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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Choose your subject for the lighting conditions

This one was taken on the weekend. The local Rotary club have a huge rubber ducky race down at the local Esplanade pool on Cairns' foreshore every September.

For $5 you can buy a rubber ducky, which along with 5000 others will get dropped into the pool from a net hung overhead by a giant crane. The wind blows them all down the pool (with a bit of human help) and the first ducky to make it to the other end wins themselves a prize.

Like most events of this type, they're held at a time of the day that's not particularly photography friendly. In this case it was 3 in the afternoon which might be nice and soft if you live up near the Arctic circle but this close to the equator it's pretty harsh.

So the trick in these types of circumstances is to look for compositions that avoid a lot of shadows. Because we have bright sunshine that immediately says that you've gotta have everything out in the open, or everything in the shade. So it's no use photographing the ducks when they're in the shade of a building because half the frame will be in the dark and half in the light. Too much contrast for the sensor to handle. So you gotta wait until the ducks move down to the pool into the light.

Even then the bright yellow ducks are SO bright that the rest of the frame tends to go a little bit darker than it is in real life. In this case you might need to do a bit of work in Curves (or use the Shadow/Highlight tool in Photoshop) to bring those shadows back up a bit. And keep an eye on that histogram to make sure you don't overexpose and lose the highlights.

Here I'm working with a wide-angle lens which means, compositionally, I need to get as close as I can to something. Preferably something interesting, in this case the ducks themselves. So that involved getting right up on the edge of the pool and leaning out across the ducks - all the while hoping that nobody would push me in for a laugh!

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