Shooting The Rock Hotel in April had the added advantage that the hotel’s famous wisteria-covered terrace was in full bloom. Flowers give added colour and vibrancy to hotel images.


An annual round up of travel and hotel photography assignments, hand-picked highlights from spring, summer, autumn and winter to share with you here on my website.

December 2023 Fairmont San Francisco, USA  launches Christmas campaign featuring Michelle’s images

This landmark luxury historic hotel in the northern California city, known for its life-sized gingerbread house as part of magical seasonal festivities, launched its 2023 Christmas campaign using images shot by Michelle a whole year earlier. The festive photos took in family celebrations in the Santa Suite, Holiday Tea, glistening decorations, and of course the world-famous gingerbread house. The hotel’s pastry team takes five months to bake its building materials – the 7,750 gingerbread bricks – and 375 hours to create the house! For more on this shoot, see the feature in Hotel Essence Photography.

December 2023 Nikon Owner Magazine feature on Michelle Chaplow’s work

Michelle was honoured to be recognised by Nikon in their lavishly produced Nikon Owner Magazine. The interview, by the magazine’s features editor Gillian Greenwood, examines Michelle’s use of Nikon camera equipment throughout her three-decade career: from her first camera, to how she became a travel photographer, her move into luxury hotel photography, and of course her preferred Nikon camera. Michelle tells some great stories about her experiences of unusual shoots in unique properties in this in-depth article.

October 2023 Two historic hotels, Hamburg, Germany

No visit to Hamburg is complete without checking out the historic hotel scene, including two of Michelle´s favourites. The Hotel Atlantic Hamburg is situated in the St Georg district of Hamburg, on the southern shore of the Outer Alster Lake. Opened in 1909, the hotel was requisitioned by the British Armed Forces after World War II for five years, as their Hamburg headquarters. It was then sold to the Kempinski group, and from 1994 was owned by German businessman Dieter Bock. Scenes from the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies were filmed in the hotel. Since 2021, the Atlantic has been a member of the Marriot Autograph collection. The hotel has superb restaurants, including French gourmet cuisine at the Atlantic Restaurant, and plenty of healthy options at the more informal Atlantic Grill and Health. At the weekends, you can enjoy fabulous jazz nights in the Atlantic Bar. Hamburg is known as the most British of German cities, with commercial ties stretching back centuries – the river Elbe on which it sits connects the city to the North Sea, and its deep-sea port is the region’s largest.

The Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten is located right on Inner Alster Lake. The decorative displays of golden autumn leaves and pumpkins were breathtaking. This is classic five-star hospitality, with smartly uniformed doormen, walnut panelling, fine China teacups, and live piano music, in this cosy, heartwarming hotel with roaring fires and top-notch service. Hamburg has wonderful seafood and the newly refurbished Grill restaurant, with a continental-chic vibe, did not disappoint, while Haerlin restaurant, under head chef Christoph Rüffers, has two Michelin stars. For sunny days, the Jahreszeiten Terrace sits right on the lakeside. Michelle met with marketing director Anna Ziegler and they chatted about all things historic. The hotel dates back to 1897, when an 11-room establishment was bought by veteran hotelier, Friedrich Haerlin and his wife Thekla Toussaint. It was the first hotel in Hamburg to have hot water installed, was named a Grand Hotel in 1905, and was a favourite meeting place for the Hamburg business community from early on. The hotel stayed in the family for nearly a century, until Friedrich’s daughter-in-law sold it in 1989. As of 2024, the Vier Jahreszeiten is now a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide.

October 2023 ICANN Conference, Hamburg, Germany

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held its ICANN78 Annual General Meeting, on 21–26 October 2023. ICANN’s mission is to help ensure a stable, secure, and unified global Internet. As a long-term member of the ICANN Business Constituency since 2009,  it is always a pleasure to reconnect with the community in person.  At this year’s AGM, the rise of the women within this organisation was noticeable – 15 years ago it was largely male-dominated, and now for the first time both the Interim CEO, Sally Costerton, and Chair, Tripti Sinha, are female. The DNS Women group (Domain Name System) was founded a decade ago to advance women’s global Internet leadership through networking, information and resources-sharing, and today the group is thriving and expanding.

August 2023 XV Beacon. Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

XV Beacon Hotel’s historic charm captured by Hotel Essence Photography.

Renowned for its rich history and timeless elegance, XV Beacon Hotel, is a historic luxury boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill neighbourhood.

The hotel’s provided an extensive photography brief including new imagery of their lavish suites, architectural details, and impeccable service. From the original glass-caged elevators to the grand marble staircase, each photograph conveys a story of luxury and heritage. As a member of the Historic Hotels of America and Preferred Hotel Group’s Legend Collection, XV Beacon continues to set the standard for a home away from home in Boston, Massachusetts.

A joyful assignment indeed, not just to capture the hotel, but various landmarks of Boston to be carefully integrated into the XV beacon hotel website and social channels.

Lavish Suites at XV Beacon Hotel, Boston, MA.


July 2023 Vault 240 Privage Member´s Club, Hawley, Pennsylvania, USA.

Vault 240 – from a notorious robbery to fine dining.

It´s not every day that you get asked to photograph a historic bank on where on the 18 September 1934, six handsome gangsters wearing trilby hats and suits stole $39,000 (half a million dollars in today´s money). All the staff were held up in the Vault during the robbery. Now the Hawley Bank has been reborn as Vault 240, a private members’ club complete with chandeliers, live music, and the chance to dine in the same vault where all the staff were escorted during the 1930s robbery. Don’t you just love history? a very interesting hopitaliy photopgraphy assignment in Hawley Pennsylvania. View more photos here

Vault 240

Vault 240 members club,

Webinar for Historic Hotels of America members

Live from Settler’s Hospitality, Michelle Chaplow presented a webinar to members of Historic Hotels of America. The topic was – how good images can help recruit staff, tell the truth about your hotel, reach guests through social and traditional media, and leverage your history.

July 2023 Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts, USA.

The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, has a rich history, dating back to its opening in 1925. Located in the heart of historic Salem, the hotel is named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, the renowned American author best known for his classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, who was born just a few blocks from where the hotel now stands.

Originally built to accommodate the growing number of visitors drawn to Salem by its infamous history of witch trials, the Hawthorne Hotel has become a local landmark. Designed by architect Philip Horton Smith, the Georgian-style Colonial Revival (or federal style in US architectural parlance) building exudes timeless charm and elegance. Over the years, the hotel has undergone renovations and upgrades to retain its classic appeal, while also offering modern amenities.

Photographer Michelle Chaplow was tasked with refreshing the hotel’s exterior photography. She wanted to showcase the architectural elegance that has defined the landmark hotel for nearly a century.

To achieve a striking straight angle and capture every detail of the facade, Michelle used a scissor lift to climb to the perfect vantage point. From this elevated perspective, she skillfully highlighted the classic Georgian Revival architecture that has made the Hawthorne Hotel an enduring symbol of charm and sophistication.

In addition to the frontal view, Chaplow ventured onto a quaint two-storey wooden balcony, which provided a picturesque view of the hotel’s grounds. As well as offering a different perspective, this also allowed Chaplow to capture the essence of the surrounding historic setting, including a glimpse of Salem Common.

The resulting photographs, now featured on the Historic Hotels of America website, beautifully capture the grandeur and historic significance of the hotel.

As the Hawthorne Hotel approaches its centennial milestone, these renewed images by Michelle Chaplow serve as a visual homage to the past, present and future of this iconic establishment. This assignment was highly satisfying for Michelle as a photographer, since she loves such historic hotel commissions. The careful blend of architectural precision and artistic vision captures a moment frozen in time, inviting guests to appreciate the Hawthorne Hotel’s enduring appeal for generations to come.

The classic Georgian Revival architecture that has made the Hawthorne Hotel a landmark in Salem

July 2023 15th Anniversary of Sofitel London Heathrow, UK

As someone who travels through Heathrow Airport frequently with multiple pieces of luggage – or, in my case, camera equipment – I can tell you first-hand that there is no better place to stay than the Sofitel London Heathrow. It is conveniently located, just a short walk from Terminal 5 via a covered walkway to the hotel. (I have even taken the luggage trolley to my room on occasion.) Camera equipment is never lightweight, and you should always have a backup plan for photo shoots. If a lens fails, you need to have a contingency in terms of equipment. 5 July 2O23 was the 15th anniversary of the opening of Sofitel Heathrow. A splash of colour was added to the lobby thanks to eternal preserved roses, flown in specially from Hong Kong. I caught up briefly with GM Alessandro Mortillaro and Sales Director Amandeep Gill, both of whom were full of enthusiasm, having just returned from the 15th anniversary cake-cutting ceremony. Many new plans had been announced as to how the hotel will develop over the next few years. If you are looking for a hotel at Heathrow, this ticks all the boxes and comes highly recommended.

June 2023 Photoshoot at Hotel La Esperanza in Lecrin Valley, Granada, Spain

Christine Cunaman purchased this charming property online during Covid, sight unseen. Hotel La Esperanza is now an award-winning luxury boutique hotel, villa, and events venue, and a proud member of the exclusive, top-end L.V. X. collection of Preferred Hotels and Resorts. Hotel Essence photography was commissioned to photograph every room in this boutique hotel, their private villa, the cutest onsite pool house, and a hero shot of the façade.

Michelle worked with stylist and former fashion designer Maria Mena, who did a wonderful job with the styling of fabrics, with assisting and lighting by Marcos Meider, and production by Chris John.

This hotel is nestled in the Lecrin Valley of Granada province, near the white village of Saleres, between Granada city and the coast. The hacienda sits in five hectares of private parkland, offering the perfect place to get away from it all.

Hotel La Esperanza, Granada, has the cutest pool house

June 2023 A family wedding photoshoot in the Algarve, Portugal

Wedding photography is not something that Michelle Chaplow is known for, but occasionally for family wedding, a photoshoot is arranged. This small collection of photographs, set up in the manner of a fashion shoot with a recce trip in advance, were taken the day after the wedding, in various locations in the western Algarve in Portugal, including small villages and a remote beach, Praia da Boca do Rio in Budens. The ancient Fort of Almádena (Forte de Almádena, or Forte de São Luís de Almádena), also known as the Fort of the River Mouth (Forte da Boca do Rio), is located between the towns of Salema and Burgau, and dates back to 1632. The locations worked beautifully with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, and quite prorogues villages lending a cinematographic destination look and feel to the collection.

Bride and groom, Carly and Paul, heading into the surest together on a remote beach, Praia da Boca do Rio in Budens, Portugal

Bride and groom, Carly and Paul, heading into the sunset together on a remote beach, Praia da Boca do Rio in Budens, Portugal

May 2023 Patios of Cordoba Festival

If you love flowers and Andalucia, then the Patios of Cordoba Festival in May brings an abundance of joy. A decade ago this event was hardly known outside the region, but now there are queues to enter into each bloom-bedecked patio, especially the winning courtyards. A competition, dating back to 1918, awards prizes to the finest of the 50 or so participating patios, all of which are open to the public for the duration of the two-week festival.

Michelle recommends that you avoid the weekends if you are hoping to capture patios without people. If you have patience to wait, there will always be one moment – one opportunity to capture that perfect shot.

A beautiful Flower laden Patio in the Patios de San Basilio quarter of Cordoba

A beautiful Flower laden Patio in the Patios de San Basilio quarter of Cordoba

April 2023 Photo shoot for The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar

The iconic Rock Hotel in Gibraltar was built in 1932 by Scottish peer John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute. The landmark hotel in the British Overseas Territory has been described as “one of the Mediterranean‘s most famous hotels”. The art deco building is situated in an elevated position on Europa Road, with views of the Botanical Gardens, and across the Bay of Algeciras to Spain, as well as vistas over the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco. Hotel Essence Photography conducted a photo shoot to provide new hotel visuals for advertising and promotional purposes. This legendary hotel, which has hosted scores of dignitaries and celebrities from Sir Winston Churchill to Noel Coward, has a magical charm. Most recently, in November 2023, Princess Anne, Dame Mary Berry, and Theresa May all spoke at the 9th Gibraltar International Literary Festival.

View the final collection of photos here

Shooting The Rock Hotel in April had the added advantage that the hotel’s famous wisteria-covered terrace was in full bloom. Flowers give added colour and vibrancy to hotel images.

Shooting The Rock Hotel in April had the added advantage that the hotel’s famous wisteria-covered terrace was in full bloom. Flowers give added colour and vibrancy to hotel images.

April 2023 The Auckland Project and the Spanish Gallery, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK

Auckland Castle, which dates back to the 12th century and is located in Bishop Auckland in north-east England, is a historic palace that has played a significant role in the region’s history. Traditionally the residence of the Bishop of Durham, the castle underwent a remarkable transformation when British philanthropist, art collector and financier Jonathan Ruffer, known for his commitment to preserving heritage, led efforts to revitalise the castle and its surrounding area.

Ruffer’s major initiative involved acquiring the Zurbarán paintings, a series of 17th-century Spanish masterpieces depicting Jacob and his 12 sons, which have hung in Auckland Castle since 1756. In 2011, the Church Commissioners voted to sell the paintings. Ruffer made a £15 million donation and placed the paintings under the Auckland Castle Trust, of which he is chair. He thereby ensured that they would not leave the castle, and that they would become available for public viewing after centuries of being in the bishop’s residence. Jonathan Ruffer’s purchase of the Zubarán paintings and indeed the saving of the castle. Auckland Castle reopened in 2019 as the Auckland Project with a multi-million-pound investment, funded in part by the National Lottery.

The Spanish Gallery, housed in a former bank, is part of the Auckland Project. Queen Letizia of Spain joined The Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) in April 2022 to open the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham. This is the UK’s first gallery dedicated to Spanish art, history and culture, and features outstanding works by El Greco, Murillo and Velazquez from Ruffer’s personal art collection. According to The Guardian, “The Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland is fast becoming something of a ‘Prado of the North’.”

Michelle, who comes from County Durham and lives in Spain, is delighted with the link between her home county and her adopted home country. For anyone – of any nationality – visiting the north-east of England, The Auckland Project comes highly recommended.

According to The Guardian, “The Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland is fast becoming something of a ‘Prado of the North’.”

The Spanish Gallery Bishop Auckland

April 2023 Semana Santa, Spain

However many years a person has lived in Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) never fails to impress, as processions take to the streets, and every scene is worth capturing on camera. Michelle recommends that every photographer and videographer should experience the Spanish Semana Santa at least once in their lifetime.

The Veracruz, Good Friday (Viernes Santo) Procession in Estepona

The Veracruz, Good Friday (Viernes Santo) Procession in Estepona

March 2023 The first anniversary of the reopening of Cashel Place, Tipperary, Ireland

On 1 March 2023, Cashel Palace Hotel celebrated its first birthday since the reopening of this newly refurbished historic property (see March 2022 news). Hotel Essence Photography was proud to create a comprehensive portfolio of images for the new opening of this landmark five-star heritage hotel with only 42 rooms, situated in the very heart of Ireland.

Cashel Palace Residents bar © Michelle Chaplow

Cheers to Cashel Palace on their 1st Anniversary!

Cashel Palace Hotel, Bridal Suite © Michelle Chaplow

Cashel Palace Hotel, Bridal Suite

February 2023 Cashel Palace Hotel published in National Geographic

Cashel Palace Hotel published in National Geographic

February 2023 Photography published in the Times
The images that Michelle and her crew of stylists and assistants took for the new opening of Cashel Palace have now been published in a number of national newspapers, magazines and books: The Times, The Irish Times, National Geographic Traveller, Ireland´s Blue Book,  and Conde Nast Traveller, to name just a few. A hotel with high-quality photography is more likely to get press coverage, since an archive of excellent images is very appealing to travel and picture editors alike.

Cashel Palace featured in The Times of London © Michelle Chaplow

Cashel Palace featured in The Times of London

February 2023 Exposición Fotografía Malagueña

An image taken by Michelle in the Louisiana swamps was exhibited in the Exposición Fotografía Malagueña, marking the 40th Anniversary of Colectivo Imagen in Fuengirola. The exhibition is open until March 2023.

February 2023 Bloomsbury Hotel, London, UK

Set in the heart of literary London, the Bloomsbury Hotel stands as a testament to refined elegance and boutique charm. A true home-from-home and a proud member of The Doyle Collection.

This area of London gives its name to the “The Bloomsbury Set”, a famous group of writers, artists, and intellectuals who were active during the first half of the 20th century, primarily the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. The core members of the Bloomsbury Set were known for their progressive ideas and intellectual discussions on literature, art, politics, and social issues, and their unconventional lifestyles.

Prominent members of this celebrated set included writer Virginia Woolf, her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, economist John Maynard Keynes, writer E.M. Forster, biographer Lytton Strachey, and art critic Roger Fry, among others. They were known for their discussions on literature, art, politics, and social issues, often challenging the norms of the time.

Michelle found creative inspiration within the Bloomsbury’s stylish interiors as the backdrop for her Instagram reels and lifestyle posts. The hotel’s commitment to aesthetic detail, from the chic furnishings to the carefully curated artwork, provided the perfect canvas for visual content creation.

The tasteful decoration of The Coral Bar, characterised by rich coral-pink hues and contemporary design, creates a sophisticated yet relaxed ambiance. Interestingly, the Coral Bar has not only played a role in shaping memorable guest experiences, but has also been featured as a movie set. So many cute corners that Michelle captured in her social media posts.

Cocktails in the Coral Room

Cocktails in the Coral Room

February 2023 Middle Eight Hotel, London, UK

Located in the heart of London, a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden, this luxury boutique hotel offers a distinctive blend of chic sophistication and high-tech comfort. The hotel’s welcome was perfect, from bellboys spiriting away the luggage and making it reappear in our room, to stunning artwork inspired by nature. Michelle loved the charming, minimalist, fireside check-in experience, complete with complimentary glass of champagne, a personalised approach which set the tone for a truly indulgent stay.

Michelle was also delighted by the chic mezzanine library, a haven of tranquillity. Guests can unwind amidst shelves of carefully curated books, creating an intimate escape within the bustling city, and a great place to work remotely too. This boutique gem ticks all the boxes for a ‘bleisure’ (business+leisure) trip, offering an unforgettable experience in the heart of the city.

Middle Eight Hotel is a proud member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, seamlessly combining spaces and restaurants for both business and pleasure, including the atmospheric QT late-night basement bar with cabaret, food, and cocktails (the hotel’s name refers to the musical term for a mood-shifting interlude). Its proximity to Covent Garden, on the fringe of the West End, ensures that guests can effortlessly immerse themselves in the area’s cultural riches, including the Opera House and many theatres.

There are several popular Instagram spots within the hotel, including a beautiful golden open staircase, which offers the perfect selfie location. Lots of photo opportunities here for a London sojourn.

The Middle Eight London is a boutique gem, which ticks all the boxes for a ‘bleisure’ (business+leisure) trip, offering an unforgettable experience in the heart of the city.

The Middle Eight London is a boutique gem, which ticks all the boxes for a ‘bleisure’ (business+leisure) trip, offering an unforgettable experience in the heart of the city.

January 2023 – Fairmont San Francisco shoot photo editing

The photoshoot itself is only the first part: next, the editing begins. January was dedicated to editing the Fairmont San Francisco Christmas Campaign for 2023.

The team at Fairmont were delighted with the results.

“Many thanks Michelle, Absolutely stunning. I so appreciate your artistry! Well done.”
Michelle Heston, Executive Regional Director of Public Relations, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

“Hi Michelle, The photos are stunning! Thank you again for all of your hard work.”
Courtney Hanaway, Marketing Manager, Fairmont San Francisco

All images were delivered on time. Now it’s over to the designers to create the campaign and work their magic.

A festive family season at the Fairmont San Francisco

Fairmont Hotel San Francisco – Santas Suites with children

January 2023 Isla de las Palomas, Tarifa, Andalucia

This tiny island, the southernmost point in mainland Spain and continental Europe, is linked to Tarifa town by a causeway. Holding a strategic position between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, and close to Morocco, it is now open to the public for guided visits.

Tarifa © Michelle Chaplow

Tarifa, Spain

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