It is early, dark, and cold. The moonlight casts long icy shadows as landscape photographer Michael Scott Lees makes his way up icy Etheridge Ridge about a kilometre from Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko. Climbing with a backpack of camera equipment weighing close to 14kg and using his tripod as a stabiliser on
the icy assent, the wind starts to pick up, pushing a eerie mist past the beam of his head torch.
In a race against the first rays of dawn light, Michael pushes on to a location chosen the previous evening. Despite laboured breath, heavy legs and slippery conditions, he is spurred on by the need to get to the top and get himself set up to do what he loves best, to capture the breathtaking beauty of mother earth – for Michael, this is a great day in the “office”!
Why I do what I do
The above description of the early morning shoot on top of Etheridge ridge sums up one of the more obvious reasons why I do what I do. I love the adventure and the challenge of capturing how beautiful our planet is, I love the rush I get when I know I’ve been able to create an image that I feel is really unique and impossible to create in its subtleties again.
But there are messages just below the surface that are just as important to me. We all like to be able to communicate what we feel and the best way I know how is through imagery, goodness knows, and so does my wife and kids, that my talents don’t lie in the written or spoken word. So first and for most I like creating images that are positive by nature, for there are so many negative things that are highlighted in the world today and I want to balance that out with positive things.
I try to voice, through my imagery, the need to protect the earth that we live on, I hope the imagery inspire people to protect the environments of the earth in their own unique or united way. I worry that people are loosing touch with the natural world and the importance of it, I feel that nature brings us back down to our solid foundations and the simplicity of who we are and what truely makes us happy. Natural environments recharges our batteries and gives us the energy to enjoy our technologically changing world, we need to protect the environments of our planet so that we can experience the natural world on a regular basis and thus revitalise ourselves.
I also hope that my imagery can just relax people when they are feeling the burden off a stressful day and remind them that there is a big and beautifull world out there for them to explore.
To put it simply I hope that my imagery can make the world a better place.
Growing up in Sydney’s northern suburbs, surrounded by bushland, Michael admits that his adventurous spirit saw him more interested in exploring his surroundings or instigating a rowdy game of backyard cricket with his brothers than concentrating on school. Until, his brother brought home some black and white photo’s from his photography class. The next year Michael chose photography as an elective subject, and with the support of a committed teacher, went on to win Gold for Portraiture in the Sydney Morning Herald Photographic Competition, a competition that saw him compete with students from all over New South Wales and a taste of things to come. After high school, Michael attended Art College at Alexander Mackey, now NSW University College of Fine Arts, majoring in photography and minoring in film making and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Visual Arts degree in 1982.
Michael’s freelance career saw him further develop his technical and commercial skills in the fields of advertising, portraiture, tourism, architectural and industrial photography. Michael has always had a passion for landscape photography and in 1982, while working as an assistant to a top fashion photographer, he picked up a panoramic camera and was “immediately hooked”. Using the format, he documented the station life of a jackeroo on a trip to the outback and realised the fantastic potential for this new medium for capturing the Australian countryside. It hasn’t till 1987 that Michael purchased his first panoramic camera. Packing his bags and boarding a plane to Africa, he spent 4 months capturing wonderful panoramic images, exploring remote locations and being part-time mechanic to a temperamental old Land Rover 4WD fondly called “Matilda”… and, not so fondly lot’s of other names that can’t be printed!
Michael continued to hone and develop his craft, broaden his industry knowledge and build on his comprehensive slide library and in 1999, the idea that began in college of having his own dedicated photographic gallery, finally came to fruition. From humble beginnings in the disused railway station of Bungendore NSW, a busy tourist stopover between Canberra and the south coast, and spurred on by the growing public interest in his work, Michael moved the gallery to a busy retail location in the town centre and created an impressive art space.
A year later, and going from strength to strength, Michael fulfilled another life long dream by opening a second gallery in Jindabyne in the heart of his beloved snowy mountains and in 2004 relocated to the larger, impressive gallery space.
Michael and his young family made their home in Jindabyne and life and the future was looking bright but everything changed in August 2005 when Michaels wife and 2 young daughters were involved in a tragic car accident that claimed the life of 21 month old Marley. In an effort to simplify life and to come to grips with the immeasurable loss of Marley, Michael decided to close the Bungendore gallery. As you might imagine, Marley’s death has changed Michael’s life in many ways. In a positive sense, it has made him even more aware of just how fragile and beautiful life and the world around us is and has reminded him to appreciate every moment and every detail, every day.
Michael passion for adventure has taken him to many amazing places, not only has he explored many of the hidden delights of the Kosciuszko National Park, but has ventured to Antarctica, America, Canada, Argentina, another trip to Africa, Diving in the Coral Sea and is currently planning to snorkel with Humpback whales in Tonga.[VIDEO]
“I feel that the world, still enjoys unspoiled, remote and spectacular places, and my photographs depict the beauty of these places. I hope my images reflect the extreme seasons, weather conditions, the hardships brought about by fire, flood and drought for all living creatures. I really hope that my imagery will inspire others to preserve and protect these great environments for future generations to discover.”