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A Missed Photographic Opportunity At Samphire Hoe Provides A Shift In Focus

A recent field trip to Samphire Hoe, a spit of new land between Folkestone and Dover, provided a most frustrating photographic opportunity that I sadly managed to get all wrong. However I learnt more about life from the experince than photography.

Samphire Hoe is a man made peninsula from the spoil of the construction of the Channel Tunnel that juts into the sea between the Kent towns of Dover and Folkestone. Formally known as Lower Shakespeare Cliff the site changed its name in the mid 1990s and I must admit that I prefer the new name. The site is renowned as being home to one of the largest colonies of early spider orchids (Ophrys sphegodes) in the country having increased most dramatically in number since 2004.

With views across the Channel and an interesting assortment of flora and fauna Samphire Hoe is quite an amazing place to visit and provides wonderful photographic opportunities. Sadly the photo-opportunity I was provided with turned into somewhat of a disaster but a very positive learning experience.


I had walked off of the Samphire Hoe site towards Folkestone to experiment with a lens and some new techniques I have been reading about to help improve the quality of my photography and hopefully achieve “tack sharp” images. As so often is the case The Nature can catch you unawares, as is the case with this instance.

I had been experimenting with panning the camera set on a tripod and trying to catch various birds in flight. Between a burst of shots I detected movement on a steep part of the cliff face some 150m away out of the corner of my field of vision. This movement I initially presumed to be a rabbit.

As I adjusted the position of the tripod on the pebble beach to get the cliff section into view my quarry moved into full view and it was no rabbit but a fox. With the thought of hopefully capturing some quality images a fox on a steep cliff and with the fox on a determined path and not in the mood to graciously stop and pose for me I was only able to get a few shots off, all of which  were not in focus and blurred due to movement on the tripod.


The whole experience got me thinking about the disappointment and frustration of making some very basic errors which led to the poor picture quality and the missed opportunity to share a picture to be proud of.

My good friend Jeremy Hastings on Islay once said to me about The Nature “Hope for everything, but expect nothing” which are exceptionally wise words on a multitude of levels. With these powerful words ringing in my ears I was able to reflect and put these events into context.

The experience of watching an amazing creature about its business on a steep chalk cliff was far more powerful and valuable than the materialistic potential of the photograph and the memories are to be treasured and learnt from.


The lesson that the fox taught me on this occasion was “the focus of life is more important than the focus of the camera lens”. An encounter with The Nature should never disappoint it should only inspire, so next time I will leave the camera at home and capture the images in my minds eye only.

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