Fuerteventura portraits and adventure 2012 ~ part 1

Jan 19, 2012 | Flash, Location | 22 comments

“Success happens when preparation meets opportunity”

01. Katy Mcgee out in the desert in the arfternoon sun. I lit Katy with a single Elinchrom Quadra head on a Lovegrove Avenger boom arm. 50mm lens on a Canon 5D mk2 camera.

This adventure was the final stage of the preparation part. Our chance to prove that Fuerteventura is the perfect place for our winter sun location portrait workshop set for January 2013. Martin Hill (AKA Grand Master Flash) and I want to teach how to shoot dramatic portraits in big scenery. Powerfully lit shots that can be recreated on the cliffs of Cornwall, the rolling hills of Wiltshire or the beaches of Lancashire during a UK summer. The sand dunes, volcanoes, ruins, big skies, beaches and lagoons of Fuerteventura proved to be spot on.

02. Katy outside the house of the Colonals. Lit with an Elinchrom Quadra on the Lovegrove Avenger boom arm. Shot using a 21mm lens on my Canon 5D mk2 camera.

Our recce adventure started at Bristol airport on a cold, damp January Saturday. Martin, Katy and myself could hardly hold back the smiles as our journey began. Us lads had packed a great deal of kit into our luggage and weighed in right on the Easy Jet allowance. Katy had the sense to travel light. I used a label machine to mark up my Quadra batteries as NOT LITHIUM to avoid any recalls to the bagage area.

03. I shot this frame using the Skyport trigger sytem for the Elinchrom Quadra on my Fuji X100. I set 1/1000th second and f4 to capture this scene. Katy is sporting an IKEA net curtain, they come in packs of 2.

My check in bag is the amazing Think Tank Logistics Manager with airport security friendly locks. I understand that we will run a major price drop promotion on these very soon so email Blaise if you want to stay informed. Both Martin and I use the Think Tank Airport International carry on bag for our camera kits.

04. It wasn’t always sunny but it was warm. The Quadra kit coped well in all conditions. I used it here at 1/4 power.

Flights from a dozen UK airports take less than 4 hours to reach Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. All the UK flights to the island are on Saturdays and Wednesdays.  So it is posible to have a 3 or 4 day mini break as well as trips of a week or more.

05. Katy on an outcrop of volcanic rock. The shot below shows the same frame direct from camera.

06. Martin and I worked together for the first morning session. Here he is holding the stand for my shot. My next role was to assist him for his shot of Katy with the red voile that you will get to see in part 2. Working together like this ensures a degree of cross education that is vital for both our learning processes. 21mm lens on a Canon 5D mk2. 100 ISO, 1/200th second at f/18

It was a balmy 22 degrees when we picked up our hire car. The time zone is the same as the UK so there was no adjusting to do apart from getting used to the longer brighter days and warm evenings. It is quite common to get days of 25 degrees or more in January and rainfall is scarce. Part of the island is desert with the Sahara making further inroads year on year.

07. Even overcast skies can deliver stunning results when good lighting is used. Katy has all the grace and elegance to strike an amazing profile against the skyline. Keeping sand out of the kit was a primary concern when we were shooting on the sand dunes and our zip up Think Tank Airport International bags were perfect for this.

Our first stop on Saturday afternoon was at Mark and Claire’s house in La Oliva. Mark is my brother in law and acted as our fixer while we were on the island. They have lived on Fuerteventura for twenty years and are very well connected. With a welcome glass of rosé and a tour of Google Earth we soon made a recce plan. Katy, Martin and I climbed into Mark’s 4×4 pickup and we explored some fabulous potential shooting locations. Local knowledge is essential to get around the miriad of tracks and roads on the island.

08. We shot ‘figure in the landscape’, a few nudes, some fashion images and some freestyle concept work. Fuerteventura is the perfect creative playground. I lit Katy with an Elinchrom Quadra on a Lovegrove Avenger boom arm as before.

As the light faded we made tracks for our hotel. We were reccomended the fabulous Barcelo hotel in Coralejo and what a great choice. The Barcelo is a marble palace with pools, a health spa and a well apointed bar. Dinner was at one of the many local restaurants.

09. Volcanoes, rock and wind swept sand make the perfect location while the dusky light compliments the tones in the sand and Katy’s skin.

Damien’s kit for the recce
1 Quadra pack, 1 head, 2 batteries, 1 lead
1 small shoot through umbrella
1 Pocket Wizard Plus2 with lead for Quadra
1  580EX Speedlight
1 PW Canon Flex in factory default1 PW Mini in factory default
1 lead for PW Flex to Speedlight
1 Lovegrove Avenger Boom arm
2 Jupiter stands
1 Canon 5D mk2 with 21mm f/2.8 Zeiss, 50mm f/1.2 L and 100mm f/2.8 L lenses
1 Fuji x100 camera as a back up.
1 blower brush for sand in lenses
1 Arctic Butterfly for sensor cleaning
1 Hoodman Loupe

10. A field of cactus lies beyond the building giving the unusual splash of green so noticebly missing on the island. I posed Katy with this dramatic stance and asked her to grip her thighs to add some tension to the image. Lit with an Elinchrom Quadra on a Lovegrove Avenger Boom Arm.

Martin’s kit for the recce
1 Canon 1Ds mk3 camera with 24-70 f/2.8 L and  50mm f/1.2 L lenses
1 Canon 5D mk2 camera as a back up.
2 580 EX2 Speedlights
2  PW Flexs in factory default
1 PW Mini in factory default
2 leads for PW to Speedlights
2 Gemini flash brackets
1 Ezybox with Speedlight bracket and Quadra adapter
2 Arri stands
1 Jupiter stand
1 Lovegrove Avenger Boom arm
1 Arctic Butterfly for sensor cleaning
1 Hoodman Loupe

11. I love doorways.

12. Working with a narrow colour gamut makes a welcome change. Katy’s lipstick leaps out among the warm rich dusty tones.


14. I chose to explore some simple fashion styles while I had the chance. This image looks fabulous on fine art paper. Katy leaps off the page with a remarkable luminosity set against the subtle but heavy dark greys of the surroundings. I lit Katy with a Quadra head on my Lovegrove Avenger boom arm.

15. Lighting as above.

16. The Quadra combined with sunlight makes wonderful pictures.

17. I love the way the Quadra light tails off Katy’s back on the right just before the rim lighting from the sun kicks in. It’s subtleties like this that make the process of learning to light portraits a special one for me.

18. Almost imposible to stand on but fun none the less the wooden twigs make thew shot for me.

19. Windowlight and sublime shadow detail. Katy is a real star, putting up with a lot of demands and embracing the whole picture making process with a great deal of professionalism.

20. I wanted to explore the ratio of negative space and the impact of large amounts of vital shadow detail have on an image. I’m really pleased with the result.

21. “Self Portrait” Lit with an Elinchrom Quadra.

22. Katy with my Fuji X100

23. “On The Beach”



26. Sunsets are a daily occurance on Fuerteventura

27. Straight from camera before the lighting stand with Speedlight was removed and my verticals straightened.

28. Meet Sophie, my neice, Mark and Claire’s daughter. Sophie was itching to have some shots so Martin and I obliged. Sophie who is totally bilingual joined us for most of the three days of shooting :)


30. It seems strange photographing family. I’ve known Sophie almost all her life and was struck by her beauty when she came over for Blaise’s wedding last summer. It was a real prevelige to have a chance to photograph her again.



33. I lit Sophie with an Elinchrom Quadra in a 54cm Ezybox. The distant volcano is a reminder of our location.


35. Sunset and Speedlight


37. I got my Quadra in fashion mode and started shooting sequences. Sophie has real model potential with a confidence and fluidity of movement that can easaily be chanelled.


39. Just a single Speedlight and a bit of imagination was needed for this shot of Sophie.

40. And this is Sophie’s sister Blue. Blue served us dinner in the restaurant on Monday night and joined us for a few hours of shooting on Tuesday. Tourism is the trade of the island.

41. Blue is equally gorgeous and a delight to be with.




45. The last time I photographed Blue and Sophie together was on film way back in the last century.

46. Blue and Sophie in the back of Mark’s pick up. I used on camera flash to light this Bay Watch style shot.

47. Meet Vanessa. Vanessa works in catering with Claire. Vanessa joined us for a few portraits too. I firmly believe that you make your own luck in life.

48. Vanessa and a Speedlight in the late afternoon sun.

49. Vanessa in the camel house :) There are no camels left on the island but this place was a midway point on a trading route. The food troughs are still there.


51. I added a splash of Quadra to liven up the shot. It’s like adding Tabasco to cottage pie, it’s a game changer.

52. Calmness describes a lot of the images I shot. This blog post is just a quarter of my selection. I’ve no idea what to do with the rest of the images. Perhaps I’ll revisit them later in the year. I just love the muted pinks and purples in so many frames.

53. Vanessa bathed in flash and sunlight.

The Workshop
Provisional dates: Thursday 24th and Friday 25th January 2013

Tutors: Martin Hill and Damien Lovegrove

Limited to 12 delegates in 2 groups of 6 for the shooting sessions. The groups will swap tutor and setup every hour throughout the workshop. Evenings will be spent in local restaurants discussing the finer points of photography with like minded togs. The buzz that happens on these overseas training workshops is priceless and the fabulous memories will last a lifetime.

Shooting locations: The Camel Lodge, the House Of The Colonals, remote beaches and lagoons, plus the sand dunes of Correlejo.

Deligates can travel light with just camera and a few lenses as Martin and I will be bringing all the lighting equipment, stands and flash triggers.

Flights and hotels are at their cheapest out of season and during school term time. Nothing is expensive on the island with hotel food and drink prices being considerably cheaper than here in the UK.

The models, styling and genres have yet to be chosen. Provision in the delegate rate of £795 has been made to fly models out from the UK or Germany. Signed up delegates will be able to contribute to the decision making process via a dedicated Facebook group. Each of our overseas trips has it’s own Facebook group where delegates can share pictures and ideas before and after the event.

Payment will be by installment over 10 months leading up to the event.

Many more details are to follow on Monday. Please Email Blaise to register your interest in the first instance. Martin’s amazing set of shots will also be up on the blog by Monday.

Please feel free to discuss these pictures using the comment box below.


  1. Nikki Baxendale

    I just love these shots!!! would love to join, not sure if its too complicated for me to get there but looks great!!!! I want to learn this use of light especially if its not horribly complicated!!! I wish I could plug myself in and download all the technical stuff and just worry about being creative – humm let me see how to get there :)

    • damien

      Hi Nikki,

      Pop over and stay at our place, lets do 2 days of the technical stuff and nail it and then we can go to Fuerteventura together from Bristol. It’s just an idea. Organising our Palace in Italy is Blaises task for the coming week while I’m in Stuttgart. It’s worth waiting a week or two more for all our options to materialise.

      Best regards, Damien.

  2. Ranya

    – Absolutely stunning. Love the style – looks similar to Zack Arias’ style. Beautiful.

    • damien

      Thank you Ranya :)

  3. Bryan

    i hadn’t realised looking at part two that it was Mr Hill, had the pleasure of bumping into him and having a quick chat on Tuesday, lovely bloke as well as obviously being really talented.

    These make me want to grab a few speedlights and go out and shoot, I have some spare time at the end of next week so will try to fit a practice shoot in.

    • damien

      Thanks again Bryan, Martin was on my Evolve 1 training programme and is now one of my training partners with an amazing lighting style. Cheers, Damien.

  4. Nick Liburd

    Sweet locations guys, tempting!

    • damien

      Hi Nick,

      This will be like Spain but different. Different in the way we use light and the infinity horizons. The Quadra and boom arm combo make the pictures come alive. Integrating the Quadra and Speedlights is now a very simple process having developed a strategy that is easy to replicate. I do hope you join us next year.

      Best wishes as always,


  5. Gavin

    Hi Damien, amazing as usual and inspiration to create those flawlessly lit images, May i ask about your reference to marking your Ranger Quadra batteries as not lithium ? Is there a restriction on the movement of batteries in a cargo hold ?

    • damien

      Hi Gavin,

      Yes Lithium batteries can’t go in hold luggage as they catch fire with the pressure drop. Lithium batteries have to go in cabin baggage. This is one very good reason for the Quadra to use sealed lead acid gel cells. I hope this helps.


  6. Richard Hart

    Oh, What great bone structure your nieces have!

    • damien

      Hi Richard, Good looks run in the family :))

  7. Richard Hart

    You have some killer images here!

    I cant work out how you lit that first image… The shadow on this side of the model is from the sun?

    You must have had a fair bit of excess luggage. It doesnt look like Katy took much with her!

    image 46 – I hope the metal wasnt hot!

    Have you written a blog posting on finding shoot locations? You always seem to find really exciting locations.

    • damien

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your compliments. The sun is in the first shot and the shadow it forms is on the sand about 1m in front of Katy. The shadow from the Elinchrom Quadra lighting can clearly be seen on Katy’s torso above her right arm. The back of the pickup was cold believe it or not.

      My how to find locations blog post is here.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

  8. Richard Mortimer

    Fantastic photos. Particularly like 2 and 3. I was amazed by 3 – both by the photo and the shutter speed. Are there no sync issues with the Fuji X100 camera, unlike the 5DII? Think I might have a trip to Ikea to-day too!!

    • damien

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your compliments. The Fuji has an in lens shutter rather than a focal plane shutter so speeds of 1/1000th of a second and beyond are entirely posable. I hope this helps.

      Warmest regards on this cold January day, Damien.

  9. david cooke

    Wow amazing shots, that first photo of Katy is stunning, she is a great model, but hats off to the others, they may have been amatuer models but they shone like stars.

    I am back at work now so in a years time should be up for booking something with you Damien, its nice to get my normal head on at last.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • damien

      Hi David,

      It’s great to hear your positive news. These workshops abroad work out at great value and the friendships and fun go on for some time after so do consider them. I always appreciate your frequent kind comments. Have a fab 2012,


  10. Edwin Goed

    Very nice pics! Fuerteventura has much more shootinglocations to offer.
    Considering the workshop in 2013.


    • damien

      Hi Edwin,

      Thank you for your kind words. Martin and I would love to have you with us next year. We have one other workshop in Spain before then that might interest you too. I may be teaching in Holland with Martin Hogaboom soon too. Email me via Blaise any questions.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien :)

  11. Thorsten

    I think it’s safe to say that your trip to Fuerteventura was a big success and judging by the images it looks like you had way too much fun! :) Fantastic range and variety in the images above, I enjoyed viewing them and reading the accompanying narrative. – Thorsten.

    • damien

      Thanks Thorsten,

      I like to blur the boundaries between work and pleasure! See you soon, Damien.


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