Bethany & Shadrack ~ The Kep sessions

Sep 24, 2014 | Continuous Lighting, Location, Travel | 2 comments


01. The palace on the mountain top is the most magical location I have ever shot in. The planning, negotiation and traveling were certainly worth the effort.

Gorgeous couple Bethany, a model from Phnom Penh and Shadrack, a professional footballer joined us in Kep for tour 2. When Linda at Essential Explorations and I set out the schedule for our Cambodia adventures we wanted to recruit fabulous models with a good command of English. We knew we were going to photograph the local Khmer people throughout the rest of the trip so we set out to make the four dedicated portrait sessions an exciting contrast. Here are 40 of my shots from these sessions. Enjoy


02. Shadrack is such a good model to shoot. I controlled the natural light to highlight his body contours. People often ask me “Do you use a different lighting strategy for men?” My answer is always no.

I shot all of these frames with my Fuji X-T1 with 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm prime lenses.


03. A stamp of the foot set the ripples in motion. The Fuji X-T1 captures all the tones so effortlessly making it easy to print the darkest shadows and the lightest highlights.


04. The clouds rolled in through the open window reveals reducing the temperature from a hot 38 degrees at sea level to a cool 18 degrees here in the clouds on the mountain.


05. I could have shot in this building all day. Next year, on our Cambodia tour 3, we will arrive here an hour earlier and leave later. This venue is so magical.


06. Kep is littered with abandoned villas. Some with bullet holes, others with mortar holes. This outside staircase was the perfect location for a group shot. Yulia takes the upper ground in these photographs.


07. An encroaching rain forrest will soon take over these abandoned houses.


08. Shadrack has a wonderful physique to light. Once the X-T1 files are downloaded Lightroom makes such easy work of the images. I use the ‘Fuji Pro Neg S’ profile to deliver a full range of tones. I get the colours spot on first, make a virtual copy, then click the Black & White button.


09. When I’m lucky enough to photograph dark skin I always compose and light for the highlight sheen. With pale skin I compose and light for the shadows. It seems obvious really but it was my BBC training that taught me exactly how to do it.


10. I wanted to shoot a few frames of Bethany and Shadrack together. Couples photography has to be one of my favourite genres.


11. I constantly change my viewpoint and opt for a less is more approach.


12. Like a bird, floaty and calm. This was the moment Bethany and I connected. It usually takes just a few moments of intense concentration and a mutual trust to break through the superficial barriers we both put up and to fully connect with a portrait sitter.


13. I love using 2x 3/4 back lights. The lighting here was all natural. The subject and camera placement was critical to make it work. My delegates often learn a great deal about using light when we use the light around us in situations like these. This can be more valuable a learning experience than when we start rigging flash systems.


14. Bethany has the most wonderful eyes and legs. I love to shoot the detail. Two point, key and kick lighting on the left and contré Jour lighting on the right.


15. I set my 23mm lens to f/5.6 for the shot on the left. The 56mm lens was set wide open to f/1.2 for the shot on the right and I used classic three point lighting with some flare.


16. Clarity and purity of tone is what I like to achieve in my monochrome work. These pictures have not been near Photoshop. A few tweaks of Lightroom delivers the look I capture in camera.


17. Back on the beach at Kep. I shot this just before sundown and a few cocktails at the sailing club.


18. A fabulous end to the day’s shooting. The air was cooling off and the lights were coming on all around the bay.

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 We will run one more photography adventure in Cambodia in 2015 plus a trip to Bali and Cuba too.


  1. Sergey

    fantastic fotos!!!

    • Damien

      Thanks Sergey :)


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