Man, did I have an awesome week!!!! My wife and I snuck away to London for a quick 5-day vacation with some dear friends of ours, (Alan and Marcia Gassman), but the main reason for the trip was to fulfill one of Alan’s lifelong dreams—to see Eric Clapton perform at the Royal Albert Hall), which we did on Monday night.

Of course, Clapton totally rocked!!! (and the acoustically perfect Royal Albert Hall may be the best place to see a concert ever!). Great show, we had great seats, and Alan is still glowing to this day. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few stories, along with some images from the photo book I created using Apple’s iPhoto about the trip. This is a new template I’ve never used before, and I kinda like it.

During the week, I spent a lot of time shooting the four of us just being tourists around London (including a day at the British Museum—my first time there—amazing place!), so although I’ve got about 45 photos of us in the back of various London cabs, the weather was so beautiful we did an awful lot of walking, too. We took a train to Oxford for a day trip that was just beautiful, and I got to eat at one of my favorite spots (Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where my buddies took me last year), which was super-yummy.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to see the final day of a Sony-sponsored photographic exhibit by the World Photography Organization at Sommerset House museum, right next to our hotel. It showcased the winners of their annual competition WPO, and it was quite a large show (taking up two floors), and there were some really incredible images on display.



Core Blimey! Meetin’ Up With A Coupla Proper English Chappies! ;-)

Of course, I couldn’t go to London with hanging out with a few of my buddies, so one day my wife and Marcia went off shopping at Harrod’s (where she bought me a new super-small Tamrac travel camera bag), and I went off shooting with my two top chaps: Dave Clayton and Glyn Dewis. Now, you may remember last year my story about going shooting with these two English Beefeaters (the day before my London seminar), in some of the grayest, wettest, chilliest weather London could stir up (which led to Dave earning the nickname “The Earl of Gray” and Glyn being referred to as the “The Duke of Cloudyshire.”), but they totally redeemed themselves this time by ordering up five of the most beautiful blue-sky, sunny, and warm days I’ve spent in London.

(Above: L: that’s me tell Glyn I caught a fish “this big!” and the three amigos, Dave, me and Glyn on the right–photo by Chanel Fusco).

A Portrait Shoot I Wasn’t Planning On
Our first night in Swingin’ London, we went to Convent Gardens (it wasn’t far from Buckingham Place, where we were staying as guests of Her Majesty the Queen. Not really—I just wanted to see if you were still playing attention). Anyway, it was a short walk from our hotel, and we ate outside at this great cafe called “Fuel” around dusk, and while we were waiting for our food to arrive, a street performer was setting up to do a short acrobatic show right nearby, and so I strolled over with my camera and took a few shots as he was warming up the crowd.

He was hilarious (very personable), and a really polished performer, and after I took a couple of shots, I looked on my LCD and thought, “Man, this guy has a really interesting look.” He had piercings and a huge tattoo down one arm, and a mohawk. I’ve got to shoot this guy!

So, after his performance (which ended up with him assembling then free-climbing a 15-foot high pole and doing a one-handed handstand on top), I introduced myself as a photographer from America, and I told him I thought he would make a great subject for a portrait shoot. He gave me his business card (which didn’t even have his name—only his Web address), and he said to send him an email with what I had in mind (he seemed like a really nice guy in the short chat I had with him, so I was hopeful we’d be able to set something up for Wednesday afternoon, which was when I was going to shoot with Dave and Glyn.

I dropped him a note the next day, and the shoot was on. Neither Dave nor Glyn live in London, and I didn’t have time to do any location scouting, so I asked Dave and Glyn if they knew anybody with a daylight studio in central London (since I didn’t bring any lights). Dave thought me might have a connection, and as luck would have it, the studio owner he knew had a number of my books, and they gave us a smoking deal on a rental studio, with lighting! It was perfect!!! (in fact, we had three studios to choose from and Elinchrom lighting. I was jazzed). The studio, right near London’s Tower Bridge, was called (wait for it…wait for it…) “Tower Bridge Studios.” Awesome place, and they were wonderful to work with (highly recommended—here’s their link).

The shoot
Our subject, acrobatic performer Reuben Kuan (originally from Melbourne, Australia), arrived right on time (skateboard in hand) for the shoot, and we got to spend a few minutes getting to know him. Really terrific guy (here’s his Website), with a great sense of humor, and fascinating stories. He was really patient during the shoot, and we had lot of laughs along the way. Since we were mostly shooting using the natural light from the frosted glass windows, we could all shoot simultaneously, which was really ideal.

I wanted to do a few really dramatic shots on a black background, so I took two Elinchrom strip banks and put them on either side of Reuben, aiming right at each other with Reuben in the middle. I went with just those two side lights—-with no front or fill light at all, so there would be lots of shadows (we actually tried a beauty dish up front, but I thought it looked more dramatic without it).

We shot with Reuben for about an hour and a half, and we spent a lot of the time just talking with him between shots, and hearing stories of his life so far (he’s done everything from teaching elementary school to IT work and performing with a circus). Really fascinating!

Our 2nd Subject
Once we got to the studio, Glyn told me he had arranged to have a second subject for later in the afternoon, the wonderful Chanel Fusco, a London-based singer and recording artist, who he had previously done some promo shots for. First, we got to listen to her album during the shoot (her style is R&B and her music was fantastic—-here’s a link to her album “Sad Goodbyes” on iTunes. You gotta give her a listen). I kept having to ask her, “Is that you? Really! Wow!” She wrote the songs as well, and the production on the album is top notch. Great band, great recording, and really catching, interesting songs, too!

We shot using only natural light the entire time with Chanel, but we did use a reflector from time to time to bounce a little light back into her face—especially when she was backlit. Although she wasn’t a professional model, she was a natural, and the camera loved her, so it made the whole shoot very fun and having Dave and Glyn there kept us all laughing the whole time. By the way: The full page photo of Chanel on right page above, where she is surrounded by lighting gear and a fan, is totally staged. The lights were turned on—they’re just props. I thought as a recording artist, it would be cool for her to have a photo where she’s shown in the midst of a studio photo shoot.



Off to the Pub

After the shoot we walked over to a local pub, where Dave and Glyn teased me for ordering a Diet Coke, and we told stories ‘till dinner time. We headed crosstown to an Ethiopian restaurant that was recommended to us, and we met up with our other buddy Ed Davis (four time Guru Award winner, and photographer teacher at a University just outside London), and we joined up with my wife, Alan and Marcia. We stayed there laughing and talking until we closed the place (which was bad, but we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 am the following day, but we figured we could sleep on the plane, and we did).

Dave and Glyn are Gray No More
The weather was so great, and that coupled with the fact that Dave was able to score a fantastic studio at an amazing price, and Glyn came through with Chanel to shoot, well….I have to finally let these two lads off the hook. All joking aside, if there are two better chaps in all the UK, I’ve yet to meet ‘em. We had an even better time than my last visit, and having Ed meet us for dinner, and for the seven of us to all get to share a meal and laughs late into the evening really ended our vacation on a high note. Thanks Dave, Glyn and Ed for making us feel so welcome so far from home.

The Best Part of All
I didn’t do a lick of work the entire time I was there (Whoo Hoo!). I didn’t even download any shots off my card until I was on the flight home. Yup, I’m tan, rested, and ready to finish up my latest book, head to New York next week for my seminar, do a live taping of the Grid, and work on some very cool new projects for the future. OK, play time’s over—-now, back to my day gig! :)