Lorenz Holder

A BMX rider jumps through a misty forest in Berlin, Germany.

Canon Ambassador Lorenz Holder likes to combine beautiful landscapes and extraordinary architecture with his action shots, as demonstrated in this image of German BMX rider Bruno Hoffmann jumping through a misty forest in Berlin, Germany. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM) at 38mm, 1/125 sec, f/6.3 and ISO250. © Lorenz Holder

Canon Ambassador Lorenz Holder is an action sports photographer, but he's different to most. In his images, the skateboarders, snowboarders and BMX riders performing spectacular tricks are often only a small element in a wider landscape or urban scene.

It's a unique style that combines his passions for landscapes, buildings and action sports. "I really love to shoot landscapes and architecture, as a hobby," he says. "But when I'm shooting a beautiful landscape or building, I often think: 'Ah, I could maybe add an athlete into that shot.' Then it gets more interesting."

Lorenz was born and brought up in Munich, Germany, and now lives with his family in a small town near the city. As a teenager, he was a keen snowboarder and had a sponsorship contract with a board manufacturer. Meanwhile, his other main teenage interest was photography and he used his first camera, a Canon EOS 30, to shoot everything from flowers to sunsets.

When his promising snowboarding career was cut short by a bad shoulder injury, he continued to join his friends on their trips to the mountains but took his camera with him. "I wanted to be with them, but I couldn't jump anymore," he says. "Instead of just watching them, I started shooting them in action. That's pretty much how my photography career started."

Location: Freising, Germany
Specialist areas: Action sports
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
A double exposure of a surfer riding a wave into a street in Berlin, Germany.

Lorenz used an image of surfer in New Zealand and a street shot in Berlin, Germany, to create this dramatic double exposure. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 24mm, 1/640 sec, f/7.1 and ISO200. © Lorenz Holder

Although most action sports photographers go in close on the athlete, Lorenz gradually developed a style in which they are only a part of the frame. "The athlete is small, but very important," he continues. "They shouldn't be so far away that you cannot see what they are doing, because I want to pay tribute to the ability and achievement of the athlete."

While the athlete is a crucial element in his photography, Lorenz's ideal image is one where you could remove them and it would still be a good enough shot to hang on a wall. Over the years, he has photographed athletes performing in some amazing locations, including on bridges and industrial cranes, in frozen landscapes, floodlit forests and even in mid-air beside a giant satellite dish.

Although Lorenz initially made these fine art action sports images for himself, he now often shoots them for commercial clients. His technical proficiency and creativity have also been recognised in the Red Bull Illume awards for adventure and action sports photography; he has twice been the competition's overall winner.

In the distance, a skateboarder practises stunts on a bathing platform in the centre of a lake. Early-morning mist rises all around him.

Lorenz artfully incorporates beautiful and interesting settings into his action shots – like this image of Swiss skateboarder Cedric Romanens practising stunts on a bathing platform in Laax, Switzerland. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens at 70mm, 1/1000 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Lorenz Holder

His ideas for images are inspired more by the locations than the action sport on show. "Most of the time, I don't see an action sports picture in the first place; more often I see a place that fascinates me and then later it clicks in my head that we could include an athlete," he explains. "The longer the place gets stuck in my mind, the more I create ideas of what could be possible.

"I usually have the final image in my head before I even start shooting. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and just stay on location and keep shooting until I know I could not have done it any better."

Lorenz's reward for all this hard work and dedication is a successful career doing the things he most enjoys. "I'm really happy that somehow I made it possible to make my hobby my profession, and that people pay me for doing what I really love," he says.

What's the most challenging environment you've worked in?
"Lapland, in the north of Finland, in the winter. The temperatures were -20 to -25°C and it was dark the whole time. It was the most challenging location for me and the camera gear, but it was also the most fun. I like to feel the power of nature and the cold temperatures. I'm not a sunny beach kind of guy."

Do you usually shoot the same athletes?
"Yes. If you are familiar with the athlete, you know what kind of tricks they like and what looks good. Also, on the personal side, most of the athletes have become my friends and of course it's really nice to spend time on the road with your friends. If it's possible, I also try to keep the same crew so shooting feels comfortable."

How long does it take to get the perfect picture?
"Sometimes it happens very quickly, like when you have all your puzzle pieces together and you just go to your location and you know exactly what you're going to do. It can take less than an hour. But sometimes you have to do a lot of preparation, especially for an athlete when he's jumping in the snow. You have to build ramps and set up flashes, and it can take two to three days to get just one image."

How much post-production work do you do?
"I might change saturation, contrast and so on, but I never change the image to get the athlete higher, for example. I try to get the images as perfect as possible in-camera, partly because I'm really bad at Photoshop. If I left a backpack in a shot, I know it would take me longer to remove it in post-production than it would for me to walk over and pick it up."

One thing I know

Lorenz Holder

"The main goal that every photographer, not just action sports photographers, should have is to create their own distinctive visual style. If you can shoot in a style so individual that when people look at an image they know for sure you shot it, even without seeing your name, you've created your own visual fingerprint. There are so many photographers out there. If you want to make a living out of photography, having your own style helps you get bookings because clients know what to expect when they give you a job."

Instagram: @lorenzholder


Lorenz Holder's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs


Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. Lorenz says: "I love this camera because it's so intuitive in its design and easy to handle. I don't have to think about how to use it. It's also very well built: I've used it in many crazy conditions, like snowstorms and extreme cold, and I've never had a problem with it."


Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III USM

The successor to the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM that Lorenz favours is a favourite telephoto zoom lens with photographers of every kind. "This is my favourite lens to shoot action sports – it gives a lot of flexibility. 70mm is pretty wide for me, and the 200mm end gives a great compression of perspective for landscapes. If I could only have one lens for my whole life, I'd choose this one," says Lorenz.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. Lorenz says: "If I'm documenting a shoot and taking more portrait and lifestyle images then I use this lens. I like the 24-70mm because it has a wide aperture, so I can shoot when it's darker and still have sharp images."

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

A versatile fisheye zoom lens offering a choice of full-frame or circular image. "I use this lens on shoots where the wider environment is not so beautiful and I need to have the athlete bigger in the picture. I really like the sharpness of the lens – even to the very far side of the frame," says Lorenz.

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