"I spent most of my life learning the art of healing. The best thing I ever learned was to heal the soul and go back to my roots. These days, I spend my days surfing and shooting those who surf…"
Mark Dimalanta is a native Californian who loves photography but lives to surf. While earning his medical degree from the University of the East in 2001, the digital photography revolution prompted the young doctor to return to his roots as a photojournalist of more than 20 years.
The Doc who put down his stethoscope to pick up his camera and chase surfers exploring the world has returned home to Southeast Asia to document the booming board riding culture.
Mark has shot with practically everything that can record an image, but always maintains a preference for his Pentax. Utilizing the virtues that set Pentax apart from the rest like weather-sealed durability, intuitive ergonomics, and the compact nature of the entire system, Mark uses his tools to capture the imagery of the extreme sports lifestyle. While traveling, he entrusts his gear to the efficient protection that only Tamrac carrying systems provide.
Presently he is a contributing photographer and features writer for Lonely Planet Magazine, Digital Photographer, Mabuhay Magazine and the Philippine Star Lifestyle. He is also the Managing Director of Alon Philippines, a Travel & Lifestyle Magazine centered around Australasia.
You used to be a doctor, and now you’re a photographer. How did that happen?
I sustained an injury which challenged my mobility and ability to stand for long periods of time. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle the strains of Clinical Medicine until my complete recovery. During my rehab, I kept busy by rekindling my passion for photography. Although I was unable to practice the sports, I relived them by shooting them. When I fully recovered, I hit a fork in the road and picked up the camera and left the stethoscope behind me. The rest is history.
What is the one piece of camera equipment you always take with you?
For the flexibility, I always have the Pentax MX-1. It’s a pocket point and shoot that has a retro feel harking back to the old “Peter Parker” Chrome and black leather analog SLRs. It allows me to shoot a wide variety of subjects, without the bulk of an SLR.
You shoot for Lonely Planet travel guides. What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled working on these guides?
Travel and tourism is booming in Southeast Asia. It was an honor to share my Travel anecdotes and images for the Lonely Planet Brand. My region of specialty is the Philippine Islands. I handled the beach destinations which offered paradise packed with varied ranges of surf from the beginner to professional quality waves.
My favorite Destination assignment is the region of Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Luzon Island. Lonely Planet named the region as one of the best beaches on Earth.
You’re an avid surfer, as well as a surf photographer. When you’re photographing big waves, is it hard for you to sit back and not paddle out? And when you surf, do you think about what it would look like as a photograph?
I love both disciplines, but so early in my career I blew perfect photo ops by surfing instead of shooting. I’ve come to realize that I actually enjoy the reward of shooting instead of the act of surfing. Shooting allows me to preserve the moment permanently with an image that can be shared the world over.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about changing careers and becoming a photographer?
Photography is a bit challenging these days because the access to professional level gear has increased exponentially, hence there is now an influx of very talented amateurs willing to work for free. For those looking to strike it rich, I suggest not quitting their day job. However if they are uniquely dynamic and always keeping it new, there will always be an audience. The key to modern photography as a profession is to always be innovative.
What was your favorite image you took in the last year?
My favorite image was from a personal family collection of my daughter learning to swim. It was a very memorable moment because of the joy it brought her and the significance of her independence. Its an angle that most aren’t able to capture, yet we know from experience. The image itself lets the viewer feel the elation of every swimmer.
What Tamrac gear do you use?
I love the Expedition 9x. Its the one bag that is large enough to carry a 600mm, all your other gear, and still make it past TSA airline restrictions. The bag tends to get heavy, but upon inspection, TSA always allows the additional weight because the bag carries all in such an efficient manner. The MicroSyncs are also invaluable for off camera strobe work. Nice, compact and simple to use.
What do you love about your Tamrac bags?
They are Timeless essentials built to last and most importantly, protect.
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