One of the of the best things to ever happen to Michele Burgess was being laid off 5 years ago from her job as an administrator for an environmental consulting firm in Newport Beach.
With nothing to lose, she headed for the nearest airport and began a career as a travel photographer and writer.
And she hasn't looked back.
"I've always been interested in photography," Burgess said. "I started out with an Instamatic. The real photography started in 1974. (As payment) for typing my mother's doctoral dissertation, (my parents) gave me a 35-millimeter camera for Christmas and a trip (with them) to Kenya. That's when I got hooked on traveling and photography."
Upon her return, she wrote an article about Kenya and sent it to 13 different magazines. New Woman magazine bought it for $350.
Burgess has since sold more than 150 articles along with her photographs to magazines including Westways, Travel Holiday, Travel and Leisure and several airline flight magazines.
She sells her work through her own in-house stock agency and four others, two in New York, one in Philadelphia and Photo Bank Inc. in Irvine.
She also loves to talk about travel photography and will be teaching 10 seminars in April in the Southern California area. Her Orange County seminars will be at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on April 12, Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana on April 19 and Golden West College in Huntington Beach on April 25. The 2 1/2-hour sessions start at 7 p.m. and cost $20. For more information, contact Burgess at (714) 536-6104.
"Most of the seminar is looking at my photography," Burgess said. "Also, analyzing what makes a good picture. Most of it is composition; it's not technical, because people have different kinds of cameras and I'm not an expert on any camera but my own.
"I talk about the different lenses and what they do and the different filters. But mostly, I talk about composition."
Burgess has five quick tips to improve your travel photographs.
Move in close, being sure to fill your frame.
Try not to put too much into one photograph, avoiding distractions.
Try a polarizing filter; this will darken your skies and give more saturation to the colors.
Use Fuji film. Burgess uses Fujichrome 100, which she prefers over Kodachrome because of the richer colors the film produces.
Learn the rules of composition.
Burgess says that people don't pay enough attention to light, which can make a picture sparkle or make it dull.
"If you're shooting a person, use flash-fill or open shade," Burgess said. "Don't put the sun behind the person. Don't have them squinting into the sun or with the sun straight over their head, which produces harsh shadows."
Also, "It's not the equipment; it's how you use it," she said. "I've seen a lot of good photography in my classes using point-and-shoot cameras. I've also seen lousy pictures taken with a Nikon."
Based in Huntington Beach, Burgess leads her own photography tours, with the next one going to the game parks of Kenya. She also has tours planned for Indonesia, Australia, Fiji and China.