“Hi, I’m Bertie.
“Oh, hi Bertie; I’m Paul”
“You don’t mind if I mic you up?”
“You what, now?”
“You’re OK to do some stuff on camera?”
… and that was how I found out I’d be appearing on Channel 4’s The Great Hotel Escape.
I had been booked to photograph the beautiful Milestone House Hotel just outside of Knighton on the Herefordshire/ Powys border - a full property mix of external shots, internal common areas, room shots as well as some operational and lifestyle shots… these images were required for the new, upcoming website to spearhead the hotel relaunch. When I turned up, a little surprise addition was that the hotel was being featured in a new Channel 4 show documenting pairs of plucky hotel owners who had recently undertaken new projects… and today’s episode was to feature the photoshoot.
Unshaven, wearing a pair of 10-year-old shoes and an un-ironed shirt, I was absolutely camera-ready. Bring it on!
First, Zoe - one of the lovely owners - walked me around the hotel and its grounds showing off the property's best features and pointing out particular aspects she wanted photographing… all the while I was wearing my attentive, terribly professional face just in case I was caught on camera. With that all done it was time to crack-on with the job. At this point Bertie (the cameraman) let me know it would be useful to inject a bit of jeopardy into proceedings whenever the opportunity arose… apparently just watching some tubby, bald bloke taking photos of hotel rooms isn’t especially scintillating viewing. Fair point.
The sky was blue outside and so I started with the externals. Straight away, it was obvious that all the cars outside the hotel would need to be moved so that they didn’t obscure the shot… but they’d need moving ASAP, there was a big cloud looming overhead which would spoil the shot… what if we couldn’t move them in time? Jeopardy was afoot. A shout went out for all hotel staff to move their cars immediately. HASTE WAS OF THE ESSENCE… hurry, hurry, quick, panic, pandemonium, wheel-spin, gavel spraying everywhere….. telly gold!
With the hotel exterior shots in the bag we moved on to some lifestyle images outside… shots of the garden and grounds, the laid tables on the patio, some pictures of the owner cutting parsley from the kitchen garden, close ups of a lovely vintage croquet set and finally a staged croquet game between hotel waiter Miguel and his girlfriend.
From here I made my way inside. The jewel of the hotel’s common areas is the lounge - a beautifully furnished room just off the main hallway. Having set up the camera ready to take the shots we agreed that the open fire should be lit to create a cosy, country atmosphere… another call went out for Miguel (the resident fire-starter) to work his magic. Minutes later the fire was roaring and we were ready to go.
Next, I moved on to the other common areas including the bar - after taking some wide shots we really needed some human interaction in the images - and so it was Miguel to the rescue again as a stand-in barman. From here we moved into the large dining room where we took full room shots, close-ups and some vignettes. With the hotel cleared for the day for the photography shoot there were no actual customers to photograph and so we roped-in the hotel receptionist and Bertie the cameraman to act as stand-in customers as Zoe served them. It’s all smoke and mirrors. And wouldn’t it be nice to get a shot of a waiter delicately repositioning a water glass? MIGUEL!!
With the common areas ticked off I headed upstairs to photograph the various rooms for the website. The rooms were beautifully appointed with great views and it wasn’t long before I had them all captured on the memory card.
With the photoshoot completed, Bertie rounded us all up for a final summation piece to camera to finish the day. Luckily the owners were thrilled with the images as they thumbed through the frames on the camera. Phew - that could’ve been embarrassing… “Paul, these are terrible! Call yourself a photographer!?!"
The episode aired on Channel 4 on 19th September - and, having now watched the show, it turns out there’s a reason I usually remain on the other side of the camera!
You can catch up The Great Hotel Escape on Channel 4OD and see the images in situ on the Milebrook House website.