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Mark Tipple: The Underwater Project. Documenting life below the surface.

"I've always been fascinated with what happens below the surface, like what's happening where we can't see." While watching the slideshow on Mark's laptop I'm amazed at the detail of this 'other world' that's portrayed with his selection.

As an accomplished documentary photographer, in the past Mark has used the ocean as an escape for some solace away from the projects he's been documenting. Lately, while in-between projects he's been "hanging out" below the surface trying to capture what happens while swimming on a slow summer's day.

"Coming from a surfing background I used to wonder what happens when we're duckdiving, like, what it looks like from a different angle than what we can see. Kinda hard to explain but it has always been on my mind. I used to surf with a small video camera and housing attached to my helmet, (pauses) it worked surprisingly well but my neck couldn't take the impact and stress when a surfer is caught amongst the whitewater being thrashed about while I'm trying to duck-dive myself trying to capture the right angle. Even tried to turn it back on myself to see what happens clearly but that, uh, sucked (laughs). I looked for a new approach to capture what I was seeking, which basically meant getting off the surfboard."

Surfing is a notoriously frustrating sport, where a number of elements have to be present for a good surf session. From the correct wind strength and direction, to the correct tide for the reef or sandbar, to the correct swell direction for the location, which all depends on there being swell present on the day it's enough to turn away the most dedicated surfer to take up tennis or cricket, something less elemental dependent. "So many times back home we've be driving through the bush for 2 hours on a one way track only to find that the surrounding sand has covered the reef from an overnight tidal movement making it break wide or just weird...even if the 3 main elements are there (wind, swell, tide) there's always a chance for something unexpected to ruin the trip."

As the Australian summer hits and Mark is city bound for the next few months with film commitments, he has been finding the angles he's always been looking for, even through the lack of quality waves.

"Last week down the road from my house there was a pretty big swell...well, for Coogee anyway, and at the start of the school holidays there were kids everywhere being smashed in the closeout shore-break. I was only in the water for about 30 minutes when I was walking backwards as a wave rolled past to shoot the swimmers diving underwater when my legs were taken out beneath me by someone diving under the wave, sending me over the falls backwards."
Mark goes on to describe how he was pinned underwater by his weight belt, which was "no problem but the impact of the wave ripped the housing out of my hand and snapped the leash leaving my housing and camera tumbling somewhere amongst the whitewater and swimmers. I managed to find it two waves later after a pretty frantic search, so stoked it didn't leak."

He's just returned from a week away in the South Australian desert, going to some remote places with a good friend who was willing to help capture the different angles for the images he's been looking for, but hasn't had anyone to link up with. "Working with Mike pretty much achieved what I had been looking for around the beaches in Sydney, to add another element to the frame other than just surfers in the form of a swimmer when both the camera and swimmer are behind the wave added the extra point of interest for the eye."

Mark agrees that it's quickly turned from "something fun when there's no waves" into a product that's gaining recognition and respect from various sources, if the last few months are anything to go by we're sure to be seeing a lot more in the near future.

For more info check out:
http://www.marktipple.com
http://www.marktipple.com/downloads/UnderwaterProject_17.zip

Jeremy White


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
A swimmer looks at the sun as a wave passes overhead. In the remote Southern Ocean off the coast of South Australia, Mike Hemus revelled in the waves. An experienced surfer, he was more than willing to help photographer Mark Tipple with his Underwater Project. "From the first few photos he showed me on the lcd display I knew we were going to get something good, with timing and positioning it was a tiring 3 hours in the water being thrashed around almost constantly." Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
Students revel in the summer's warm water at Coogee beach playing amongst the waves. Photographer Mark Tipple captured the sequence of a group of young men ducking below the surface to avoid the impact of a clean up set. "This kid's face was full of strain and tension, made me laugh when he surfaced and saw the next wave approaching. Quickly changed from relief to fear." Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
Students revel in the summer's warm water at Coogee beach, playing amongst the waves. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
At Westcape beach in South Australia a man struggles with the water as he falls off his surfboard and is pulled through the water at high speed, almost emulating an explosion. Photographer Mark Tipple admits that he was "hiding flat on the sand after being caught in the wrong position as a set wave approached, after this guy was riding the wave for a bit he must have fallen off right on top of me. Instinct took over and I shoved the housing pretty much in his face and fired off six or eight shots, it must have looked pretty weird from his perspective, if he had his eyes open." Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
Mike Hemus chases a surfer from behind and below the wave. Known as 'Dolphining', he tries to emulate the effortless way dolphins ride the wave. He admits it's hard to keep up with fast moving waves, "On the reefs in South Australia the momentum of the swell is a lot faster than those on the East Coast" (Sydney, Queensland), often left behind watching as the wave continues to break down the line. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
Incredible pictures of local Sydney swimmers at Coogee Beach on a sunny day becoming frozen in the wave by Sydney Photographer Mark Tipple. In his words "The first sunny day at the start of University holidays and there were people everywhere. With the increase in swell overnight the lifeguards were constantly asking that due care was taken while entering the water. These two girls had only just swam out to the sandbar when this wave came through, also catching the other kid off-guard and having to scramble for the bottom. I had been shooting in the water for around 30 minutes and saw that they could be in trouble if they didn't get under the wave in time before it broke, 8 frames later I surfaced on the calm side of the wave stoked at the result." Mark said the girl didn't get sucked over with the wave, instead of moving in these photos she's become frozen in the wave. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
A man looks to be almost skydiving as he navigates between the shockwaves of a wave overhead at Bronte Beach. Photographer Mark Tipple said this is the clearest water he's ever seen around the Sydney area. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
A swimmer reaches out to cling onto the reef to avoid being dragged along the reef with the wave. A technique long known to watermen, it's an easy way to avoid serious injury if they are caught in the wrong position and the wave runs them down. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
A unique perspective of a small wave about to break in front of two swimmers. The photographer reports that when the wind starts creating chop on the surface of the water, it can make for some amazing scenes below the surface, as there is "whitewater everywhere". Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
Mike Hemus chases a surfer from behind and below the wave. Known as 'Dolphining', he tries to emulate the effortless way dolphins ride the wave. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple, diana topan
A surfer rises to the surface after duckdiving the approaching wave. With water so clear you can almost sense his expectancy for fresh air to fill his lungs. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple
From behind the wave as a surfer is riding and one is duckdiving. The photographer said that he was looking for something different to capture, by exhaling small breaths of air and focusing on the bubbles it leads to a sense of mystery, and creating an ethereal image. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple
Young surfers at Maroubra beach playing around, one with a hat on gives praise to his friend riding the wave above. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple
A surfer is seen from behind the wave underwater as he takes off at Maroubra beach, Sydney. Photo © Mark Tipple


photography news, underwater photography, mark tipple
Mike Hemus watches a wave pass by as he returns to the surface to draw a breath in the remote South Australian ocean. Photo © Mark Tipple


Photos: Mark Tipple
Text: Jeremy White

All Rights Reserved

About Mark Tipple

In the last two years Mark Tipple has emerged as a notable documentary photographer focusing on social issues in Australia and neighboring countries. Having worked closely with social justice organizations in Indonesia and the Fijian Islands in on-going projects he spends his downtime shooting underwater scenes around Sydney's Eastern suburbs. Having recently joined as the photographer with The Guarani Project crew, a journalist and film maker working to raise the profile of the Guarani Aquifer in South America, Mark hopes to bring his stills
experience to create an impacting multimedia project.
- Jeremy White



6 comments:

  1. James says

    Outstanding underwater work!


    Sandy Boyce says

    Wonderful photos, Mark!


    Svend Erik Sokkelund says

    Very fascinating! Must take a lot of experience to see things like this and do the pics.


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6 comments so far. What do you think?