The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Reflections on Dorset

David Bailey gets two pictures for the price of one, as he collects reflections around Dorset

The swimming pool blasted out of the rocks at Dancing Ledge

Dorset may not have as many lakes as some other counties, but it does have a vast array of different bodies of water. There is Europe’s largest natural harbour in Poole, watercress pools and streams in the chalk valleys, water meadows by the Frome and Stour, brackish water in the Fleet at Chesil, Poole Park and Studland, mill ponds and races around the county, village ponds, a village fountain at Hinton Martell and an enormous one at Forde Abbey.

The Hellstone – a neolithic dolmen on Portesham Hill, reflected in a pond

Then there are the county’s dozens of rivers, hundreds of streams and brooks and, of course, the sea. All, in the right conditions, offer a reflective medium with which to enhance the already exquisite scenery and buildings beyond.

A sideways glance at Forde Abbey reflected in the River Axe

The French Nouvelle Vague film director Francois Truffaut stated that he ‘always preferred the reflection of the life to life itself’. For a photographer, reflections are somewhat different; they give you the chance to see something from a different angle or to form a new image altogether. The effect is rather like a Rorschach inkblot test, where the same image reflected in a body of water creates a new two-sided almost symmetrical shape.

A channel marker and East and Burton Cliffs reflected in a calm sea at West Bay

Whilst it might seem as if a body of water will exactly duplicate what’s there, this isn’t the case for three reasons: firstly the light reflecting off the water is reflecting at a different angle than the original image, so depending on your angle to a body of water, the reflection may be shorter or taller than the original.

From Eye Mead over the River Stour near Pamphill

Owing to an effect known as polarisation, anything non-metallic will only reflect light that is vibrating in a single plane. What this means is that reflected skies, for example, are darker on the water than the skies themselves appear on a picture; it also means colours often appear more saturated, more vivid in the reflection than the original subject.

A portrait of tranquillity at Fisherman's Quay in Poole

The third reason why reflected images, particularly on water, are not the same as the objects they reflect is that outdoors at least, water is very rarely still. River water and seawater will be moving, and both these and standing water like puddles, ponds and lakes, may well have their surface disturbed by wind-created ripples.

Subtle coloured reflections on a barely moving sea at Old Harry, with Bournemouth beyond

Whether yours is a scientific or poetic study of reflection, Dorset has an astonishing variety of opportunities to experiment.

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