Lisa Michele Burns Photographer

Welcome to another episode of Surf Bank's Beyond The Frame where we dive into the captivating world of surf & ocean photography, going beyond mesmerising captures exploring the backstory of many talented photographers.

In this episode we will be hearing from talented Australian photographer Lisa Michele Burns, also known as The Wandering Lens on Instagram!

Beyond the frame aims to inspire and inform future surf photographers and ocean lovers being your backstage pass to detailed insights from the minds behind stunning surf shots.

Lisa Michele Burns Gallery

Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in a small coastal town called South Durras by the sea in southern NSW, Australia, before my family moved north to the Mid North Coast.

My dad was a surfer, still is, and the coast has always felt like home to me, no matter where in the world I'm staring at the sea.

My high school was located beside the beach, and swimming, or being in the water has always been calming but was never my focus as a child, I was more set on being a grand slam tennis champion, spending weekends at tournaments, and afternoons training.

If you Google my name, you'll see that never happened haha, but I do still love tennis!

My family moved around a lot when I was younger, all along the east coast of Australia spending a few years in each area, and I think it's probably this lifestyle that led to my love of travel, which is now a core part of my career.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

Surfing has never come naturally to me, nor has skiing or anything that requires a bit of balance, so I prefer to paddle out and float over the waves with my camera.

Surfing has always been around me, so in a sense it came first, but photography feels more my thing, and I love that it connects me with the waves in a way that I'm more comfortable.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

Photographing the ocean came about when I was living on Hayman Island, on the Great Barrier Reef for five years, back in 2009.

I was shooting for various clients and had a landscape gallery there, but was always looking for new ways to capture the island scenery so invested in an underwater housing to explore the reef and coastline via split-level imagery.

The first day out I learned a very fast lesson in how to properly close the housing clasps, accidentally flooding the camera and watching through my goggles as water filled the frame.

It wasn't long before I took the housing further south (there were no waves on the reef) to experiment with the underwater patterns of waves and got hooked on that feeling of being under a wave as it washed above, capturing the clouds, sand, and bubbles.

How Would You Describe Your Photography Style?

I love playing with movement and colour, if there are patterns or textures involved it's even better!

My work focuses more on landscapes, so in terms of underwater photography, I'm always looking for clear water where I can capture these elements.

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

All over really, when I'm home I don't tend to photograph too much, but will definitely grab my housing and run down to the beach if I'm on the Sunshine Coast and the sky is beautiful at sunset.

Otherwise I mainly shoot when I'm travelling, and have lately been focused on colder conditions, glacial meltwater streams, lakes, or split-level shots of icebergs.

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

Over the past year, land has been more common as I was photographing a book project and travelling across Australia through the desert.

I don't have a preference as such, I'm happy anywhere that's photogenic, away from crowds, and involves water. If there's a location that combines alpine landscapes and glacial lakes, I'll be very happy photographing both above, and below the water!

What Makes The Perfect Image?

I look for an ideal blend of light and composition, an image that captures a moment or subject in a way that makes the viewer look a little closer.

It also depends on the experience behind the lens for me, if I feel rushed, crowded, or if it's really loud around me, I'll never capture my best work.

I love being far from anywhere, taking the time to look around, soak up the scene, and then capture something that represents the moment.

Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Photo By Lisa Michele Burns

What is Your Post-Processing Workflow?

My workflow is pretty straightforward in terms of editing, I like to try and keep things quite natural, but have also been known to see the world through rose-coloured glasses and have a habit of producing pastel tones throughout my work.

In terms of programs, I edit primarily in Photoshop and will import a RAW file, one at a time, usually adjusting the temperature to bring those blues to a shade I think best reflects the scene.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

I love seeing photographers push the boundaries either creatively, or with their adventures.

Tom Hegen's environmental work is stunning, I always enjoy seeing where Chris Burkard is shooting or cycling.

I'm also inspired by a lot of the photographers I work with in my mentoring program and courses, it's revealed a whole new insight to see their work progress and explore styles that are different to my own.

What Advice Would You Give To Aspiring Surf Photographers?

I think it's important to find an approach or style you're creatively drawn to, rather than chasing trends or a social media following.

If you're keen to find work as a photographer or become known for your imagery, standing out with your skills and having a consistent portfolio is what will get attention from the right people.

Focusing on building a body of cohesive work that's recognisable as yours, then sharing that via a website with great SEO can really help with visibility.

In terms of improving your photography, the best way to do this is to get out there and experiment! Keep taking photos, learn how to work with natural light, and have fun playing with water as an element, there are so many ways to incorporate it into your photography.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

A few years back I only ate museli bars while travelling to avoid wasting time stopping to eat, and I wouldn't stop shooting until the last glimmer of light had gone.

I think remaining relaxed and flexible is a big challenge, knowing that even though you've flown 20+hours to reach a destination, you can't control the conditions and it's okay for a destination to not initially meet expectations. I've overcome this in recent years by planning a day to just look around and settle in if I'm shooting somewhere new.

Of course, if the conditions are perfect I'll head out with my camera, but if they're not, I just wander and assess the scene until I find how I want to capture it.

Lisa's Equipment List


Camera & Lenses

I've been shooting with OM SYSTEM gear since 2017, when they were formerly Olympus. I'm now an ambassador for their cameras and am currently using the OM-1, and OM-D E-M1 MKIII, hopefully soon I'll have the new OM-1 MKII in my bag too!

The weather sealing of the cameras is so incredible, I've had the cameras in ice, water, sand, and dusty deserts and never had an issue with the conditions. I also enjoy how lightweight the kit is, plus for my ocean work, the built-in Live ND filter and handheld high-res mode (meaning no tripod) have fast become my favourite features. For lenses, I love using the 40-150mm f2.8 M.Zuiko pro lens for shooting details within a landscape, and also have the 12-40mm f2.8 and 7-14mm f2.8 which is amazing for underwater photography, wide-angle is always my preference underwater.

Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer
Photo By Lisa Michele Burns

Personal Message

I just find it inspiring to watch people enjoy being in the ocean and outdoors, being active, and appreciating the simple things. The surfing community is one where the connection to nature is still thriving and I find it to be a really beautiful thing.

Favourite Surf Spot

Absolutely a secret, I went there a few weeks ago and it was just my Dad and I in the water.

I did see a break on Iceland's east coast though when I was driving around solo, there was no one around, towering mountains rising from the ocean, and the bay was that perfect crescent moon shape.

I sat there watching waves roll in for hours and shed a few little happy tears because it was one of those magic moments where you find somewhere really special. I'm not sure what the name was, but it was along the coast, just past the Hvalnes Lighthouse.

Lisa's Future Plans

This year I'm shooting a lot of glaciers, in Chile, Alaska and Greenland, but am hoping to get in the meltwater and icy lagoons with my housing to capture some water shots!

I've been focusing a lot on areas of environmental significance in my work, shooting travel features, and remote lodges or outdoor experiences so this will continue for the foreseeable future too.

A lot of my time is also spent online with The Wandering Lens community, where I've built a series of online courses for photographers keen to work freelance or improve their creativity, there are now over 500 photographers in the core group and it's so rewarding to see their images, or hear of the adventures they're having with their cameras.

Lisa Michele Burns Surf Photographer


Travel guides & photo tips:

Online courses:

Personal portfolio:

You can keep up with me on my two Instagram's below: @the_wanderinglens & @travelphotographycourses

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