Portraits in the ruins of Spain with the Fuji X-Pro1 ~ pictures and techniques

Oct 12, 2012 | Flash, Location | 29 comments

01. Natalia Warner lit with a single Speedlight in a Lovegrove Gemini bracket with a 30cm silver umbrella. 18mm lens, 1/125th second at f/11.

Every year I run a few spectacular workshops abroad somewhere in the sun and always at visually inspiring locations. This year it was the turn of southern Spain and the area around Cartegena. We ran a similar workshop in 2011 and centered that event around an abandoned monastery. This year we used other abandoned locations including a mineral extraction factory, a military barracks, and mine buildings. Here are a selection of my pictures and the settings I used to create them

02. The same lighting set up as above. 18mm lens f/8 (with a 4x ND filter), 1/125th at ISO 200.

03. 35mm lens f/8 (with 4x ND filter) 1/125th at ISO 200.

Lighting kit per group:

2x Canon 580 EX2 Speedlights, 1x Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Lovegrove Gemini bracket, 2 Lastolite Jupiter stands, Pocket Wizard triggers and receivers.
A silver umbrella, a panel reflector or Lastolite Ezybox. All the kit needed was supplied by us or shared among the delegates. The systems were simple and very effective.

Models: Natalia Warner and Olivia Ward

Local fixer: Mickie Imre

My camera kit: Fujifilm X-Pro1, 60mm, 35mm and 18mm lenses, Gitzo 3551 monopod, RRS ball head and L-Plate with grip.

All Speedlights were in manual mode and triggered using the standard (non control TL) signals.

My fellow tutor on this event was Martin Hill. Martin is a top pro photographer and an all round great bloke. Between us we reccied the locations, surveyed the risks, organised the local support and made it happen.

04. A directional pool of light from a bright silver umbrella in the Gemini bracket. 18mm lens, ISo 200, f/14 at 1/125th second. The flash head is right alongside the shaft of an umbrella when rigged in a Gemini making it suitable for creating a directional pool of light.

05. Liv Ward in a dark corner of an abandoned factory. 35mm lens, ISO 800, 1/180th second at f/1.8.

I used a combination of manual exposure mode and aperture priority with exposure compensation for the continuous light pictures depending upon the situation I was in. All the flash exposures were in manual mode.

06. The light was so wonderful outside we often alternated between shooting interiors and exteriors at each location. 60mm lens, 1/500th second at f/2.8.

07. I love the monochrome set of images I created in Lightroom. There is a presence and sparkle in them. I lit this frame with a bare faced Speedlight. 18mm lens at f/5.6 ISO 200, and 1/125th second.

08. A simple slash of flash gives Natalia a striking contrast. ISO 200, 35mm lens at f/16 using 1/125th second. A five stop ND filter would have dropped the aperture to f/2.8.

09. A typical Lovegrove lighting set up created a striking set of pictures. ISO 200, 60mm lens, f/2.8 at 1/480th second.

10. Natalia shot with my 60mm lens at f/4 ISO 200, 1/240th second.

11. 60mm at f/2.8 and 1/210th second with ISO 200.

12. 60mm at f/4 with 1/600th second exposure using ISO 200.

1/60th at f/4 using 1/750th second at ISO 200.

14. As above.

15. It was coincidence that the name Natalia was on this wall so I had to use it in a shot of Natalia. I like the ‘A’s in the graffiti. ISO 1000, 60mm at f/2.4 using 1/250th second hand held.

16. Settings as above.

17. I took this frame of Olivia in the afternoon sunlight using ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/250th second.

18. ISO 250, 60mm lens f/2.8 at 1/250th second.

19. Settings as above.

That was my last sequence of shots from Day 1. Martin and I swapped delegates every now and then so that everyone got to shoot every setup. So this set makes up half the shots the delegates took overall.

We drove back to the hotel some 30 minutes away in three vehicles. Martin and I drove the delegates and Mickie drove our models. The evenings were social affairs starting with a few tapas and finishing with a fine meal in a smart local Taverna. After dinner a certain Gecko made an appearance. The food was wonderful along with the service and all was remarkably inexpensive.

Day two started where we left off on day one, at our ‘barracks in the woods’.

20. The first sequence of day two used a silver reflector on Natalia as a secondary light source. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/250th second shutter speed.

21. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.8 using 1/250th second.

22. A bit more reflector upped the settings needed. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.8 using 1/550th second shutter speed.

Positioning of the Speedlight or reflector, control of the power and balancing with the ambient was the core subject of the workshop. These are all skills that need days to learn and a lifetime to master. Some of the delegates were far more advanced as photographers than others but when we are out in the field the situation is a leveler. Some delegates were concentrating on composition, some on model direction and others on the technical aspects of exposure and lighting. The buzz in the groups was electric.

23. Settings as above.

24. Natalia in the window, lit with dappled sunlight. 60mm lens at f/4, 1/680th second.

25. Key and kick lighting with a quick and easy setup when you know how. ISO 800, 60mm lens at f/2.8, 1/1800th second. I could have swapped some shutter speed for ISO but it wouldn’t have really noticed because the Fuji X-Pro1 is so clean at ISO 800.

26. Natalia is gorgeous in this light. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.4 using 1/600th second.

27. The scenery.



After the barracks session on day two we moved onto the ‘widows cottage’ and the ‘tunnel of love’. Martin shot the tunnel with the delegates while I shot the cottage.

30. ISO 200, 18mm lens, f/8 at 1/420th second. The rocks in this area were tinged with purple, orange and green hues. The sky was deep and blue.

31. Our destitute widow outside her crumbling shack :) ISO 200, 35mm f/5.6 at 1/950th second.

32. This location produced some of the most dramatic pictures from the workshop days. Careful use of a reflector created the light for Natalia to shine in. ISO 200, 18mm lens, f/2.8 at 1/130th second.


33. ISO 200, 18mm lens, f/2.8 at 1/750th second.

34, It was at this point I heard howls of laughter from the other group in the tunnel. Day two was a magical day for me. Being creative with a great group of talented photographers and models in fabulous locations like this is a wonderful life experience. ISO 200 35mm lens, f/5.6 at 1/320th second.

35. 35mm lens with settings as above.

36. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/3.2 with 1/500th second.

37. One of my favourite pictures this year and perhaps ever. It takes time for a picture to earn it’s place in my portfolio because I’m always caught up with the emotion of the moment. I really must mention the monumental effort and dedication Natalia showed to us this day. Total respect! ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/3.2 with 1/350th second.

38. 18mm lens at f/2, ISO 200 at 1/850th. This is the same location as shot 32 but after lunch with group two. The sun moves around 15 degrees an hour so it is easy to predict what will happen.

39. ISO 200, 35mm lens at f/2 with 1/320th second exposure.

40. Settings as above.

41. A single Speedlight created the magic. ISO 200, 35mm lens at f/8 with a 1/125th second exposure.

The next location on day two was the old mine workings that Martin and I had discovered in 2010. They were a mere 5 minute drive from the ‘widows cottage’.

42. A simple two Speedlight set up was used to make this portrait of Olivia. ISO 200, 18mm lens at f/13 with a shutter speed of 1/125th second.

Our final location on day two was en route back to the hotel. Martin an I had missed the palm trees at the monastery so we found some others to use at a nearby ruin.

43. Olivia lit with natural light. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/3.2 using 1/250th second.

44. Natalia in a ruinous paradise. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/4 with 1/250th second.

45. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.8 for 1/250th second.

That was my last frame from the two day workshop. All that remained was to get back to the hotel and go out to celebrate. Not too hard though because we had a group creative shoot the next day leaving the hotel at 10:00am.

Day three: The creative day.

By now the Speedlight way had been taught and it was time for the group to take it’s own initiave at the locations Martin and I had chosen. We started near the beach.

46. A natural light shot of Natalia.

47. The intensity of reflected light on Natalia made it hard for her to open her eyes fully and I like her smouldering look that ensued. ISO 200, 60mm at f/3.2 for 1/340th second.

48. The sandstone cliffs gave us a dramatic background to compose with. I used two Speedlights direct on full power in one Gemini bracket to light Natalia. ISO 200, 18mm lens at f/8 (with ND filter) at 1/125th second.

49. Olivia at another double Gemini set up using ISO 200, 18mm lens (with ND) at f/8 for 1/125th second.

50. Natalia at the beach life guard hut. Lit with the twin Speedlight set up. ISO 200, 18mm lens (with ND) at f/8 for 1/125th second.

We had lunch at a beach bar before moving onto the final location of the creative day. An amazing ruinous naval fort with wonderful outbuildings and commanding views.

51. Natalia on the ‘wall of destruction’. This was a wonderful place to be soaking up the sun and being creative. ISO 200, 18mm (with ND) at f/8 for 1/250th second using a reflector to light Natalia.

52. Martin had rigged a couple of Speedlights for us at this striking location. The Pocket Wizard triggers worked through the walls okay and that was just what we needed. ISO 200, 18mm lens, f/16 at 1/125th second.

53. Natalia in a stores room at the fort. ISO 200, 35mm f/2.5 at 1/250th second.

54. I love the simplicity of window light. ISO 1000, 60mm f/2.4 at 1/200th second.

55. ISO 1000, 60mm at f/2.4 for 1/900th second.

56. Olivia by window light. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.4 for 1/125th second.

57. Classical lighting and angles. ISO 200, 60mm at f/2.4 for 1/100th second.

58, Beautiful Olivia. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.4 for 1/90th second. This the absolute bottom shutter speed I can hold this lens steady for. I should have upped the ISO to 400 and used 1/180th second. Focus wide open with the 60mm lens is superb.

59. I went deeper into the ammunition store with Natalia. The light dropped off considerably but it was fabulous light. ISO 1000, 60mm lens at f/2.4 for 1/120th second.

60. ISO 1000, 60mm f/2.4 at 1/170th second.

61. This shot was at the top of some spiral stairs to the look out and ranging tower. ISO 400, 35mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/500th second.

62. I photographed Liv at the bottom of the stairs. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/125th second.

63. Exposure as above.

64. I wanted to end the session with some shots of Liv. ISO 400, 60mm at f/2.8 and 1/125th second.

65. Olivia, our English rose. ISO 400, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/125th second.

This was the end of day three. We made our way back to the vehicles for the hour long journey through the mountains back to our hotel. We had one last night together at the taverna and said our goodbyes. Most of the delegates, martin and Olivia departed first thing in the morning.  I stayed on with Natalia and one delegate who came from Singapore for the workshop. We were out on the streets for a 1:1 session on urban portraits the next day. Here are a few frames from our street shoot. We both shot using the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and one Canon Speedlight.

66. Simple natural sunlight through trees and a diagonal composition. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/1800th second.

67. Identical spot as the shot above but a change of angle and a big four stop change of exposure even though the sunlight is the same. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.4 and 1/125th second.

68. It’s so easy to miss repeating patterns and historic architecture like this. ISO 200, 60mm at f/4 and 1/450th second.

69. A single Speedlight delivered striking results here. ISO 200, 35mm lens at f/10 for 1/125th second.

70. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/11 for 1/125th second.

71. I lit Natalia with a Canon 580EX2 mounted directly in the hot shoe of my Fuji X-Pro1. I used the flash in manual mode. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/11 and 1/125th second. The camera triggered the flash perfectly.

72. A single Speedlight with a gel was used to light Natalia. ISO 200, 18mm lens at f/5 and 1/125th second.

73. Nice fencing made from acrylic was a colourful background for this key and kick lighting set up with one off camera Speedlight. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/14 and 1/125th second.

74. The crisp hard light of a Speedlight is unmistakable and gorgeous. ISo 200, 60mm lens at f/11 and 1/125th second.

75. Reflections in parked cars caught my eye and I thought a pose to match the distorted reflections was a great idea. I’m not sure now. ISO 200, 60mm at f/2.8 for 1/125th second.

76. Fun on the run. ISO 200, 18mm lens at f/11 and 1/125th second.

77. Details and exposure as above.

78. I swapped to a 35mm lens for this shot. ISO 200, f/11 and 1/125th second.

79. I used reflected sunlight from a bit of a wall of a bank to light Natalia here. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.8 and 1/250th second.

80. Inner city jungle. ISO 400, 35mm lens at f/3.2 and 1/125th second.

81. Another shot for my girls in hedges project. ISO 200, 60mm lens at f/2.4 and 1/125th second.

82. We found some long grass too. I have a shot of Natalia in similar grass that I took two years ago in Bristol. ISO 200, 18mm lens at f/8 and 1/125th second. Flashed with our Speedlight of course.

I dropped Natalia to the airport and my delegate and I went for a Chinese meal. It was a wonderfully calm end to a fiesta of creativity and bonding.

A gallery with more of my images from this shoot with the exif data is here on the Passion Photography Experiences website. A gallery of Martin’s images with Exif is here on the Passion website.

We will be back in the autumn of 2013. Register your interest for 2013 now. Expected price will be approximately £795 for the 2 day workshop plus £120 for the optional creative day. This price covers models, lunches, drinks and transport each day. The creative day happens the day after the workshop and it a chance to put together all the skills learned on the previous two days at new exciting locations. Please look at the 2013 details here and register your interest with Blaise to be kept up to date with information, options and logistics.

Martin and I will be teaching how to shoot the big picture using Elinchrom Quadra in the vistas of Fuerteventura in the Spring of 2013. We would love you to join us on this life enhancing experience.

Please feel free to comment on these pictures or your experience of this workshop if you were fortunate enough to be a delegate.


  1. Tomas Haran

    Hi Damien. Given your latest review and samples of the new 56mm lens I was just curious to find a set of portraits done with the 60mm lens just to see what it can do and I found this post of yours from a while back. Some stunning work! Now I’m almost wondering if I even need to pick up the 56mm as its more expensive and optically probably the same. I know the af is faster and the dof is shallower, but you really did some amazing stuff with the lens here. I’m also thinking a couple of the headshots you are showing here might be a tad too close to focus with on the 56mm. Really really nice work here.

    • Damien

      Hi Tomas,

      Here is another gallery for you to look at. All the pictures on that gallery were taken with the 60mm lens. The optics are completely different and the bokeh characteristics are different even at the same aperture.

      It’s a wonderful problem to have. Which fine lens to choose.

  2. Quentin D.

    Hi Damien,

    It’s really amazing! Very inspiring! Thank you.

    As there’s no “good” raw converter software, did you shoot Raw or Jpg?


    • damien

      Hi Quentin,

      Lightroom is a brilliant raw converter for the X-Pro1 Some geeky togs who pixel peep pictures of views from bedroom windows don’t like what they see at a microscopic level but trust me the pictures out of Lightroom are sparkling with clarity and verve. Lustre and life is the secret of the Fuji pictures. The detail is as good if not better than my Canon 5D mk2 and my Nikon D700 and the pictures are so vivid. Don’t be put off by the moanings of forum goers. Judge the work of artists and look at real prints of fine photographs. It is then you will see why the X-Pro1 is so enthusiastically received. I happen to think the technical prowess of a camera is less important than it’s ability to excite you into taking pictures. Driving enthusiasm and desire to shoot is a far greater attribute for a camera to have than technical excellence. That’s why I’d favour a good camera phone over a Hasselblad H4D or whatever it’s called. In a bar among friends there would be just one winner.

      Stay inspired, stay creative and own a camera that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you pick it up. Learn to love the process of picture making and then the bits and bytes will become insignificant.

      Thanks for your kind words, Damien :)

  3. Gwyn Cole

    Simply to say “Thank You” just isn’t enough to express my appreciation. Only Damien and Martin could put on a workshop that produces this much creativity and inspiration. Like all Damien’s workshops, they are life changing experiences and your eye’s are forever opened wider in this wonderful world of portrait photography.

    • damien

      Thanks Gwyn,

      It was life changing as you say. I’m so glad the group has kept together and is having reunion shoots. Photography can be a lonely occupation or hobby and it’s friendships like ours that make the process exciting and rewarding. Stay inspired,


  4. Tom Bosch

    Beautiful work,Completely the style i like



    Tom Bosch Art Photography

    • damien

      Thanks Tom. I’m glad you like them :)

      Regards, Damien.

  5. Stefan Vogelzang

    Beautiful shoot Damien! Good location, light and model forms a good basis to start with. And so much more control then during weddings! :) Keep up the good work

    • damien

      Hi Stefan,

      Yes it’s control all the way and that’s just how I like it. Thank you for your compliments. :)

      Kind regards, Damien

  6. Vangelis

    Thank you Damien and Martin for this amazing and life changing experience. The locations were captivating, the models were amazing and very well chosen to suit all levels of experience, and the shots that were demonstrated were full of emotion and storytelling. This was photography at its best. I feel I have gained a lot in these three days and this is thanks to all the knowledge and experience that was passed on to all the delegates by two charismatic photographers. Needless to say i made some good friends during these three days!

    • damien

      Thank you Vangellis,

      We are so fortunate to have been in Spain with you guys. The event was truly amazing for Martin and I too. Fuerteventura will take everything to the next level. I do hope you can join us :)

      Happy days! Damien.

  7. Bas Thijssen

    Hi Damien,

    Let me introduce myself first. I’m a fellow cameraman, living in the Netherlands. Working for a lot of big shows, for Top of the pops when it was broadcasted here, Strictly come dancing and The Voice of Holland. It’s the greatest way to earn your money I think…
    I also own a X-Pro1, with a 18 and 35mm lens. I use it a lot for streetlike-photography. My big question is: do I really miss a 35mm? Or can I do the most of it with the 2 lenses I own. I’ve heard the 35 is great quality-wise…. And in 2 weeks I’ll be in Egypt, so do I want it over there?
    Do you have an idea?? (I know it’s a personal thing but I like to talk about it with fellow camera-lovers…)

    regards and I really like your work!

    Bas Thijssen

    • damien

      Hi Bas,

      I hope my reply isn’t too late. I assume it is a typo in your question… “I also own a X-Pro1 with a 18mm and 35mm lens…” I assume you have the 18mm and 60mm as you are enquiring about the 35mm lens. I use all three lenses plus I have the X100 with it’s 23mm lens (35mm equivelent full frame). Egypt has some big slopey buildings that love a moderate wide lens when up close or a standard lens from 400m away :)

      Have a great trip :)

      Kindest regards, Damien.

  8. Steve Fuller

    A great write up and have to say have been really impressed with what this camera can do! I currently have an x100 and have been pleased with what that can deliver, so having an option to change lenses is a tempting reason to upgrade!

  9. Howard Angus

    Superb Damien. I’m writing to Blaise when I’m finished here :-)
    The locations are stunning in their own right but the models really emphasise the dilapidation!
    That hol(e)y roof is awesome. Fine work.

    • damien

      Thanks Howard, I like it when planning and preparation meet opportunity.

      Kindest regards,


  10. Sona

    Damien, I bow in front of you:) You are like a master of light!!!! Amazing set of photos as usual, there are so many of them I like that it’s hard to choose only few favourites, but here I’ll try:) 3, 15, 26, 33, 34, 38, 47, 50, 51, 53, 61, 68, 71,78, 81. Once again! Absolutely fantastic work! I can’t wait for our Urban Portraits workshop!!!

    • damien

      Hi Sona, it’s been a pleasure reading your comments and understanding your passion for photography. Our shoot together will be a very special experience. Bring it on! Thanks for your continued support and kind comments.

      Best regards,


  11. Sam

    Fantastic read!

    How come you went for 1/125 for all the flash shots?

    • damien

      Thanks Sam,

      Well 1/180th second is the flash sync speed of the X-pro1 but it is not on the shutter speed dial. It would be great to have an x setting but the best we have is 1/125th. There is the facility to nudge the shutter speed up or down one or two thirds of a stop but that ‘electronic’ mode is not fixed like a dial setting. So I settled on 1/125th plus ND filters as required.

      Kindest regards,


  12. Teck

    Thank you Damien and Martin for such a well planned workshop. The rustic ruins, warm coloured landscapes and scenic places are a welcome change to Singapore urban settings and provided so many photo opportunities for learning. It is a pleasure watching and learning Martin Hill’s speedlight
    creativity skills and how he frames the model against a background feature, and not forgetting the smoke pellets that he uses in the tunnel shots.

    Before the start of each session, I like that both of you would explained the ground situations, how to make use of natural lights and speedlights and offering tips on model positioning and poses during the actual shoots.

    Finally the choice of the two models (Natalia and Olivia) were thoughtful and deliberate, representing different contrasting qualities and the challenge is for us to create that yin and yang moments.

    Also thank you to Mickie for her endless supply of ice cold coca colas, mineral water and food, making each photography session an effortless task.

    PS: Besides the Gecko, the succulent lamb food at the Pincho de Castilla restaurant is a must try for your delegates at the next Spain workshop.

    • damien

      Thank you Teck,

      Thank you for your kind words and workshop appraisal. I really enjoyed our time together plus shooting with you exclusively on day four. The workshops were a journey of creativity and information delivery. I’d love the chance of shooting with you again soon.

      Kindest regards,


  13. Denise


    • damien

      Thank you Denise. :) I appreciate your comment. Best regards, Damien.

  14. Lee Jolley

    This was an amazing workshop Damien. I don’t feel I can really call it a workshop as it felt like a holiday. You, Martin, Natalia, Olivia and Mickie were absolutely second to none. Not only in the professional sense but as people to spend time with too. As if that wasn’t enough my fellow delegates were incredible. So much so we all stay in touch and have been arranging our own shoots. Thank you for an incredible experience. One that has had a huge impact on me and my photography!

    • damien

      Thanks Lee, I’m excited to have met you and to be shooting alongside you at workshops to come. You were a star amongst the group and a joy to be with.

      Stay inspired,


  15. damien

    Thanks for your kind words Kevin.

    I use Canon PW Mini or PW Plus 2 or any Ebay type transmitter straight on the X-Pro1. Canon flash work in M mode right on the top too if you ever need on camera flash. I rarely do.

    Best regards,


  16. Kevin

    Incredible photos Damien. I’ve not explored the flash capabilities yet but clearly it’s very capable.


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