The Dark Side of the Lens

Posted by Alex

Do yourself a favor and watch this video right now. It’s filled to the brim with absolutely breathtaking shots — so many that I can’t believe they were taken all by the same team. The Planet Earth folks need to hire this guy RIGHT away. Honestly I’m speechless. This is an amazing piece of film. An amazing piece of art. Congratulations to Mickey Smith and Allan Wilson for making such a brilliant piece. And all for Relentless Energy — who knew.

“Still look forward to gettin amongst it” – The Dark Side of the Lens.

I should also mention that I love this video because I LOVE the ocean. I am terrified by the sea, but I love it. Of course I like the way it looks, but I also am constantly taken by its incomprehensible size and power. I am not a surfer (you should have seen me try in New Zealand), but I have always felt the same connection to the sea that I often hear the surfer describe. I like to sit in it, lay there, do nothing. My favorite thing in the world is getting tossed, turned and pummeled by waves — salt water filling my head every which way — then rolling up on shore and lying in the sun where the sea meets the sand.

49 Comments Leave A Comment


Chester says:

September 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Beautiful, incredible images, I want to go to the Irish coast sooo bad now.
Badass. How are they not dead? That surf looks so brutal, and those rocks look sharp. I can’t tell what kinda break that is, but it doesn’t look forgiving.



Shelby says:

September 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm


I wonder what this was shot on…
The quick cut of the camera going into the housing appears to be either a Canon 1d Mark II, 1d Mark IIn or 1d Mark III.


Alex says:

September 30, 2010 at 11:40 pm

“Shot in Super 16mm film, as well as groundbreaking work with Canon 5D mk11 Digital SLR”

Haha that quote is from the Vimeo page…I think they meant 5DMKII. Not 11


Bryant Eslava says:

October 1, 2010 at 12:48 am

Alex, thank you for this posts.
This makes me wanna become a pro surfer, but I know that’ll never happen.

This video could go very well with some Washed Out tunes.


Polly says:

October 1, 2010 at 3:28 am

Wow, really beautiful.
I feel the same when I’m looking at the ocean: “sit in it, lay there, do nothing”. That’s how you can really feel connected to the power of ocean.
Thanks for this!


Jag says:

October 1, 2010 at 10:07 am

I’m on my second week of a 5-week trip in Hawaii, and couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t swim to save my life, but it’s magical to see how people are automatically drawn to water whether it’s the seasoned surfers, or 2 year old kids discovering the ocean for the first time.

Wow, haven’t quite seen waves like that, yet, but that film is beautifully shot. Great post!


Eddy says:

October 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

Few of us understand the beauty, the power, the tranquility, the chaos of the ocean. Riding my 31 years I’ve seen many angles, way to many shoots… but it’s the unpredictability of things that makes the difference. This is one of those things. I understand this guy. I too believe.

Thanks for posting.


Mary says:

October 1, 2010 at 10:37 am

Wow, thanks for that. So beautiful, yet kind of tragic at the same time. I grew up next to the ocean so there will always be a pull to it for me, but I can’t even imagine what that would have been like. Amazing piece of work.


cort says:

October 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I am also terrified of the sea. I have recurring, unsettling nightmares about floating in deep black water at night. Catching a glimpse of a giant moving something beneath my feet, cast in shadow. The something has a mammoth, unblinking eyeball that glimmers in the moonlight as it passes under me.

Regardless, I love the ocean and I especially love watching people surf. Have not tried it yet. I have irrational fears of hitting my head on coral. And somethings with giant eyes.


alex says:

October 3, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Am I the only one who doesn’t buy this video? I feel that this is a flagship example of hyper-sensationalism/ beautification found in contemporary ‘films’ that are seemingly made for internet-only audiences. It seems as though we are in an age of objective-less filmmaking, in which directors are overly concerned with beautifying aesthetics and cheap nostalgic reference in place of actual content and challenging structures. Yes, this is a handsome film. It’s edited well. It’s shot well. But ask yourself what it aims to convey? I believe it succeeds in glorifying an otherwise mundane surfer’s rant with some sexy footage and cliched editing. And yes, “washed out’ would fit perfectly as a generically nostalgic soundtrack.


Tim says:

October 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm


It’s the combination of beautifully crafted prose, top-notch photography, awe-inspiring music and water pretty enough to make your desk feel long sunk.

Most of all, it feels real. Something we rarely encounter in this day of age. I don’t think you listened, or watched, you had your mind made up long before the video was over. If you listened to his words, you’d know he wasn’t ranting, sounded much more like he was cherishing his days. Sure it sounded like the end of trainspotting, but he didn’t try to come off as an elitist in the process.

Maybe it’s just that I miss the sea myself, apparently anyone who’s lived waterside in their life felt a strong connection.


alex says:

October 4, 2010 at 8:37 am

@ 29

You’re right in regards to the rant. He was just speaking (albeit in all consciousness that his voice would appear in an energy drink commercial).

I would disagree that I wasn’t watching or listening. I was really trying to get into it (as I do many things on this wonderful blog), but at some point I started to feel like the film’s verisimilitude had been glossed over by sensational footage rather than content. Maybe I have a more critical filter with these short films.

All objectivity aside, we can both agree that the sea is a wonderfully powerful force! And this film does capture that feeling well… visually… at least.


Jonny says:

October 4, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Micky Smith is from Cornwall which is in the southwest of England, but the footage is shot in Ireland at a reef break called Aileens.

I’m not sure if the film said or not but he is also the one narrating.

very nice film well put together and shot



Jeremy says:

October 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Frighteningly beautiful dark norther waters…

I wish that filmmakers like this could afford to shoot on something other than a DSLR that records ultra compressed quicktimes. It would be lovely to think it could survive the scaling to the big screen. It makes me realize how sensitive I am to the artifacts, which maybe I need to let go of. Its just that artifacting of analog formats are inherently more beautiful than digital ones. Especially the warpy artifacts of slow motion done in post always breaks the mood for me. it screams low-budget to me.

I am happy that filmmakers have access to tools that so closely approximate the “real deal”. We have access to an amazing training ground now. At least we can be ready to actually get your hands on “real” movie cameras. Real uncompressed highspeed photography that can be watched at 1920 x 1080 is truly a thing to behold.

A beautiful film though… I am not trashing it in anyway, just noticing the sorts of weirdness we get used to watching on our computers that our eyes might not forgive in a different venue.


Sea says:

October 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm

i am from new zealand and i love the ocean too.
its the best thing on the earth.

the pictures are very good.
i am going to the beach now in fact.

peace on earth.


calmer says:

October 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

i read a few comments and i wanted to clarify for those of you who question the format this was shot it. for those of you who think most of this is shot on a canon. that is not entirely true. this was shot on super16mm film with some .. and when i say some i really mean it.. some was shot with the canon 5d. that was the point of teaming up with Astray Films. so the budget could allow for the images to be captured properly on film hence the color of the short film feels authentic …because it is… really nice post. this is the first piece i have seen out side of morning of the earth or the interlimits of pure fun that tells a humble story of being a water men …annnnnd it was shot in present day with a bit more of a modern take on it with the projections ect. really love it. really happy you guys decided to post it here.


sean says:

February 9, 2011 at 5:32 am

as a photographer I think this was one of the most beautiful movies ive seen in a while. as a surfer I think it is the most powerful.

id like to think I can relate surfing year round in new england, but the size and power is unbelievable there. I visit the west coast last fall, and saw a semi large swell come in and hit this spot. This movie does a great job representing it, although, maybe its because there used to it, but the scale is amazing, the cliffs are giant, and require a sketchy hike or a ski. I cant wait to go back and surf some day, but I wont be surfing the major spot in the film, 99 percent of surfers wont, especially in the dead of winter.