I’m Back From Another Week in Swingin’ London Baby, Yeah!

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! :)

  1. Great post, Scott (you snuck this one in just before my bedtime!)! Sounds like you had a blast over in the UK. Welcome back to the Colonies!

    Does this mean all of your posts will now be on Greenwich Mean Time, and we should adjust our schedules accordingly???? 8)

    Hey, Ken! Scott’s back!!!! :D


    1. Hi Tom: when you use iPhoto on a Mac (which has those awesome built-in drag and drop pre-designed templates) you click one button and it uploads the book to Apple for printing and binding. They delivercthe finished printed book in just a few days.


  2. Great shots, looks like a great time! Although, after seeing that burger shot, now I am hungry, but its only 9:30AM my time…too early for burgers :)

    What was your walk around gear for these shots through the city?

    1. Hi Ken:
      I used the exact same set up I used in Denmark a few weeks ago: I took just one camera body (my Nikon D3s) nd just one lens, a 28-300mm f/3.5 – f/5.6. I packed them in my carry-on luggage, but it got really heavy, which is why my wife thoughtfully picked me up a very small, super lightweight Tamrac shoulder bag. I checked my carryon bag as luggage for the flight home and it was much easier to manage flying with just that camera bag and my t
      Laptop bag. :)


  3. Hi Scott,

    Good to see that Dave and Glyn looked after you on your visit, although next time you need to get Glyn to bring you down to Devon for some amazing views and people. Both shoots looked amazing and Rueben was one hell of a find.

    Glad you all had a great time and hope to catch you next time you are over.


  4. You keep talking about Swingn’ London but I haven’t seen a swing band or dancer yet! The funny thing is I know quite a few swing dancers over there… from Melbourne, Australia.
    Great variety of great shots too!

  5. Hi Scott,

    Glad to here you & yours had a great time on this holiday break in London.
    I’m sure Messrs Dewis & Clayton are glad to be relieved of those drab grey themed monikers – they’re not really that dull in real life as you know :-) I did wonder why the weather took a turn yesterday and of course I should have realised Dave & Glyn’s order expired with your departure flight – it’s all gone grey again here!

    Hope you remembered not to get stung by a huge black taxi fare from the airport this time around! :-)



  6. Great shots of London…you left on time too, it really poured down yesterday! Did you try the Habanero at GBK?? Looking forward to the new season of The Grid!!

  7. Wow – that was a pleasure to read back! I could say a ton of stuff about this but I’ll save it for my blog. For now though I would like to say this – thank you Scott for taking a day out of your holiday to spend a day with a couple of ‘dodgy geezers’. It was appreciated but at the same time it really just felt like we were hanging out with a mate we’ve known for years, its a pleasure to call you a friend. For those who have met Scott you’ll know what a lovely bloke he is but I have to say this – not only is he an awesome bloke with an awesome wife, he is an awesome bloke because of of his awesome wife – a truly remarkable couple and when you see Kalebra look at Scott you just know how good they are together.
    I know its a bit gushing but it is true. Thank you Mr & Mrs K, Alan & Marcia, Glyn and Ed for a wonderful and fun day :)

      1. All the time – you would think he’d spent his whole life working as a chimney sweep in the East End of London. He even makes up his own cockney slang. He even insisted on wearing braces and sing the “step in time” song from Mary Poppins on every street corner. Amazing man, like a chameleon !!

      2. For some reason I’m thinking of “Singing in the Rain” in Clockwork Orange! :-)

  8. Hey Scott, nice post. Really glad you enjoy your visits to the UK, were not such a bad bunch really. Sorry I didn’t get to hook you guys up with a couple of other subjects for the shoot but hey, it looks like you had a blast, great models and I love the results, very cool. Funny how things work out, love it when a plan comes together, cue the “A” Team theme music.
    Looking at the iPhoto layouts, I think I’ll use it myself, I have a model/dancer who I just hooked up with for shoots and as a thankyou for her hard work and really helping me out for portfolio content, I think I’ll put a book together for her. It’s nice to be nice.
    Take care Scott, good luck with the next book.

    Cheers Big Ears!

  9. Looks like you had a good time. The Covent Garden performers are always good value (The audition process is ruthless), Next time you’re around you should really hop on a train down to Brighton on the seaside. Great city, an hour away from London and so much to see/shoot! Plus the community of photographers down here are a tight knit, fun loving bunch.

    Cheers eh?

    1. Hi Girish:
      I mostly used my 28-300mm f/3.5 – f/5.6 lens, but I had to sometimes had to raise the ISO a bit, to 400 or 800 ISO (which is fine on a D3s), but to get a little more light (and less depth of field), I borrowed Glyn’s 70-200mm f/2.8 and his 24-70mm f/2.8 on a couple of occasions.

    1. Hi Jesper:
      There were windows along one side of the studio, but I can’t swear they were facing north (I should have pulled out my iPhone’s built-in compass and checked it), but since it was the only natural light available, if I didn’t like the direction, I was out of luck. ;-)

      There were two rows of windows; the top row was clear, and the bottom rows were frosted, which made for some very soft light. If you look at the production shots you can see the windows on the right side of the studio.

  10. Scott, glad you got to take some family time. One question, if you didn’t work, what was the “shoot” called? 8-)
    Just curious, what camera equipment did you take and does the Queen snore?

  11. You came to Oxford? Sweet. That’s where I am. It would have been funny to have seen you on the street. I would have loved to have made a street portrait of you with my film camera. Funnily enough I walk right past the Gourmet Burger place pretty much every day during my lunch break.

    You can see some of my street stuff on my photo blog: http://www.simplyoxford.com


  12. Hey Scott,
    Your opening paragraph had me. Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall, WOW!
    I love all the shots, but I think the best one is of you & your beautiful wife in the car with authentic smiles. :)
    Cheers my friend,
    PS That Dave Fella’ is quite a guy isn’t he?

  13. You ought to offer Prince William’s new bride, Kate Middleton, a free year of Kelby Training and NAPP membership. She’s supposedly very keen on Digital Photography. Having a NAPP member in the Royal Family couldn’t hurt.

  14. I love your travel stories! And the photos that illustrate them. I can live vicariously through you and travel to all these great places through them too. Thank you so much for sharing your world and for being who you are. :) Welcome home!

  15. What a famtastic read :)
    Scott, I totally echo Dave C’s comments above in that it was a superb day hanging out, meeting Kalebra and of course Alan and Marcia; Lots of laughs and memories that day and a restaurant Im going to have to take a return trip to.

    Thanks for taking time out of your ‘time out’ to catch up and allow Dave and I to redeem outselves; geez if only you knew the favours we had to call in for that sunshine ;)

    Anyway, back to reality and grey skies so take care mate and see you soon,

  16. Wow. Sounds like you had a great time. I hope I have as good of time on my Mediterranean cruise at the end of August with my fiance. I am taking my camera and hope to get lots of great shots especially in Barcelona where we are spending a few days. Thanks for all your inspiration.

    1. It’s got every aspect of every city in the world, with a cockney attitude, but it’s not all the UK has to offer, it’s an amazing place with a golden nugget around the next corner. But if you’re just passing through and you don’t have much time London is a cracking start. Come see, we’re not that scary are we Scott…… Are we?

  17. Great photos! Based in London I see these places all the time… so one loses sight of just how lucky we are… GBK is a special fave too! Thanks for the motivation (that’s photo not burger!!) :-)

  18. I’m a big fan of all your blog posts but i truly enjoy your travel posts. You do amazing things with the iPhoto books. Thanks for sharing!

  19. At last you have had some good British weather, Scott, and managed to see Oxford too! Did you take any photos of my alma mater, Balliol College?

    Balliolman :)

  20. “…do a live taping of the Grid…”
    Uh, Dude, we watched the season finale on Monday. You’re not back to that for a month.
    Someone needs to sync iCal……….

  21. Scott,
    I like how you showed your images as if they were taken of the book it self.
    I tried saving a PDF out of iPhoto and using Preview to export JPG’s but that doesn’t give the look of the book, pages, etc. How do you achieve it?
    Thank you!

  22. Awesome layout, Scott! And Apple certainly knows a thing or two about aesthetics. Overall, have you been pleased with the actual print products from Apple after uploading from iPhoto?

  23. Very entertaining blog post, easy to read and great pictures to look at. Your enjoyment justs flows from the page.

    Glad to see you’ve recharged your batteries, just a pity Matt and David killed you off in the last episode of the Grid :)

  24. What fun and inspiration just to read this blog! I thought as I read all of this….”I hope he realizes how blessed he is.” Truly you are…

    The photo presentation on your blog…are these layout pages from a book? I couldn’t pull the photo up to read the notes but the layouts are so very nice. If they layouts from a book,…which book publisher did you use?

    1. Forgive my questions about where did you get the book for your layouts in this post!! I really do know to read the entire post before asking but just assumed it was some place I didn’t know about…..I have Iphoto…will go learn how to use it!…thanks, suzanne

      1. Hi Suzanne: those are book layouts from Apple’s iPhoto. Once I had the pages laid out, I made screen captures of the book spreads for my blog. :)

  25. Hello Scott. I really liked your photo book of London, but what I really wanted to know was if you ever paid those artists for the photo shoot that you did. I like your approach and was wondering how you got people to do photo shoots like this. You have just met them and now you invite them to a photo studio. I know you have the experience and of course your website, but is it this what helps? Having your name out there so people can see your work and then take it from there? I am sure there are many people who would like the confidence you portray when approaching your work. So I was just wondering. Beautiful photographs and yes, if you ever visited my apartment/ living room studio setup, I do have ‘almost’ all your books. I had to buy a few of Matt’s and RC Concepcion as well. Denzil.

    1. Hi Denzil:
      He had agreed to do the shoot before I told him it would be a paid shoot (a modest sum, but at least it made it worth his while). After we talked and he told me he was available, I sent him an email with details, the payment amount, and a link to my site so he could see that I was legit. I think more than anything, they would want to know that you are “for real” because after all, you’re a stranger that just walked up to him on the street. Hope that helps. :)

  26. Hi, Scott! My name is Oleg. I am an amateur photographer from Russia. Thank you so much for your interesting story and wonderful photographs. I am just going to London in a month.
    At the same time I would like to thank you for excellent books! I have five ones. Special gratitudes for 3 volumes of “Digital Photography” and “7-Point System”!

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