The Mark ‘Stork’ Thompson Interview

Photographer Mark “Stork” Thompson sheds some light on his recent work behind the lens. 

Mark ‘Stork’ Thompson is a name that has kept popping up over the past year, frequently accompanied with amazing photos.  Stork’s a photog from Sydney that’s becoming further traveled and wiser by the month, with his images continuing to improve with each session. Read on to hear the man’s tale…

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Flash testing.
All Photos // Stork

Riptide: Can you tell us about your recent Fijian adventures?
Stork: For the past six months I’ve been going back and forth to an island in Fiji, named Namotu. It’s hands down the most amazing little tropical paradise I’ll ever go to in my life. It’s pretty awesome! It caters for everyone, with or without a surfing interest. The owners Scotty and Mandy do a great job running the island and the Fijian staff are among the most polite and beautiful people in the world.

Did you go there just to shoot or was it a bit of a holiday?
I go there to shoot, but it rarely feels like a chore. My job is to take photos of the guests staying on the island while they go about their holiday activities. They pretty much go surfing the whole time, so that’s what I’m shooting. If the surf’s flat we’ll do other things such as snorkeling or fishing. I’ll either shoot them swimming among the amazing reef surrounding the island or fishing for Mahi Mahi, Yellow Fin Tuna and Marlin. 

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Any other waves besides Cloudbreak that you’ve stumbled upon?
There are loads of waves, now that the Fijian government opened up the breaks to the general public. They range all the way from fat cushy waves to fast, racey, hollow waves. The place has options for whatever level your surfing is. I wouldn’t say they’re suitable for a booger, as there aren’t any heavy slabs in the area, as far as I know (unless Cloudbreak is 8-10 foot.) But when it’s small, it’s perfect to try other types of surfing. Now I can’t restrict myself to surfing one type of craft after staying on Namotu.
 
What photographic gear are you using these days?
I’m shooting Nikon with my trusty SPL Housing that I’ve owned from the beginning! I think I’ve owned it for around three and a half years now; even though it was a secondhand buy, it’s still kicking!  I love it it.  The bodies I’m running are a Nikon D300s and a Nikon D700, which are keeping me happy. I have seven or eight lenses ranging from a 10.5mm fisheye to an 80-400mm.

We’ve been hearing you’re experimenting with flashes and different angles.  How’s this working for you?
Yeah I have been! I bought an external flash set up from Russell Ord when I was in WA a while ago and finally had a chance at giving it a proper try in good waves. I blew a few shots at first, but through trial and error we’ve came up with some gold. It’s great working with the guys that I’ve been shooting with lately; their patience helps so much when trying new techniques. I’m just about to start a flash workshop course to better my photography a little bit, so hopefully I’ll get more confident in that department.

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Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Those that are closest to me I think, or those that have been close to me in my life. I don’t really go searching for inspiration.  The reason why I appreciate the people that are close to me, that have done something significant, is that it makes the inspiration more real! A person I used to do swimming training with at the age of 12 is going for gold at her second Olympics this year. I think that is pretty realistic and on the same page, really inspiring.   In the surf, good friends like Damo (Damien Martin) going from “another South Coaster” status to getting covers and charging as hard as most of his peers, which is really inspiring.   Then finally, this year having spent two weeks staying with good mate Timmy Hamilton, I found his sister Bethany to another great source of inspiration. We all know Bethany’s story (watch this video if you don’t), but the level that she surfs after her attack is by far the most inspiring thing that a lot of people will see in this world.  Guys like Kelly Slater and other big names aren’t as inspiring for me as those close to me because I don’t know their background and what they have had to do to get to where they are now. I know my mate’s backgrounds’ first hand and I know the sacrifices they’ve made to get to the places where they are now. It’s all happened in front of my eyes and not filtered through the media.
 
Where are you located at the moment?
I’m located in Campbelltown in Sydney’s south west with my Mum and Dad. They’re really supportive parents.  Despite my not so convenient location, my parents are the ones that have kept me shooting without having to worry about the obstacles of time, rent, food and all the general costs of living.  It’s definitely not the ideal place to live for a surf photographer, but I guess it’s convenient and cheap and they are the things that let me pack up and leave whenever I like.

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Do you do any other work besides photography or do shoot other genres besides surf?
Yes, definitely!  Firstly, surf photography is a hobby, I don’t make any money from it, especially once you factor in the cost of fuel to drive down the coast or a plane ticket to get you to a swell. It’s hard to say if I’ve ever profited from surf photography or any photography for that matter. But in saying that, it’s definitely not a job, just this crazy thing that has made me quit my job regularly and park myself under Mum and Dad’s safely blanket.   I am however growing interests in shooting more portraiture and developing my wedding photography – hopefully to start earning steady money through that. My main income is through my electrical trade that I always fall back on when the funds are low.

How’s the South Coast been so far?
This year we’ve seen some pretty good swells on the South Coast. I wouldn’t say it has been as good as last year, but winter still isn’t over – there’s still time!

Have you had any particularly cracking sessions so far?
Haha…I’ve blown more cracking sessions than I’ve had, although I’m not going to complain with what I’ve had; scored some great Supers and Nuggan.   

What’s your plans for the rest of the year?
Well, I’ve got to earn some money for starters! I’ve just been working here and there lately as I try to save, praying that there won’t be any swell that I’ll miss.  I’m heading back to Fiji soon, so I’m just saving for that little gig.  Once I have a solid foundation of money behind me, I’ll hopefully get on that next plane or road trip to where ever that might be.  I really want to see more of Australia and maybe head to Europe or South America on “a find yourself trip” haha…..Who knows really, you can never plan these things. Just got to let them happen.

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