Blog. Rambles. Cohesion. Words. Story. Thoughts. Life.
I Shoot People
Tourism North Queensland's 'One Day In Paradise' campaign
Shooting underwater is weird.
After four years of working on the underwater series I thought I had dealt with a fair few problems, from infections to reef cuts to White Sharks, so when Tourism North Queensland approached me to make a short film doing what I do on the Great Barrier Reef I said 'No problem'.
Add a late season tropical storm and an Irukandji (Box jellyfish) restriction; I was stumped.
The showcase film we went to make wasn't going to happen, and while reflecting on this in the interview we decided to focus on the challenges we tend to go through while pursuing our chosen career paths.
Even with the problems and copious amounts of stress I'm more stoked on this film than one I pitched, huge thanks goes to my crew for sticking it out.
DOP: Brad Halstead
Model: Holly Alifraco
Stills/Edit: Mark Tipple
Music: Rhian Sheehan
Stills: Canon 5D MkII
Aquatech DC-5 v2
Aquatech LP-3 8" Dome port
Aquatech 50mm extension ring
Video/Audio: GoPro Hero3 (requirement from the client)
Steadicam Smoothie for GoPro
Rode NTG3 & Zoom H4n
Shades of Morning
I spent February on Bondi Beach, working on a series of photographs that capture the essence of the beach culture along Sydney's Eastern Beaches. At sunrise every morning you'll find hundreds of people exercising, swimming, photographing, just enjoying the morning - only to disappear at 9am when the tourist buses roll in. It's a magical time of morning, and I tried a variation of the Thirty Minute technique to find the spirit amongst the morning people.
See the series here - www.marktipple.com/shades
Twelve from Twenty Twelve
2012 was about rolling with the hits and misses, learning and adapting, while staying true to what I believe. No compromise.
See the review here - www.marktipple.com/twelve
Surfers Against Sewage 2013 Calendar
My collaboration calendar with UK based environmental org Surfers Against Sewage has just been launched, featuring 12 photos from the underwater series. I'm stoked to use what I've focused on for the past three years to help organisations who are actively looking after the ocean. Priced at £15 with postage, funds will go towards their Protect our Waves campaign.
"I'm done bro, I'm done."
With those few words Mike rose to his feet in ankle deep water and began the 10 minute walk towards shore, dodging thick black urchins and sharp reef outcrops while assessing his wounds. Even from behind the waves I could see a stream of blood run down his arm, and t-shirt turn red across his shoulders.
This was in the first hour of a 10 day shoot.
We both knew the reefs on the island were shallow; we'd been there before and surfed the waves, but shooting The Underwater Project dictates no boards and definitely no wetsuits - meaning the danger of losing skin was increased tenfold.
With a wary eye watching for rogue waves I watched as Mike left the water, he stumbled on a few urchin spines adding insult to injury; and I wondered if there was something else that I could shoot underwater.
After a few technical adjustments (read : complete confusion with new gear); the Mare Vida series found me.
See the whole series here - www.marktipple.com/marevida
Kigamboni Community Centre
In June I spent time at the Kigamboni Community Centre in Tanzania, working to showcase the positive impact they've had in rising up talents of the local youth.
We held an exhibition in Sydney last weekend to raise funds for next year's education programs which went pretty well; I'm super stoked to be involved in helping people help others.
Jackson is one of the standout stories from the centre, see his story below, and the rest of the stories at www.marktipple.com/risingup
Myths. Dispelled. Dark Paradise
Summer 2012 was tough.
With the amount of rain and storms marching
through Sydney I was hanging out for April, last year April proved worth
the wait with crystal clear bath warm water all along the beaches in
Being lazy as I am, I focused on Bronte beach, having moved a few blocks away to a larger apartment at the start of the year my shooting consistency dropped as the books proved more work than anticipated, plus the added distance meant I had to battle traffic and trigger happy parking rangers….my pet hate.
However, April didn't let me down. I was working on a few underwater film shoots with scuba and a tripod, sometimes much to the surprise of the swimmers when I surfaced in full scuba right next to them, had some weird looks and comments as it was only 4 foot deep. Even so I managed to shoot some stills in the lay days.
Dark Paradise was shot on one of those lay days, when the water looked clear from above but wasn't totally free of sediment and weed below. I was going to pass on it but I had a few hours to kill, and needed a salt fix. The waves were a playful 2-3 foot, big enough to produce the plumes of whitewater but not big enough to stop swimmers from coming out further to where they were breaking. I was a little out of position as a wave started to form, and thought of shooting right behind through the breaking water and maybe seeing the beach through the glassy wall, but a touch of sea-breeze made the lip crumble and the face bumpy.
One of the luxuries of this digital generation is the ability to shoot regardless of the wave or my position; I'd rather have to delete a bunch of 'nothings' than run the risk of missing the moment by simply being conservative and not pressing the button.
As the wave was breaking and moving away from me I saw the splash and shadow of a swimmer start to dive under, for some reason he angled himself across the wave and not straight through, as my camera buffered out and the fps slowed considerably I was left with the last image on the display keeping me stoked.
I try to be as close to swimmers as I can to show as much detail and expression as possible, although this was shot from more than twice as far away as usual it just seems to work.
See more from Summer 2012 here - http://
Summer 2012 Gallery.
This summer was tough.
I lost count after 10 consecutive days of rain earlier in January, then when the clouds finally parted allowing the sun to shine the water was filled with sediment and muck for the following week - which would coincide perfectly for the next spell of rain. Frustrating to say the least.
While Sydney suffered under El Niño's grasp I spent a fair bit of time in South Australia, wanting to focus on the Ocean films I've been working on I teamed up with good friends Mike and Luke to produce West Away, a film about why we do what we do. Personally it was an epic time as I've been away from that sort of searching trip since moving to Sydney a few years ago. Even though the Underwater Project was put aside to focus on pre and post of West Away I'm stoked on the outcome, it seemed all the more fitting to feature Mike in the film having started the Underwater Project with him on a dusty trip to the desert almost two and a half years ago.
As winter creeps a little closer every day, the Summer 2012 Gallery is somewhat of a reportage of the past 8 months with some good days in amongst the bad - while also paying homage to some of the selects from years past. In the coming months I'll be focusing on another Ocean film and a humanitarian project, until sometime in September when the clouds disappear giving way to warmer water and sunny skies and the underwater series will start up again.
In the meantime, I've added an acrylic panel print option along with the standard matte/gloss/canvas options - acrylics look amazing as the waves are almost 3D - check the window on the right hand side of each gallery for more information, and the books are still finding their way to homes around the world. I'm still humbled on the reception of the series.
Navakai Village Floods.
The recent floods in Fiji happened during the busiest time for me this year.
Shooting for 8 days straight both underwater and with charities I
heard about the floods through a friend asking if I had heard from my
friends in Navakai.
While watching the news footage I thought the worst and quickly called whoever I could but failed to get through, my fears were compounded by the limited phone and internet facilities. As the water began to recede a few Facebook messages confirmed that the families in Navakai are ok and 'getting through it', however now the waters have receded the longer term impact is being felt.
The families I've heard from have lost almost everything, from electrical cooking appliances to bed sheets and mattresses. My good friend Tui said in a Facebook message "dude it was one of worse ever nothing got spare at home inside it was up to knee level i hope u see the picture"
Over the past 3 years the families in Navakai have welcomed me in and shared their food as though I was family, without question or hesitation, also took time out to look after me when I was sick and helped me regain my strength.
If I can help by using the diverse network that the Underwater Project has gathered it'll be fulfilling the reason why I started this series. I touched on this a few months back in a short interview (watch it here - http://theunderwaterproject.com/about).
Shooting 'West Away'
Tech and personal how/why of the style
I was somewhat of a newcomer to the Canon 5D Mk II for filming.
In late 2009 we were looking at the HDslr range to put in an underwater housing for a shark diving film to help us get physically closer to the sharks than our housed Sony EX-3's could, and chose the Canon 7D to utilize it's 60p function. I had been looking at and using the 5DII and loved it’s IQ, but the 60p outweighed this, and 8fps for stills meant it was practicable for underwater and sports in the housing. The 1D IV was still in the rumor mill, cutting our options significantly. Since filming Shark Diver I've used the 7D primarily for stills to shoot The Underwater Project, with a bit of filming in-between for other projects. I'd used a friend’s 5DII sporadically for photo assignments, but it was always as a backup to my 1DsII; my workhorse for above water shooting. Having used the 5DII on a short film mid-last year I was surprised at the difference in quality from the 7D, and with some number juggling decided to make the switch from the 1DsII to the 5DII for everything above water.
When I was planning for West Away, a short film about the search and exploration for unridden waves in remote South Australia, I spent some time thinking about camera format and each logistical challenge, as well as the actual feel I wanted to convey to the audience. Did I want to shoot everything at 60p to have the option of slow motion, or did I want the realism of 25p and accept the added camera motion that could be smoother at 60p? Would the 5DII’s full frame cause more problems than it was worth or would the 7D 1.6x crop or one of the Sony’s sensor work better with the style?
I knew we'd be bouncing over dirt roads and scaling down cliffs for most of the trip, with the added entry point risks of sand dust and salt spray with Dslr’s I wondered if something like the EX-1 would be better (inbuilt ND and sound recording options would be appreciated and avoid accessories dangling off the side of a Dslr), but knowing that the final edit would be a mix of water footage from the 7D I settled on the 5DII for cutaway/land surfing footage. We had to switch between formats with Shark Diver due to logistical dramas (not finding sharks wasn't cool), which I wasn't keen to go through again.
I planned to shoot mostly handheld for exploring cutaways but use sticks for locked off shots and smooth pans for the land surfing footage.
The format I wanted was searching and surfing footage over them talking about the trip and why they choose to take a path less travelled which I’d get from a sit down interview, and wanted to let the surfing footage run longer than just the start and finish of the wave. This alone would be different to what's been done before in the surf scene, and let us see their reaction to a failed move or a blown barrel. This all seemed like a good idea until the 5th hour ticked over on a 38 degree windswept beach hiding under a towel swapping cards and digging my buried backpack out of the piled up sand.
At times when we were running over sand dunes to check the setups below I knew that the footage would be shaky and possible not usable, but since the trip was all about exploration and the journey I'd reference this in the interview, and was surprised how the shaky footage fit and helped bring us along for the ride. In the middle of the trip we were bunked down in the dirt miles from town for a few days, which made me thank B&H for their sale on Sandisk cards back in November - while I thought I was starting the trip completely overstocked with six 32GB cards and 8 batteries a few days of surfing and exploring took up a large chunk of available storage. I had a small HyperDrive Colorspace with me for emergency backup, however after the third day of camping we packed up and drove 90 minutes to the pub for a well deserved meal and data transfer. While eating and downloading footage through tethering my iPhone we found the live stream of the Fronton surfing competition in the Canary Islands which gave us a mid-trip amp, and confused the heck out of the local farmers looking at three punk kids with cords and cables running everywhere. I’ll never not be amazed by technology.
I chose the kit Canon 24-105 for the searching clips, while not the biggest fan of an f4 lens the IS was a godsend while handheld for hours on end and running over sharp rocks, I also brought the 100-400 for the land surfing footage. Traditional surf photography that's shot straight ahead, close crop on the wave/surfer has never interested me, when we found a beach with rock protrusions and steep cliffs in the background I was stoked to put something in the foreground and utilize wider apertures, plus it meant I could sit in the sand and take the pressure of my old weary back. ND faders were on each lens at all times, however I found wide open on the 100-400 wasn't exactly sharp (as with most lenses), and stopped down accordingly. I didn't want the added bulk of a shoulder rig, but also didn't want to shoot handheld, and looked into rigs similar to the Zacuto Target Shooter. I eventually went with a cut down curtain rod and two umbrella flash swivel brackets for chest support and face support with an LcdVF, but kicked myself on the first day as my cable tied way of attaching the wireless lav receiver and Zoom H4n fell apart. Again, the format I wanted would rely on the interviews to provide the dialogue for the film, and felt comfortable not worrying too much about the location sound for cutaways. On board shotgun mic feeding camera audio would be fine - I didn't end up using any of the location sound anyway.
We used both cameras for the interview, as an after thought I asked Mike and Luke to use the 7D to shoot each other handheld for another angle to cut to from the locked off 5DII, in post found the handheld style fit better with the cutaways for brief talking sync. In hindsight I wish we had used the 5DII for this, would have made grading a little easier to work with. In the water I used a small SPL underwater housing and Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens, with the 7D shooting @ 60p.
Every style is purely subjective, but this is one that I’m drawn to and chose for the purpose of bring the viewer along. Also one that resounds closely with my photography background, the only difference being the final product of a 10 second shot vs single frame to help visualize the story.
Ocean : West Away
Surf films have bored me lately.
Even with the amazing waves and incredible ways of riding them, I found myself still wanting more.
The standard format with surfing to music has been around
foreverandaday, and, I used to make them myself spending hours studying
them to match the editing style and song selection, however during the
past year I've found myself being drawn to longer form documentaries
with a story lines and interviews.
It's strange to think that I've never heard most of the top pro surfers' voice, but can easily recognise their style of surfing like the back of my hand.
My breaking point came late last year when I watched the premiere of a
high budget surf film that seemed to be almost edited to a formula; an
empty wave - three turns then barrel - a heavy wipeout then transition
to a walk up the beach holding a broken board.
Instead of complaining about it I thought of adapting the short form story telling format I've been drawn to over the past year to a surfing story, and made plans with two good friends to tag along and see what came from it.
I used to meet up with Mike and Luke in remote parts of the country
to spend a week surfing, camping in the dirt and telling stories, then
part ways and plan to meet up again for the next swell or wind pattern.
Having been away from that lifestyle for the past few years it seems foreign to me to now drive for a day to catch a break in the weather and surf, then drive a day to return home and study the weather maps to do it again wherever looks good next.
It turned out they had been planing a trip to a part of South Australia that I know well and used to call home, and thought this would make a good story.
We were away for a week, drove more than 6,000 kilometers, found some
super fun waves and explored places we had researched on the map but
hadn't been. We dove in knowing that December isn't the best time for
waves over there but we were positive that we'd find a window that would
align the swell and wind and make the effort worthwhile.
West Away is a short film about the passion behind the endless number of kilometres and places to search, which I hope will resound with people who either live that lifestyle or like me can relate to the effort we used to go to just to get a few waves.