Adventure

Behind the lens: Lewis Burnett

Behind the Lens places a spotlight on the world’s foremost ocean photographers. Each edition focusses on the work of an individual who continues to shape public opinion through powerful imagery and compelling storytelling. This interview focuses on Craig Parry, an award-winning wildlife photographer, videographer and guide based in Western Australia.

Interview with and photographs by Lewis Burnett

Focusing on capturing the endless beauty that nature has to offer, Lewis Burnett hopes to reconnect people to the earth and its wildlife.

OCEANOGRAPHIC (OM): WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONNECT WITH THE OCEAN?

Lewis Burnett: “Growing up in Scotland, my relationship with the ocean was limited to family holidays abroad and the rare summer day where it was considered warm enough to swim in the North Sea. I remember having a great curiosity towards the ocean, but it was more of a place to wander through rockpools, searching for brightly coloured anemones, than to swim in. It wasn’t until I moved to Western Australia (WA) that I was able to follow my natural curiosity. Australian culture is closely tied to the ocean, so quickly I began to develop a close connection to the waters that lay off the WA coast. But it wasn’t until I completed my open water scuba diving course that things really began to develop into a lifelong passion. I can still recall the feeling of breathing underwater for the first time. It was like opening a door into a whole new world.”

OM: HOW DID YOU CONNECT THE DOTS BETWEEN YOUR PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND YOUR PASSION FOR THE OCEAN?

Lewis Burnett: “My first job in the dive industry was a bit of a fluke to be honest, a textbook ‘fake it until you make it’ situation. I had responded to a post that a friend had shared on Facebook, advertising a position for an underwater photographer at a dive shop on off the west coast of Lombok. They requested to see my portfolio and asked if I had all the necessary gear. After a short interview where I reassured them of my plentiful experience, I was offered the job under the proviso “if you can start next month, it’s yours”. Realising that I may have bitten off more than I could chew with just a GoPro, that night only an hour after the phone call, I purchased my first underwater housing for my mirrorless camera, a Sony a7ii. It didn’t take long practicing each day to notice an improvement in my images over there and with each passing week exploring the reefs and ocean life that calls that part of the world home, my passion to share the underwater world with a wider audience grew. It was also my first exposure to the numerous issues facing our oceans; plastic pollution, overtourism, dynamite fishing, ghost nets, coral bleaching, and so on. As my awareness for the issues threatening the thing I loved most in this world grew, so too did my desire to help protect it from human made impacts. I began to turn to photography to help convey the wonders of the natural world in hopes that people would see more value in protecting it.”

OM: WHAT IS THE MAIN THING THAT HAS ELEVATED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY ONTO A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL?

Lewis Burnett: “Practice and a constant eagerness to learn. They say that to master a skill, you must spend 10,000 hours engaged in that discipline. Practice does indeed make perfect and the more you do something, the better you get. The thing that I like the most about photography, however, is that it’s impossible to master. There are always going to be new things to learn, new techniques or genres that you can incorporate into your work and new technology to include in your repertoire… the room for growth is infinite. A lot of wildlife photography is about being in the right place at the right time, whilst also having a camera with you. Some of the best underwater photos I’ve ever seen were brilliant not due to their technical prowess, but because someone was there in that moment, surrounded by a stunning natural event, watching the world unfold in its most raw and unaltered form, with a camera in their hand. Learning how to use your camera is one thing, but something that is perhaps more important when it comes to wildlife photography is the ability to read an animal’s behaviour. To capture a photograph without disturbing its natural behaviour is something that takes time and learning the guidelines of ethical wildlife photography really helped me with this. Now that I knew how to operate my camera under pressure and how to get close to an animal without adversely affecting it, the last thing I felt helped elevate my work was learning about light. It may sound obvious considering it is one of the fundamentals of photography, but light alone makes the biggest difference to the feel of any photograph. Learning to work with natural and artificial light in my images made a huge difference to their quality.”

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Issue 37
Supported by WEBSITE_sponsorlogos_arksen

This interview appears in ISSUE 37: WILD ALASKA of Oceanographic Magazine

Issue 37
Supported by WEBSITE_sponsorlogos_arksen
Supported by WEBSITE_sponsorlogos_arksen

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