My photographic love affair with the Jurassic Coast started back in 2004. At the time I was living in the Midlands and my portfolio consisted largely of the Peak District and North Wales. My first visit came in the form of a four day venture with the aim of starting a Dorset Coast portfolio.
During the trip I got hooked, my childhood years were spent growing up near the sea, I longed to get back to it, and where could be better? The Jurassic coastline fascinated me: rugged, historic, and beautiful, with the added bonus of small picturesque seaside towns situated along its shores – landscape photography heaven! A few years later I orchestrated a move to Sidmouth, in my opinion one of the prettiest locations in the south west.
There’s the town’s symbolic Triassic red cliffs, Georgian and Regency seafront, nestled in a wooded valley with beautiful rural surroundings, amazing coastal walks and neighbouring spectacular Ladram Bay. It was heaven.
However in 2010 I found myself forced to move due to recession, to Upwey, Weymouth, and finally the Isle of Portland. At first I was disheartened and longed to move back to East Devon, but now I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.
Portland is an unparalleled mecca for landscape photography on the English coast. It boasts key landmarks and viewpoints compacted within close proximity to one another, plus it has numerous nooks and crannies, lesser-known landmarks and hidden coves that are equally as photogenic. Portland’s natural vistas leading to sweeping views over the Jurassic Coast also work harmoniously with the points of the compass, and thus the changing light throughout the day, and through the seasons.
From my attic-based office, I get a 360° panoramic of the weather and light all over the coast, so I can choose to venture out to another location, or make a split decision on a shoot nearby. Furthermore, due to the island’s east, south, and west elevations facing the English Channel, it’s one of the best locations in England to shoot year-round nightscape photography; an added bonus as I have adapted and now teach this style.
The Isle of Portland, with its limestone cliffs from the Tithonian period re-shaped by man, may not be looked upon from afar as one of the more attractive locations the Jurassic Coast has to offer. With over two known millennia of quarrying, man has certainly left his mark on the landscape; it is also an area left out of the Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The island has paid the price for its part in the construction of the UK, but by no means should it be overlooked.
The island plays an important part in the coast’s heritage and you can easily fill a memory card or two in a day. To the south are the iconic man-made and sculptured landmarks of Portland Bill lighthouse and Pulpit rock, along with traditional old quarry cranes, beach and fishing huts, and sea caves. To the east are sheltered bays, an old quarry that nature is taking back which includes plant and insect life unique to the island, and where Portland’s two species of lizard are a common sight. On clear days you can also see along the east coast to Durdle Door and Kimmeridge cliffs.
Panoramic views to the north and west sweep over the harbour and along Chesil Beach, the Fleet lagoon and as far past West Bay as the eye can see. Not to mention a small castle and The Cove, a suntrap favoured by locals and divers nestled at the end of Chesil Beach!
I travel extensively around the UK, but I am always glad to get home to Portland, usually to be greeted on the way onto the island with a spectacular sunset over Chesil and the west of the Jurassic Coast. But don’t just take my word for it!
Ollie Taylor – Land & Nightscape Photographer