Category Archives: Massey

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 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!

Happy homemaking on The Ice

A bit of Antarctica fun for a Friday.

One of the first things you do when you visit Scott Base in Antarctica is to go “field training” where you learn survival techniques and spend a night camping in -20ºc.

After two hours driving in the Hagglund tracked vehicle we arrived at our camp site with Mt Erebus standing guard. We slept in tents very similar to those that Scott used and made a cooking area with blocks cut from the snow. The Field Trainers from Antarctica New Zealand were superb. That wonderfully New Zealand combination of friendly and relaxed but totally on to it and experienced.

So join Warren and I on a very quick, lighthearted look at camping in Antarctica.

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!

Bad-ass looking BMPCC goes to The Ice

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After much research I have opted to take a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera as my principal video camera. Although it shoots at a maximum resolution of 1080p it records in RAW and ProRes formats with a very wide (13 stops) dynamic range. It’s tiny form factor will suit a “run and gun” style of documentary while still being a very robust unit in a Camtree Cage. It’s two big weaknesses are it’s sound quality and battery life. I’m planning to overcome these issues with an external mic going through an A Box preamp and the primary audio being covered in a separate Zoom Recorder. As for batteries … well I’m bringing heaps for a start but also planning to use an external pack which I can even wear under my jacket to keep warm if I need to. Another plus of the BMPCC is the ability for me to use Nikon lenses on it via the very impressive Metabones Speed Converter. It even uses the same battery as my Nikon Coolpix A which will permanently travel with me as a pocket camera.

Stills (and backup video) will be primarily covered by my old faithful Nikon D800 – also fitted with an external battery pack. POV and underwater shots will be covered by GoPro Hero 4.

A HUGE thank you to Massey University, Collage of Creative Arts, School of Design for all there support with expertise, time and equipment.

A full list of all my equipment can be found here

Antarctica project planning

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Now I have officially started my MDes (Masters of Design) and the pre-trip planning shifts into a different phase. For the past few months it has been total emersion into all things Antarctica, and looking at artist models, more recently research shifted to include the logistics of photography in sub-zero conditions so a gear list could be formed and any new equipment ordered. With those under control it is now into design strategy.

On the office wall a plan is evolving: some sort of hybrid diagram combining a content strategy and audience analysis with a media/distribution strategy sandwiched in between.

From this a number of possible directions will be identified and drawn up as journey maps.

More on the Antarctica #60shadesofwhite project

Students make the semifinals in Adobe comp 

Huge congrats to two of my 222.357 Video students, Luke Hoban and Kyle White, for making the semifinals of the 2016 Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

Their project Focused on raising awareness to the harmful effects within the fashion industry.

An awesome result receiving well earned praise.

Below is the video they made. You can read the full story on the The Adobe competition website.

Behind the scenes on #projectweed

There have been three main setups for the ‘Weed’ project to date. Each with very different pros and cons so I would not say anyone was the most successful.

The big tank:

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A 900 litre monster tank weighing close to one tonne when full. It’s size and location (at Massey University) makes it impractical to regularly use salt water which mean only the most robust seaweed can go in it. Fantastic for large algae like Kelp – see earlier post. The seaweed I shoot in this tank is usually taken off the beach so I am not killing any coming fresh from the sea.

In the setup shown in this photo it was “crazy upside-down day” in the studio as I tried hanging the seaweed, and therefore the entire set, upside down in an effort to get the weed to hang as I wanted. Mixed success – I am not happy with this shot at all but lots of learnings. The tank is setup so I can light directly from below. I also installed a modified garden irrigation hose in the base of the tank to create movement in the tank.

The small tank:

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Relocated to my garden shed for summer this was the tank I originally used for proof-of-concept but now is perfect for macro shots of smaller seaweed.

It’s size and being at the ‘home studio’ by the sea allows it to be filled with fresh seawater which is much better for the algae and allows me to include small animals in the shot. After shooting the seaweed is returned back to the sea asap.

As you can see in this shot the sets may be small (those white bottles are only about 70mm high) but the can also be quite complex with textured/painted backgrounds diffusers, masks, and multiple flash units usually fitted with home-made snoots, barn-doors and other gobos. The average shoot in the project uses 3 or 4 flashes.

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This is a typical example of the complexity of the lighting rigs. A snooted flash above, a very low-power diffused keylight to the side and a barn-doored rear flash behind shooting directly behind the bottle through a large diffuser. You can see that the set can be made of pretty humble materials – in this case the bottle is sitting on a cheap baking dish from The Warehouse.

The copy-camera rig:

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The latest experiments have used a modified copy-camera stand to allow me to shoot straight down through layers of clear acrylic trays. I made a base (looks a bit like a Mondrian chair) to hold layer of trays and allow me to light things from all angles.

This rig allows the use of seawater and lets me arrange the algae relatively precisely but reflections are the enemy in this setup so I use black fabric all over the place.

More on #Projectweed >> 

Weed goes big

tank_and_friend After a bit of patient searching (thanks to NIWA, Wgtn Marine Education Centre et al for your help) I managed to find a large fish tank for sale on TradeMe. $500 instead of the thousands I was quoted to get one made.

Basically one metre cubed it literally weighs one tonne when filled. So after a massive cleaning operation and the construction of a very heavy duty base for it, the first nervous fill happened outside – whew – no leaks!

Massey have found me a storeroom with a concrete floor, no windows and a sink which I can use as a studio for a while. The glass is 15mm thick and very green which looks cool but may make it harder to give the illusion that the subject is not underwater – next step is large scale lighting tests.

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Making seaweed sexy

weed_DSC_5746Seaweed has a bad rep. That smelly, slimy goo that takes the edge off your beach holiday or hides who-knows-what when you go swimming.

But if you take the time to look into algae (the scientific group they belong to) you find some stunningly beautiful forms and begin to understand the important role it plays in the marine ecosystem.

I worry that the general publics perception of seaweed is representative of it’s relationship with the marine environment as a whole and one of many barriers to people actually exploring the sea.

So as a researcher I posed the question: How might seaweed, an element of the marine environment that is often perceived negatively, be represented in such a way as to change not only it’s perception, but also the perception of the beauty and potential of the marine environment as a whole?

A new project – “Weed”

Making seaweed sexy – That is the goal of this new research project I am working on.

One of the biggest challenges in marine conservation advocacy is the lack of general public engagement with the marine environment. It is something distant and foreign from their normal life – something they might skim over or dip in on summer holiday, but the submarine environment is generally a place adventurers go to – something they see on TV.

One manifestation of this disconnect is seaweed – often seen as “scary” or “yukky” it is a contributing factor that discourages people from activities like snorkelling.

I want to twist this perception by shifting the context and using seaweed to create something they already consider beautiful – still life photography … in some ways …floral arrangements.

To do this I am creating large still life photographs shot underwater but in such a way to be ambiguous where they are.

In many ways you could consider this an extension of the Kermadecs Project in terms of it’s advocacy for the marine environment.

Follow the project

Read up about the project in the project section of my site. I will be posting regular updates on progress or you can follow it on my Twitter #projectweed (yes – you might find all sorts of other projects with that hash tag!)

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary announced

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I am super pleased to announce that small selection of my Kermadec Project works and accompanying video by Bruce Foster are on display in the Massey University Wellington Library for the next two weeks.

It is of course super timely with the announcement of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary on Tuesday (Read more on Stuff) which represents years of hard work by many. Absolutely fantastic news and I am super proud to be associated with creating one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world! A huge up to PEW environment group, the scientists, environmentalists and artists involved in the project. Well done to the NZ government, congratulations New Zealand.

Learn more about the Kermadec project here

ABOUT THE KERMADECS:

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas. It includes the second deepest ocean trench at over 10 kilometres, deeper than Mt Everest is tall, and an arc of 30 underwater volcanoes, the largest anywhere on earth.

It is also some to six million seabirds of 39 different species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of endangered sea turtles and many other marine species like coals, shellfish and crabs unique to the area.

National Geographic called the region “one of the last pristine sites in our oceans.”

The new sanctuary will be the third largest in the world and cover an area more that twice the size of the total landmass of New Zealand.