Mark Tippet is an award-winning landscape photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Mark’s style can best be described as genuine – he does not use filters or colour enhancement in his images and will patiently wait for nature to reveal it’s true beauty before clicking the shutter release.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you began shooting landscapes.
I had a very humble beginning in photography, receiving my first digital point-and-shoot camera as a gift from my parents on my 18th birthday. I soon upgraded to a DSLR and the hobby quickly became a passion after attending a one day photography workshop run by Mark Gray, an established and highly successful Australian landscape photographer. Mark showed me how to unlock the creative potential of my camera and, from then, I knew this was a medium I could use to express and document my view of the world. Photography for me, much like any artist, has always been a channel for creativity and self expression. As a full-time business consultant, most of the work I do is very analytical and process driven, which leaves little room for creativity. The attraction to landscapes as a subject is therefore two-fold. Firstly, it coincided with a growing interest in what is now a love of the outdoors and adventure. Secondly, photography is as much a creative outlet for me as it is an escape from the fast-paced environment of my day job. Being surrounded by a subject which is generally static by its very nature encourages me to slow down and reconnect with nature in an almost meditative way.
Is your photography dictated by your travels or do you travel to photograph?
I consider myself very lucky in that the destinations which I most enjoy traveling to typically lend themselves very well to landscape and nature photography. Having said that, I have planned numerous holidays with photography as the primary consideration. In 2012, I spent three months driving solo around Tasmania and the East coast of Australia, purely to photograph various locations I had researched. Nowadays, I am less inclined to seek out a particular location, but rather prefer to discover new photographic opportunities as I explore the outdoors. My favourite photography destination (for good reason) is New Zealand; I have visited more than six times over the past five years. The entire country from tip to tail is photogenic and it has an untamed quality which I am drawn to.
Being surrounded by a subject which is generally static by its very nature encourages me to slow down and reconnect with nature in an almost meditative way.
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of landscape photography and, conversely, what is the most rewarding part?
The most challenging part of landscape photography is timing; the right time of year, the right time of day, even the right second can make or break a great photo. Landscape photographers have coined the term ‘golden hour’ to describe the time just after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the light is softer. The reality is that the best time for capturing a landscape can be up to a couple of hours either side of sunrise/sunset. It can even be the middle of the night for astrophotographers. It takes real commitment to be braving the elements at times of day when everyone else is either sound asleep or out socialising with friends and having no guarantees that the elements will cooperate.
I read that you like to revisit a location many times to ensure the conditions are perfect before you take a shot; have you gone to any extremes to get that perfect position for the best shot?
In five years I have drowned or destroyed four DSLRs, all in pursuit of the perfect shot. I have fought goannas and sandflies, driven for 10 hours a day and gone 36 hours straight without sleep. But by far the furthest I have gone for the perfect shot was three years ago in Croajingalong National Park. It is a little known fact that CNP is home to the largest sand dune system in Victoria. As I researched the location, I developed a distinct image in my mind of what I wanted to capture. The dune system is a three hour return hike from the nearest campsite. I spent three days in the national park, waking up at 3am and return hiking to the dunes twice each day (for sunrise and sunset) – a total of 24 hours hiking. Each time I carried approximately 20kg of camera gear (two camera systems and two tripods) and three litres of water. One afternoon, while waiting for sunset, strong winds blew across the dunes, filling my clothes, bag and camera gear with sand. At one stage the winds were so strong that the sand stung my legs as it whipped across the dunes. On the final morning I captured the image I had envisioned – a lone dune bathed in a soft pre-dawn glow.
Imitation is suicide. Any successful artist has a moment where they stop being an admirer and they find their own vision.
What has been the best piece of advice that you have been given about your landscape photography?
The single greatest piece of advice I have received as a photographer is to study the work of others as much as you practice photography yourself. Study photography genres outside of the ones you practice. Study art outside of photography altogether! Understanding composition, the use of light and colour and what creates an emotional connection with the viewer, is crucial to your development as an artist and a photographer. There is, however, a temptation when we see a great photo or follow a successful artist to try and emulate their work. The key is to understand what makes their work great and then to apply those ideas in our own way. Imitation is suicide. Any successful artist has a moment where they stop being an admirer and they find their own vision.
What is next for you? Do you have any trips planned or projects that you can tell us about?
I’ve recently returned from a hiking trip to Tongariro National Park, a volcanic region on New Zealand’s North Island. A new series from that trip titled ‘Emerald’ has just been released on my website. The series showcases the intense colours of the thermal lakes which surround the volcanoes in an abstract form. Hopefully, the next 12 months will see me bringing to fruition two projects which have been on my ‘to-do’ list for some time – one based on the architecture of inner Melbourne and the other coinciding with a trip to rural Japan. I’m also hoping to build my own custom drone to experiment with aerial photography. There’s definitely some exciting things on the horizon in the near future and I’m looking forward to bringing some of these new projects to life!
See more of Mark’s work at:
All images copyright Mark Tippet.