I woke up this morning with this thought: I am sleeping over The Open Door. Yes, I’m staying at the Abbey, after all, near the old stables (and this picture.) Outside, it doesn’t even really look that much different from Talbot’s day, except for the cars parked out front. In fact the whole town is like that, from another time, but with ease. It’s not strange, just gorgeous.
I got the full tour when I arrived yesterday, including all four streets in the village. There are several nice pubs, and a surprising number of decent-seeming places to eat, I guess to support all the tourists. Not only does Lacock Abbey draw the history buffs and Anglophiles, but a whole new generation of Harry Potter freaks, since many big scenes from the movies were shot here. Apparently, whole tour buses of kids with capes and wands descend on the village from time to time, but probably not during rainy April. It’s busy even now though, enough so that the Museum staff and locals have begun avoiding the Red Lion pub across the street in favor of the Bell up the road, where we had lunch. I’m going to get fat on sausage rolls and battered cod.
I went through the Museum here, too, and saw the inside of the Abbey. Of course, I saw the famous Oriel Window and Talbot’s library and apparati. Once again, I have been bodily thrown into the past… There are too many spots that I recognize from the History, too many obvious ghosts wandering around. What would the man have thought of us now, reviving his old ways in his old house?
I’ll be working out of a converted room in a barn next door, the only 13th-century darkroom I’ve ever been in. It’s perfect, and got me psyched to start right away, iodizing paper for tests tomorrow morning. I saw a tell-tale purple iodine stain on the paper as it washed, and this is a good sign for the chemistry working the way it should. By the time the sheets were out and hanging to dry, I’d had a scotch and dinner at the Red Lion, and was feeling wonderful. Sleep came fast but fitful, perhaps from the distinct sensation of wisps and shadows in the room.
Today was fantastic, despite the chaotic weather. The sun was out early, but everything was wet, and within an hour there’d be sunshowers, heavy downpours, and blue skies. But I had the whole day to work on getting things ready for class, and making sure my new batches of paper would work ok. I could get chunks of clear skies in which to shoot, and plenty of rain to try to work around. I’m sure we’ll be dealing with both extremes all week. I just had to guess wildly on exposures, ready to jump or cover if the weather shifted. It could happen within 30 seconds. Often, it did.
I was pleased to find that my paper worked well, and I shifted from my Troubleshooting Panic Mode to smaller tests and experiments: Would this loose cotton create more spots than do cotton balls during Gallic Acid development? Does a stronger solution of Gallic withstand a stronger Sodium Thiosulfate bath, even without an alkali buffer? Can I reverse the tones of a developed calotype to make an instant direct positive? (Almost…)
With this rainy weather I wanted to see how long I might have before I needed to shoot my wet negative without getting any exposure change, so I sensitized a sheet, packed up my camera and plate back and tripod and umbrella, and walked down to Talbot’s grave, at the end of the Village road. This was a 30-second exposure (at f8) in pouring rain, with a leisurely 15-minute stroll between coating and developing:
At this point, I am just so excited for the next four days of class… Bring it on, Rain Gods!