Stuart Day Guitars

A few days ago I had the privilege to photograph Stuart Day at his Allentown shop for my “Communities” project. 

Stuart Day has been working in high end lutherie for over a decade; he is formally trained in the construction, repair and period correct restoration of all stringed instruments. He’s gained notoriety in north America, Japan and some parts of Europe for his hand crafted acoustic arch top and flat top steel string guitars and offers professional level repair and restoration services out of his shop in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  

Kickstarter for BoXZY Rapid-Change FabLab

A few months ago I did some product and team photography for the guys who created BoXZY – an all-in-one maker’s dream machine – a mill, a laser cutter/engraver, and a 3D printer, all in one device.  Well, it turns out that their Kickstarter campaign kicked butt and they raised enough money to put this amazing machine into production.  Way to go!
BoXZY Rapid-Change FabLab: Mill, Laser Engraver, 3D Printer

Something different – a BoXZY photoshoot

Most of the work that I post on this blog has to do with either Bar/Bat mitzvahs or weddings, with occasional portrait session mixed in.  Few people know that a decent chunk of my photography business comes from commercial photoshoots.  One of the drawbacks of commercial photoshoots is that most of the time I cannot share my work due to intellectual property issues, privacy issues, or NDAs that my clients ask me to sign.  Much of my commercial work is in the area of medical devices and medical education, where IP and privacy are critically important to my clients.
This photoshoot was different – I was asked to do a product/team shoot for BoXZY – a fabrication device that allows you to mill, 3D print, and laser etch/cut.  Check out their Kickstarter page –

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DIY Video Dolly

Once in a while I love to step away from behind the camera and actually get my hands dirty by building something photography-related out of semi-useful junk that fills shelves in my garage and basement.  A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend who is a graphics designer and an animator.  We sat down for a cup of coffee and he told me about a project that he was recently hired to do.
A company that makes custom things, pretty much anything from abstract furniture to small unique precision parts, approached him to do an animated commercial about their production process.  After visiting their shop for a few weeks, my friend decided to do an augmented reality clip for his clients – a commercial where real video is combined with animation.

In order to produce these custom parts the company uses CNC routers (or CNC mills) – computer-driven machines that take instructions from CAD drawings and produce 3D parts using either cutting heads or super thin and super powerful jets of water.

After about 3 cups of coffee, my buddy exclaimed – “Hey, you are a photographer, maybe you can help me out.  Come with me to meet this client, maybe you’ll have some ideas.”

I had a blast wondering around the workshop and drooling over cool tech toys (they would not let me play with any of their machines).  After my initial “oh, look at that” and “can I press this button” moment was over, I started thinking about the best way to produce this commercial. In my mind, there were 2 problems to solve, both of them tied to the amount of clutter in the workshop.

Cluttered workshop | Dmitriy Babichenko Photography | Pittsburgh commercial photographer

The CNC we chose for his video produces wooden parts; it is a giant machine that sits in the corner of an extremely cluttered workshop, and removing the clutter was not an option.   We decided that we would shoot the CNC’s cutting head from two angles; we’d take two Canon 5D Mark III cameras with 100 mm f/2.8 lenses, set them along the base of the CNC (along vertical and horizontal axis) and shoot the cutting head wide open (at f/2.8) in order to blur out the clutter in the background.

That brings me to the second problem – when shooting wide-open with a telephoto lens, you have to be extremely careful about focus.  Digital SLRs loose their autofocus capabilities in video mode, which meant that we had to pre-focus both cameras on the cutting head.  That meant that each camera had to move only left to right to follow the cutting head – moving it forwards or backwards would result in out-of-focus video.

We shot several takes with regular video dollies; pretty much after the first take we decided that we needed a custom solution to move cameras along the base of the CNC.  We also decided to do time-lapse animation instead of a continuous video.

When I came home, I immediately looked through my garage and my basement for anything that I could use to build a custom video dolly.  The Frankenstein dolly below is made out of a piece of plywood, two sets of skateboard wheels (donated by one of my co-workers), a video monitor stand (Goodwill, $2.95) and a tripod column (Goodwill, $1.50).  I had to cannibalize a pair of old rollerblades to add a set of wheels and attach them at a 90-degree angle to the dolly so that they would roll along the base of the CNC, keeping the dolly perfectly parallel to the cutting head.

DIY Video Dolly | Dmitriy Babichenko Photography

I’m not sure what I enjoyed more in this situation – coming up with a solution or participating in producing a commercial.  Hmm… Probably a bit of both.

Pittsburgh Mitzvah Showcase

An awesome Pittsburgh DJ, Steve Lebo (, Bela Sera ( and myself (the best photographer ever:) are organizing a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service providers showcase. Bela Sera will provide an amazing banquet facility and great food, Steve will take care of music and entertainment and I will click away with my cameras. We`ll also have vendors in the following categories:

  • DJ
  • Entertainment
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Florist
  • Decorations
  • Party Planning
  • Live Musicians

We got a website up and running, so if you are planning a mitzvah, please check it out –

TLC Photoshoot

Well, my break is finally coming to it`s end. Winter months are always pretty slow as far as photography goes – very few people want to get married when it`s below zero outside. Usually I do get an odd photography job here and there between December and March. This year, given the fact that I recently bought a house and that my wife is 6 months pregnant, I decided to take a break from photography and concentrate on my family. A few days ago I got a call from John Earnest, a client of mine from back when I ran Kronos Media Arts (a company that unfortunately no longer exists). While with Kronos, I designed and coded John`s company`s website ( In the last year John has been so busy that he never had a chance to finish writing content, so the website never went live. He called me and asked me if I could help him finish this long-overdue project. I stopped by his shop and took some environmental portraits of his employees and a photo of a new cool computer-driven machine that cuts wood into shapes provided by CAD designs.