Reel Talk: Mark Tipple

Mark Tipple is a documentary photographer based in Australia. But the demands of the job and a personal desire to keep moving have him running, or oftentimes driving, all over the place. You’re probably all too familiar with that feeling that hits after you’ve been driving in a straight line on an endless stretch of highway in the dead of winter. It’s cold, you’re alone and details start to get fuzzy. That’s where we start off with Tipple and these journal excerpts, on day 6 of his 12 day drive from San Diego to Alaska a few years ago. 

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Driveaway Deals San Diego, 31st of October 2005

My friends thought I was crazy.

I’m not going to lie; I had my doubts as well.

2005 Toyota Camry to be driven from San Diego, California to Anchorage, Alaska

Journal excerpts. Day 6 to 12.

By Mark Tipple

I’ve been driving for 14 hours now and I’m starting to feel the effects. No regrets for the Death Valley or Big Sur detours; but now I have to make up for lost time.

Third state for the day – Cali, Oregon, now Washington and this whole sleeping in the car deal has to stop; I’m cold enough as it is now and I’m not even in Canada. Starting to realise how much of a rookie I am at this snow filled life.

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I can barely write at the moment. Made the mistake of leaving my pen on the floor for a few hours, seems like a simple thing but now the ink’s frozen and no amount of heating or coercion will make it flow. For the whole drive since Whistler I’ve been pulling over every few miles, a new peak a new valley and me the trigger happy photokid focused on only one thing. Just cruising through B.C. now, not even half way yet and it’s day 6, starting to think that the 11 day deadline was laughable at best. One thing’s for sure; I’m not going to waste this.

Slept in the car at -2 degrees last night next to a golf course – last resort kind of deal – I didn’t want to spend $45 for a hotel. Got woken up by a state trooper asking if I was ok and if I needed help, I felt like death and must have looked like it because he just smiled and said I could stay there, but just make sure I was gone by sunrise.

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I love happy people. He could have easily told me to get a move along or something, but I guess he understood where I was coming from, with the Californian number plates and a dumb kid Aussie accent – just pretend like you never saw me mate.

Where am I? I have no idea, I’m just driving…still driving. Canada somewhere…I want to see a bear…

Shaking.

So just for future reference when a Canadian Mountie says with a smile that he’s just seen a Grizzly Bear walk off the highway and since I have a camera I should chase it down this snow covered road I should probably ask a few more questions…like “is it safe” or “what’s the road like”. That was stupid.

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Off I go down this one car wide dirt track following bear prints that I’ve been told to follow, sure there’s only one set of prints so if worse comes to worse I’ll just reverse the car and leave him be.

I came around a tree and noticed another 2 sets of prints, around another tree and it’s like there’s a party of bears here, prints everywhere and I hit a hole in the track and the car stalls with snow up to the bottom of the door, and the realization hits that I’m stuck. I must have blacked out for a time because the next thing I remember I’m reversing down the track back to the highway, I never did see a bear but from the amount of footprints there must have been a few…and I guess a car isn’t the best place to hide.

Such a rookie.

In a hotel now, I can’t really afford this room but no other options. It’s -9 degrees outside and the sun has only just set – I can’t sleep in a car in this.

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Unbelievable day today, so many photo’s when the sun broke through the clouds. I waited in a valley for the sun to do it’s thing, for about an hour the whole place was filled with this ethereal light making the frozen branches blink and shine, the snow was so smooth it looked like mist; and there’s me running around for a good 30 minutes. It wasn’t until I couldn’t change the shutter speed on the camera that I realised how cold I was, and that I probably should get back to the car. I don’t even care about the money I’m spending, this is what I came for, if the rest of the trip is a non-event I’ll still be happy after this.

Pretty safe to say I’m stoked. Gotta think of a different word other than stoked.

Credit card denied. I’m in trouble.

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Filled up with gas in the middle of nowhere and and was told ‘sorry kid, card denied.’ Long story short (and I’m stoked it’s a good ending) I managed to find an internet connection in a library with 20 books in it and drained my backup account, sounds simple now but it could have been so much worse. I love happy people, the guy at the gas station was totally cool, said he wasn’t that fussed if I couldn’t pay; his smile was super genuine when I walked through the door with a card that worked.

Dang…new levels reached now…-22 degrees outside…needless to say I need a hotel. Hope my card works.

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Just couldn’t do it. Arrived at the border of Alaska and it all came to a reality; the trip’s almost over. Called ahead and left a message saying I’ll be a day late, day 11 now and I have a fair way to go but I still made it – I arrived in Anchorage and kept driving to a port called Seaward hoping that the owner wouldn’t see her car being driven through Anchorage, tried to take a few back roads when the highway ended but I got lost…again. In a hotel now with the heaters on my feet, can’t wait to see the sunrise over the ocean. At least, I think it will rise over the ocean. Find out in the morning.

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Kinda rambling here but today was the perfect way to end the trip. At the airport now after handing the car over, thought about staying for a few more days but without a car I doubt it’d be the same as the past two weeks of freedom. Heading back to Vancouver to chill out for a while.

Safe to say this is the trip of a lifetime. Pretty tired now but I want to do it all again. One day….

Follow Tipple’s work and travels on Instagram @marktipple, and check out more of his personal and professional portfolio on his website: http://www.marktipple.com/.

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