FILM : THE RIPPLE EFFECT
The darkness before the dawn; reflections and light in the blue hour
In early 2020 as the world was hit by an unprecedented pandemic, ‘normal’ life ground to a halt as we entered the first lockdown.
We were forced to stop, to spend time alone, no longer able to maintain busy work and social patterns, in which it can be all too easy to ignore our deeper needs. Photographer Mike Guest reflects on his own struggle during that time. “I have never felt such a sense of darkness. All of my past was just coming at me, and these emotions would just hit me. It was 4 or 5 of the darkest weeks of my life.”
A telephone conversation with fellow photographer and surfer Nick Pumphrey, based in Cornwall, gave Mike the spark he needed. “Nick said he was going to swim out in the blue hour every morning and shoot until sunrise. Instantly I thought ‘Yes, I’ve been missing being in the water.’ And that’s where it all began.” Every morning in May 2020, Mike would set an alarm for 3.30am, pull on a wetsuit, cycle to the beach and swim out to capture the breaking dawn. The resulting stills and footage were edited and shared on Instagram tagged with #DawnDays. The idea caught people’s imagination and inspired others to capture their own ‘dawn days’ through a variety of mediums. Since then the Dawn Days project has grown as more creatives have joined the movement, and a captivating collection of photography, film, music, poetry and art has been established.
“Nick said he was going to swim out in the blue hour each morning and shoot until sunrise. Instantly I thought ‘Yes, I’ve been missing being in the water.'”
The Ripple Effect is a beautifully open and honest reflection from Mike on how the project helped him process his mental health over the pandemic. The film is a collaboration between Mike and his friend, filmmaker John Duncan.
“The first chance we got, John joined me one morning at about 3:30 am. Bleary-eyed and camera in hand. He picked a cracker of a day, and mother nature just did her thing. I’ll never forget when I heard John shout out, “Oh my God, what have I been doing lying in bed when I could have been out watching this?”
Music was contributed by David Jack with atmospheric sound design by Barry Jackson, who, unbeknown to Mike had also been rising at dawn, to record birdsong and the sounds of waves at the beach. “I hope that people can take this and make it their own. This idea isn’t just fixed to one thing, it is the act of immersing yourself in anything that you love, and seeing how your life will change from there. My hope for this film is that it scratches the surface for some people.”
Mike is quick to point out that Dawn Days was just one piece of the puzzle in his personal healing journey. In addition to his daily immersion in nature, he explored different therapies which also guided his path. “I wanted to put this film out to tell my story in the hope that it might resonate with some people who may have gone through, or are going through, similar experiences and feelings. If it touches just one person and allows them to open up, then it’s job done for me. However, I already know from the number of people who have contacted me about Dawn Days (and it’s the same for Nick and Warbey down in Cornwall) that so many have resonated with seeing the water and being able to connect to nature in a way. This is so important in this weirdly overly digital, manicured world that we live in.”
The future of Dawn Days is looking bright. A charitable book project is underway, which Mike hopes will encompass a large number of the folk involved. “We hope to find a narrative for the book which will allow people to flick through the pages and immerse themselves in the watery goodness. I want to keep doing this and I’m excited to keep doing this. But for me, the way it’s now going is moving towards how I can use the images and the films that we create to help kids, adults… you name it.”
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Mike Guest is a photographer, filmer and avid adventurer – rarely in the same place or long, he often surfaces from far-flung spots with tales of wonder and photos to prove it. He’s as at home in The Alps as he is in Indonesia or The Outer Hebrides. A skier, surfer, climber, diver, he’s a happy nomad with a broad smile and a warm hello.