Category Archives: Documentary

Where Memories Sleep – Project overview

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A very brief overview of the Where Memories Sleep Project including behind the scenes footage of production.

Where Memories Sleep is an immersive cinedance performance that is designed to introduce new audiences to Antarctica and the science undertaken there.

The installation, inspired by Jason’s trips to Scott Base in 2016 and 2018, combines live and pre-recorded dancers projected on to a bespoke glacier set and the fulldome at Wellington’s SpacePlace.

The project is a collaboration between Jason O’Hara (creative director, motionographer, documentary maker and scenographer) and Warren Maxwell (musician), and is supported by a team of professional dancers.

Antarctica FridayFoto #18

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“In safe hands” Ice dive Antarctica

NIWA’s Drew Lohrer holds the safety line for ice diver Ian Hawkes as he works under the 2 metre thick sea-ice at Cape Evans in Antarctica. The divers cut a hole through the ice then position a modified shipping container over the hole to act as a dive base.

I was super impressed with these guys and their safety regime – the diver is in constant communication with the surface through a system of pulls on three rope Drew holds in a shaft of light through the containers only small window. It highlights these ‘lines of communication’ and that Ian was truely ‘in safe hands’

Antarctica’s historic huts

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Shots of the historic huts in Antarctica – mostly from Scott’s hut and Cape Evans with a few from Shackleton’s Cape Royds thrown in. This is a working edit so will change over time.

Scott’s hut is the iconic base associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, famed attempt for the Geographic South Pole.

I wanted to capture the feeling of visiting the hut rather than concentrating on accurately documenting the site and artefacts, after all, many very good photographers have done this already (including the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton). I found it quite liberating to know I could take a totally different approach. See her video from TEDx at the bottom of this page.

 

When we entered the hut it was very dark with snow covering many of the windows. We had to wear head-torches which created an eerie pool of light in the inky dark, revealing a small bit at a time. To try and get the feeling of the experience I shot with combinations of head-torch and snooted flash lighting and using my homemade lens on a modern Nikon DSLR. The lens is made with the element from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera very similar to that used by the photographer from Shackleton’s expeditions, Frank Hurley.

This video of Jane Ussher speaking for the recent TEDx Scott Base gives a fantastic heartfelt context to the place, her work and then how my photos contrast to her work.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has a very good website that goes into great detail about this and the other historic huts in Antarctica https://www.nzaht.org/explorer-bases/scotts-hut-cape-evans

 

Antarctica FridayFoto #9

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Bubbles from the divers tanks flow like quicksilver on the underside of the frozen sea at Cape Evans, Antarctica. We were lucky enough to spend three days camping on the sea-ice with Dr Ian Hawkes and his fellow scientists as they dived below the two metre thick ice.

Antarctica FridayFoto #8

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A diptych of images showing a detail of snow piled high on the windows of Scott’s historic hut at Cape Evans. When we visited in October the interior of the Hutt was very dark because the sun was still low and this snow on the windowed blocked it’s light. This created a very moody experience as we explored by the light of headlamps.

Antarctica FridayFoto #4

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Shovel handles at Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, Cape Evans, Antarctica

A photo for all the Kiwis in the garden this summer: These shovels sit just inside the door of Scott’s historic hut at Cape Evans.

Scott’s hut is the iconic base associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, famed attempt for the Geographic South Pole.

This shot is part of a comprehensive collection I took when we were with the dive team at Cape Evans. I wanted to capture the feeling of visiting the hut rather than concentrating on accurately documenting the site and artefacts, after all, many very good photographers have done this already (including the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton). I found it quite liberating to know I could take a totally different approach.

When we entered the hut it was very dark with snow covering many of the windows. We had to wear head-torches which created an eerie pool of light in the inky dark, revealing a small bit at a time. To try and get the feeling of the experience I shot with combinations of head-torch and snooted flash lighting and using my homemade lens on a modern Nikon DSLR. The lens is made with the element from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera very similar to that used by the photographer from Shackleton’s expeditions, Frank Hurley.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has a very good website that goes into great detail about this and the other historic huts in Antarctica https://www.nzaht.org/explorer-bases/scotts-hut-cape-evans

The thin green line

The thin green line is a conceptual representation of our relationship with nature I have developed since visiting Antarctica. I explain it below:

scott_base_joh_0100Scott Base is a wonderful place. More than a mere shelter from the harsh environment of Antarctica, it has a special culture among it’s personnel, both ‘permanent’ and the transient scientists and others like myself and Warren.

Literally you can step from the friendly, pleasant 18° comfort of the base, through an industrial fridge door, into the potentially killer conditions outside.

This tiny separation between civilisation and wilderness, literally a thin green line because Scott Base is painted a fetching green colour (Chelsea Cucumber to be exact), really got me thinking about our broader relationship with nature.

Read the full explaination

Antarctica FridayFoto #2

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Our Scott Base Hagglund makes it’s way to the field training campsite. These all-terrain vehicles are the work horses of Antarctica. We travelled across the sea-ice in them for hours at a time. It’s far to say that they are not exactly luxury travel but by Antarctica stands they are bloody brilliant transport 11 people (5 in the front and 6 in the back) with ease but I think the Swedish army squeezes in upwards of 16 pax! In a worst case scenario they can even float – a feature we fortunately didn’t need to test.

For some reason it seemed an appropriate pick for the last FridayFoto before Christmas … hang on! … That’s it!

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Merry Christmas Scott Base

 

Antarctica project: editing begins

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The wall of my MDes office is slowly being taken over by small prints from the Antarctica: Sixty Shades of White project. It represents a tiny proportion of the 1TB of data, stills and video I collected while on The Ice in October. It is still very early days but at least five possible collections/projects are emerging … this will keep me going for years!

Sometimes Antarctica felt like a different planet…

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As this photo of Warren on the sea ice at Cape Evans illustrates, Antarctica can feel unlike anywhere else on the planet at times. When I saw him in all his survival gear casting this massive shadow in the midnight sun I instantly thought of the photos of the astronauts on the moon (thanks NASA for making them public btw). Two harsh environments where man goes to extraordinary lengths to survive – it was about -20˚c when I took this.

The dark “landmass” on the right is in fact an iceberg trapped in the frozen sea-ice.

Weddell Seal in Antarctica

A real highlight of our expedition to Antarctica was camping out on the ice with a team of scientists/divers at Cape Evens. And a highlight of that highlight was when we dropped a GoPro down one of the dive holes to get a glimpse of the world under the 2m thick sea ice.

Little did I know that seconds before I pulled the camera up a Weddell Seal cruised by to check out the rope (this footage has been edited because it sat on the bottom doing very little for a while).

Earlier that day Warren had dropped a hydrophone down the hole to reveal the constant chatter of the seals – wait until you hear what he captured! The background audio on this pales in comparison.

The divers cut a hole through the ice using a “heat drill” and park a modified shipping container over the hole to give them a sheltered work area.

Weddell Seals are now my favourite animal!

Kermadec panel discussion at Aratoi

Please join us for the final venue closing ceremony for Kermadec : Lines in the Ocean
13 November 2016, 2 – 4pm at Aratoi

There will be a panel discussion featuring: Marama Fox MP, Dame Robin White, Gregory O’Brien, Pātaka Director Reuben Friend, Elizabeth Thomson, and Jason O’Hara

Moderated by Shelley Campbell of the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History
Cnr Bruce and Dixon St, Masterton .

www.aratoi.org.nz/

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Packing for Antarctica

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After three days of planning, weighing, rationalising and packing our gear is just sneaking in under the 25.5kg weight limit for flying to Scott Base in Antarctica. Not everything has made the final cut but most has. A huge proportion of this mountain is batteries because the life of batteries plummets dramatically in such cold conditions.

Antartica research shifts to “the new heroic age”

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After a really productive initial discussion with @AntarcticaNZ my research has moved into a new phase – I’m now focussing  on the depiction of ‘heroes’ and ‘explorers’ through portraiture in historic and contemporary contexts.

This reflects a fledgling strategic approach to repositioning the public perception of science by depicting the Antarctic Scientists as “Science Explorers” – modern approachable heroes striving to understand climate change to help deal with it.

This might be the beginning of “the new heroic age” of Antarctica?

Still early days … watch this space.

 

More on the Antarctica project >