2017’s Salon Prive loomed larger than ever and this was our first year as their visual partners. This year the event kicked off with a tour of the countryside around Blenheim with stops for drinks and lunch at The Swan in Bibury and Slaughter’s Inn in Lower Slaughter respectively.
Tour day started out wet, immediately presenting the usual outdoor photography challenges. Wet cameras and lenses at the beginning of a long few days of shooting is a definite no no although we’re yet to find camera rain covers that you can actually see anything through…
We actually really enjoy the artistic aspect of rain on cars, it offers lots of opportunity for arty narrow depth of field shots of water droplets on bodywork but these aren’t particularly useful in terms of the photography brief on these events.
A courageous thirteen cars braved the weather – some completely open to the elements – and in true British style, they set off for the day. We’d planned shorter more direct routes throughout the tour to enable us to capture both departures and arrivals and by the time we got to Slaughter’s Inn for lunch the skies were clearing and the sun came out for the last leg of the route back to Blenheim Palace.
A relatively early finish for us, we went back to our hotel, captured and edited the days events and set about preparing for day one of Salon Prive. There couldn't be a impressive setting for a prestigious motor event than the staggeringly beautiful Blenheim Palace. Friendly, helpful Palace staff made many things much easier and we felt well looked after particularly in the evening when we had a moment of downtime before the after dinner awards commenced.
Salon Prive is set up on the South Lawn, with a long avenue between the Palace and the event that is lined with unique vehicles, supercars and motors of historical significance from private collections. Whilst Salon Prive is a fully inclusive hospitality event with entry via ticket only, the Avenue is open to all visitors to the Palace. With concours competitions on Day 1 and Day 3 of Salon Prive we were kept very busy covering the judging, the parades and all the award giving not to mention coverage of the event in general. The cars along the Avenue changed on a daily basis so we had to make sure we caught the daily flavour of the area as the guests arrived.
Day 2 was Ladies Day and hats were everywhere! Fortunately the sun shone keeping everyone very happy and making for a lovely relaxing time for guests checking out the cars and retail areas over a few glasses of champagne.
Speaking of the champagne, let’s take a moment to discuss the catering…all guests were treated to a lobster lunch and chicken skewers as well delicious and imaginative salads – as much as you could eat it would seem! Beautifully presented desserts followed and they were just the right size to enable you to sample all of them! Afternoon tea was equally delicious; an excellent selection of sandwiches and some truly awesome cakes kept guests coming back for more. Now back to the cars…
Guest judges included Derek Bell, Yasmin le Bon and Guy Berryman of Coldplay. A vast selection of different marques graced the concours lawn on Day One (sponsored by Chubb Insurance) and Day Two (sponsored by Boodles) including some motorbikes. Day 3 was given over to Ferrari who were celebrating 70 years of Ferrari - Pirelli sponsored Day 3.
The Duke was in attendance with his family; Salon Prive is an event he strongly supports and he welcomes all the new ideas that Andrew and David Bagley bring to him year on year.
Chris Eubank was relaxed as he wandered around Salon Prive, checking out all the superb vehicles on display. He was generous with his fans, stopping for selfies and chatting readily.
There were many manufacturers in attendance exhibiting some of their latest models including Lexus, Maserati and Lamborghini. ATS chose Salon Prive to unveil their latest creation with a very cool $1million pricetag! There were hypercars on display including a very interesting Zenvo creation in a vibrant lime green. Classic Car Dealers were also in abundance including Hemmels (Mercedes), Dylan Miles, Export 56 (Porsche) and Simon Furlonger.
Winner of Best in Show from 2016, Bruce Lavachek, returned with his winning car – looked after by DK Engineering – the Ferrari 500TR. Andrew Bagley interviewed Bruce on the South Lawn with the Palace and car as a backdrop and we hope to bring you footage soon from this intimate chat.
This year’s winner Steve Tillack was also interviewed on the South Lawn by our very own Rupert Cobb in front of his Alfa Romeo 3000CM. This truly beautiful creation is looked after by Jim Stokes Workshop who we have had the pleasure of working with previously. We caught up with Steve again the week after Salon Prive as he was about to throw himself around the Goodwood track in his super powerful Lancia.
With so many different vehicles to cover over the tour, three days of Salon Prive and then BCS as well for the final day, it takes a lot of fast thinking skill not to miss anything. We tend to carry two camera bodies each, one with a 70mm-200mm and one with a 24mm-70mm to cover all the bases. We are Canon advocates having used their cameras for years and we find that their sensors offer fantastic depth of colour. With cars, it’s always beneficial to use a polariser. Don’t buy cheap as your lens may not give you proper focus – we recommend Hoya circular polarisers. With this filter on your lens you can remove a certain amount of reflection from glass and paintwork so you have an artistic choice.
Another consideration when photographing events outside is the constantly changing light conditions. We were photographing in cloud, sunshine, rain and also in the dark where we needed to use some long exposures. Choosing the right white balance is important to enable you to show the correct colour for the cars as well as correct skin tones. You can of course choose warmer or cooler white balances if you want your image to show as art rather than as a true representation of the scene you were capturing at the time. Occasionally in dusky situations where colours are a bit muted once the sun has gone down you can create some beautiful images using black and white.
In the weeks that followed Salon Prive we carefully selected and edited over 8,500 images, meta tagged and collated into folders before delivering. Rupert made videos for social media over the course of the event (Lord knows how as we hardly had a moment to catch our breath!), and then a full video post event. He even took time to edit down the interviews from Boodles Ladies Day.
Pictures below of some of the scenes at Blenheim Classic and Supercar on the Sunday - the public side of the event, held in the Great Court.
Arrangements for next years event are of course underway, we strongly recommend that you come along and enjoy all that Salon Prive (and indeed Blenheim Palace) has to offer!