A few years ago, I saw a photograph.
It was a good photograph. In fact, if you Google: ‘Durdle Door Sunrise’ chances are you’ll probably see it too. It was taken by a chap called Peter Spencer. In it, a ray of sun is shining through the archway of Durdle Door. Due to the position of the sun, this only happens a few mornings a year, right around the Winter Solstice.
Having liked that photograph for a while, this morning I decided I’d try my luck at replicating it, or at the very least, possibly capturing a pretty sunrise behind one of Dorset’s iconic landmarks.
Big mistake. And I’ll tell you why.
Other photographers had the same idea, and not one or two people, but a good eleven to twelve. As I approached Durdle Door, I saw little points of light, placed along the cliffs like a regiment of highly coordinated, perfectly spaced Glow-worms.
I suddenly felt the full weight of the fraud I was for going there in the first place, with the intention of copying someone else’s image. Shame on me. Shame on me too for laughing internally when, after I slipped and slid my way down the cliffs to find a quiet spot on the beach out of view from the other photographers, the two men who followed me were swamped and soaked by a rogue wave.
So there we all were. All of us temporarily obsessed with the possibility of a big beam of light penetrating a giant, moist archway.
Definitely shame on me.
There’s a moral here. Imitation might be a form of flattery, but it doesn’t make you feel all that good. And although Durdle Door is an iconic landmark, it isn’t all that original anymore. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s one of the South Coast’s most photographed places.
Stephen Banks caught a beautiful image of the Milky Way above it. Peter Spencer got the sunrise shot, and countless others have got pictures of the arch at sunset, many of them very beautiful.
But I think I’ll be avoiding that spot for a while. It has bugged the hell out of me that I was just another Glow-worm this morning, when there are thousands of other interesting places to explore.
Incidentally, I did take one photograph, but not of Durdle Door. I focused instead on Man of War Bay, on the other side of the cliffs. On a bright, still Summer’s day, it’s a beautiful place to swim. The colours beneath the water are as vivid as the view down a kaleidoscope, and as far as I know, nobody’s photographed that sub-aquatic world yet.