Durdle Door at Sunrise in Dorset
Durdle Door at Sunrise in Dorset

How to capture UK’s most spectacular photograph

You only get two chances each year

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 31 October 2017 11:35

Durdle Door is no ordinary coastal landmark.

Once a year, eager photographers descend to a secluded beach on the Lulworth Estate in Dorset to bask in the glory of the majestic limestone arch that resembles an illuminated key hole for a few minutes each winter.

Just before and after the Winter Solstice, December 21, the earth rotates in a way that means the sun will rise at a certain point on the horizon so that it shines right through the gap in the archway.

It makes for quite the magical photograph.

Whether you’re experienced behind the lens or not, any aspiring snapper can get a piece of the action with the right preparation and planning.

The pursuit of the photograph, which is often dubbed “the holy grail” of photography, is such that there are endless articles, books, and even courses in “chasing” the keyhole.

First, you need to get down to Dorset at exactly the right time.

Using an app like Photographer’s Ephemeris can help ensure that you’re there in time for sunrise, as it gives you specific timings for upcoming dates.

Photographer Paul Reiffer, whose book Through the Keyhole documents his numerous attempts to capture the shot, explains that it’s as much about luck as it is about strategy.

Durdle Door at Sunrise in Dorset

“If you seriously listened to some of these guys, you could easily convince yourself that a government clearance was required in order to get to the beach involved, along with a decree in witchcraft to control the sun’s orientation,” he writes on his website.

In order to “get lucky with the sky,” as he puts it, photographers need to be patient and consider various compositional viewpoints.

Reiffer has attempted to capture the keyhole shot a number of times and after successfully doing so in 2015, insists that the experience is as important as the final shot itself, writing “it’s not all about the click!”

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