42 hours in Venice with the Fuji X-Pro1

Jun 25, 2012 | Flash, Location, News | 11 comments

01. Meet Cirila Zorenc. Cirila is the kind and patient model we had booked for our two street portrait sessions. Cirila is tall, very tall, so I held my X-Pro1 above my head and used the rear LCD to frame this shot. Chris and I wanted to be inspired by the great Renaissance painters of Venice so I set my white balance to 6300K and started shooting. We worked with pools of light and where none existed we made them ourselves using a pair of Speedlights on a Lovegrove Gemini bracket.

Nothing quite prepares you for your first visit to Venice. It is like no other place on earth, Venice is simply glorious. The title of this post should include ‘and my mate Chris Hanley’ at the end. Chris and I had a job to do and this is the story of our mini adventure all in the name of work.

Chris and I have been preparing yet another Italian photography workshop series for sometime but we were having trouble finding suitable villas or venues to shoot in. Then we got our heads together and discussed the visual delights of Italy and soon concluded they are mainly outdoors. I’ve shot passion on the streets of Sienna and that was fabulous but to trump that we needed a special venue indeed…

02. This is the view from our hotel bar terrace. We sat here from time to time contemplating the task ahead while watching the play of light on the villas opposite. The Grand Canal is a bustling waterway full of stories unfolding as boats glide by. The Nastro Azzuro helped us appreciate these moments even more.

03. Majestic, elegant and classically proportioned, the merchant's villas in Venice date back to a time when Venice ruled the waves.

We landed at Marco Polo airport at 11am and through the chaos we found our way out to the water bus stop. Soon we were transported to a magical place of contrasts. Wet grey Manchester was behind us and we were in 30 degrees of Adriatic sun. It was very humid on day one but the heat was great and very welcome. It’s hard to comprehend the change a two hour flight can deliver.

04. The subtle pink hues and yes it's a Gondola.

05. Cirila joined us at 2pm and after another beer Chris, Cirila and I set off into the labyrinth that is the streets of Venice. Here Cirila is bathed in natural light reflected off ancient walls.


It soon became clear that we needed to avoid the pedestrian tourist motorways and stick to the back streets. We dived down ginnals, up alleys and into many dead ends in order to map out the route that we will be using in October when we return to give our workshops.

07. Then we powered up our Speedlight rig. I was shooting exclusively with the Fuji X-Pro1 and Chris was using his trusty Nikon D3 and a Fuji X100. We used simple manual triggers at £12 a set from Ebay to ensure they would be up to the job in October when just about any make of camera from Leica to Pentax might be with the delegates joining us.

08. Curls

09. The 60mm Fuji lens is fabulous.

10. It took us a while to get a balance in the images that we were both happy with. The Hoodman Loupe was very useful indeed.

11. Dead end street.

12. The view from a handy bar. We had earned Pizza by 4pm and a beer or two.

13. I just couldn't stop looking up.

14. We found a windy alley with heavenly light. The Fuji is perfect to capture a moment like this.

15. A quick lens change to the 35mm f/1.4 lens and you get the bigger picture.

16. Bridges and more bridges but by now we were certain of the settings before we rigged the lighting.

17. The twists and turns we took were always into the light. It's a deliberate ploy of mine to walk towards the sun when exploring new territory.


19. The energy and excitement was amazing when we stumbled upon a patch of light like this. I've never really shot alongside Chris on a shoot with just the two of us and a model except for a test shoot in Manchester the day before this one. On our Manchester test shoot we were establishing the kit and systems we needed for this shoot. We knew we had to travel light and there was certainly no space for extra or spare kit.

20. If Dulux opened a shop in Venice they'd do really well indeed. A splash of Speedlight highlights the flakey background.

This was an important recce and trial shoot. We had to establish a route off the beaten track where we can shoot as a group without causing congestion or being moved on. We also needed to test a new lighting system and establish the facilities we need for the full blown workshop. The workshops will have just four delegates in each group each day. Chris will be shooting destination bride with natural light and I’ll be shooting street fashion portraits with occasional Speedlight use. We will use the same minimal kit as we have used here to keep all the techniques easily repeatable with minimum expense. Lighting doesn’t have to be complicated to be good.

21. Cirila was really great to shoot with and she has worked with Chloe Jasmine Whichello. Small world.

22. By 4.30pm we were in our stride and it all started to come together.

23. I braved the high key look knowing that RAW processing in Lightroom is just perfect for this kind of image.

24. Another bridge so delicately engineered in marble and iron. In the UK it would most likely be a big concrete or brick monster.

25. We were lucky with the odd gust of wind and all that was needed was a sense of timing.

26. We missed the last ferry back to our hotel so we had a bit of a walk. The Fuji X-Pro1 was great at night. I just took it out with the 18mm lens.

27. The view from a bar we stopped at to check up on the football.

28. When we eventually found this handy sign we knew we were back at our hotel.

29. Day two. We failed to get onto the Poveglia island as we could not find anyone who dared go near the place so we explored yet more streets. Cirila's beauty captured with the Fuji 60mm f/2.4 lens.

30. Speedlight and sun in harmony, well nearly. The humble Speedlight is such a great versatile light source.


32. The primary colours of pigment and light.


Day two was hotter than day one but drier too. Just a mere 34 degrees by 4pm. Just 24 hours in Venice and normality seemed a distant past.



36. A Cornetto moment.



39. This chap looked interesting.




43. The 60mm Fuji lens has a wonderful bokeh wide open at f/2.4.  By comparison, my Canon 100mm creates rugby ball highlights from point sources at the edges of the frame.




47. We used settings way beyond the exposure compensation available on the Fuji so Manual is definitely the way to go with this camera for interesting lighting scenarios.

48. A splash of flash brough this shot of Cirila alive.



51. Cirila at Hanley's post.




55. The shot.

56. Bring sunglasses.

That is a selection of the 130 frames I’ve shot on the Fuji X-Pro1 and Luke has edited in Lightroom.

Chris and I would love you to join us in Venice later this year or at this time next year. We need to establish the numbers of people interested in the first instance in order to set up the dates and workshops as required. If you would like to join us in Venice please email Blaise and ask to be kept in the loop. We will keep the prices low and the training top notch so a good value experience will be had. We have done the hard work so that you don’t have too. All the shoot spots are within a 1km radius and away from the madding crowds. We will start at a water bus stop on the Grand Canal at 09.30 and finish at 18.30 each day. Frequent stops at cafes or pizzerias as required. Expect an amazing exhilarating adventure!

Venice is the ideal location to combine a sightseeing trip with a workshop or two. We won’t be going anywhere near St Mark’s square or the bigger piazzas so there will be plenty to see on your days either side of the workshops. You will be free to stay at any hotel or b&b to meet your budgetary needs.

A camera with one or two zoom lenses and a fast prime like a 50mm f/1.8 will be a perfect kit list. There is limited space to put camera bags down without blocking the narrow alleyways so traveling light will be the order of the day. Damien will provide the lighting kit required and one flash trigger for each delegate. This event will be the stuff of legend.

Drop Blaise an email ASAP if you would like to join us (No obligation whatsoever at this stage).

UPDATE: A two day photography masterclass in Venice, with me and Chris, is now available to book online.

Please feel free to comment on these pictures.



  1. Julian Mitchell

    So Damien, do you prefer the x-pro over the x100?

    • damien

      Hi Chris,

      Your colours are spot on. Top shooting bud. In October we will be raising the bar so be prepared!

      Cheers, Damien.

  2. Mark

    This is interesting!

    Color images are not similar to fuji.

    • damien

      Hi Mark,

      You are absolutely right about the colours. I’ve not got them right yet. I popped the shots into Lightroom on my laptop and gave the colour a look but it is not great. I’ll certainly get the colours gorgeous on any that I print. This was just a test shoot as such and I’m not expecting to do much with the pictures. I will be setting up Lightroom presets to emulate Velvia, Provia etc so I can apply them as required.

      Kindest regards,


  3. Nathan Jones

    Lovely shots. Was there a couple months ago, such a great place. If I thought I could afford it, would happily up sticks and live there. I only took my X100 for the trip….. you can see the fuji family resemblance in your set!

    • damien

      Thanks Nathan.

  4. david cooke

    Looks like a wonderful place, you captured it perfectly, Cirila has amazing eyes, what a lovely model, will she be the model for the workshops Damien ???.

    • damien

      Hi David,

      Thanks :) Cirila does indeed have amazing eyes. It will be up to the delegates to agree on the models. We have a closed Facebook group that they can discuss these things on. Chris will want a size 12 or 14 girl for the bridal shoots and I might go curvy too but that is up to the delegates. Get yourself booked on and you can request her.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

  5. Alex Harrison

    Ahhhh, Venice! In my mind you really can’t have a better location. My wife and I spent many hours exploring the back streets, finding out of the way cafe’s and pizzerias. Your photos have brought it all back.

    The light there, coupled with the fading glory just makes for magical photos – congrats to you and Chris for choosing such a fab place. I’m sure the workshops will be amazing…

    • damien

      Thanks Alex, Magical Venice indeed.



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