Highlights From a Weekend in Swingin’ London
Above: That’s Peter, Dave and me with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background as we continued our series of photos of me posing in front of amazing places that won’t give me permission to shoot inside. ;-)
Howdy folks. Greetings from Birmingham, UK – I’m here for “The Photography Show” where I’m speaking today and tomorrow. I was excited to learn that my presentation today was already sold out in advance (whoo hoo!), and I’m super looking forward to meeting everybody here.
I’ve spent the past couple of days here in London having a blast with two of my photography buddies: Peter Treadway and Dave Williams (from Hybrid Photography), and we’ve had such a fun time shooting and other stuff (see below). #smize #bingo #dodgy #silentletters
Here are some highlights of the trip so far:
(1) We stood at the banks of the River Thames and looked out at the MI6 Headquarters building across the river that was blown up in a recent James Bond Movie (see video below); we Googled the lyrics to Skyfall, and the three of us sang the chorus full voice (and it was quite glorious by the way), before going in to the Tate Museum to shoot its beautiful spiral staircase.
(2) We ate at Byron Burger, which was my favorite burger place in the UK (replacing my beloved Gourmet Burger Kitchen [GBK] a few years back), until I learned and experienced an even better burger: The Meat Market, in Covent Garden. Legendary! The new reigning UK burger champ in my book. The hamburger scene here is real!
(3) We went to a Tube Station and talked with a guard who let us take some shots shooting up at the escalators (yes, it’s a thing). He was cool with it as long as we didn’t use flash or a tripod, but then later a big booming voice came over the loudspeakers saying “Photographers at the bottom of escalators 14 and 15, if you don’t have permission — desist immediately.” We had permission, so we continued on for a while and then wrapped up because we had to move on to our next spot, which was…well…not what I expected.
(4) We had special permission to shoot in this beautiful, classic old theater, and it was beautiful…well…in parts. I had seen thumbnail photos of it on Google on my iPhone from an article in The Guardian online about London’s hidden interiors. The name of this classic old theater was the Gala Bingo Hall, and I figured at one time, perhaps back in the 1930s, it was a classic old bingo hall. Here’s how the Guardian described it:
“The Gala Bingo Club is the only Grade I-listed cinema in England, and one of the most lavish in Europe. It opened on 7 September 1931 as the flagship of Sydney Bernstein’s Granada empire. The exterior was a fairly conventional affair but what set the Granada apart was the interior: designed by Russian theatre designer and impresario Theodore Komisarjevsky. The real climax is the colossal auditorium, designed to seat 3,000. It has an intricate coffered Gothic ceiling, arcaded walls and gabled Gothic canopies suspended over the proscenium arch.”
All of that is true. However, what they failed to mention in that article is that it is no longer an elegant Grade-I cinema, as the Gala Bingo hall is actually now just that — a Bingo hall! Beyond that, it has no stage — it’s been replaced with a snack bar, video screens with bingo numbers and prize amounts, plus rows of booths for people playing (wait for it, wait for it) live bingo!
Above: This is the moment of sadness when you release that the Gala Bingo Hall is in fact, a Bingo Hall and not the only Grade 1 cinema house in all of England. Selfie by a sad Dave Williams.
So, it’s somewhat possible that my research (ahem) on this venue might not have been as tight as it should be. We still shot it, and did our best to hide the snack bar and slot machines and such, and I might have come away with something that’s not too bad, because I was using a 14mm lens, and the stage was so far away (we went to the last row of the balcony), and then of course, there’s Photoshop to hide some of that stuff (but it won’t be easy).
There’s a lesson here: Many photographers already know this, but the main reason you want “fixers” in a foreign country is so you can continuously place blame upon them, and don’t worry — I heaped it on Peter and Dave and they took it like the brave young men they are (though neither are young or brave, which made it even more fun).
Above: Me shooting Random Stuff at Somerset House (photo by Dave Williams).
(5) We learned that in 97.2% of all cases, Uber X drivers in London will pick you up in a Toyota Prius. You can bank on it. Nothing wrong with a Prius, just kind of funny after a while. They should just name it Prius X over here. Also, you can ask to go to well known places and most of the drivers will have no idea where they are. For example, Us: “Can you take us to the House of Parliament?” Driver: “Do you have an address?” Or “Can you take us to Buckingham Palace?” Driver: “Is that a Marriott?”
(6) Saturday night we got special permission to enter the compound at 10 Downing Street (the British Prime Minister’s Home, and the UK equivalent of The White House). We didn’t go inside and hang out with David Cameron, of course, but we did get to meet his house cat and pose in front of his front door, which is (as you might imagine) a super restricted area and behind some pretty high security, so that was pretty cool.
(7) I did my first ever Airbnb rental and it turned out really great! An entire apartment, just outside the Buckingham Palace gardens (right around the corner from Victoria Station), and it was literally half the price of a room at the Hilton, and 5x the space, with a full kitchen, beautiful bathroom, great natural light, but a very, very unusual closet situation. Check my Facebook page, and you’ll see a live video tour of my “Swinging London Pad” and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve never seen anything like it (neither had Peter or Dave). It’s clever, but just …wow.
(8) At breakfast yesterday Peter offered me a taste of “black pudding.” It looked kind of funky so I passed. It wasn’t until after I passed that he told me black pudding is pig’s blood wrapped in the lining of the pig’s intestines. It’s lucky for Peter that I didn’t actually taste it, as that would be the defining moment when our friendship officially ended. I told him, you have an amazing selection of food in this country, from every corner of the world. Why would you voluntarily eat pig’s blood wrapped in the lining of a pig’s intestines? He will never be able to give me a satisfactory reason I could possibly accept.
Above: I can’t swear this is even us, but the guy on the left could be an American.
(9) We took lots of photos in lots of different places, from architectural shots to cathedral interiors, to rooftop shots; we shot inside museums, we shot in Tube Stops, we went to Somerset House and shot the wrong spiral staircase (the old one, not the cool new one), and Dave flirted with a German waitress at Byron Burger, and went so far as to leave her his phone number on the bill. We’re still waiting for her to call him. I’m starting to get concerned, but ya know…love takes time. ;-)
(10) Peter and Dave took me to some Awesome guitar stores! This one (shown above) was my favorite though — it’s called “Hanks” and apparently it’s quite famous in the UK, and its 2nd floor was guitar heaven. I didn’t buy any…but I wanted to! Awesome vibe in that store – just something about it (and it’s right next to Tin Pan Alley where,back in the day, musicians would post job openings with bands. Story has it The Beatles used that job board in the early days).
Above: random British guys on a train. Not Peter and Dave if that’s what you’re thinking. ;-)
(11) As I write this, we’re on a train from London to Birmingham and we’re meeting up with two of the best guys in the world (and two of the most talented): Dave Clayton and Glyn Dewis. Can’t wait to see them both. Seriously love these guys!
OK, that’s it from here in the Swingin’ UK. I’ll be sharing the photos later in the week – maybe doing an Adobe Slate or Exposure post, and I’ll share that link when I post it.
Looking forward to meeting everybody here today – please come and say “Hi” if you’re here at The Photography Show, and here’s wishing you a less weird than my weekend Monday. :)
-Scott (and my train mates Peter and Dave)
P.S. We’ve already sold out some of the Pre-Conference workshops at Photoshop World this summer , so if you’re thinking of taking one of these optional in-depth workshops the day before the conference begins, make sure you book ’em now!