Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
My name is Lisa Michele Burns; I publish a travel guide for photographers at The Wandering Lens. I grew up living all over the East Coast of Australia and am a serious travel addict. I didn’t start out dreaming of being a photographer, in fact, my first few trips were with a little 24 shot film happy snap camera that I had no idea how to use.
I always wanted to be a travel guidebook writer, and it wasn’t until a trip to Marrakech, Morocco in 2007 that my eyes were opened to the possibilities of photography.
Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your images?
I shoot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII; it's underwater housing the PT-EP14 and a variety of lenses from the M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO through to the 40-150mm f2.8.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
I love capturing pastel tones within a landscape and shooting in extreme climates. A lot of my work focuses on open scenery whether it's beaches, glaciers or mountains and currently I'm a little too obsessed with creating a foreground reflection using colours and patterns from the sky.
What would be your favourite lens and why?
The lens that's on my camera about 70% of the time is the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens; it's super versatile and perfect for travel and landscape photography. A close second though is the 40-150mm which I've been using more and more to zoom within a landscape and seek out details and patterns.
What are your go-to settings when you shoot in the ocean?
They range depending on the light, but generally, I'll shoot mid-morning, and I prefer shooting on aperture mode. I set the ISO to around 100-200 then depending on whether I'm photographing underwater or split-levels; I'll set the aperture to f2.8 or f11 to make the landscape above and the world below the water clear.
What inspired you to capture the ocean and what continues to motivate you?
I was living on Hayman Island in the Whitsundays of Queensland for about six years. I had a landscape gallery there and was always looking to add new imagery to the walls. The perspective of floating on the surface and looking above and below the water level through goggles was a view I became curious about so that kicked off my passion for photographing underwater. Because water is an uncontrollable element, it inspires me by always bringing something new to the table. The effect a small, unexpected ripple can make in a shot is incredible!
Have you ever had an experience in the ocean that really scared you?
I was shooting an underwater portrait of a bride and groom and wanted to get a little deeper, but with my housing, at the time it was difficult because it was really buoyant. So not even thinking, I strapped on a weight belt, went out to shoot, got down to the depth I wanted then realised it was really, really difficult to get back up. Not even thinking that I could drop the weight belt, I struggled to the surface then tried to look professional when I got back up to the bride and groom floating despite being completely out of breath !
Where is your favourite travel destination to shoot?
This is always a difficult question to answer, but I've got a top 3: Iceland, where I had the most incredible ten-day solo road trip just me and my camera. Morocco, because it was the first place I fell in love with travel photography, capturing the colours and culture of places like Marrakech. Then finally, France, there are so many diverse landscapes from the alps to the medieval villages and lavender fields.
I spent almost three years living there and had so much fun discovering caves, hiking trails and calanques that are sparkling along the Mediterranean coastline. Oh and Scotland, Norway, Japan…Japan is such a quirky, vibrant and unique country to photography..so many!
What do you love most about being a travel photographer?
I love that it helps me to seek out details within a destination. I'm always looking for fresh angles, and in that process, I get so caught up exploring places and landscapes. I think being a photographer adds to the travel experience...either that or I'm unaware of any other way to travel.
Among all your work what is your most memorable capture?
While I usually don't shoot at night or Astro, I took a last minute trip to hunt the northern lights in Swedish Lapland and went Wandering in the frozen forests for five nights straight on my own with no lights in sight. Then on the sixth night, I went on a tour with a reindeer herder, and she took me to a magical location where we stood in -46degree temps and photographed an Aurora display, one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?
I'm relatively quick when it comes to editing; I don’t like to change any of the original elements, only enhance what was captured. Sometimes I’ll open images up in Lightroom to sync shadows/highlights along with brightness and contrast to achieve a cohesive look; otherwise I’ll open a RAW file directly in Photoshop. I usually adjust the shadows to bring them out, then play around with the curves to create the pastel tones.
How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
I’ve always learnt in the field. I think the best way to learn is by trial and error and along the way finding what works best for you.
I’ve never looked at textbooks or manuals because photography is such creative practice that learning to use your gear in your own way is what I find produces the best results.
Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations?
I’m inspired by what I see around me. The patterns in nature, light, movement in the ocean…I try not to get too distracted by looking at social media in order to stay true to my own style. That said, there are some fantastic photographers out there, my favourites are the free divers who create magic underwater and minimalist photographers who capture simple, yet stunning images.
Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in photography?
Don’t get caught up in following what everyone else is doing. Go out exploring with your camera and see first what you’re most attracted to photographing. Finding your unique style is a significant first step towards producing a portfolio and getting noticed for what you create, not what you copy. Oh and have fun, photography is an amazing career or hobby to have!