Documentary, expedition and adventure photographer Ulla Lohmann is always looking for incredible opportunities to pit her wits – and her cameras – against all odds.
For adventure and adrenaline with a nod to protecting our planet and the people who make it special, look no further than Ulla. For over 20 years she has been documenting the world's most extreme environments, shooting for many of the world's most prestigious publications and broadcasters, including National Geographic, the BBC, Red Bull and GEO magazine.
Her career was kickstarted back in 1996 when she won first prize in a major German science competition, Jugend forscht, from over 8,000 entrants. She used the prize money to travel around the world and photographed and wrote articles for a monthly magazine about the trip. This journey also saw Ulla's first fulfilment of her childhood dream to see and photograph an active volcano.
A self-confessed adventure nut, she regularly leads photo tours and workshops, offering other enthusiasts unique and unrivalled opportunities to witness the world through her eyes. From the highest mountains to the ocean depths, she is driven by a desire to see the world and all its beauty.
Recently, Ulla has been documenting the changing world of indigenous tribes and photographing erupting volcanoes. She even climbed down, with her Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in tow, into an active volcano in one of the South Pacific islands in Vanuatu. There she captured shots of it venting molten lava – making her the first woman on the planet to set foot there.
But she's not just facing danger for kicks. She explains: "I didn't only take photographs and video there to show the power and beauty of nature, and how small we are as human beings. I also led an expedition team to help study this volcano complex, which is the biggest emitter of volcanic gases worldwide."
She regards the most outstanding achievement of her career as gaining the trust of a tribal elder in Papua New Guinea who agreed that she could photograph him after his death, when he got mummified according to tribal traditions. Ulla reveals: "When he was still alive, he even adopted me as his daughter. Gemtasu wanted me to tell his story to the world so he could help people overcome their fears about death, because Gemtasu strongly believed that the dead are still part of the world of the living."
Her film projects have been widely praised, with Lost Mummies Of New Guinea winning an Emmy for cinematography in 2011. Her project, Adventure Europe: 47 summits, 47 countries and 470 days, saw Ulla and her team climb the highest summit in every European country. The project aimed to show the adventures available on our doorstep and to raise awareness about how climate change can impact fragile mountain environments.
In addition to photography, she is also exploring DSLR and drone filmmaking with her husband Basti, who, like Ulla, is also a passionate adventurer. Together they bring the world closer to us.
What inspired you to pursue photography as a career?
"I won a German science competition and enough prize money to travel the world. During this trip, I travelled to Vanuatu and met a team from National Geographic; I asked them if I could join their expedition as a cook. When I saw the photographer Carsten Peter at work I was truly inspired to become a photographer for National Geographic… but it took me many years to turn from an expedition cook into a photographer!"
What is the best lesson you have learnt during your career?
"Don't dream it, do it!"
What drives your creative ideas?
"The people I meet, in front of my lens and behind. I love teaching workshops and being a lecturer at university because I get inspired by the creativity of my young students. New technology also sparks new creative ideas, and I love staying up-to-date and trying out new things. Also, nature is a constant source of inspiration to me – nature is the most creative artist of all!"
How has Canon technology helped you to shoot your projects?
"I have access to new technology and the newest cameras. To stay competitive as a photographer I always have to be a step ahead of others and this is also through new technology, which also sparks new creativity."
Why do you think the Canon Ambassador Programme is important and what do you hope to achieve by being a part of it?
"Through photography, we experience the world from a different angle. The programme should inspire others to go out there and take pictures. Photography has given me so much and, if possible, I would love to be a bit of an inspiration to others to live their own stories."
"Find your own unique story and stick with it until you become an expert and your photographs show something that has never been seen before. You will need lots of persistence and patience. If you are passionate enough you will achieve your goals and all of the hard work along the way will seem easy."