Focus on Animals


STORY BY RICHARD CORNISH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK LAMBLE

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There is an Emmy Award sitting on top of the book case in Mark Lamble’s house, hidden in the bush outside Woodend. “This is one of my most treasured possessions,” he says. Ignoring the golden statue, he opens the book case and pulls out a well-read copy of Life of Mammals by Sir David Attenborough. In the preface pages is a hand-written note.  It reads, “Neither platypus nor crocodile got into this book. They were later stars – thanks to you.” It is signed by Attenborough. 

Mark is a tall and gentle man talking quietly as we walk through his bush block that he uses as his ‘back lot’. He is one of the world’s great wildlife cinematographers travelling the world working in some of the most remote locations spending weeks at time waiting for a shot that will appear for just a few short moments on our screens. His work has been an integral part of such wildlife series as Life in Cold Blood, The Great Apes 3D, Great Migrations and Life of Mammals.

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A small mob of wild roos bound through the bush. He halts. They stop. He starts quietly talking to them. They prick their ears then turn their heads as they listen. “You have to get inside an animal’s head to work out what they are thinking,” he says. “If an animal moves and you pan your camera following it – that is a reaction,” he says peering up a tree. “But if you know what an animal is about to do and move with it,” explains Mark. “Then that is where the magic happens. We are making movies and it is no different to filming actors. We are there to help make the drama and the action happen in the frame,” he says letting his gaze drop back down from the tree trunk. “We had a koala up here the other day,” he says. On the 8ha block he points out where sugar gliders live, where the possums are, where an echidna has been nesting and the burrow of a pardalote. 

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Mark continues his stories of life behind the lens, working with great apes in Africa, filming elephants in Kenya, silhouetted by the setting sun, through a cloud of red dust. “The dust was kicked up by a convoy of bloody tourist buses,” he says dryly. “But no one else needs to know that.” 

He tells stories of being stalked by salt water crocodiles while filming turtles at night on a beach in the Torres Strait and the heartbreak of spending months getting a tiny camera into a platypus nest only to have a cow putting her hoof through the underground burrow and squashing the newly hatched platypus. Whilst filming wild dingoes on Fraser Island he found himself being ‘groomed’ by a pack of dogs, they more watching him than vice versa. “Then one day the alpha female came up to me and just rolled on my leg. I was accepted. I was one of the pack,” he says. For the next week he lived and slept with the pack, telling their story from their perspective. He filmed how they would steal food from tourists’ bags by having one dingo act as the diversion – parading in front of tourists. As they put their bags down to reach for their cameras the other dingoes would emerge from the bushes and rifle through their bags. “Animals have personalities just like people,” says Mark. “There are the jokers, the nervous nellies – even the unco ones. You just have to take time observing them – not making eye contact – in their environment. You learn a lot that way.” 

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Read Mark’s blog at www.marklamble.com.au 

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