August 29, 2015

Shooting the 2015 Tatts Finke Desert Race Grid Girl Calendar

Tatts Finke Desert Race Grid Girl Calendar Cover

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of this internationally recognised off-road motorsport event, the event organisers wanted to step up their game a little bit and bring in a professional photographer to shoot their annual grid girl calendar.  As you probably already guessed, I was the lucky photographer they picked for the job!

To be honest I didnt know too much about the event at the start but I was familiar with the grid girls from previous years as they do generate a fair bit of media attention around the country.  I also happen to know a number of girls from previous years too. It didnt take long to understand the scale and significance of the event though and how much fun it was going to be to get involved with it. So I was pretty keen from the get go!  I mean just this phot alone below gives you an idea of how much fun I had. Trying to earn my Dan Bilzerian stripes one step at a time.

Brodie Butler with Tatts Finke Desert Race Grid Girls

Read on for much much more! Photos and behind the scenes of it all!

Those of you who still dont know, The Tatts Finke Desert Race is an off road, multi terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community. Check out the website for more here:¬†http://finkedesertrace.com.au. Each year they run a competition around the entire country to find 12 beautiful enthusiastic grid girls to come to Alice Spring and represent the event. Not only that but these girls get to feature in an annual calendar, and that’s where I come in.

The Brief:
So plain and simple, I had to photograph 12 grid girls both individually and as a group over the period of one day in the outback for use in the annual grid girl calendar which goes on sale during race week in June.  It may sound pretty simple but it certainly had its fair share of challenges.

We put together an enormous amount of ideas on what we could do but unfortunately a lot of them were forced out due to the constraints we had. Whether it be time, location or resources. So we decided to keep it simple and classy without any props or complications. One thing was for sure though, I wasnt flying all the way to Alice Springs to shoot the girls on a white background. We were going into the outback, I knew that much!


As a bonus to add a bit of life and consistency to the calendar, I managed to bring the wonderful Kristina B team on board with their swimwear range to offer the girls something vibrant to wear. You can see the swimwear in the photo above. Thanks Kristina B!

For me it’s always a game of tetris when it comes to travelling for jobs. Trying to fit everything I need into my luggage and nothing I dont. Luggage is a premium and you always want to minimise it and make sure you are not overweight. For this one I had to take some lighting equipment as well and given I would be shooting all day through the powerful sun, I was of course taking my trusty Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS. I briefly spent some time with Profoto’s new wonder light, the B1, hoping it might be a better answer. ¬†As much as I love the approach Profoto have with the B1, unfortunately it just doesn’t have enough power at 500WS, and is completely useless to me, especially on this occasion. It’s a shame because they are so much more portable and the batteries are easier to take on planes. Yes they have HSS (High Speed Sync) but because of the way HSS works, your shutter speed now affects your flash exposure, and when you’re already at full power there’s no more stopping down the ambient light. So very simply, the B1 doesnt have enough power for me. At times I wish my Elinchroms even had an extra stop in them. It doesnt help that I use the 5DMKIII with a full frame sensor so I’m pretty much limited to a sync speed of 1/125th. (1/160th if you want to risk some frames being ruined).

Fink Desert Racw Grid Girls

To transport my Elinchroms I removed the batteries from the battery compartment, and I had my ground team in Alice Springs go to the local electronics store and purchase the correct SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) battery needed to go into the Ranger. (I actually remove the core battery from the Elinchrom battery housing). This way I could eliminate any troubles with airport security. Forget what you read on the internet, the Elinchrom Ranger battery is too big to take on any air plane. (I am writing a very in depth blog post on flying with this gear soon so stay tuned.) The paperwork you see floating around the internet claiming it is exempt from dangerous goods regulations is correct, but that doesnt mean it can fly commercially, that just means it can be transported by a freight carrier. Most of the time you will get past security with it though, but its still illegal.¬†¬†(Again, stay tuned for my blog post on this, I’ve got a lot of experience and done a lot of research).

So a few light stands, tripod, my Elinchrom Ranger, an Octobox, a beauty dish, a couple camera bodies, Canon speedlights, all the chargers,¬†accessories and of course some clothes all managed to fit into two sturdy suitcases complete with copius amounts of bubble wrap and towels. I’ve found a reliable, safe way to pack my gear without resorting to heavy hard cases which put me way overweight and in need of more luggage allowance.


The Location:
We explored a lot of different locations for this photo shoot including some amazing national parks but unfortunately our permits were denied due to conflicts on that day which was a real shame. Not to worry though, because our backup plan was still pretty amazing.

About 40 minutes drive out of Alice Springs was this very isolated property called Ooraminna Homestead that was home to an old movie set built back in the 80’s. Complete with a police station, hotel and much more. ¬†It really is¬†a cool place and made me¬†want to start shooting a film. I could see so much potential there and I really wish I could spend a whole week there. ¬†Don’t go looking for it though, its sealed off private property and isn’t very easy to find off the main road.


_X5A8589 _X5A8425 _X5A8431 _X5A8437

This mini town at Ooraminna homestead was our base camp where we kept our massive water supply for 20+ people, food and where all our hair and make-up would come to life. This was also the only source of shade as far as you could see so given its the desert out there this was a safe bet.  Just a very short walk away, with a million photo opportunities was our shoot location.


This truly was a beautiful little piece of land with so many opportunities to create.

IMG_8971 IMG_8978

There were a lot of large rockscapes and even caves, cliffs and some waterholes. If only we had time to explore them all!


The Girls
Now for the main attraction. Well they were for my trip anyway as the race wasnt on until June. I talk of the beautiful young ladies of course. What a fun bunch they were, and a little cheeky too! You may already have seen all their amazing photos so lets have a look at their cheeky side while I introduce them all!

Alice Springs local, Chelsea Gibson, helping me out with white balance._X5A8835

The energetic tour guide, Chrisney Bright from Darwin.


My travel partner in crime for this trip being from WA, Rachael Hall.

Not letting the brunettes have all the fun, is Tayla from South Australia._X5A9032

Another tongue poke moment with Stefani Raines._X5A9063


More local Alice Springs beauty, Ellen Schembri._X5A9095

The beautiful Renee Richards from Alice Springs also._X5A9129

Yes we have a pair of sisters in the mix! Brooke Schembri from Alice Springs._X5A9215

Another fellow West Aussie traveller, Emma Jerviz_X5A9268

Bianca Connor from the Northern Territory._X5A9321

The weather was a bit of a suprise to Taiha Shandley from cloudy Victoria._X5A9385-Edit
And last but not least, Sarah Fitzgerald from Victoria.

A big shout out to Lisa-Marie Ryan and Matt Henderson who feature in all those photos above. They were my two trusty assistants for not just the day, but the whole weekend I was there. Helping with location scouting and airport travels. Thanks very much guys!

To add to that, a huge thank you goes out to my whole 2015 Tatts Finke Desert Race Grid Girls CREW!

Claire Ryan – Producer
Matt Henderson – Assistant
Lisa-Marie Ryan – Assistant
Kristina B Swimwear – wardrobe
Cherri Red Hair & Beauty Team (Julie, Tilly, Leanne, Damien & Lucy)
MUA –¬†Taylor Chalker
Jan Hayes from Ooraminna Homestead

All the Girls!






  • kassye September 2, 2015

    Was wanting to get back in to modelling. You know if any work coming uo? Been in a couple magazines but haven’t done it in years. So dont even know if im speaking to the right peraon?

    • Brodie September 2, 2015

      theres no easy answer. You arent going to get work that easy as a model. I would look for a suitable agency that does what you want to do and get some fresh pictures for your portfolio and start getting involved.