This year has been the biggest so far for The Wandering Lens and I wanted to take some time to share a little summary of the photography adventures I’ve had in 2017 with a few behind the scenes stories thrown in for fun.
Including that time I saw the Queen. Ha, really!
Starting off January 1st with a humid few days in Singapore then moving north to photo tours and trips in the arctic winter, it’s been a year of exploring varied landscapes in sometimes very testing conditions. From the highest village in Europe to the lowest museum (under the sea), from -10 to 40 degrees, apparently I wanted to test myself and my cameras this year with some crazy climates!
Below you’ll find a little collection of stories and moments from the trips. From the scariest moment to this years photography obsession, scroll down to see just how weird (let’s call it creative) I can be. I’ve listed relevant guides and articles in links alongside some of my favourite photos of the year.
Here’s a little map of the locations I visited in 2017 –
First up though: A Little Personal Update…
I’ve moved back to Australia! Crazy!
I don’t think I ever shared many details here about it but in 2015 I moved over to France to live with my partner Clement (who is French) on a working holiday visa. The timing was perfect and enabled me to focus on building guides for The Wandering Lens and to travel around Europe photographing landscapes and cities I’d always dreamt of. But…anyone that’s done the work abroad thing or is one half of an international couple will know, immigration, not to mention foreign languages are hard work!
While I could have happily continued living in France and even went through a six month long process of obtaining a long term talent visa, in early October this year, we relocated back to Australia…I know, make up our minds already right!? Now that I’ve completely culled back about 70% of my belongings (moving internationally makes you very decisive in what to keep lugging around!) I’m starting to settle back into the laid-back beach town of Port Macquarie, NSW.
It’s where I grew up and is nice and close to Sydney for international flights because I’m definitely not done with travelling! In fact, since moving back I’ve spent a grand total of two weeks in my apartment…the rest has been split between New Zealand, Cook Islands, Indonesia and Japan! Yikes!
Anyway, I don’t know if anyone was interested in all of that but there it is. We moved back to Australia for a change in lifestyle (not to have a baby like some friends and family might be thinking haha!) and so we could both take advantage of some work opportunities that came our way.
I’m really excited to be continuing to work with Olympus Australia in 2018 and can’t wait for all of the tours and trips in the works for the year ahead.
So story time…
Craziest Photoshoot? Hamnoy, Norway
We were staying in a little red rorbuer in Norway’s Lofoten Islands and it was snowing. A lot. Actually, it was more of a snow storm with the wind whistling down the fjords and snow falling in more of a horizontal direction.
I was travelling with three other photographers, one was Marti from Dreaming and Wandering (check her out, she’s amazing!) who happened to own one of the biggest, warmest jackets I’ve ever seen. Anyhow, Marti went out to photograph the storm and came back saying we should all go out because it was incredible.
As she snuggled back up on the couch and made herself a tea to warm up she kept saying, get out there!! So, after much convincing, Teru Menclova and I went, we put on our regular snow coats then ran out with our cameras.
Marti was completely right, the experience was the kind that’s so unbelievably cool that you can’t stop laughing hysterically. Teru and I had happy faces the whole time as we ran up and down the bridge photographing the iconic scene of fishing huts by the fjord. Take a peek at some of the ‘Best Photography Locations in the Lofoten Islands‘ for more of our adventures!
Image Settings: I took this as a hand-held 2.5sec exposure, which is one of the features I love about my Olympus E-M1 Mark II, it’s super stable even when I was shaking like frosty the snowman in a hurricane. ISO 1250, F/2.8, 7-14mm M.Zuiko PRO Lens.
Scariest Moment? Switzerland – February
This one is an easy answer. It’s skidding and sliding all over the road while driving in Switzerland. As an Australian who grew up by the sea, I rarely saw snow. Snow is a very foreign concept to me, I love it, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t know how to be on it. Apparently I get a weird hunch walk like a crab whenever there’s snow even near the pavement. And driving on snow…that’s a new skill I learnt after this trip in Switzerland.
Ever since starting my photography project ‘The World from The Water’ I’ve been obsessed with capturing a split-level shot of snowy landscapes and a clear water lake. The thing is, usually when there’s snow around, the lakes and creeks are frozen solid. So…when I heard there was a huge dumping of snow predicted for the Swiss Alps, I convinced my partner we should go on a quick two day road trip to the little village of Adelboden which is right near Blausee, one of the bluest lakes on earth. Read what happened next here – Behind the Lens : Photographing Lake Blausee
Luckily, this scary moment had a happy ending and resulted in exactly the photo I was hoping to capture, Switzerland is a total winter wonderland…even if my bank balance was a little lacking due to some tyre damage from the sliding mentioned above.
To get this shot meant climbing over a fence while my partner held my hand and I leaned out over the freezing lake with my hand under the water. It makes it so much more fun than just standing still!
Most Unexpected Moment of Magic? Mangersta, Scotland
My Dad’s family history originates in Scotland, apparently an unruly clan near the border and as soon as my feet hit those cobbled streets it became one of my happy places. Wandering around Edinburgh is like stepping back in time. It doesn’t stop in the city centre either, the highlands of Scotland have even more tales to tell.
Travelling from Edinburgh out to the Isle of Skye and Outer Hebrides of Lewis and Harris, we were in a camping car and I was determined to photograph every sheep and photogenic spot along the way. The only problem, I’m not much of a camper.
That didn’t stop us though, we took on the midges, the rain and lasted three whole nights (it wasn’t actually that bad) in the camper before mixing things up with a night in a Sheperd’s Hut. And it happened to be the most incredible night.
Far from almost everything, by the craggy cliffs overlooking the wild Atlantic coast with our night in the hut not only led to meeting the lovely owners of the Mangersta Wigwams but they pointed us in the direction of the Mangersta Bothy.
Reflections. I’m not talking still lakes and waiting for the right wind conditions to capture a reflection, I’m obsessed with creating my own. Making puddles with my water bottle, using my mobile phone screen to create a blur that blend the right side and upside-down worlds together.
Once you start seeing reflections it’s a little hard to stop. It’s something that I love to share on my photo tours and it makes me so happy when people catch the reflection hunter bug.
Some of my favourite reflections of the year are below…I’m pretty certain this obsession will continue long into 2018 and beyond. You can read about how ‘Turning Trash into Photography Equipment‘ got me hooked on reflections.
Best Photography trick I learnt this year? Live Composition…
This was the year I put down my big hunking DSLR and changed things up with a new Olympus system. After having back issues from lugging around my D800’s for years, I was looking for a lightweight camera that had all the benefits so I could use it professionally, and was able to cope in all climates.
Luckily, late last year I heard about the release of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, one of it’s huge perks is that it’s weatherproof and can handle itself in snow storm, rain or freezing cold conditions. It sounded perfect and I took it with me to Iceland for a test run.
Fast forward to June when I was photographing the lavender fields of Provence, France and was testing out one of the fancy features…live composite mode.
Olympus OM-D cameras have live composite mode within their menu systems and for anyone that loves the idea of star trails but doesn’t know how…this one is for you. I’d previously shot astro and aurora but star trails seemed too time consuming and travelling on my own most of the time, I didn’t love the idea of hanging out in dark places while I worked it all out.
Anyhow, back to the story…I was in the lavender fields with my partner Clement, feeling relatively safe despite there being nothing around, I gave myself 40 minutes to take the shot. You can read the article below about how to use live composite mode.
After about 30 minutes we started getting a little creeped out by the rows of lavender which in the dark, don’t look as dreamy…they start to look pretty dark and dangerous! One of the great things about live composite mode is that you can see the image being created, so if, like me you get creeped out and want to stop it early…you can check to see if it’s a good decision, stop it then get yourself outta there!
Camera Settings: Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II | ISO 64 | 1/500sec | f/2.8 | Location: Road to Riez
Best Moment Underwater? Museo Atlantico, Spain…
As an underwater photographer I’ve been lucky enough to swim amongst coral reefs and island lagoons around the world. But I never knew how to dive.
There was this one time that a corporate client asked me to take photos diving, told me I’d be totally fine then sent me down to the depths of the ocean without a clue on how to work my gear…but that doesn’t count, and by the way, never EVER say yes to something like that. I was way too naïve and just got lucky my buoyancy worked out ok!
So, this year I made it my mission to get my PADI dive certificate and after researching destinations to dive, stumbled upon Europe’s first underwater museum, the Museo Atlantico.
Located off the Spanish island of Lanzarote (which is actually closer to Morocco than Spain), I spent three days doing my training then on the fourth day got to experience what it’s like to dive through a series of underwater statues. I’ll be honest, it’s a little weird, but weird in a mysterious can’t stop looking kind of way. To take a look at the photos and read more about the adventure, read ‘Diving Europe’s First Underwater Museum’.
Best Unplanned Adventure? Iceland, Crazy Blizzard Hikes…
One of the things I was most excited about this year was leading my first photo tour in Iceland along the South Coast from Reykjavik to Hofn. After two previous trips to Iceland to research locations and plan the itinerary, I was so eager to share the magic of Iceland with a group of fellow photo obsessed travellers!
Something you can’t control in Iceland is the weather and we had a bit of a rocky start with snow storms cancelling our snorkelling experience at Silfra, then sticking with us for most of the week. That said, we were treated to pockets of magic when the skies would clear for a few hours and create a gorgeous glow across the coastline and glacier lagoon, even an hour of aurora danced in the skies above our farmhouse! It also forced us to go on unplanned adventures like a mini hike during a blizzard to a waterfall (it was basically in our hotel carpark, don’t worry, safety always comes first!) and getting completely soaked while walking in a snow storm to check a horse stuck in a ditch was okay.
Most Famous Person I Photographed? She’s kind of a big deal…
Okay, so I’m not a crazed stalker who goes around chasing famous people. I’m actually not really down with paparazzi getting in people’s faces as they go about their daily life but…when it comes to royalty, I might have my camera nearby.
Even a trip on the London Underground is enough reason for me to visit London. I absolutely love this city and get excited by the sound of an English accent, cup of tea…anything.
There’s always been a feeling of homecoming when I visit. Maybe it’s because the Queen reminds me of my own Granny or maybe it’s because her palace is so cosy looking!? Actually I think it’s because as a kid I was obsessed with British TV shows like Paddington and Sooty, not to mention watching Mary Poppins dancing across the rooftops on repeat.
So, in March this year I flew over for a travel industry event at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster. And guess what’s right next door? Westminster Abbey which just so happens to be my favourite building in London! And…THE QUEEN WAS VISITING THAT DAY!
The actual Queen. And Prince Phillip, Charles, Camilla…the whole crew! The event I was attending fell on Commonwealth Day which was being marked by a ceremony at the Abbey, lucky timing or what!?
I strategically planned my meetings around the time gossip had the Queen arriving and then stuck my head against the windows of the conference centre which had a perfect view over Westminster Abbey. My zoom lens would’ve been very handy but unfortunately didn’t fit in my ‘fancy work bag’ that day so I had to be content with snapping some shots on my phone. Lucky the Queen dresses in bright colours, otherwise what I captured is basically just blur.
But, the point is, I saw her which made this trip to London one of the best yet!
A Little Library of Adventures –
Instead of writing a 10,000 word essay that people will probably get really bored reading, here are some links to my favourite articles from this year.
From New Zealand to Dubai and the beautiful villages of Provence, France, take a peek and I hope that at least some of my advice is helpful for your future travel plans!
Having spent a lot of time abroad for the past three years, I’m really excited about exploring more of Australia. I’ve never seen Uluru, Tasmania or those distant shores of Western Australia…they’re all within a few hours flight now and hopefully 2018 will be the year I get to photograph them.
Oh and New Zealand, being within a three hour flight of Queenstown which is one of my favourite places on the planet, I can hear the call of the mountains very loudly.
Actually, while we are on the topic, let’s just go all out with a wish list of destinations for the year ahead…
Japan – in every season ( I can’t get enough)
Cananda – more mountains!
France – I’d love to go back for a visit, there’s so much to explore and of course friends and family to visit.
Okay I’ll stop otherwise this will go on until I’ve named the entire world…
Also, I’ve been busy planning more photo tours and can’t wait to meet more talented photographers around the world! The Japan Autumn Photo Tour is already open for bookings, there’s only six places to fill so get in fast if you want to join me for some fun next November.
How you can get involved with The Wandering Lens?
I love supporting talented photographers so if you’re posting images on Instagram, use the hashtag #thewanderinglens so I can have a peek! Every so often I’ll share a bunch of my favourites and link back to your account.
If you’re a photographer and have a story to tell, I’d love to hear it. In 2018 I’m looking to feature the work of creative travel and landscape photographers. If you’ve visited somewhere unique and a little off the beaten path send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Also, in the comments below you’re welcome to share a link to your own portfolio or Instagram account!
On Instagram I’ve got The Wandering Lens Photography Group, which is slowly building to be a lovely little community! The idea is that it’s a place, kind of like a secret tree house where you can ask any question you want, no matter how simple it may seem. What is ISO, how do I change my exposure or even ask for career advice on recommendations for photography locations.
Use this link to request to join and I’ll approve you!
Thanks for getting this far…if there’s still anyone reading 😊
Hello! I’m the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens. With 14+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road. I hope it’s useful for your own travels and would love to hear in the comments about your trips and experiences around the world.
I'm Lisa Michele Burns, a professional photographer and founder of The Wandering Lens from Australia. Welcome to your guide to photographing the world, improving your photography and scouting unique and inspiring places to experience with your camera. Click here to start exploring popular guides + articles. After four years online, The Wandering Lens has turned into the leading publisher of photography focused travel guides!