An Olympus Visionary for the better part of half a decade, Michaela Skovranova has devoted herself to the art of documentary storytelling through her photographs and filmmaking. What began with a primary focus on underwater projects and personal work has widened to now include broader environmental stories. [Article courtesy of Olympus]
‘In 2017 in addition to personal projects,’ Michaela says, ‘I started working as a photojournalist with National Geographic and since then my work has expanded to working with a range of different clients such as Greenpeace, Time Magazine and Instagram.’
We explored the region surrounding Roebuck Bay from land, sea and air where each year around 100,000 shorebirds migrate from their breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere. After performing their six-day non-stop migration, the birds spend a few months feeding on the plentiful food in the mudflats, using their specialised bills to feed on crustaceans, fish and molluscs. For this project, I utilised the Olympus OM-D E-M1X which enabled me to handhold the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens in low light conditions to capture sharp images even at low shutter speeds.
As the mix of her photographic interests has changed, so too has her approach to picture-taking. ‘I have started to delve deeper into human and environmental stories both above and below water to understand myself better and to become a well rounded visual storyteller – a journey I always hope to continue. Every project has taught me something new and I get to bring that knowledge along with me to help me enrich my future projects.’
Asked if the equipment she uses has changed in recent times, Michaela responds ‘Olympus has an incredible range of lenses to choose from. I have embraced using longer focal length lenses such as the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO. I find these lenses particularly useful when documenting wildlife. I love filming with the 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens as it provides a broad range and stability. For personal work, I always tend to go back to the 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens.’
South Australia – Sea Lions.
The versatile nature of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Olympus PT-EP14 Underwater housing was crucial for this project. I enjoyed using the Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 PRO which meant I could create a range of different images within one set up. Once underwater I only have a limited amount of time to get the photographs I need, so having the flexibility to change focal length was a big benefit.
In between assignments, Michaela has continued to work on a project she calls Nature Love Stories – which has, along with a growing portfolio of still photographs, also resulted in the production of a short film of the same name that was featured at TEDx Sydney in 2019.
‘Nature Love Stories is an ongoing personal project,’ she says. ‘I enjoy the simplicity of this creative process – I often walk (or swim) around and explore my backyard with one camera and one lens – the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and either the 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens or the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12mm f/2 lens.’
Queen of the Night, a night-blooming cactus. She rarely blooms, only a handful of times a year, under the darkness of the night, with her flowers wilting before the first light touches them. A special reminder of some the beautiful moments that happen in nature in the darkness of the night.
‘I believe nature holds us when we need it to. It creates space for us to breathe and an opportunity to connect to both ourselves and the environment. It feels like a beautiful, boundless love.
‘Nature doesn’t ever ask for anything in return – but it needs respect and connection and perhaps a moment where we too hold space for nature in the way that it does for us.’
NSW Bushfires December 2019 Barbara Barrett (Barb) tends to a bushfire survivor koala named Baz.
Reflecting on what has been an unprecedented and tumultuous year, Michaela says, ‘I believe photography and visual storytelling is an incredible tool which creates an opportunity for us to process our thoughts, embrace our values and figure out our way forward. In the face of these tragic events, we can use visual storytelling to help us navigate our uncertain future.
‘Australia and the world have experienced unbearable suffering in the last few months which has affected all of us in one way or the other. These tragic events have encouraged me to deeply reflect on my values and how I connect to the world both as a storyteller but also a human being.’