All posts by Daniela Federici

Conde Nast Traveler Jodphur ‘Jaswant Thada’

Originally we were scheduled to shoot for Conde Nast traveller in Rajasthan 6 month’s prior. We were to shoot a pilot for my TV show named nomad traveller, but my crew and I were hostages at the taj hotel Mumbai terrorist attack, and our plans were derailed. After 8 month of healing we decided to do our Rajasthan photo shoot and pilot for our TV show nomad traveller. We settled on the exotic city of jodhpur and the stunning Umaid Bhawan palace. Still home to the Maharaja of Jodhpur.

My city guide to Jodhpur can be read online here.

The Taj group leased the palace from the Maharaja, who maintains a private wing. They have restored the palace to its original glory and is a must to visit on your trip to India. It’s like stepping back in time, to the 1920s and 30s and the send of a Hollywood movie. It’s a mix of Art Deco and Indian Ray style. It is one of the grandest buildings in the world. It took 15 years to build and 4000 workers and is considered the last great palace built in India.


The shoot idea was to create a modern version of a Maharani and capture the elegance of a bygone era. I was inspired by the portraits of the Indian royal families from that time, which were extremely glamorous and mimicked the Hollywood movie star portraits of George Hurrell from the 1920s and 30s. It was obvious that the Indian Royals were obsessed by everything Hollywood, from fashion to furnishings to architecture.

I shot it all in colour and muted the colour to represent the faded glory of the glamorous era. We case India’s super model Ujjwala Raut, who was Tom Ford’s at YSL. She is extremely graceful and elegant, but also a lot of fun to have around. I lit the entire shoot with a 3.0 Octabank and some spotted rim lights and fill lights to fill the rooms. We de-saturated the colours and shifted the blacks to browns to add an antique feeling.


We shot in and around the hotel using the Maharaja’s private car collection. One of the cars was a solid silver Rolls Royce from the 1920s. One of my favourite shots was in the very glam Maharani’s bedroom suite. It looked like something out of a Cecil B DeMille film. These images are from Jaswant Thada, a memorial up by the lake with local dancing women. On our trip we also shot at Sardar Samand, which is the Maharaja’s hunting placing, and now a nature reserve. This is a very pretty sandstone place perched on a hill with 360-degree views of the reserve.


We interviewed the Maharaja and discussed his role as a Maharaja in current times. He also told us a lovely childhood story of how he used to love roller-skating around the palace and being chased by his nannies.

The Blue City

Jodhpur is called the blue city as it was predominantly the Brahmin cast and they painted their houses blue, but there is a also story that it helps to keep the mosquitoes away.

On one of our down days we took a tuk-tuk, which is a type of rickshaw through the narrow streets of The Blue City and up to the Mehrangarh Fort. On the way we passed all the little shops filled with exotic things to wear or eat. The bring colors of their wares seemed electrified against the cobalt blue of the city streets. Click here to view my video guide to the top ten things to do in Jodhpur.

When we were half way up the hill there was lots of commotion on the narrow streets. Then suddenly the sky was ominously darkened and one of the local shop owners shouted for us to take cover as a sand storm was coming.

We looked out across the desert sky and saw the wall of sand coming towards us. We’d never seen anything like it. We all covered our eyes, noses and mouths with scarves as the sand filled the air around us. The driver kept going through the streets to try and find refuge. But it passed as soon as it came.

It was eerie but fantastic and exhilarating. I’ll never forget the visual of the storm approaching and the silent stillness that came before the roar of the sand flying around us.



Last week was a horrible news week with the continued terrorist attacks by extremists.

It brought back memories of being hostage at the Taj Palace in Mumbai four years ago.

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We were route to shoot for Conde Nast Traveler USA and do an episode on my TV show Modern Nomad in Rajasthan.

Our timing arriving at the Taj couldn’t have been worse as it was ten minutes prior to the terrorists.

We were the lucky ones who survived as we had made it up to the first floor bar for a crew meeting, but most of the people who had been checking in next to us were slaughtered.

I don’t blame the kids with guns who held the trigger, I despise and resent the people training them and ordering them to commit these acts of cruelty against humanity. Terrorism has no winners!

The bizarre thing was I was asked to return to India to shoot the relaunch campaign for the Taj Mumbai reopening.

The advertising agency run by Andrew Sacks, who had booked me had no idea I was a hostage.

Below is a news clipping of me climbing out the window after a long ordeal.


It was my crew who smashed through the windows and tied the curtains together to save 65 people. I’m very proud of my Australian, American team as they kept their heads together and moved quickly.

One of the campaign shots and the shot of the staff celebrating the reopening in the stairwell where so many people were shot.


The video here shows the making of the campaign and the touching moment when we photographed the entire staff on the staircase.

The Taj Floating Palace on Lake Pichola, Udaipur, India

Udipur is one of my favorite places in the world and is known as the Venice of India .

It was the summer palace for the Royal Family and was leased to the Taj Hotel group in the early 1970s. The maharaja of Udipur is one of India’s most eccentric Royals, racing his vintage Rolls Royce’s wearing full Maharaja regalia in the Dakar car races. He even has his own record label.


I first visited the lake palace as a young girl and memorized by its unique beauty, I said to my mother that I’d like to get married there when I grew up. It’s stunning and was used as a location in the James Bond film Octapussy. Remember the pool scene with all the galm women frolicking around Roger Moore? This gives the Taj Floating Palace double the appeal since I’m such a huge James Bond fan.


I’ve shot there with Elizabeth Hurley for her swimwear collection ­and have visited numerous times.

Elizabeth Hurlet shoot _ Devi Garh _ India

You are met at the airport in a fabulous vintage car and then transported to the lake where an equally stunning vintage barge takes you across the water to the entrance.

When I shot the Taj Palace Hotel campaign a few years ago, I mentioned this to Pritti, the Taj Hotel PR Manager, who said shed throw the party there when I get married…so there is still hope!


For my guide on places to see, shop and stay in Udaipur and Rajasthan visit Daniela Federici Modern Nomad.


On the Lamb
The idea was to create a series of images that looked like a 1950s thriller. A film noir theme about a woman ‘On The Lamb’. She is mysterious and glamorous and we are not sure where she is running or why.

A femme fatale, seducing men and disappearing in the middle of the night. It’s David Lynch meets Hitchcock, using Amber who has an uncanny Ava Gardner quality, both physically and in her personality. Sexy, strong, lady-like and tough.

LA Confidential 1

We shot in and around the fantastic Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs. The owners have refurbished it with original 1950s pieces so it’s like stepping back in time.

I’m a huge fan of Palm Springs to shoot. I love the 150s mid century homes. The most famous ones are by Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Stewart Williams. This iconic architecture is juxtaposed with he greenery and blue skies. It rarely rains there so it’s always sunny.


I would recommend an architectural tour and a hike up into the rocky canyons to the waterfalls. There’s great vintage shopping, fantastic hotels and restaurants.

For this image of our model ‘driving’ we used a canary yellow Cadillac from 1957. In order to get the reflection of the hotel sign in the windscreen window, I shot it as a plate and stripped it together in post.


The lighting was a small grid spot in the front to fill face and a medium grid on the back with warming gel to feel like sunlight. It’s exposed at F11 to give a great depth of field using Hasselblad 80mm, with phase back Lighting Profoto 7B.

Night flight
The photograph of the woman on the phone was taken in one of the hotel rooms at The Del Marcos Hotel. As part of our story, the heroine slips out in the middle of the night while her jilted lover (actually the photo shoot hairdresser) lies sleeping.

LA Confidential 2

Who is she talking to? Does it matter?
It’s all part of the intrigue and mystery.

We lit her with 3 grid spots. One spot on her face, one spot on her hip and one spot on her legs (highlighting the chair). The small grid spots create depth and movement of light. We filled the room with a little ambient bounce from the ceiling. The bathroom has a small grid spot on a lower exposure so it didn’t become a black hole.

LA Confidential 3


As a photographer I have always longed to shoot in certain destinations and Sicily was one of them. Fashion Editor – Sarah Gore Reeves.

Vogue Latin America – Sicily ‘Castello di Falconara’

Castello di Falconara is about a 3-hour drive from Catania in Sicily. It’s featured in Herbert Ypma’s Hip Hotels ‘Italy’ book. Herbert always profiles unique hotels with great history and character. It dates back to the 13th century and subject to various successions, today the castle is the property of the Chiaramonte Bordonaro family who has opened it to the public, making it available for exclusive holiday rental.

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It’s perched on dramatic white cliffs above a rocky beach and you enter from an arched, decrepit iron gate that feels like a set from a Tim Burton film. The façade and front are medieval and the entrance foyer is filled with stuffed animals and birds (hence the name ‘Castle of the Falconer’). As you move through the entrance, the architecture changes to a 17th century Renaissance style that reminded me of the great Visconti film ‘The Leopard’, starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale. The film is about the Prince of Salina, a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity, who tries to preserve his family and class amid the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860s Sicily.

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The large living room has wonderful fading red flock wallpaper, 19th century furniture, paintings, family portraits and lots of family snapshots in frames. The entire castle feels like you have stepped back in time. The villa has a huge central courtyard with a pretty garden and pool. Beyond the courtyard gates is a private beach with boulders and black sand. Food is prepared by the butler and his wife is a mix of Moroccan and Italian. Imagine lots of vegetarian dishes like eggplant parmigiana with ricotta…clean, healthy and delicious. It’s the perfect place to go with a group of friends for a fun week.

My favorite shot is the horizontal image with the horse seen below. I wanted to capture the fantastic entrance. We shot close to midday, when the light filled the entrance courtyard. The model’s scarf below in the breeze, she raiser her hand holding the leash, it aligned perfectly with the horse waiting in the background, and so I snapped and caught this surreal moment.

We shot on Hasselblad using Profoto 7b, using 3 grid spots in total. One spot on her face, one spot on her hip, and one on the feet. The sun was quite top heavy and acted like a rim light. The remainder of the shoot was shot around the castle and beach. That night we had an amazing dinner prepared by the household chef and then woke at 4 am to drive to Catania for our next shoot…no rest for the wicked!

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Istanbul is a perfect blend of old and new. Its exotic skyline mixed with its super hip art and culture scene makes it one of the coolest cities in the world and one of my favorites to visit. We were doing two shoots for the London Telegraph supplement with style editor Daniela Agnelli. One story was postcards from Istanbul, using all the landmarks and the other a 1920s story at the Art Noveau, Pera Palace Hotel. Postcards from Istanbul were using 1950s inspired clothes. We shot it like the 1950s Hitchcock films. Very flat and we pastelized the colors to give it a sense of the period. We shot at the stunning Aya Sophia one of my favorite buildings in the world.


Then we chose one of the ancient Hamans, which look like a scene from Arabian nights. This was tricky as the lenses kept fogging due to condensation. We learned that we needed to let the lenses acclimatize by giving them an hour to adjust to the moisture. The next location was in and around Topkapi Palace where we managed to convince the female palace manager that we were doing something elegant and a good promotion for the palace. Its funny how in ancient times the Sultans mother ran the palace and this woman was a modern version of that. She had all the power and looked as stern as a Sultans mother. Once approved we shot a fantastic 1950s car at the entrance gate, followed by a shot in the Harem. The Harem is where the Sultan kept his wives and family members and only accessible to women and the Unics who looked after them the unics were from Africa and had their gentiles removed before engaging in work at the Harem.


The interesting thing about Ottoman culture is that the Sultans couldn’t take Christian or Muslin women as slaves or concubines so they used to journey to the Russian boarders and choose the most beautiful girls. They then educated them in Literature, music, dance, the arts and social etiquette before they were introduced to the Sultan. He then had his way with them. But as long as the girls were on the good side of his mother, their lives were fairly good. They had freedom around the palace and went on the occasional journey outside. There was lots of competition in the Harem for the girls to be the Sultans number one. There are stories of poisoning and if they had bared a son, some of the other wives would attempt to poison the mother and son. For this reason the famous Gold Cage was built to protect one of the princes.


The second story was a romantic Marlene Dietrich inspired shoot at the nostalgic Pera Palace hotel. This area of Istanbul is an up and coming artsy neighborhood. The hotel was part of the Orient Express Hotel group and people who took the Orient Express train from Venice to Istanbul were encouraged to stay there. We shot in B&W sing pools of light to highlight the clothing and architectural details using prophoto 7B packs and heads. I loved the styling and ambience of the hotel the wonderful old cage elevator was beautiful.




I love Istanbul and try to visit every year to attend one of their cultural calendar events ranging from the Art Biennale to a charity event.

Cinematic Moments

Cinematic Moments CoverWelcome to my Blog — here is a little about myself and my new book ‘Cinematic Moments’.

Cinematic Moments – My life through pictures

My love of Photography started at a young age. I began shooting portraits for Australian Vogue at18 and have been shooting stills and directing ever since.

Growing up, I was obsessed with both fashion and film. I’d spend my pocket money collecting Vogue and watching as many Hollywood films as possible.

At a young age I was seduced by the glamour of the great screen legends. My love of film evolved in my early teens with the Italian Neorealist movement. Being half Italian this period really resonated. Directors like Antonioni and Fellini and actors like Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti. Then the French New wave with Goddard, Bardot, Delon and Belmondo.

As I began taking photos, I studied the remarkable cinematographers such as Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane), Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Barry Lyndon, Apocalypse Now) and later Chris Doyle (In the Mood For Love, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon).

These cinematographers inspired my lighting style and composition above any of the classic photographers. Even though I’m a huge fan of the greats like Newton, Parkinson, Bailey, Avedon, Blumfield, and Kline it was always cinematography that excited me.

I’m also passionate about travel and have a need to explore new worlds. I’m a true Nomad as I travel for work and pleasure. I’ve been to most parts of the world except China and have spent the past 30 years on a plane every second week. So the three biggest influences in my work are are the glamour of the screen legends, the exceptional cinematographers, and my undying need to travel.

This book is a true reflection of my style and personality. It’s who I am. Cinematic moments spans the past 15 years of work shot all over the globe. The images seem like a stolen moment from a make believe film where the women are glamorous and the men suave. There is an element of suspense, as if something is about to happen. Either way, I love story telling and feel that everything should have a little mystery and seduction.

From a Modern Nomad

Daniela Federici