Charlotte ~ The Phnom Penh sessions

Sep 6, 2014 | Continuous Lighting, Location | 7 comments

01. Charlote

01. Charlotte from Paris with her fabulous command of English was our model for the Lovegrove Nudes session in Phnom Penh.

Our locations for these sessions were the Mansion House and the old Police Station building, both now in a dilapidated condition but rich in texture. The Mansion house is full of bullet holes and the police station is home to a colony of fruit bats plus a few rats. Linda Bell and her team from Essential Explorations secured both locations for us to shoot in with negotiations that lasted days. It was worth it. Here are 33 of my pictures of Charlotte. NSFW after the jump or below the fold.

02. Charlotte is a super fun girl with energy.

02. We started on the first floor of the Mansion House with some flowing movement and natural lighting from the open balcony.

03. Building and capturing a sequence of pictures with rapport was one of the exercises I set the delegates.

03. Creating and capturing a sequence of pictures with rapport was one of the exercises I set the delegates. A dynamic element is often lacking in my portraits so I used the Cambodia sessions to readdress that.

My Fuji kit in Cambodia

My camera kit in Cambodia for portraits comprised a Fuji X-T1 with 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 56mm prime lenses. My wife Julie used the Fuji X-E2 with the 10-24mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms most of the time but we shared the long and wide zooms when shooting landscapes. The X-Pro1 was used by my daughter Francesca and me from time to time as we tended to swap cameras occasionally. The 60mm lens is still my favourite prime so it got plenty of use too. On the left are my ND and polarising filters in stacking caps. The Speedlight is a Cactus RF60 and the trigger is a Cactus V6. The bag is a Think Tank Retrospective 7. We also had a Think Tank Retrospective 30 camera bag with us in Cambodia. [The Fuji X-Pro1 has had a custom wrap fitted as part of a product testing programme for Fujifilm UK. They now offer a pimping service for customers cameras]


04. The sun came and went so I chose Charlotte’s position carefully in these former corridors of power. It was a warm 37 degrees so we had plenty of bottles of water and cans of drinks on ice to hand.


05. I was shooting at 90 degrees or greater to the light for a lot of my images without eye contact. It’s part of my lighting strategy. ISO 800, 23mm lens at f/2 for 1/125th second


06. The floors needed a bit of a clean before Charlotte could sit on them.

I edited these pictures on our tour bus between Phnom Penh and Kep. It was not an ideal workspace and the green curtains didn’t help either. I used my ageing Macbook Pro and just popped the raw files through Lightroom. They have not been into Photoshop. There is quite a bit of tonal variation in this set, a few images are overworked and a few images are a bit flat. That will need sorting before I re-export and make prints of any of the photographs.


07. I decided to keep the bullet hole in the shot to the right of Charlotte. It would be easy to remove in Lightroom 5 now that the clone and healing tools work so well. The shot on the left was exposed at 1/2000th second with the 56mm lens at f/2 using ISO 200.


08. Sheen and highlights. I usually leave my light sources out of the shot but I like the tatty window so I fired off a frame with that in too. The shot on the right has delightful cheek and chin highlights that bring Charlotte’s face to life. 56mm lens, ISO 400, 1/250th second at f/2.8


09. I love these textures. You might recognise the tutu skirt. It came from Ebay and has travelled with me around the world. One long term project of mine is a book called tutu, you never know it might get printed one day.


10. Hair can be used as a soft barrier to create either a mysterious or alluring look. On the right the hair across Charlotte’s face adds to her playfulness.


11. ISO 1600, 1/125th at f/2.8 using the 14mm lens top and 23mm lens bottom.


12. I directed an asymmetrical pose for Charlotte to put a strong diagonal in her shoulders and that super curve in her waist. Tip toes completes the look. It had just started raining when I took this shot. 20 minutes later the rain had stopped and the streets below us were steaming.


13. With the light – 90 degrees to the light – and into the light.


14. There’s usually scope for some fun with a tutu skirt. ISO 3200, 23mm lens at f/1.4 and 1/125th second.

I’ll be back in Cambodia for one more tour in 2015. If you have a spirit of adventure and want to shoot a mix of travel, landscape, street and portrait photography then email Blaise my PA or Linda at Essential Explorations. There’s talk of photography adventures in Bali and Cuba too.



  1. Isidoro

    I’m an amateur photographer and I shots portrait and weddings. I usually I don’t like nude photography because it’s difficult to handle and can lead to vulgar or poor results…but in rare cases I do like it a lot. This images are some of the best nudes I’ve ever seen: delicate, elegant, well balanced in posing, post production…Very compliments to you Damien and to Charlotte. Greetings from Italy!

  2. Nigel Betteridge

    Wonderful images, and clearly excellent rapport between you and Charlotte. Your answer to John re: the 60mm v 56mm has been very useful to me too. Thank you.

    • Damien

      Thanks Nigel :)

  3. John Cooper

    Thanks for taking the time to talk about the xf 60mm Damien, very helpful.

  4. John Cooper

    Great images as always Damien, beautiful b/w tones and very atmospheric feel.
    Can I ask why the 60mm is your favourite prime? There’s been so much praise for the 56mm. I need to buy
    one of them and prefer the price of the 60mm. One of these should do me until the 90mm F2 comes out next year.

    • Damien

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      On why the Fuji XF60mm f/2.4 Macro is my favourite lens…

      I have had many favourite lenses over the years but with each generation of lens design
      the optics have always improved. My recent top optics were the HC 210mm f/4 lens for
      Hasselblad and then the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L but right now the Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4
      R Macro ticks all the boxes for me. I’ve always liked the short telephoto field of view and
      the 60mm lens sits right in the sweet spot for my style of shooting.
      The 60mm is bokeylicious and I’m not talking about blurred the out of focus the
      background is but the way the out of focus areas are rendered. The 60mm lens produces
      an oil painting like background that has no equal. [picture 1] I also have the rather
      wonderful XF56mm f/1.2 lens and although it is two stops faster it doesn’t handle the out
      of focus areas in quite as pleasing a way. Even with both lenses at f/2.4 I prefer the look of
      the 60mm lens. The 56mm lens is perfect in low light and gives a more pronounced out of
      focus bokeh effect but the 60mm is smaller and lighter and on a system designed to be
      compact this can become quite significant.
      The 60mm produces images that look fabulous at f/16 and f/22 as well as wide open at
      f/2.4. This matters because when I shoot with flash out in the sun I often find myself at ISO
      200, 1/180th second (X sync) and at f/16 or f/22. There are times when I want to have the
      background out of focus when I’m using flash in full sun and I use a Hoya ND1000 filter
      (approximately 6 stop) to get from around f/16 to f/2.4.
      The 60mm lens was the first I owned with my Fuji X-Pro1 and remains my favourite lens in
      the line up to date. In the early days it gained a poor reputation for slow focussing but
      lately firmware updates for both the lens and the camera bodies have solved this problem
      and I find the 60mm snaps into focus perfectly fine, time and time again.
      The lens design of the 60mm has a natural close focus capability and I love to get in close
      when I shoot portraits. Being able to get on in without resorting to switching into macro
      mode is a real bonus for me.

      I hope this helps, Damien.


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