Ah, Earth Day. On the holiday meant to celebrate the planet we call home, how often do we get the chance to really reflect on the organic beauty which surrounds us? Take water, for example: of the roughly 330 quintillion gallons of water on this planet, how many do we pay attention to?
In 2006, Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier made a feature-length documentary on photographer Edward Burtynsky, who captures macro photographs of landscapes altered by large-scale human activity. The film, entitled Manufactured Landscapes, included awe-inspiring glimpses into the environments in which humans have made (for better or worse) visible impact—city-sized junkyards, massive oil rigs, colossal factories full of worker bees, and so on.
While the scale of such a project seemed impossible to trump, Baichwal and de Pencier have followed-up with Watermark, a second feature that follows Burtynsky as he embarks to capture "existential interactions around the world with water" as massive panoramas of the most diverse bodies of water on Earth.
From a technical standpoint, Watermark might be the most definitive look at water ever caught on film. "There's something so cinematic about water," Baichwal notes. The full-length result provides an unprecedented vantage into something that we easily take for granted—not only does the documentary bring viewers on a globe-trotting voyage, but it even illuminates the water-full areas in which access to the outside world is limited, from China's largest fish farms, to Mexican oil rigs, and even India's sacred Kumbh Mela pilgrimage.
The scale is due, in no small part, to the use of helicopters and quadcopters to film high above, but also rendered up-close-and-personal through the most high-tech hi-def lenses and gear. Painting the earth like a grand canvas, the work provides a platform for art that otherwise can't fit inside a gallery space. Watermark continues The Creators Project's exploration into innovative usages of technology that allow canvases to shrink or grow dramatically. We talked to the documentary team in our "Making Of Watermark" piece, viewable above, about how this film changes the way we understand the scope of the canvas, as well as the true weight of the water that surround us.
Colorado River Delta #2, Near San Felipe, Baja, Mexico, 2011
"The richness of this film was dependent upon the proper use of technology," explained Baichwal. "This film is about allowing you to experience these places. If it opens up your consciousness to make you think about something you take for granted—turning on a tap, having a drink of water, jumping in a lake, having a shower—all these things that we do without thinking about it. If it changes your perspective on that a little bit, then it's done something; it's meaningful."
To truly capture the scale of these landscapes, the artists used a wide variety of photographic equipment, including Hasselblad 60 Megapixel cameras, a Red EPIC, and an unreleased, hand-assembled Red prototype that could shoot in unprecedented 5K resolution (for reference, a 5k sensor is capable of capturing up to 120 frames per second at five times the resolution of today's HD). Since many of the environments were isolated and difficult to access, many of the shots required attaching these high-end cameras to remote controlled quadcopters, allowing bird's eye views above the exotic locations.
Enjoy more of Burtynsky's incomparable vistas from Watermark below, and watch our behind-the-scenes featurette above. There's a whale of a chance you'll never see H2O the same way again.
Thjorsá River #1, Iceland, 2012
Marine Aquaculture #1, Luoyuan Bay, Fujian Province, China, 2012
VeronaWalk Naples, Florida, USA, 2012
For more on the artists see: