A picture is worth a thousand words so they say, and I guess in terms of conveying an idea it probably is. But can a picture, however great and however well executed, ever truly convey the full reality of a scene. The picture below hangs on my wall and when I look at it, it brings back great memories of a wonderful walk and a wonderful evening, but does it convey that to anyone who wasn’t there? Can you, the ‘detached’ viewer ever really grasp any true sense of that evening?
To my way of thinking, a picture should have at least four dimensions – it is of course a two dimensional thing and by careful choice of viewpoint and composition, you can introduce a sense of the third dimension, depth. The fourth dimension is that indefinable extra, call it atmosphere, mood or whatever, it conveys something of what the photographer was feeling when he or she stood looking at the scene. But this fourth dimension can only ever be partial. For instance, when you look at this picture, you will not feel the stiff breeze that was blowing across my face, you will not feel the freezing cold of winter, you will not feel my very wet feet (the surf was washing in and out around my feet – I often stand in the water to get the right viewpoint, even in mid winter ). Also, you will not hear the wonderful sound of the surf washing gently across the shingle as the waves retract – what a beautiful relaxing sound that is. You will not hear the calling of the seagulls or the children playing in the distance; nor smell the typical smells of the coast – although since I do not possess a sense of smell, that one is lost on me!
But there is yet another thing which you will never pick up from looking at this picture, and for me, it is probably the most abiding memory of that evening – it is the sound of a dog falling down the 100 foot cliff immediately to my right as I stood by my tripod! It was a bizarre event and fortunately, amazingly, one that had a happy ending……although it did prevent me from getting any more pictures of this fantastic sky!
I was just setting up my next shot when I heard this noise of cascading stones to my right, not unusual along the Jurassic coast since minor ‘landslips’ occur all the time. But when I looked, I was shocked to see a dog falling, and he hit the shingle beach with a thud and a loud yelp. Naturally I left my tripod and went over to him, expecting to see him badly injured, instead of which he was just very badly winded and after a great deal of fuss from me, stood up seemingly none the worse for his ordeal. Ten minutes later he was running around the beach as if nothing had happened. But in the meantime, the all too short lived sunset had passed on its way.
The most bizarre part of this story and one of the things that sticks in my mind is the sound of the dog’s owners standing on the cliff top 100 feet above just calling the dog! Clearly they had forgotten that the dog did not have his climbing rope and pitons with him, and neither did he have his OS map and compass with him so that he could work out his route some half a mile round the bay to find the footpath that winds its way up to the cliff top and then along the cliff top path back to his owners. I think if it were my dog, I would have made that trip at superman speed to make sure my dog was ok rather than just standing calling for him to come. I never did find out if dog and owners were reunited!
I think there were three things that saved the dog. The first was that the cliff at that point is not quite vertical, the second is that the dog was a lurcher type with long legs so he could almost ‘run’ down the cliff, and the third was that mercifully he fell on relatively soft shingle rather than on one of the many rocks that also litter the beach.
So back to my original point, is a picture really worth a thousand words and can it ever really convey the whole picture?
Thanks for stopping by and reading the ramblings of The Dorset Rambler.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler.
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