(I never did finish writing about my trip to Lacock…)
Unfortunately our last day of the workshop brought back the rain, and quite a few other problems. Our plan had been to take advantage of the Abbey being closed to visitors, giving us private access to Talbot’s home with just a few cleaners around to dodge our bulky cameras. We’re all moving a bit slow this morning, and it takes time to sensitize our paper, and to organize our cameras and tripods and raincoats and umbrellas. It seems ages before we’re all able to trudge over to the Abbey. Maybe we’re all just tired.
Inside, it’s quiet and gray and gorgeous. The smell of the great Gothic banquet hall reminds me of my grandfather’s old house in Virginia, and I just want to sit here all day. Matt and Richard and I all set up to shoot in the room, either looking at the still lifes staged for the tourists or at the amazing terracotta figures on the wall. Malin wisely chooses to make an exposure outside, which will be much more quick despite the rain. Inside we’re looking at twenty to forty minutes, I think, depending on how far in from the big windows we are – a real risk for the paper drying out and fogging.
We wait and wait, but don’t have much luck – fog and not much else. I’m guessing we’re just pushing the paper too long, what with the added time to walk over from the darkroom and set up and all, but really it should work. Some of my first successful experiments were long exposures, and the wet weather should be helping out by keeping things moist…
At some point I realize that only the first ones we iodized the night before show any promise at all, and as we dig into the later sheets, the fogging just gets worse and worse. I think the long abandoned wash while we went to dinner was a huge mistake. Instead of making things cleaner or slower with the extra wash, we have fog from leaving the paper unattended. One of the first things I tell the students is to keep flipping or shuffling the papers in the iodizing wash, and now I know just how crucial that is. Only Malin’s first sheets – the ones we were there to agitate – are any good. It’s a huge disappointment for us all.
We get a break after lunch though, perhaps a gift from a sorry God. The rain stops and a bright blue sky with puffy clouds appears, the perfect weather for printing. It’s rather nuts, actually, trying to cram in the waxing of negatives and two versions of salt printing in the four hours we have left of the day, but we do it, and everyone manages a good print by the end. I think we all feel the exhaustion fighting with the desire to keep working, but we’re even trying to cram in a stop by the Museum to see a few things before we go, so it’s time to clean up and be done.
Over at the Museum, Roger shows us a full set of paper negatives, made in a few different formulae (both British and French) by Jonathan Kline in order to show the variations in each version. It’s fascinating, but I see eyes glazing. It’s really time to say our thank-yous and goodbyes.
As I walk back to my room, I realize all the things I didn’t do here: I wanted to re-shoot the Open Door but with an umbrella instead of a broom. I wanted to do a drawing, in negative, of the Oriel Window. I didn’t even get into the amazingly adorable used bookstore right next door to me. Just too busy, I guess. I must come back someday soon, with more time to myself.
The light is still pretty, rain-washed and golden, as I walk to the Bell for dinner. The flooding from the Avon has retreated a tiny bit, even with the influx of water from the morning, but there are pools and ponds everywhere on the way, reflecting the blue and the clouds. When I come back, I want to hop right on off this path and over to the Cotswold Way. It’s only 102 miles…
I get in another wonderful dinner at the Bell, playing cribbage with Roger and Laura and Rachel, and I can’t quite believe I’m leaving already. A couple of nice Scotches again, and soon it’s back to the Abbey to pack and sleep. In the morning I’ll be off to London for a couple more days of friends and fun before I fly home.