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London in Spring, Whats Not to Love?

Well I know there is still a lot not to love but I'm choosing to see the great things about London at the moment. I am having a ball this year visiting London as often as I can. Which is unusual for me since I usually prefer the comfort of my own home, in rural old Leicestershire. Staying home and avoiding people has always been the easy option. But this year, possibly due to the wonderful weather we keep having, has me longing for venturing out.


Again, just like my last trip, I headed out with my good friend Panikos Hajistilly. Living in North London he finds it easy to meet up for our shoots. This time though I had more of an idea of the sights I wanted to use as the backdrops for my portraits. With it being spring I was in search of colour, preferably flowers. Admittedly. I didn't quite get what I was looking for. The white fronted terraced houses with pink magnolia trees we did not find unfortunately. But I did make it to Peggy Porchen's which was a must see on my list for this trip.


I adore the decorating of some of the London shop fronts and would really like to find more to work with. They go to such an effort not just inside but out and I find myself really drawn to them. This is inspiring me to incorporate some of this look in my own studio so I don't have to go to London every time I want some of this. We stopped here for a break too, having some beautifully decorated cake and yummy cappuccino. I would have loved to have taken the time to properly set up for our shoot, with lights, tripod, moving tables, properly posing Vickie with appropriate props for the scene and ideally shooting from across the street for a better viewpoint. But on such a busy corner, late in the day and without prior permission it just didn't feel right. So we got what we could with the available light, which was actually pretty good as it was approaching the golden hour. 


This shop front was fantastic as well, Moyses Stevens, which is just a few shops away from Peggy Porschen. Being a florist makes it really quite appropriate though, having such floral decorations. We asked their permission to shoot out front and they were lovely about it. The wonderful fragrance coming from their shop was amazing. I couldn't get enough of it. Now I'm on the hunt for a floral display of my own to use whenever I want without having to make the trek to London.

Again we had quite lovely light that we supplemented with a portable reflector. This makes it essential to have an assistant on hand and of course Panikos was happy to oblige.


The image below was created using high speed sync and the fountain of lighting knowledge that Panikos carries around with him. We took it in turns to set up our shots and hold the light for each other. This enabled us to create studio quality light on the streets of London in broad daylight. Not having studio quality light on location has always been a draw back for me. Lighting equipment is getting better all the time but it still means lugging it around and often requires an assistant to hold it. A light stand is possible but without a heavy sand bag it can easily blow over in the wind. So I've tended to steer clear of location work. Shoots like this though make me think otherwise. 


For this shoot I invited a young lady I've worked with before, Vickie Newton. Being a makeup artist with stunning looks made her a dream to work with and perfect for this shoot. With loads of walking and no time to stop and eat, she really worked hard for us. We were on the go for nearly a full day, from 1pm when we got off the train to nearly 7 when we all caught the tube to head our separate ways. 


These images were taken in the light tunnel at Kings Cross. I love it down there. Its limiting and takes a bit of work to get it right. The light is constantly changing both in colour and brightness which makes it hard to get exposure and skin tones right. But when we do get it right its a wonderful thing.



I'll confess that location shooting is still very much out of my comfort zone. I have a fear of being told I'm not allowed to photograph there, which does happen a lot in major cities, much to my annoyance. These cities have such beautiful places but for one reason or another (reasons I don't often understand) photographers (particularly those who look professional) are not allowed to take pictures. A phone snap is fine, using a small camera is often fine. But being caught using high end gear often catches the attention of a security guard who feels the need to move us along. Making the trek down, lugging heavy and expensive gear, to then be told you can't do anything with it sometimes makes it feel not worth it. 


Fortunately on this trip we did alright, getting approached once at the light tunnel at Kings Cross but being allowed to continue, then be told we couldn't continue in Kings Cross station was the only obstacle we encountered which isn't bad going. I can cope with that. To be honest it was my least favourite location anyway (the image directly above was taken there). 


We finished our day at Vauxhall bridge in Pimlico. We had just a short while left after leaving the cake shop so we heading towards the river, not realising how far we were from it. We made it to the bridge in just enough time for a few quick shots. By that point I was done with properly setting anything up so I finished with what was essentially a planned snapshot. The light was bordering on too low but the colours in the background provided a perfect finish for the day. Panikos on the other hand did take the time to set up his tripod and prepare the light for me to hold getting a perfectly lit shot. You should check his work out too as its really quite good. 

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