11.07.21: Palace ceiling

The central saloon, or formal state dining room, is the most highly decorated room in Blenheim Palace, in Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England.

The central saloon, or formal state dining room, is the most highly decorated room in Blenheim Palace, in Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England.

Looking up at Blenheim’s trompe l'oeil decor

I’ve learned through many years of photography that it is important to always keep my eyes moving when I’m walking through an area with my camera. 

Whether I’m in a city, a forest or a building, I’m always scanning for possible photographs. I’m analyzing how light and shadows work with buildings or landscapes, how foreground elements fit into a broader composition, how shapes and colors and textures combine to form an eye-catching scene.

I’ve also learned that it is important to look up.

I have hundreds of photographs in my files that I took either lying flat on my back or bending backwards so the camera is pointing straight up. And I have hundreds of others where I used an extreme wide-angle lens to get interior shots showing ceiling detail above a floor, sometimes tilting up slightly to create perspective distortion.

I’ve learned that the older the building, the more likely that common areas — lobbies, entrances, etc. — will have interesting ceiling detail.

I grabbed this ceiling photo during a visit to Blenheim Palace in Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England. We were near the end of a two-week tour package through Viking that included a few days in Paris, a river cruise from Paris to Normandy and back (visiting a number of small towns as well as Omaha Beach and the U.S. cemetery at Normandy), followed by a trip to London on the Eurostar to spend a few days in and around Oxford, England.

We visited a number of palaces in England, but Blenheim was likely the most ornate.

This photo was taken in the central saloon, or formal state dining room, which is the most highly decorated room in Blenheim Palace. The room features walls and a domed ceiling painted around 1713 by artist Louis Laguerre representing Peace, using a three-dimensional, or trompe l'oeil (trick-the-eye), painting technique, a fashionable painting technique at the time. The walls depict all the nations of the world who have come together peacefully. 

Blenheim Palace is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and 1722. It was also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, former prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Jul 24, 2018 12:43 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 
  • Focal length: 10mm
  • Aperture: f/3.5
  • Shutter: 1/80 second
  • ISO: 2000

I’ve learned that the older the building, the more likely that common areas — lobbies, entrances, etc. — will have interesting ceiling detail.

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