PROFILE

Martin Bissig

Three men walk on a snow-covered mountain while carrying bicycles as the sun peeks through the clouds.

Canon Ambassador Martin Bissig is renowned for his action shots captured in extreme environments. In 2016, he joined three adventurers – Swiss-American Hans Rey, German Gerhard Czerner and Scotsman Danny MacAskill – on the first back-to-back mountain bike ascents and descents of Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. "The snow makes the shot even more dramatic as the sun rises over the Mawenzi volcanic cone at roughly 5,600m above sea level," he says. "This shot pretty much sums up the story of the expedition." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens at 11mm, 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO100. © Martin Bissig

Swiss outdoor action photographer Martin Bissig has used his love of mountain biking to his advantage, and become one of the world's most prolific shooters of the sport.

Martin's career has been driven by his three great passions: photography, mountain biking and the great outdoors. Encouraged by his father, a freelance photographer who shot for a range of newspapers, photography was the first passion to take hold. Eager to learn, Martin began experimenting with cameras from the age of seven, making the most of his father's equipment and their home darkroom. At 13 he was covering assignments when his father was busy on other jobs. Around this time Martin began mountain biking, the ideal sport for a teenager growing up in one of the world's most mountainous and scenic countries.
Despite his passion and his talent, Martin set his artistic pursuits to one side and embarked on a career in economics. "At 16, I got out of school and had to decide what I wanted to do with my life," he says. "So I thought, being Swiss, why not go into banking?" After completing a three-year apprenticeship at a bank, Martin went to university to study Business Administration. "It opened my eyes," he continues. "I had to learn stuff that I wasn't really into. I got my degree but I knew it wasn't going to make me happy. The choice was to go back to a corporate job and do stuff I didn't like, or change my life and do what I love."
Canon Ambassador Martin Bissig.
Location: Unterägeri, Switzerland

Specialist areas: Action, sports

Favourite kit:
Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 15-35MM F2.8L IS USM
Silhouetted against the sunset, YouTube star and Red Bull rider Danny MacAskill hops on the back wheel of his mountain bike at the base camp of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Another image from Martin's mountain bike expedition to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. "Danny came to me at base camp, at 4,650m, and said he wanted to hop on this rock on the back wheel of his bike," he explains. "We got up at 4.30am to get the shot." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO125. © Martin Bissig

To begin with, alongside shooting intermittently for a handful of magazines, Martin supported his dreams of becoming a professional photographer with a variety of more traditional jobs. But after impressing a significant corporate client in 2003, photography ceased to be a hobby. Martin has since shot for a range of clients, including Red Bull, Scott, Adidas, Oakley, Specialized and Deuter. His images have appeared in countless magazines internationally, and he is considered to be one of the most published mountain bike photographers in the world. "I typically publish about three stories a year," Martin says. "Each gets published between 10 and 20 times, so I usually end up in about 50 different publications all over the world, in more than 25 countries. Each publication holds between four and eight pages, plus the cover, so I'm extremely fortunate to have had tonnes of my pictures published."
A cyclist stands aboard their bike at the edge of a lake with mountain scenery in the background.

Martin captured this spectacular image in Switzerland at the end of a long day taking photographs. "The Matterhorn near Zermatt always amazes me, even after shooting it for a couple of stories and clients," Martin says. "Seeing it shrouded in cloud and not completely visible, I love that the iconic mountain is there but not too prominent." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 15mm, 1/1000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Martin Bissig

Martin believes that being a keen mountain biker himself has helped to make his work stand out. "I love mountain biking," he says. "In photography, to be good at what you do, you have to take pictures of things you like. If I was to shoot people playing snooker, or riding horses, it wouldn't work as well. As a sports photographer, it's important that you know, and love, the sport yourself, because you need to know how people move and what looks right. I never planned to make a living this way, it was just a nice combination of all the things I love the most. As long as something is fun, you can do it forever. Of course, money needs to come in, but if money is your only motivation you will fail. I've learnt that if you keep doing what you love, eventually you'll become good enough to make money from it. It can take a lot of time and rejections, but it's totally worth it in the end. The places I've travelled, the things I've seen, the adventures I've had… I do stuff most people would love to do. I'm so glad I decided to follow my dreams."
How do you execute your creative vision for a mountain bike shoot?

"Generally, I have just an idea of a country I want to visit, or an area I want to go. Once there, I'll go with the flow. I don't have specific ideas or images I want to capture. I let myself be surprised by what the country or area holds for me. It's difficult to plan anyway; sometimes there isn't any information available about the area."


What are you looking for from the scene and the rider when you fire the shutter?

"I want to tell a story in one image so I prefer to shoot wide. I want to create a certain perspective: to show the viewers where we are, the nature, the trails, the action. I need a good landscape, a good trail, good light and a good rider. If that all comes together, I've got my shot."


What's the creative reasoning behind your usual setup?

"I always shoot in Aperture priority (Av) mode, and I need to make sure the shutter speed is fast enough for action. I use a higher ISO setting to avoid motion blur. I used to shoot a lot with flash, but nowadays I almost never use it. I want to be authentic and photos shot with flash can appear artificial."


What's the trickiest part of a shoot?

"The riders. I can have the best location in the world, in the best possible light, but if the rider sits on the bike like a bag of potatoes, the shot is useless. So, I try to tell a story with a single image. I see what I do more as landscape photography with an additional element – an athlete."

One thing I know

Martin Bissig


"Find your niche and shoot what you love. If you shoot things you don't like just for the money, you won't last long. I do work outside my field that I see as 'money jobs', but most of the time I take pictures of the things I like doing."

Instagram: @martinbissig

Website: www.bissig.ch

Martin Bissig's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Martin Bissig's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.

Camera

Canon EOS R5

This uncompromising camera has all the features Martin needs in a compact, lightweight body. "With up to 20fps and a super-fast, incredibly accurate autofocus combined with the possibility to shoot film sequences in 4K up to 120fps, the R5 is my workhorse camera for both commercial jobs and expeditions," he says. "Paired with my RF lenses, the 45MP sensor delivers the best possible image quality."

Lenses

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Capture more, even in low light, with this ultra-wide angle 15-35mm zoom with 5-stops of image stabilisation – ideal for landscape and architecture. "My wide-angle lens of choice," says Martin. "Fast and super sharp all the way to the corners."

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Boasting a fast aperture and image stabilisation, plus a Nano USM motor for silent focusing, this lens provides outstanding performance. "This lens sets new standards for this zoom range with incredible image quality," says Martin.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

This professional quality, fast-aperture telephoto zoom lens is popular with a wide range of photographers, from wildlife and sports photographers to those shooting weddings and portraiture. "The most compact 70-200mm lens there is. Its size and weight, combined with its excellent image quality is perfect for me," Martin says.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

This portable, versatile 10x zoom lens is ideal for everything from wide-angle landscapes to frame-filling portraits, and even close-up sport and wildlife, offering near-silent focusing that is as unobtrusive as possible. Martin uses this lens for travelling, describing it as his "expedition lens". "It covers a zoom range that's ideal for me while travelling, with great image quality considering its size and weight," explains Martin.

Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

An advanced L-series zoom featuring a very fast f/2 aperture and delivering exceptional image quality. "This lens easily replaces three fixed focal length lenses," says Martin. "With the fixed aperture of 2.0 throughout the whole zoom range, I can work in the most difficult light situations or get beautiful bokeh when shooting wide open. This lens is always attached to my R5 when I shoot events or commercial jobs."

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The RF lens that sets new standards in photographic performance, delivering supreme sharpness, extra creative control and a low-light performance that's simply remarkable. Martin says: "Thanks to the insanely accurate eye AF of my EOS R5, I mostly shoot with an aperture of 1.2. I can use this lens in extremely low light without flash."

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

For beautiful flattering portraits with razor sharpness and superb low-light performance, the RF 85mm F1.2L USM offers the ultimate in creative potential. "Set at an aperture of 1.2, I use this lens a lot if I have a distracting background that I want to blur," he says. "It's also ideal for outdoor product shots of bikes. It really makes the bike stand out."

Related articles

Canon Camera

Canon Europe Ambassador Programme

Find out how the ambassador programme works, and meet the phenomenal photographers chosen to represent Canon.

Canon Professional Services

Members get access to CPS Priority Support, both locally and at major events; a priority Fast Track repair service; and — depending on your level of membership — free back-up equipment loans plus return shipping and discounts on maintenance. They can also enjoy exclusive members’ offers.

Canon Camera