During this short interview Mark talks about the joys and complexities of filming a wide array of wildlife from the biggest mammals underwater to the smallest insects in macro. He shares anecdotes of filming in diverse and challenging locations from the Arctic to desert, jungle and open ocean and the privilege of working alongside scientific contributors from around the world who fly the flag for global conservation. Mark provides insights into his preferred lighting and camera set ups including the Gates Pro Explore housing for underwater and Fujinon MK cine zoom lenses for a light weight cinematic glass option topside.
A sneak preview of a new series coming to Animal Planet - This discovery on a recent filming trip to Dominica was too good to wait until the multi-part series broadcasts in 2020!
World’s First Footage of a Sperm Whale Hunting Squid:
Researchers use suction cups to attach a special camera to this female sperm whale, then witness her dive down 3,000 ft and echolocate with intense clicking, as she successfully hunts down a squid.
Very proud to have been in the team filming this discovery!
Uncover the variety of activity, both human and natural that occurs on the slopes of active volcanoes.
Behind the scenes of ‘Living Volcanoes’ - Ambrym Island, Vanuatu: Join the team of researchers and filmmakers as they share some behind the scenes details from the edge of the Marum volcano:
How Carnivorous Caterpillars Attack Their Prey: Nearly all caterpillars are herbivores, but not this one. Caterpillars on the islands of Hawaii have evolved with claws that are more suited to catching live prey. Watch the clever way they attack their meals. See Mark’s featured macro sequence below:
Mark also shot lava tube caves, underwater manta rays and sync whilst out in Hawaii (August 2018).
Other featured sequences within the programme include:
Volcanic Theory of Water: The origins of water on earth have long been debated. Recent evidence suggests that water was always here, trapped beneath the crust. Volcanoes acted like a tear in the surface of our planet allowing the water to slowly escape as vapor. This condensed in our atmosphere and fell as rain, which eventually turned the planet from barren to blue.
Can Goats Predict Volcanic Eruptions? The unusual behaviour of a herd of goats seems to suggest they may be able to sense when the nearby Mt. Etna volcano will erupt and new research corroborates this suspicion.
Meet One of the Rarest Frogs on Earth: The Quito Rocket frog has been pushed to the edge of extinction. With only around 100 left in the wild, and all confined to a single stream near the Cotopaxi volcano, its survival depends on the help of a team of scientists.
Gates Underwater Products and Esprit Film and Television will be hosting this Set up, Test, and Operation (STO) course:
Alongside industry experts Doug Allan and Mike Pitts, Mark will be part of the team hosting a Gates underwater camera workshop in Gloucestershire in the New Year.
Contact Katie-Marie Goodwright (details at the bottom of the page) for more information and costs.
* Monday 21 & Tuesday 22 January 2019
* Day 1: WWT Slimbridge, Newgrounds Lane, Gloucester GL2 7BT
* Day 2: Thornbury Leisure Centre, Alveston Hill, Thornbury, South Gloucester, BS35 3JB
* Various Gates housing and lens set ups (theory and practical)
* Talks: shooting underwater and dome port / optics
* Practical pool session (dive pit)
* Michael Pitts
* Doug Allan
* Mark Sharman
On the course you will learn:
Proficiency in the setup of Gates underwater cinema housings: Deep Weapon, Pro Explore, and Alexa
Familiarity with on-location test tools and techniques for establishing housing seal integrity
Basic operation of Gates underwater housings
Camera specific considerations for the underwater medium: colour, light, filtration and more
Tips / tricks to assist the underwater Camera Operator/DP
Practical understanding of underwater optics: Port types, optical materials, selection and application
Day 1 (0930 – 1630)
This will be a theory and dry practical session at the WWT Wetland Centre. There will be a presentation introducing you to Gates Underwater Products and the theory of working underwater, and the rest of the day will be hands on setting up the housings. We will have a range of housing set ups with different lenses, ports and domes. There will also be two presentations from our special guests with Q&A. Lunch provided.
Day 2 (0900 - 1700)
Wet practical day where you will set up the housings again, and then take them in to the dive pit at Thornbury Pool. There will also be a presentation from one of our special guests with a Q&A. Lunch provided.
Esprit will provide all of the diving equipment you will need for the wet session, as this makes it much easier to comply with the diving regulations. However, if you wish to bring your own short wetsuit and mask, please do so. To comply with UK diving regulations and for your health and safety Esprit need you to fill in the Sport Diving Medical Form - this will be sent to you upon confirmation that you would like to attend the course.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to reserve a place on this course.
Images (below) © Mark Sharman for Blue Ant Media/Love Nature
This photo montage of seahorses has been created from screenshots of film footage taken in the Dimaniyat Islands, Oman. Together they show various characteristics of this mysterious marine creature - fascinating body armour detail up close in macro as well as cryptic coloration seen in the wider frames where, amongst the sea fans, this Great Seahorse blends perfectly into its reef environment and can remain hidden in plain sight for hours at a time.
Seahorses are elusive, so it was no surprise that during this five-week shoot in the Gulf of Oman I only found myself in a position to film them twice. I’d previously captured these graceful aquatic animals on film in Barbados and Singapore but regardless of location it is always an exciting challenge to see them in their natural habitat. The scientific classification of a seahorse is Hippocampus, which comes from a combination of the Ancient Greek words ‘hippos’ meaning horse and ‘kampos’ meaning sea monster. For me, despite their size, this tiny fish carries mesmerising power and mythical appeal. It’s always considered a special dive when seahorses are spotted, and every encounter is a pleasure and a privilege.
They swim upright, propelling themselves using the dorsal fin which moves at a rate of 70 beats/second, the same frequency as a hummingbird’s wing. Manoeuvring by using just pectoral fins located either side of their head, seahorses make surprisingly poor swimmers, with the slowest species travelling at just five feet/hour. Because of this, you mostly find them anchored to their surroundings by their prehensile tail, swaying in the current whilst keeping a close lookout for predators and food, using eyes which can move independently facilitating almost 360 degree vision. Seahorses are generally considered tricky subjects to film, as they have a habit of being very camera shy, constantly turning their backs and swimming away as soon as you get close. However, for this sequence I was blessed with a relaxed individual who was very comfortable and at peace with my camera and quadpod set up - he didn’t seem to mind my being in his world at all and carried on with his natural behaviour allowing me to get a strong sequence.
Most seahorse species form monogamous bonds which last the annual breeding season and, during this time, elaborate courtship behaviour takes place in which the female deposits her eggs into the male’s brood pouch. Unusually, up to one month later it is the male that gives birth to hundreds of miniature seahorses - a phenomenon first captured on film by French cinematographer Jean Painlevé in his piece ‘The Seahorse’ 1934.
Globally, almost a third of the world’s 44 seahorse species are classified as either endangered (EN) or vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Closer to home, the Short-snouted and Long-snouted Seahorse species have been protected by English law since 2008 and can be found in UK seagrass meadows which grow in shallow, sheltered areas along our coastline. Like coral reefs, these underwater habitats are full of life and form an important nursery for juvenile fish including seahorses. However, this fragile ecosystem is under threat from trawling, dredging, pollution and mooring activity.
Despite many UK dives over the last twenty years I am yet to encounter a seahorse in British waters. Either way, seagrass condition can be used as an indicator of the overall health of coastal habitats and I strongly believe that an awareness needs to be raised to protect this valuable ecosystem. In turn, this will allow our own beautiful seahorse species to thrive and continue their legacy as they have done for millions of years.
Click here to read the full cover story 'Capturing the Deep - Conservation Heroes' featured within the Marine Conservation Society Magazine Winter ‘18 Edition
The Freedive from Beginning to End (SSI Visualisation)
The Freediver rests face down in the water, breathing through the snorkel. Slow methodical movements and relaxation breathing prepares the mind and body for the calming effect of the dive reflex, which is starting to lower the heart rate. The Freediver begins the breathe-up, remembering to draw in and hold the last breath, removes the snorkel from the mouth and then pressurizes the middle ear. Tucking into the duck-dive position, the Freediver then moves down through the water column while regularly equalizing the airspaces in the body and mask. The finning style should be perfected. Kicking from the hip with straight fluid strokes the Freedive has now begun.
The diver should be perfectly weighted for the conditions and depth. This stage of the Freedive is the free fall. The finning has stopped as the Freediver moves down through the water column powered by the kinetic energy of the previous fin kicks. Blood shift is starting to take effect. The heart rate has slowed and the blood is shifting from the limbs to the core (Mammalian Dive Reflex). When the target depth is reached the bottom time begins. At this point, the diver should be relaxed and in total awe of the ocean’s depths.
We have explored the depths and our time underwater has taxed the oxygen in our body. The by-product of this process (CO2) is starting to stimulate the urge to breathe and we know it is time to surface and refresh our body and mind. We ascend much like we descend, deliberate finning from the hip making our way toward the surface. Upon reaching the surface we perform recovery breathing, we give the OK sign and continue to breath slow deep and deliberate as we reflect on our time underwater and now watch our buddy enjoy their dive into the deep.
This is what Freediving is all about — safe, exhilarating, addictive fun.
Click here to listen to BBC Radio 4’s two-part documentary ‘The Waterside Ape’ in which Sir David Attenborough considers whether new evidence will help a once widely ridiculed theory of human origins: the notion that some of evolution is explained if we accept that we grew up around lakes, rivers and seashores (rather than on the dry, savanna plains of Africa). Two episodes each 42 minutes long - first broadcast 14/09/2016.
To coincide with ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ the swimming sector has released the next chapter in the #LoveSwimming campaign encouraging adults, in particular females, to escape the stresses of busy life by making time for a swim at their local pool. Mental health is becoming an increasingly talked about issue and according to the charity Mind, one in four British adults experience a mental health problem in any one year and 80% of mental illness is related to anxiety and depression.
‘Escape’ reflects the extremes of fast-paced modern life and the impact it can have on your mental health, in stark comparison to the unique environment offered by swimming. Swimming provides the ultimate block to external stimuli. The inability to see almost anything except the line at the bottom of the pool and hear nothing but your rhythmic breathing creates the ultimate moving meditation. The film features real women who have seen the positive effects of swimming in coping with their mental health issues.
Mark spent one day with the Swim England team at Marshall Street Leisure Centre in Soho, London filming underwater, topside and with his Phantom4Pro drone for the campaign. See @swimengland on Instagram for additional content.
Meditation and swimming
Mindfulness techniques to try next time you go swimming
On front crawl you can count and say out loud your breathing pattern into the water e.g. ‘One’, ‘two’, ‘three’. As you say it out loud, you’ll actually exhale into the water.
Swim 200m front crawl, breathing every three strokes for the first 50m, breathe every four strokes to the left for 50m, breathe every five strokes for 50m and finally breathe every four to the right for 50m. Aim for a smooth continual exhalation. If breathing every five strokes is too challenging, switch to breathing everything three strokes on the third 50m.
Slow it down – focus on long stretched arm and leg movements rather than making your swim a frantic race.
Focus on one key part of your technique, e.g. a strong kick together on breaststroke. As you swim, the brain will start to switch focus to this rather what else it’s been focused on within every day life.
Try counting the number of strokes per length. What do you notice about your technique? Does it feel the same throughout the length? Does it change from the start to the end of your swim?
One car full of kit: underwater FS7, tripod and topside set up, drone and slider.
Two dives with a colony of seals and one particularly pretty, playful one.
Three 04:30 starts to catch sunrise.
Four months talking about this trip….one day to plan logistics and prepare.
Five glorious boat trips.
Six beautiful west coast sunsets.
Seven Phantom4Pro explorations early in the morning and at last light.
Eight nights at Castle Ely Mill, Whitland.
Nine filming days – meeting scientists, making friends, moving gear around and laughing.
What a trip!
Zero Otters spotted (despite our best efforts).
1,200 miles on the road.
31,000 gorgeous puffins thriving on Skomer.
Thousands of Manx Shearwaters returning to Skomer under the cover of darkness.
Too many drinks enjoying sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at Druidstone.
Darren Aronofsky, Will Smith and experienced astronauts join forces to tell the extraordinary story of why life as we know it exists on Earth.
The trailer for One Strange Rock can be viewed here
Mark returns to the Togean Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia in autumn 2017 to film for National Geographic's 'One Strange Rock'
On location image credits: © Kat Brown