Catching Up With: Sterling Lorence

By Josh Patterson, photos by Sterling Lorence

In the world of mountain bike photography, Sterling Lorence is the closest thing to a
household name. Over the past decade his photos have documented the rise and evolution of the freeride movement. Living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sterling bore witness to the early pioneers of the sport, riders named Berrecloth, Hunter, Watson, Simmons, Shandro, and Vanderham. His skill behind the lens catapulted these riders into the cycling media and introduced mountain bikers across the globe to locales such as the north Shore, Whistler and Kamloops. Despite his accomplishments, Sterling is humble enough to chalk his success up to being in the right place at the right time.

What made you realize you could turn photography into a successful career?

I knew deep inside that I had a lot of creative energy towards mountain biking and the photography of it. I thought if I could get a bunch of those ideas into photos, I would not only be able to make some money from it, but I would also be able to properly express the love I had for this sport in an artistic way.

Do you have any formal training, or are you self-taught?

Some schooling during high school and college—I majored in environmental studies. I am lucky to have a cousin that is a professional photographer. He acted as my mentor for many years.

Are there other photographers you look up to, or whose work you admire?

When I started to pay attention to the photos in the mags, I liked the work of John Gibson and Scott Markewitz. These days, some of the young shooters that have caught my eye are Reuben Krabbe and Jordan Manley. (Manley’s work was featured on the cover of issue #158. ed.)

Describe your style behind the lens:

Sniper-like. With a desire to extract as much soul, style and stunning light as possible. If you’re going to waste the Earth’s fine paper products on my work, it has to stoke the reader.

Describe your style on the bike:

Swiss precision in the tech (I grew up on the Shore.) and I smile at huge climbs through alpine passes.

What’s the most difficult aspect of being a professional photographer?

I am completely freelance which can be a bit scary—I can’t predict my paychecks more than a few months out. But, I will say that cycling has been great to me and I have found a solid career in this industry. The most difficult part is the travel. To work in this sport means that you’re moving around to find new places and create new looks from new places. It can be hard to be away from my family when I am on the other side of the globe for weeks at a time with people I don’t really know.

If you were not making a living as a photographer, what would you be doing?

I have always had a huge desire to help save our precious fisheries. I would be a badass politician in this area, and/ or would work in habitat restoration, making sure our rivers were healthy for the salmon to return to.

What inspires you?

My family, people who are willing to think outside the box, people with an environmental conscience, evening light that is raging the land, and riders with style.

What is your favorite destination for riding/shooting?

British Columbia has the most diverse collection of mountain bike landscapes imaginable. But I can knock it a bit due to the excessive forest landscapes, which can limit access to sunlight. I will say that Utah, with its dry, clean air and uniquely colored landscapes, still blows me away photographically.

You get to work with a lot of talented riders. Any new riders we should be on the lookout for?

A couple of young groms from Whistler Bike Park named Jack and Fin Iles.

Camera and lens of choice?

For action, I would say the Canon 1DX with a 70-200/2.8 lens. For lifestyle, a Hasselblad with an 80mm lens.

Bike of choice?

Trek Remedy Carbon spec’d with an aggressive vibe, so I can shred the shore and then hammer through some mountain passes a few days later…

Beer of choice?

That is a tough one. Let’s just say that when I get to the supermarket (except in Utah), and the variety is so diverse that they dedicated the entire aisle to beer, I am radically stoked and can never decide what to get. I will take a lifetime to try and savor them all.

What advice can you pass on to fellow riders who want to improve their mountain bike photos?

I tell people this all the time “Mountain biking looks boring in photos unless the rider is completely pinning it into a dynamic part of the trail, so shoot the fastest parts and get the rider to f’n pin it!”

What equipment suggestions would you make to aspiring photographers?

Shoot lots of photos and be your own toughest editor. Once your photos begin to look quite professional you can start worrying about buying nice lenses, lenses are more important than megapixels and frames per second.