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Ulla Lohmann shoots extreme locations with the EOS 5D Mark III

Ulla Lohmann shoots extreme locations with the EOS 5D Mark III

© Ulla Lohmann

September 2012

Canon Explorer Ulla Lohmann pushes her cameras to the limits in some of the most remote areas of the world, often near to the intense heat and ash conditions of erupting volcanoes. CPN writer Mark Alexander spoke to her and found out that the German photographer is finding her match in the EOS 5D Mark III DSLR.

Ulla Lohmann describes herself as a storyteller. More accurately, she is a storyteller with a passion for exotic and sometimes perilous adventures in some of the world’s most inaccessible places. Wherever she goes, she always carries her trusty EOS DSLR camera.

“It’s about telling a story out in the field,” says Lohmann. “I am often with my camera in places where people simply don’t visit, like active volcanoes or remote tribes. It’s all about getting the story.”

When CPN first spoke to her Ulla Lohmann was preparing for a trip to Papua New Guinea, with National Geographic Student Expeditions, where she will spend one week at a music festival, one week in the jungle and one week exploring volcanoes and tropical islands. She has been before in 2010 when she produced the Emmy award-winning film ‘Lost Mummies of New Guinea’. This time the focus will be on her still images which she captures on her full-frame EOS 5D Mark III. “I was on the waiting list for the first one,” she recalls. “I had the 5D, two of the Mark IIs and now I have the Mark III. When it came out, I knew instantly it was my camera.”

© Ulla Lohmann

Underwater life in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III in an underwater housing with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens set to 27mm, the exposure was 1/400sec at f/10, ISO 800.

Lohmann has had her Mark III for only a couple of months but has already delivered a number of photography workshops with it in the Alps and expeditions in the South Pacific. Despite having only limited time with the camera, her new 5D is already drawing praise. “I was using the 5D Mark III during the workshops, so I was keen to show the technology to my students who were all very impressed and jealous,” she reveals.

As she explains, the 5D Mark III has some key improvements that make this 22.3 Megapixel DSLR quicker and more accurate. For instance, this latest upgrade means the camera now has 61 AF points and can deliver up to six frames per second of continuous shooting. Despite these fundamental changes, Ulla Lohmann was able to use it straight out of the box.

“When I got it, I took it out of the box and went to my first job for National Geographic Germany. I didn’t have much time to read the manual or familiarise myself with the camera,” she says. “For me, at that point, the ease of operation was important. Although there are differences between the Mark II and the Mark III, it was very intuitive to use. Straight away I was happy with it.”

The layout may be familiar, but there are some real and significant changes to the latest 5D. “You can see immediately that it is has better weather sealing,” says Lohmann. “The card reader slot, for instance, is more protected and I like the lock button because in the past if you accidentally turned the wheel you could loose your settings. When I had it in my hands for the first time, it felt good.”

© Ulla Lohmann

This volcano at Vanuatu is one of the world’s most extreme places, but posed no problems for the EOS System in Ulla Lohmann’s careful hands. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens set to 16mm, the exposure was 1/25sec at f/2.8, ISO 3200.

The 5D Mark III’s impressive weatherproofing is made possible by incorporating dozens of seals that surround every control, dial and socket. For Lohmann, this added protection is vital. “I am a photographer who puts my cameras through perhaps more than you should, but they have always performed,” she explains. “I have only ever had one failure, but this was after the shoot had finished. The conditions in the volcano were very extreme with the pH value in air below a value of one (equivalent to battery acid). My eyelashes were breaking off it was that bad. After we slept inside in the crater for two nights, the camera started to fail but I had got some beautiful shots... so I didn’t regret it.”

Lohmann expects a lot from her equipment – picture quality goes hand-in-hand with the strength and resilience. “The camera has to work – if I don’t take it out of the bag, I can’t take good photographs. For instance, I was in the outback with National Geographic Student Expeditions and there was a lot of direct sunlight on the camera so it got very hot. Despite this, it never stopped working and I was able to get the shots I needed.”

The new 5D’s casing provides enhanced water and dust resistance, but improvements have also been made under the hood. The EOS 5D Mark III uses a 61-point high-density reticular autofocus system that works in conjunction with a new sensor made of 22.3 million photodiodes, each equipped with an individual microlens. The result is a quick and accurate camera built around a receptive sensor that is two stops more sensitive than its predecessor.

“Even compared to the Mark II, the ISO performance is better,” says Lohmann excitedly. “This is really great. It means you can go higher with the ISO and there is even less grain. Usually I don’t go much higher than [ISO] 8,000 but I had my first 10,000 shot recently and I didn’t see much grain in it at all.”

One of the EOS 5D Mark III’s headline-grabbing improvements has been the dramatic changes made to its shutter speeds with up to six frames per second now possible. A large buffer, combined with the speed of the DIGIC 5+ processor, means that up to 16,270 JPEG or 18 RAW files can be captured in a single burst. For Lohmann, the upgrade has enabled her to capture shots that simply weren’t possible before.

© Ulla Lohmann

Sunset after a climbing expedition at Nowra, Australia. Lohmann caught this evocative silhouette with immaculate timing, using the evaluative metering in her Canon EOS 5D Mark III to great effect. Shot with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens set to 25mm, the exposure was 1/640sec at f/10, ISO 250.

“There was a massive swell on the Queensland coast. There were some massive waves crashing in so I got a chance to experiment with the new shutter speeds,” she says. “I could capture the wave much better because I was able to get the moment when everything was in the right place. With the Mark II, you always had a buffer and that made it difficult.”

Lohmann carries an array of lenses on her travels including two ultra-wide EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USMs, an EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM and an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM. She also has an EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II, although her favourite combination is the Mark III married with the super-fast EF35mm f/1.4L USM lens. “My favourite lens that I am using a lot on the Mark III is my 35mm,” she explains. “Because I am mainly work on my laptop out here, I have yet to make a comparison on a big screen, but on the laptop the colours look much richer.”

Lohmann’s next trip is to the string of islands of Vanuatu, which lie in between Australia’s Gold Coast and the Fiji Islands. Most of the islands are inhabited and many are home to active volcanoes, which suits Lohmann as she is heading up an expedition organised by a Hong Kong film crew that want to get as close to a lava lake as possible.

Throughout the trip she will carry her trusty EOS 5D Mark III, which she says has achieved what early versions of the EOS 5D have done before. “It takes photography to another level,” she says. “It has more technology, and there have been a lot of improvements, so it is much better in a number of areas. I have both bodies in my bag - the Mark II and the Mark III - but I find I am using the Mark III more and more because it delivers even better photos.”


Ulla Lohmann’s equipment:


2x EOS 5D Mark II
PowerShot G12


EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
EF35mm f/1.4L USM
MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo
EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
EF1.4x II Extender
EF2x II Extender


Canon Speedlite 580EX flashgun
Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite
Canon TC-80N3 Cable Remote Control
Remote Controller (with cable)
Off-camera shoe cord
Canon PIXMA IP4200x printer
Epson EB-X9 beamer
4x chargers
12x batteries

Biographie: Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann

Ulla Lohmann is a photojournalist, documentary filmmaker and TV presenter who specialises in indigenous cultures and volcanoes. Her work appears regularly on National Geographic, Discovery and the BBC channels and has been published in titles such as the New York Times, New Scientist and STERN View in her native Germany. She lives in South Tyrol in the Alps where she leads photo workshops that focus on expedition photography. She also conducts workshops for National Geographic Student Expeditions in Australia and offers photo expeditions to Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. She is an ambassador for the Pacific People Aid Fund (PPAF e.V.) to help tribal people in the South Pacific. In June 2012 she was named as a Canon Explorer as part of Canon’s Europe’s expanded Ambassadors Programme. Her images are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection and by the German agency, LOOK.


A climber scales the side of a mountain at Nowra, in the South Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. Lohmann positioned herself carefully, hanging by a rope, and composed the image to include the Tasman Sea in the background. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens set to 25mm, the exposure was 1/1000sec at f/14, ISO 500.