PROFILE

Lucia Griggi

A young Weddell seal appears through the melting ice.

Over the course of her career, photographer and Canon Ambassador Lucia Griggi has travelled to some of the world's most remote regions. In this image, photographed during an Antarctic summer, a juvenile Weddell seal keeps a watchful eye on a nearby hunting leopard seal. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM) at 1/800 sec, f/7.1 and ISO200. © Lucia Griggi

Driven by a love of surfing and a long-held dream to see the world, Canon Ambassador Lucia Griggi began her photography journey chasing perilous waves. Although the last wild places of our polar regions satisfy her desire for adventure today, water has always been a theme in the British-Italian travel and wildlife photographer's work.

"The ocean links every country and has so many different faces," says Lucia. "You never know how a wave will be when shooting it or what sort of wildlife you'll see on the ocean or underneath it. It keeps me intrigued and I love being in the water."

Born in Jersey in the Channel Islands, self-taught photographer Lucia comes from a family of artists and split her time between England and Italy while growing up. "Photography came to me because of my love of travel and surfing," she says. "Travelling was great but you become transient. I wanted to give myself a purpose and that was to start documenting my travels."

After gaining a degree in biology and nutrition, Lucia moved to Cornwall, UK. In the winter of 2003, she travelled around New Zealand on her own, armed with her dad's film camera. She bought a car, which she lived in for three months. This adventurous existence would become a permanent way of life.


Location: Cornwall, UK
Specialist areas: Wildlife, sports, aerial
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

A surfer duck dives his board in crystal-clear ocean waters.

"This is one of my favourite surf shots to date," Lucia says of this photo of a surfer duck diving his board under the Pacific Ocean's vibrant and clear waters. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM) at 1/1250 sec, f/3.5 and ISO200. © Lucia Griggi

An adrenaline-filled career in action sports followed, beginning with magazine assignments which involved documenting surfing events. She covered the World Surf League Tour for seven years from 2008. As her international reputation and editorial and commercial client base grew, Lucia became one of only a few who dared to swim out and photograph one of the most dangerous barreling waves on the planet – Hawaii's Banzai Pipeline off the North Shore of O'ahu.

"Photography is an extension of who I am," says Lucia, whose skills also include aerial photography, a niche that has seen her shoot ice shelves, glaciers and braided rivers from the air. "It is the way I express myself. I don't know what I'd do without it.

"I love the adventure – hanging out of helicopters or swimming underwater with huge waves above my head," she continues. "I get a rush from that, but I can also get that feeling when I'm sitting still for hours waiting for wildlife."

A seated Indonesian farmer poses for a photograph. In his hands is a small chicken.

In this photograph taken by Lucia in Bali, Indonesia, a farmer sits for a portrait with a small chicken. As Lucia recalls, he then headed into the trees to visit his beehive. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 120mm, 1/160 sec, f/5 and ISO1000. © Lucia Griggi

A young Siberian girl in a colourful jumper smiles for the camera.

Taken on another of Lucia's trips, a young girl poses for the camera in the remote village of Uelen, Siberia. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 35mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8 and ISO200. © Lucia Griggi

With appearances in more than a dozen books and exhibitions from New York to London, Lucia's talent has led her to work with the BBC, Warner Brothers, Disney, Patagonia, Red Bull, Rip Curl and Billabong. She won an award in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler awards with her underwater image of a surfer in Fiji, and in 2015 she progressed into filmmaking, directing movie trailers for Hollywood films such as Mad Max, alongside UK documentaries.

Expeditions to remote and often hostile locations such as Antarctica, Alaska, the Galápagos Islands, the Russian Far East and Siberia have seen Lucia explore the luxury travel sector through moving images and stills. Capturing cultures and wildlife unique to these destinations has become the core of her business and she now works full time in the travel industry.

"The hard switch [came] when I felt I wanted to be more peaceful," says Lucia. "Spending time in nature was a transition in my life." Canon prime lenses have been a go-to for her during this career shift, helping to focus her eye in nature settings, she says.

"Wildlife is a layer of travel," she adds. "The whole world is becoming more aware of conservation and environmental issues and I feel an obligation to contribute to that. Not everyone has the luxury of seeing the world and it means a lot to be able to help [raise] awareness about where you can see these beautiful creatures – under the water or from above."

What's your photography philosophy?
"Photography is the only constant in my life. It brings me back to me."

What keeps your passion for photography alive?
"Travelling to remote, wild destinations that are the last frontiers. We're running out of time. These places are altering rapidly. It's an ever-changing environment. There is a race to get there and experience them before irreversible change happens."

What have been your experiences of forging a photography career in a male-dominated field?
"Action sports, whether that's surfing, snowboarding or whatever, are male-dominated. It is becoming more popular for women, but I don't see many coming into professional work full time. I have definitely had to work extra hard to be accepted, acknowledged or get published. I put myself in the right places at the right time and was determined to pursue my passion. Eventually it paid off. Persistence is what's needed and then at some point you become part of the furniture."

What are the key components of a powerful image for you?
"Light is everything. Timing is impeccable, as is framing and composition. It's about making your subject feel comfortable, whether that's wildlife or people. Getting it right first time in the camera using manual settings is also important, and really understanding the camera."

Where do you hope to take your photography?
"[What I've been doing over] the last three or four years is exactly where I want to be. I love working in wild places and polar regions and I'd like to develop that. I still haven't swum underwater while photographing killer whales in Norway, and I'd like to swim with humpback whales too. I circumnavigated the Northeast Passage in the Russian Arctic so now I'd also like to shoot the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic."


Lucia Griggi's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Cameras

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "This is my number one body," says Lucia. "It's a workhorse and great to use in the South or North Pole because it's highly weather resistant and can take a lot in the elements. This body enables me to capture high-speed action, from surfing to wildlife, and it's robust enough to be handled in -40°C conditions."

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. Lucia says: "This camera gives a lighter setup without compromising on quality. It fits in my underwater housing and produces great images."

Canon EOS 5DS

Combine fast, instinctive DSLR handling with 50.6MP resolution, and capture exquisite detail in every moment. "This is the camera I use from the air. If I'm shooting braided rivers over Iceland and would like a larger image to crop if I'm restricted to a certain height, I feel most secure using the Canon EOS 5DS," Lucia says.

Lenses

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

A fast-aperture super-telephoto lens that delivers a professional performance – ideal for sports, news and wildlife photography. "I love this lens because it's so lightweight," says Lucia. "It was a game-changer for me. I can be on expeditions in the polar regions and jump onto land from a boat while handholding this lens."

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

High-performance L-series super-telephoto lens, with 4-stop Image Stabilizer with three modes ideal for all types of action photography. Lucia says: "This lens is so diverse. I can use it for everything. It is a great all-rounder."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

The successor to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens that Lucia uses is a favourite with professional photographers: fast, flexible and built for any assignment. "This is a lightweight, sharp, exceptional lens and I keep it as a go-to if needed," says Lucia. "I use this and the 16-35mm for aerial photography. The f/2.8 aperture is quick enough to capture action from above."

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

The successor to the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens that Lucia favours. "The two zoom lenses – this one and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM – will be strapped on both shoulders if I'm in a helicopter or a plane. The 16-35mm allows for extra wide shots. For me, those lenses normally go hand in hand. I use them both for aerial shoots," she says.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A professional short-telephoto lens, precision-made for low-light shooting and those situations where extremely shallow depth of field is required. "I use this as my portrait lens in low-light scenes. It's so sharp and crisp and allows me to go down to f/1.2 so I don't need to use flash."

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

A versatile fisheye zoom lens offering a choice of full-frame or circular image. "This is great for shooting underwater and it sits on my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Using a fisheye lens underwater allows you to have more in the frame."

Accessories

Monopod

"I travel with a monopod, which is great for stability during expeditions," Lucia says.

Underwater housing

Lucia uses this piece of kit quite frequently. She says: "I use this for surf and wildlife photography."

Dome ports for various lenses

"I use these with my Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lenses," she says.

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