[Video] Making Of 'Watermark,' An Immersive Look At Water

On Earth Day, we're looking at incredible bodies of water as previously-unseen art canvases.

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. 

"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.

Phosphor Tailings Pond #2 Polk County, Florida, USA, 2012

Stepwell #4 Sagar Kund Baori, Bundi, Rajasthan, India, 2010

Xiaolangdi Dam #1 Yellow River, Henan Province, China, 2011

Pivot Irrigation #7 High Plains, Texas Panhandle, USA, 2011

Thjorsá River #1, Iceland, 2012

Dyralaekir River on Myrdalssandur Iceland, 2012

Marine Aquaculture #1, Luoyuan Bay, Fujian Province, China, 2012

VeronaWalk Naples, Florida, USA, 2012

Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station, Baja, Mexico, 2012

Text by Zach Sokol

For more on the artists see:

Edward Burtynsky's website

Watermark's website

Mercury Films' website

Screening dates of Watermark are available here. http://burtynsky-water.com/watermark/us-screenings-theatre-listings/

Images courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto / Howard Greenberg Gallery, and Bryce Wolkowitz gallery, New York

For more Micro and Macro Art see:

Meet The Artist Behind "Blacker-Than-Black", The Darkest Color Ever

Sublime Macro Photographs Of Butterfly Wings

Timelapses Of Microscopic Nature, In All Its Stunning (And Disgusting) Glory