LAubergeGrab Inspiring and Innovative:  An Exceptional New Website for LAuberge Provencale

Be sure to check out the remarkable new website for L’Auberge Provencale in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, recently  launched by our friends at White Stone Marketing. We collaborated in the art direction and concept with Innkeeper Celeste Borel and the team at White Stone, so this project is near and dear to our hearts. L’Auberge is a long-time client and friend and it’s such an unqualified pleasure to shoot and to work with them, on so many levels. For years we have been impressed by the way the Provencale theme is executed so beautifully and so consistently at this gracious inn, from the gardens to the decor to their renowned dining experience.

It’s worthwhile spending a few minutes to look through the site, to learn and to be inspired. Here are a few items of note:

Pictures first. We love that the pictures are HUGE and the site looks great on everything from an iPhone to a 27-inch monitor. As you move through the site, the pictures continuously sell you on the incredible experience the inn offers. There’s still plenty of fact-providing text–which is key for good SEO–but it’s tucked neatly away if you want to see it. A prime example of this is the verbiage on each room page: the text is keyword-rich, but accessed through scrolling, rather than right in your face.  We’ve shot many times for the inn over the last 6 years and the new site really features the richness and sweep of what we have shot over the years.

Pushing the theme. We conceived  the “50 Ways We Transport You to Provence” page to celebrate the way the innkeepers have carried this theme through so richly. At this inn, the Provence theme is far deeper than just decor. The “50 Ways” page is teased on the homepage and then linked and teased throughout the site. Also, the passport stamp graphic and Celeste’s excellent new tag line “Escape to Provence. No passport required.” help carry through this unique marketing message. Even small details like the hand-washed color behind the menu subtly whispers “Provence”.

Laubergemegamenu Inspiring and Innovative:  An Exceptional New Website for LAuberge Provencale

A complicated site made simple and clean. L’Auberge Provencale is a complex business with many facets and services to communicate: lodging, in-room dining, fine dining, alfresco dining, special events and weddings, gardens with European-style orchards…and the fact that a portion of the lodging options are located two miles from the main building. White Stone implemented a “mega-menu” to clean things up and make the site much more user-friendly. For example, just one click on the “Weddings” menu and you have an informational sub-menu. where you can order a wedding info packet right away. This is a massive site and this structure helps people find the info they need FAST. White Stone does property visits to each design client to iron out the site map strategy. We can’t help but feel that this complex and technically-challenging site in the hands of many other website-designers would have been a hot mess! White Stone executed it brilliantly.

Bold new branding changes. Innkeepers Celeste and Alain Borel have been at L’Auberge for over 20 years…but instead of becoming complacent, they constantly embrace change. Case in point: during the website design process, the team suggested renaming and rebranding their nationally-known restaurant, formally known simply in conjunction with the inn, L’Auberge Provencale. The restaurant was relaunched with a new name, logo and stand-alone website, now known as “La Table Provencale”. This major change offers great new synergies and internet marketing opportunities for both the lodging and dining aspects, allowing for “cross-pollinating” when folks search on either the inn or the restaurant. A major benefit of this separation is that it will help to drive local restaurant business. Oftentimes, country inn dining can fly under the radar of locals who have little reason to search on lodging right down the road…or it can be associated with less-than-full-service or a less professional restaurant experience. Giving the restaurant a stand-alone presence and identity will elevate the visibility and perceived quality of the restaurant experience. This is a trend we have been seeing quite often in the city hotel, cruise ship and resort worlds, and we think they will see great benefits from marketing and branding with this new strategy. Check out the new stand-alone restaurant website for La Table Provencale.

Farm to table. Long before (almost two decades!) “Farm to Table” became a trend and moniker in the fine dining world, Chef Borel’s kitchen had been using fresh ingredients from local sources. You’ll find this phrase throughout the website, celebrating and bringing to the fore something L’Auberge has been doing for over 20 years.

Inspiring longer stays. L’Auberge Provencale is not really in a destination town or in an area that tends to see mass tourism. Getting potential guests to understand all the riches of the area, from wineries to river rafting to farm tourism, was a major challenge for the new website. The amazing “Plan Your Stay” feature is a large and robust part of the site. Be sure to check out their 3-day itineraries in outdoor adventure, cycling, local history, wine touring and history. This will not only encourage and inspire longer reservations, but will provide a great guideline for staff and innkeepers to assist guests in planning their stays while they are actually at the inn. All of this is pulled off with a fantastic visual menu–very, very image forward. Get teased right from the mega-menu with great images that inspire you to spend more time in the area. Kudos to Celeste for the incredible work on this part of the site. We have seen hundreds of websites over the years, and NONE has come close to this level of depth and care put into helping guests plan their stays. It’s is awe-inspiring. Hotels: consider yourselves served!

Want to see other web-design projects for which we have contributed photography? Check our “projects” page on our website for more inspiration. We’d love to have your feedback and comments below!!


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We have been busy (when not out shooting!) the last couple weeks preparing for our presentation on Tuesday January 29th at 2:15 pm at the Innkeeping Show in Las Vegas. Here is a description of our presentation:

Learn from the Experts: Do-it-Yourself Guide to Shooting Exteriors and Gardens
Every savvy innkeeper knows the power of photography to the bottom line. Learn secrets from the experts on how to get terrific shots—the kind that make people say, “I want to be THERE!” This workshop will provide specific techniques—using ANY camera—for composing, styling and lighting your own photographs to make your property stand out on your home page, internet directories and booking engines.

This is a sort-of-follow-up to the presentation we did a few years ago on Do-It-Yourself Food Photography at the conference in Charleston.

Just last week we were shooting at The Garden Gables Inn in Lenox, MA (a really beautiful inn) and while scouting for angles, Mark snapped a quick shot with his iPhone that illustrates how you can get darn-good photos with a VERY simple camera, if you have the right time of day, perspective and some basic know-how.

colortest 205 2 Edit XL DIY Guide for Shooting Exteriors: You Can Do It    Even with an iPhone!

Images captured with a professional level camera and specialty tilt-shift lenses


Here’s Mark’s iPhone image:

CA 01211309152021 XL DIY Guide for Shooting Exteriors: You Can Do It    Even with an iPhone!

Mark’s iPhone image of the same subject

Not a bad, eh? You can do this with just a few simple tools. Great exterior pictures are less about all the right equipment and more about time of day, light and composition. IPhones are not great in low-light, not not too bad either. I see far worse pictures on the pages of sites like Sorry, but its true!

OK, we did cheat a little bit in our pro image. Those tire tracks in the snow were really distracting, so we removed them in post-production before we delivered the image to our client.

Hope to see anyone who attends the show at our presentation. It should be fun and informative.

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2012 was a great year for us, with lots of new places, new faces and visits to some of our favorite locations. Thanks to all of our clients and friends for being a part of our lives. Here’s a look back…Happy New Year to all!



At this time of year, we hear the word peace quite a bit. It’s a great word–short, but loaded with so much emotion and power. In these times, peace is remarkable, in that it is one of the few universally-positive, non-confrontational, apolitical, non-religious concepts. Who can argue with peace?  As photographers, we are often tasked with portraying this elusive, yet compelling idea within the context of an inn. Because when you distill the yearning that people feel nowadays to a single desire, it is really a desire for peace. That’s what inn guests are often looking for–an escape to a place of peace.


We looked through  photos from 2012 and chose a few that we thought represented this visually. Most of these are from inns; some are from other places where we have found peace our our travels. We hope these images provide a peaceful moment for you.

Woodhaven Rooms Attic 08 X2 Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Interior of guestroom at Inn at Woodhaven Louisville KY


 MG 7357 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Awesome: The North Rim of the Grand Canyon near sunset. Just to give you a sense of scale…check out those figures on the left corner of the photo


TurkeyHill Inn Exteriors 16 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Gazebo with resident geese at Inn at Turkey Hill, Bloomsburg PA


Meander a Vista 09 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Dogs create peace…Callie, the Inn dog, and a couple enjoy a moment of peace at Inn at Meaner Plantation in Virginia


SquamLake Rooms EaglesNest 01 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Peaceful, easy, feeling in a bathroom at Squam Lake Inn in Holderness NH. The vibe here is just right.


Lauberge Gardens A 19 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

A garden chess game at L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, VA


Swag Hiking Gooseberry 10 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Hiking at sunrise on Gooseberry Knob at The Swag Country Inn, on the border of the Smoky Mountains National Park, NC


FortLewis River Kayak 01 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Kayak launch on a misty morning on the grand country property of Fort Lewis Lodge in Bath County VA


WarnerHall MISC 07 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

Robin eggs in late spring at Inn at Warner Hall in south-eastern Virginia


HartstoneItaly Villa 01 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

A peaceful view of Tuscan Hills from our villa bedroom at The Hartstone’s Foodies Cooking Adventure  in Italy this fall.


Sheep inn c 1 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

A misty morning at Woolverton Inn in Stockton, NJ near New Hope, PA. The sheep set the mood.


 MG 6903 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

One of the most interesting places we visited this year: Bryce Canyon Nation Park. Sunrise over the canyon in the fall


Swag Scenics General 03 XL Peaceful Places, Peaceful Spaces: Photos from 2012

We shared a pre-dawn moment on the porch of The Swag Country Inn with these peaceful visitors

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Long-time innkeepers Mary Jo Brink and Michael Salmon of The Hartstone Inn in Camden, Maine began a new venture (and adventure!) in 2010: Hartstone Inn European Culinary Adventures. We’d heard rave reviews from seasoned travelers who had been on the tours, so when Mary Jo and Michael asked us to document the adventure, we were delighted to help. They currently offer trips to the The Loire Valley in France as well as the Tuscany region in Italy; we photographed the Tuscan tour. As part of the adventure, Mary Jo and Michael rent a stunning villa in the Tuscan countryside and provide daily food-themed excursions for the small group, complete with local guides. Everyone returns in the evening for cooking classes with Chef Salmon. Participants actually prepare that evening’s meal. The quality of the the food products that Michael gathered was top-notch every day and the food was “off the charts”. After experiencing Michael’s cooking and Mary Jo’s hospitality while working for them at the Hartstone Inn in Camden, Mark and I had high expectations for the experience….and those expectations were exceeded, in a big way. If you are interested in attending one of these tours, plan ahead–they are often booked the moment they are announced.Visit their website for more info on the tours.

Check out a few images of the excursions, the cooking classes, food and beauty of Tuscany: