Lorenz Holder

The Way I See It | Lorenz Holder's Hyperreal Snowboard & Skate Photography

This German snapper criss-crosses the globe shooting action sports - here he shares his all-time favourite photos

by Lorenz Holder; as told to Clem Fiell
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Nov 29 2018, 1:17pm

Lorenz Holder

Every month, Amuse profiles a photographer whose work we admire, asking them to talk through their five all-time favourite shots from their career, and the challenges they faced in creating them. This is The Way I See It.


This month we spoke to Lorenz Holder, an award-winning, German-born photographer who specialises in action sports. Instead of focussing on close-up intensity, like a lot of photographers in the field, Lorenz likes to look at the bigger picture. Opening his frame wider, he captures whole worlds, serene and dreamlike spaces in which the rider is just one small player.

"All of this is real - the golden rule of action sports photography is that you cannot fake a trick"

Action sports are all about turning every variable up to eleven - going faster, sending it bigger off jumps, or trying more complex combos. Lorenz's signature style - glossy, ultra HD images captured at the peak of a rider's trick - is perfect for this.

Dripping with drama his photos are often framed in the most unusual settings - so perfect that they seem unreal. It's no surprise that along with Ansel Adams and Andreas Gursky, Lorenz cites the surreal work of Sweden's Peter Lundström among his favourites.

And yet the incredible thing about all of these shots is they did happen. The golden rule of action sports photography is that you cannot fake a trick, so each one of these photos is the result of painstaking preparation, elaborate lighting set-ups, and nailing the action at the perfect moment.

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Lorenz Holder on the other side of the lens.

I would describe my style as “fine-art-action-sport-photography”. I like to shoot a lot of fine-art stuff but I always get bored by only taking landscape and architectural images, so I combined that style with action sport.

Photography is a combination of factors - lighting, subject matter etc. But if I had to pick one it would probably be the composition. A good composition can make a huge different of how good a photo turns out at the end.

"I like to tweak reality, but of course I do it without the use of photoshop - I tweak it with angles and lighting"

They say the camera never lies, but there are a lot of ways to create an illusion with your images. With creative lighting, you can highlight stuff and leave ugly stuff in the shadow. I like to tweak the reality my way, so people are surprised at the way a spot looks even if they pass it every day. Of course, I do this without the use of Photoshop. I just tweak it with angles and lighting.

If there's one photo I wish I could've taken, it would be that shot of the earth from the moon: That Neil Armstrong shot - it must be unbelievable feeling to stand on the moon and shoot our planet.

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Senad Grosic, tail whip, Northern Ireland. Shot on a Phase One IQ3 camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach 240mm f4.5 lens and an Elinchrom Ranger RX flash.

I’m a super big Games of Thrones fan and I always wanted to shoot action sports in the places where the series was shot. So I started a project called ‘Riding Thrones’ in Northern Ireland. This photo of BMX-Biker Senad Grosic was part of it. The set-up was pretty easy. I used a long lens with a flash in the background to create a little white curtain of raindrops. Normally the area is packed with 'Throne's super-fans, but we got lucky. Because of the bad weather, it was quite peaceful.

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Anton Gunnarsson, air-to-fakie, Umeå, Sweden. Shot on a Canon 5Dmkii and a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens.

I like this image a lot because you don’t see the rider straight away. Your gaze goes first to the guy taking the dog for walk. Once people spot the snowboarder on the roof, they always seem to be amazed. I like the little surprised reaction this picture gets.

The biggest problem was building a quarterpipe up on the empty parking lot roof. There was a lot of snow, but it took a whole day to set everything up, and we needed an electric winch to tow Anton in. Nobody knew if it would actually work, so we were very glad when it did - otherwise it a whole day of shovelling would have gone to waste. When I saw the guy with the dog coming along the street, I was really close to stopping him from walking into my frame, but somehow I thought that he would be a good side-kick to the image.

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Skater, heelflip, Laax, Switzerland. Shot on a DJI Phantom 3 drone, with a polarizing filter.

This was shot at an unreal mountain lake in Switzerland. As soon as I saw the swimming platform in the middle of the lake, I thought that this would be a great place to shoot something with a skateboarder. My idea was to show the trick with the shadow, and get the crazy-looking underwater landscape in the image as well. Again, it takes a few seconds to figure out what is going on here, and that’s what I like about this shot.

Getting to the platform was an issue. We had to rent a small boat and normally the place is closed in the fall - it turned out this was the last day they were open. So sometimes you need a little bit of luck in photography as well as planning.

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Senad Grosic, nose manual, Senftenberg, Germany. Shot on a Canon 5Dmkiii with a Carl-Zeiss 18mm f.3.5 lens.

When you first see the image it looks like Senad is on a suicide mission. But actually it wasn't that bad. There was no way he could do a trick on the handrail, because it’s just too dangerous. So we built a small wooden platform inside the steel-stair-set. It was a bit higher than the handrail, so when Senad did the trick on the platform, you get an optical illusion - don't get me wrong, it's still a really sketchy place to do a nose manual, but not quite as sketchy as it looks at first.

This huge viewing platform, made of weathered steel, was built as part of a regeneration project in the Senftenberg area in Germany. It used to be a mining district, and really industrialised, then they shut the mines and flooded them and built this viewing tower to look out at the lakes. I like the shot, because it's basically an architectural image - just with the added spice of what looks like a really dangerous trick.

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Xaver Hoffman, air-to-fakie, near Munich, Germany. Shot on a Canon 5D mkii with a Carl-Zeiss 18mm f.3.5 with two big Elinchrom ranger RX studio flashes.

For this shot, we needed conditions to come together perfectly - we needed snow (obviously) but also a big snowstorm so we have some particles in the air to create the silhouette of Xaver Hoffman jumping. The location is only 40 minutes from my hometown in Munich, but we waited almost the whole winter and somehow it never quite snowed enough that we could do this thing.

Right when we were about to give up hope, the snowstorm we were waiting for rolled in. Within two hours everything was built, and after all that waiting it took us only about ten minutes of shooting to get the shot we needed. At almost exactly the same time the snowstorm stopped, so we got pretty lucky with the timing.