Dungeness is a dynamic and wild landscape….there’s little hope of thinking you’re in charge of nature here… a shifting spit of shingle jutting out in the English channel, being fought over by the waves from two sides…’ Howard Sooley
As eleven of us arrived at the old lighthouse in Dungeness, we were greeted by Clive and the immortal words, “You needn’t bother I’ve already got the winning shot!” Knowing he probably had, did not deter us however! We all set off in slightly different directions, some climbing the lighthouse stairs after requests not to point cameras at the nuclear power station, whilst the rest of us headed up or down the beach.
Dungeness is definitely a Marmite sort of place you either love it or hate it. The contrast between decaying huts, boats and metal and beautiful flora, some of which can only be found growing in this, the only British desert, is an intoxicating mix for any dedicated photographer. As the journalist Jayne Fryer stated it is ‘strangely beautiful in an alien way.’
The wind blew as usual making macro photography a real challenge but as the sun was shining for once, we enjoyed the warmth and additional light it provided. We had two themes, ‘Decay’ and ‘Abstract’ and I set about the latter almost immediately. Trying to capture the essence of rust and old machinery whilst creating something abstract and attractive to look at, became my main aim of the day. I began taking multiple exposures whilst many other photographers, who had suddenly appeared from nowhere, waited in a queue to photograph one particular old boat. I am sure the boat’s owner would like to have earned a pound for every shot I have seen of his boat! The main challenge Dungeness provides in my view, is an opportunity to be creative and to shoot something in a totally different way. Having enjoyed a morning’s photography we met up at The Pilot Inn, for fish and chips. We lingered for a while to rest our aching legs as walking up and down the banks, on the ever shifting pebbles and shingle certainly requires stamina!
It was interesting to watch fellow club members with their lenses almost attached to their faces, exploring the apocalyptic scene that is Dungeness. They lay on the pebbles, leaned into boats, removed ugly pieces of iron and climbed up on platforms of concrete. Several of us became mesmerised by the charred remains of a boat recently destroyed by irresponsible young photographers. The charred wood reminded me of stacks of coins and as the sun caught the lighter ashen coloured wood, it glistened like silver thread entwined in ebony.
As the day came to an end we met up for a final cup of tea. Everyone looked absolutely shattered. Legs ached and fatigue took over. It was at this point Paul thought he may stay on but as he was a driver he needed to have at least two of us stay with him. Dominic and I volunteered and I was so glad I did.
The three of us headed up towards the RSPB reserve which is nothing more than pebbles and the odd patch of grass surrounded by a scene of quiet desolation. As we approached hares scrambled back into their holes so fast we couldn’t get a shot. A crow attacked a seagull right in front of us but again we were all too slow! As we were about to give up, a fox ambled around the side of a small hill in front of me. I called quietly to the others but the wind carried my voice away. It disappeared around the back of the hill quickly and I thought it had decided to move on but Paul saw it emerge and called out to us. We closed in quietly and gently with fingers poised over our shutters. The fox moved on keeping his eyes on us when he could. He seemed relaxed in our presence but not so keen to be photographed. He stopped frequently to mark his territory and stare us out! We all took several shots feeling privileged to have witnessed this, much maligned, animal in its own habitat. We ended the day on a different part of the beach. We took a few shots while the tide was out, and the best of the light had disappeared as young people gathered to fly kites.
Unlike the residents, visitors are not supplied with Potassium Iodate in case of a leak from the nuclear power plant, but despite the minimal risk, Dungeness is and hopefully will remain, an inspiring place for those of us who are obsessed with photography.