Event Photography at the Orangery at Blenheim Palace
Last month, I was commissioned to cover the spring opening of the Orangery restaurant at Blenheim Palace. Having spent time a lot of time at the Palace as a paying guest, I was really excited for the opportunity to cover the event in the Orangery, particularly because it is such a unique venue.
With the event starting in the early evening, it provided me with the chance to capture some nice shots of the interior of the restaurant and all the set up, as well as some shots of the palace as the sun went down. I'm particularly pleased with the beautiful orangery, dreamy picture I captured of the palace with the sun flaring across the scene, see below.
As guests began to arrive, I picked up a series of great candid images, which are always much easier and nicer when people are excited and happy to be there!
The purpose of the event was to launch a new spring menu and wine pairings, with the head chef and sommelier discussing the food and associated wine choices before the arrival of each course. I was given access to the kitchen, while the food was being prepared and plated, allowing me to hear the vision of the chef, understand the preparation process and try to incorporate it into my images; this lead to a series of pictures which I think captured the ebbs and flows of the kitchen in action.
Let me cover my setup for the event. In discussing the event with the Searcys team, who run the restaurant at Blenheim, they expressed a preference for not zapping the guests flash photography, which posed a few challenges later on in the evening as the natural light diminished and the restaurant is understandably lit subtly to create nice ambience.
As primarily a prime lens shooter, meaning the majority of my lenses have a fixed focal length and don't zoom, I packed my 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses and my Nikon D750 camera. My prime lenses have a superior low light performance over my zoom lenses and I found the 35mm was just about wide enough to capture the wide and long interior without missing details but it might have been good to also have my 20mm or a 24mm handy to capture some additional wide angle images.
My 50mm and 85mm was perfect for the candid and casual dining pictures, not of people eating of course - I never do that, but with the room being long and narrow, the 50mm was good for me to capture people without being too close. The 85mm was more than enough for covering the presentations without interfering with the speakers or blocking a guests view and I was able to keep mostly hidden by one of the walls and not be distracting to the guests or the speakers.
One challenge to overcome, as I mentioned before, was handling the lighting as the natural light faded. In the restaurant, the lightbulbs in the chandeliers are tungsten, so they give off a strong orange light, which is perfect for the ambience of the restaurant but something for a photographer to be aware of, as it can drastically change your white balance. White balance is a setting on your camera which determines how it interprets and records the colours in your image, namely how it determines what should be white. If everything in your image is given an orange tint by the lighting, then you have to determine how to process the images captured, to maintain the authenticity of the event. Setting the white balance to daylight for example would have captured images where the orange tint is reduced and perhaps left the images feeling too cold, going too warm with the white balance would have accentuated the orange, making the pictures seem quite strange.
By the time the event was over, the ambient was almost gone and had I still been shooting with no ambient light, it would likely necessitate the use of strobes or flash photography to maintain picture quality, although you would need to balance the daylight colour of flash with the orange tungsten but that's for another blog! As it was, I ended up shooting at a pretty high ISO setting of 4000 and had to do a little noise reduction in Lightroom to clean up some of the images.
So in summary, it was a great experience to be able to shoot the Orangery and the Palace and I'm looking forward to covering some upcoming events with the Searcys team. I've added a larger gallery of images from the event to my portfolio, under the commercial section, take a look at this here and I hope you have enjoyed this post, feel free to leave me a comment below.