Monday, 23 April 2012

Lacock Abbey

A couple of weeks ago my old college tutor invited me, and several other past students, to accompany her and a group of current photography students on a trip to Lacock Abbey and Village. It was great to see some old friends again and hear about what they had been up to.

I'd not been to Lacock before, so was not sure what to expect but having been to a few old country houses and manors I had some preconceived ideas. Turns out that I was wrong on most counts! The gardens were very natural, not the highly landscaped flower beds I have seen so many times before. I would have loved it there as a kid, so many places to hide!

The only problem was the rain. It was quite heavy at times and that made it hard to get any clear shots without there being other visitors in the frame. The shot of the cloisters above was taken in a brief break between the showers. One good thing about the rain is the nice saturated colours.

During another break I took a walk out to the orchard and loved the way the church looked against the sky.

Not long after taking this photo I was caught out by another downpour so headed back to the cloisters and the dry. I was fortunate enough to just get this photo before people in the room at the end of the cloister walked out. If you look carefully you can just make out the silhouette of one of them.

I had planned on doing some HDR shots too but due to the number of people around I only managed one image.

HDR is often used to give a surreal look to a photo but I like to keep it simple and use it just to enhance the image. The three shots below show why HDR is useful. In the centre shot you see the "normal" exposure for the room. It looks fine, but the scene outside the window is too bright and gets blown to white. Exposing for the outside plunges the room into darkness. The third shot exposes to get detail in the shadows.

Combining the three you get something closer to what the eye can see.

Another thing worth looking at if you visit Lacock is the William Henry Fox Talbot Photography Museum. You can learn about the history of photography and the process patented by Fox Talbot in the 1800's and see prints of some of his photos.

Like other houses, there are many paintings to see at Lacock, but there are also the photos by Fox Talbot himself. For me the photos have something very special about them. A painting shows an artists impression of his subject but a photograph captures the actual person, as they were at that instant in time. It is one of the things I love most about photography and why I am drawn to photograph people more than any other subject.

At the moment the museum also houses a gallery of photographs by Basil Pao. If you have watched the Michael Palin adventures on TV then you may recognise many of these photographs as Basil travelled with Michael on many of his trips. There are some amazing portraits in the collection.

Unfortunately I had time only to take a brief look around the village. Next time I will plan better!

Take care

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