On a hot and sunny August day in 1835 Henry Fox-Talbot carefully treated a small piece of paper no bigger than a postage stamp with a solution of sodium chloride. That’s simple table salt. When the paper was dry he added a coat of silver nitrate and this combined with the earlier coating to make silver chloride.

He placed the paper inside a little wooden box made for him by a local carpenter (His wife called it his Mousetrap) .


Using a microscope eyepiece to focus the light  he placed the camera  in front of a window of his home Lacock Abbey .



The exact timing of the exposure was uncharacteristically not recorded but estimates are everything from 15 mins to an hour.

He had produced a perfect paper negative  (The worlds first) of the lattice window and the tress outside. However instead of celebrating and shouting to the world about his discovery he said nothing. He didn’t even mention it in his diaries.

Like all lords of the manor he had other things to do and many distractions like writing a paper for the Royal Society.


Imagine his face when in January 1839 in Paris Francois Arago announced Louis Daguuerres processes Dauerreotype to the world.

The rest as they say is history.

I have posted earlier this year about the book Capturing the Light I read while on my holidays in England. Having read it I found that Lacock Abbey was only a two and a half hour drive from where I was staying. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a visit to the birthplace of photography in the UK.

Lacock Abbey and village are no strangers to film and television. Harry Potter and Cranford have been filmed there to name two. However I have to say that the village itself is a beautiful disappointment. It’s so full of resident’s cars that it’s impossible to get any meaningful images. The Abbey on the other hand is much better and you are allowed to take photos inside the abbey and are in fact encouraged to do so.

There is a small photographic museum and a gallery at the entrance and you can wander freely in the grounds and the house.


All-in-all a great day out for a photography buff and his family.

Here is a link to Lacocks site.

PS. I forgot to add that the book I mentioned is co-authoured  by the curator of the museum at Lacock Roger Watson.

All images are taken by me and can be enlarged by clicking on them :0)

Capturing The Light. A book review.

Capturing the Light  By Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport.

ISBN 978-0-230-76457-6

Published by Pan Macmillan

I haven’t written a book review since I was in school many, many years ago. However since my iMac is in for a screen replacement I’m reduced to blogging on my iPad. So I hope you will bear that in mind while reading this short review.

How was our hobby of photography first invented? How do you capture an image and keep it forever? This is what this book is all about.Capturing the Light is not some dry history book about how and who.It reads much like an adventure story.The authors have done a great job in building the atmosphere of the time and painting a wonderful picture in our minds of the main protagonists in the book namely Louis Daguerre,flamboyant artist, entrepreneur, showman in search of fame and fortune, and Henry Fox-Talbot wealthy gentleman and,humble scientific genius.Both from very different backgrounds, and both with two different methods of working. Daguerre never seemed to make any notes on his work and still today there are doubts about how he discovered his process.

What fascinated me was the length of time it took to find a process to fix an image that did not disappear in sunlight . This major step was what was going to make photography what it is today. Images could be made on paper since the 1790’s but soon disappeared if not viewed by candlelight or moonlight. Then in 1835 Fox-Talbot finds a method and fails to mention it until four years later when, charismatic Louis Daguerre announces his own process to the world. 

I could go on, there is so much in this wonderful book which I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in our hobby.