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Canon Explorer Ulla Lohmann is taking her EOS 5D Mark III DSLR around the world with BMW Motorrad to follow in the tyre tracks of five riders, each of whom has won a place on the ultimate adventure with the R 1200 GS motorcycle. Ulla is shooting all five riding adventures – which take place across five continents – and will be blogging on CPN along with Basti Hofmann and filmmaker Romain de l’Ecotais about the experience of men, machines and megapixels.


Ulla Lohmann on life with BMW motorbikes and the EOS 5D Mark III

March 2013

Canon Explorer Ulla Lohmann, her husband Basti Hofmann and filmmaker Romain de l’Ecotais are currently working with BMW Motorrad on a series of five worldwide motorcycling adventures designed to highlight its best-selling R 1200 GS dual sport bike. In the third in a series of blogs Ulla reveals her adventures in South Africa documenting the trip with the EOS 5D Mark III...

© Ulla Lohmann/BMW Motorrad

For Ulla Lohmann, one of the joys of the BMW Motorrad One World Tour was meeting people. This choir singing in Cape Town, South Africa, was a highlight. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/250sec at f/5.6, ISO 200.

During all these great trips, I have always got a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I have always got to remember that I am working for a client, and that the client expects certain things over and above just great photographs. I always need to get an image that shows the characteristics of the country, with the bike nice and visible, and showing the rider clearly – in one image this is a challenge, especially when we do not have time to set up and plan it properly. So I was always very grateful to the EOS 5D Mark III for it’s amazing ability to handle high ISO and perform so brilliantly. Canon has done such an amazing job with this camera.

BMW Motorrad is a really great team of people to work with and for every trip one of the BMW marketing team would come out and ride with us. This gave me an opportunity to check that what I was shooting was what they wanted, and also for BMW to make sure that the bike was performing as it should.

© Ulla Lohmann/BMW Motorrad

Winner of the BMW Motorrad One World Tour for South Africa, Spain’s Salvador Echevarría, makes a splash on his BMW R 1200 GS bike. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 40mm; the exposure was 1/1500sec at f/4, ISO 400.

We landed in Cape Town after a long flight, during which I had chance to read all of the Lonely Planet books on the country! I had an idea in my head what South Africa would be like but it’s never until your feet are on the ground that you actually understand a country – and this was definitely the case here!

On the first day we got the motorbikes ready and got a few shots out of the way before the winner arrived for the trip. Basti and I toured the Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, an area of great poverty and very underprivileged. And yet I got some amazing pictures of children dancing in the street for us. They were smiling so brightly, like little jewels in such a poor area. It was so easy to make the kids happy: just sit them on the motorbike, snap a picture and give them a print from the SELPHY CP810 printer on the spot. That's all it takes to give them a million dollar smile!

© Ulla Lohmann/BMW Motorrad

A highlight for all on the BMW Motorrad One World Tour in South Africa was meeting lions Mufasa and Layla. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 30mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 160.

Extreme machines

South Africa was a mixture of extremes. Extreme poverty, extreme beauty, extreme temperatures, extreme weather… we were riding one day and the temperature was 40ºC in the shade and then all of a sudden we would have a huge downpour of rain! Just insane. Working as a team really helped in tough situations like this, because we kept each other going and would just keep on shooting regardless... we had no time to wait for good weather.

From shoots in the past, I knew how good the weather-sealing was on the EOS 5D Mark III and so I trusted it completely to perform in difficult conditions – I kept on shooting through the rain, wiped off the water with a towel and everything was perfect. What a great camera!

At this point I must make a special mention to my husband Basti, who is our ‘fixer’ on the trip. He spends a lot of time making sure everything goes like clockwork and is also a fantastic help when setting up shots, particularly with Romain where he needs to use his special rigs for filming. I couldn’t work without him on an assignment like this and when the weather took a turn for the worse he was always there cleaning lenses and making sure the kit worked. What a star he is! Thank you, my dear Basti!

© Ulla Lohmann/BMW Motorrad

The BMW Motorrad One World Tour featured some spectacular mountain scenery in South Africa, giving Ulla plenty of opportunities for atmospheric images. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.

A working lunch...

On this trip we all wanted to get footage of the bikes with the animals, and for all of us the highlight was meeting two young lions and interacting with them. What an amazing experience! The lions were called Mufasa and Layla and were at the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. I thought they would be completely tame and in a pen, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw these two wild lions walking out of the bush towards us! I thought I was going to be lunch! We were told not to crouch as the lions would think we were prey! When they were more familiar with us we could stand up and enjoyed an amazing encounter and I got some great, great images. Although I did notice that the gamekeepers only had sticks to hit the lions with if they got too friendly with us and fancied a quick snack!

This was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had, with so much to take in and a client to keep happy. It is my pleasure to work with BMW Motorrad as they were very easy-going and – once again at the end of the trip – we were firm friends. The hardest part in many ways is saying goodbye. But not quite yet... so, until the next time!

Ulla Lohmann’s kitbag for South Africa

EOS 5D Mark II

EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF35mm f/1.4L USM
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
EF2x III Extender

Speedlite 580EX flashgun
MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite
TC-80N3 Cable Remote Control
SELPHY CP810 printer

Biography: Roman de l’Ecotais

Roman de l’Ecotais

Romain is an independent filmmaker specializing in corporate and film documentaries, and has created films in a wide variety of situations, from the hot kitchens of Michelin-starred Chef Thierry Marx to Senegalese wrestlers in Africa. He is shooting the videos for the BMW Motorrad trip with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and will be blogging about his experiences on making movies in extreme conditions.

Biography: Basti Hoffmann

Basti Hoffmann

Ulla’s husband Basti is shooting behind the scenes stills and video with a Canon EOS 7D and will be proving back up support for Ulla as well as a strong pair of arms! Responsible for logistics, he is part of a team of backroom ‘heroes’ who make these trips happen with minimal technical problems.

Biography: Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann is a German photojournalist and documentary filmmaker with a BSc degree in Natural Resource Management. She works freelance for clients including BMW, National Geographic, GEO, Stern View, the BBC, The New York Times and many others. She specialises in documenting the changing world of indigenous tribes and in photographing erupting volcanoes, and some of her photo stories have been exhibited at the Visa pour l’ Image international festival of photojournalism.