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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Frogs, flash and frivolity

As I've mentioned before, the last six months or so I've been working on a big project for Lonely Planet Images photographing all of north Queensland.

One of the places on my list was the Iron Bar in beautiful Port Douglas. The Iron Bar is famous for its nightly cane toad races.

Competitors are each allocated a toad, which they can choose to kiss (or not!) for good luck. They place the toads in the middle of the table and then blow on them with straws in order to get the little beasties to jump to the edge of the table.

A competition can be over in less than ten seconds so you have to be really quick. The first thing is to get yourself in an empty space with no competitors in front of you. The second thing is that it's really dark in there so natural light isn't going to work. So you have to use flash and direct flash is really, really ugly! We're talking turning Miss Universe into Godzilla here.

So to make your flash nice and soft you need to bounce it off something (assuming you have an accessory flash on top of your camera). In this particular case I pointed my flash up at the roof which was a convenient shade of white and not too high. This meant that my ugly flash light hit the roof, which acted like a giant soft box and spread lovely soft light down below over my scene.

If you don't have a convenient roof then you can rubber band a piece of white card to the top of your flash head and bounce your flash off that. Or if you only have a little camera with a built-in flash you could also try putting a bit of tissue in front of the flash to diffuse the light from it. Just be warned that all of these techniques reduce the power of your flash so you'll need to be nice and close to your subject.

Anything you can do to soften the harsh, horrible light put out from your camera's flash is a bonus. If you really want to learn about the intricacies of using your flash head here.

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