tightly with the body of the housing. The handle is held on with a pair of 1/4-20 bolts, sealed with neoprene washers and some silicone grease. I rough cut the window from a sheet of 1/4" lexan and temporarily attached it the the end of the tube with carpet tape (diy essential) I then finished the edge using a router with a copy bit, using the tube as a guide. This ensured that the window is the exact diameter as the tube. I hope all of this makes sense, I was planing on putting together a step by step how-to on this project but I was in a rush to get it done. I will be building several more of these in the near future, so look for more detailed photos and maybe a video soon.

To load the unit you remove the LDPE cap in the rear and slide the flash in head first. Do to the tight fit, I use a hot shoe adapter to attach the sync cord to the flash, depending on where the sync port is on your flash you may be able to omit this part. Then the pocket wizard is loaded and foam disks are inserted to take up any remaining space. The treads are cleaned and have silicone grease applied (available from dive shops) to ensure a tight seal. The shots below speak to the possible results.


I was back home over the weekend, to do a little shooting after the first week of what will hopefully be my last semester of school. Everything has been a little crazy here, but I am starting to accept that life will probably only turn faster as time goes on and I should just deal or get left behind. I'm one of those guys who always has "big plans", I'm not a dreamer, but I definitely like to have a big to-do list when I can help it. This past break was a good example, I figured that I was going to be able to finally catch up on all of those things that I had been saving. You know, organize the work stuff, finish all those portfolio projects (that deadline is coming up fast), shoot a bunch of stuff, blah blah blah. Well, I got pretty sick, so that trashed a week. The holidays have a way of wasting time that I can't seem to figure out, and I ended up working way more hours then I had planned. Break's over.

So I went home right away after only 4 days of school, gotta get stuff done. My friend Ryan Payne, who rides for O2 Teamlab called me earlier in the week asking if I wanted to shoot with him over the weekend. Sure thing, Ryan. Also, this was supposed to be the coldest weekend of the winter with negative temps for Friday and Saturday.

The original plan was to shoot this parking ramp gap in Appleton on Friday, unfortunately a few of the guys got sick and weren't up to riding in the freezing weather. Friday night was trashed for shooting. I ended up having a nice dinner with the GF and her parents, and then heading over to Nordic Mountain for a late night park building session to prepare for Sunday's planned shoot. I left before everything was finished, but the feature turned out better than anyone imagined. I do have some photos, but you will have to wait until next week to see 'em.

On Saturday morning I met my good buddy, Jory Prather at a wooden "rainbowish" bridge railing to shoot video and stills. This is a spot that I have been coming to for a long time. It's cool because it is right behind a sledding hill, so no one gives you a second look when you role up with shovels and snowboards. We had planned to get there early, but didn't arrive until 10am due to our late night on Friday. As it happened, this was perfect, because an overcast sky turned blue at about 10:05. We set it up and were done in less then 2 hours, Jory got a nose press bs 180 out on video and a solid nose press photo as well. I was amazed at how quickly everything came together. The photo is below.

After the wooden rail we met up with Ryan Payne at the West Skatepark in Oshkosh. There is sledding hill right next to the park so pretty much everything was fair game. We ended up building a little ramp over a fence with a pretty good drop on the other side. It was a fun setup and both Ryan and Jory got shots.

About halfway through the day this little guy showed up, insisted on helping with everything. I wish I would have had some stickers to give him.

Ryan and Jory always kill it, but I think Jory's front 3's just beat out Ryan's Backside 180's on the day. Looking forward to more this weekend.

- Joe -


We arrived safely to our rental on Thursday evening. The house that we are staying in is pretty amazing. I was expecting a condo or something similar, but we are actually staying in a nice residential area. I guess the housing market is pretty slow here and many unsold houses are being used as short term rentals my realtors. Anyway, the views are pretty good. There is a full kitchen and three bedrooms in the main house and an attached guest house with a kitchenette. Today we are going to hike an area where they filmed some scenes from Last of the Mohicans, should be pretty fun. I am already regretting not bringing a tripod, I might buy a cheap one just to get through. There are too many beautiful views not to come back with a panorama or six.

I apologize to those of you who were expecting some real content this week. You should definitely check out THIS if you have not already. Draplin on how to "be professional" and shit.