Interview: Mountain bike photographer Sterling Lorence

By Callum Jelley | Thursday, March 19, 2009 10.35am

Professional mountain bike photographer Sterling Lorence is one of the best known names in the business and has captured some iconic shots. Our Whistler correspondent Callum Jelley fired a few questions at the man behind the lens.

BikeRadar: We've spent a day shooting and riding in the mountain bike Mecca that is Whistler BC. You've shot here many times. Is it getting harder to find a new angle on one of the most photographed mountain bike spots in the world?

Sterling Lorence: Even though you may have shot a certain feature many times before it's always fun to take a fresh look and find a new way of shooting it, and it's Whistler so it's always fun.

You were born and raised on the North Shore. How has this influenced you and your work?

There are 2 parts to this answer. I really evolved as a photographer with the evolution of mountain biking on the Shore. I knew freeriding was going somewhere and wasn’t just a fad. I also grew up in the whole scene down there and I was proud of where freeride had come from and where it was going. My part in that was capturing some of the first images that made it out of the Shore and into the international mountain bike scene, causing an explosion in the sport as a whole.

Recently some of your more epic photos have come through working with The Collective (the film-makers behind The Collective, Roam and Seasons). How was it working with them?

I've done ‘on set’ photography before, on the early freeride flicks like Ride To The Hills and Kranked, so when we started The Collective I was in a familiar situation. The quality of the film and the shots in The Collective are conducive to my photography, and it made a great arena for me to shoot in.

One of sterling's shots from whistler: one of sterling's shots from whistler

Our man Cal spent time in front of the lens as well as behind it interviewing Sterling Lorence

I know you love riding bikes and you love the mountains, so what is more important to you the mountains of the bike?

I have to say the mountains. I enjoy the woods and even just walking through them and looking at all the different elements of light and the trees, and how the elements effect the mood and the feeling around you.

What's your favourite time of day/light to shoot in?

The fog that follows a good bout of rain on the North Shore has to be one of my favourite lights and elements to shoot in as it's elusive and never around for very long. I also really like the effect it brings to the shot. It's kind of haunting how the riders often appear shadow-like in the photo.

Who is your favourite rider to shoot with?

There are lots of great riders to shoot with but I would probably have to say ‘The Kid’ (Evil Bikes rider Thomas Vanderham) just because he is a hard worker but has effortless style on the bike and always gets the money shots. For the slopestyle side of things, Cam McCaul just for his brilliant positive energy. He’s always bouncing off the walls and willing to hit things again and again.

Film or digital?

I would call myself a digital photographer now. My reasons for being mainly digital are that I love knowing that I have or haven’t got the shot instantly, and I'm a commercial photographer and digital is so much more efficient than film. If I was strictly in it for artistic reasons, then I would shoot lots more film.

One of sterling's shots from whistler: one of sterling's shots from whistler

Freerider Thomas Vanderham is one of Sterling's favourite riders to work with

You're a passionate mountain biker. How much does this affect the way you look at the sport through your lens?

It simply comes down to the more I ride, the more I see! It's connected my creativity and it keeps my creative eye in the game. It shows me how to interpret what the rider is doing or feeling into the composition of my shots. If I stop riding for some time, I find it much harder to get the shots I want so it's definitely strongly linked to my creativity.

A question anyone who has shot with you wants to know the answer to  how heavy is that camera bag of yours? 

I’d say it ranges from 15 to 30lbs depending on what I’m doing and where I’m shooting. But the day you just take the wide angle lens, you see the great long shot. When it's up there in the 30lb bracket I won't be riding very far with it on my back, that's for sure!

Have you ever gone out with minimal equipment?

It's a great way of pushing yourself to be more creative but I find every lens in my bag is a different perspective. I probably don’t limit myself enough but I don’t want to miss anything.

Finally, what would be your dream location to shoot in?

It would have to be New Zealand as I haven’t been there yet. I've been very lucky that photography and mountain biking have taken me to many wonderful locations around the world.

One of sterling's shots from whistler: one of sterling's shots from whistler

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