Robert Marc Lehmann

Five young orangutans huddle together in Borneo.

A passionate conservationist, Canon Ambassador and wildlife photographer/filmmaker Robert Marc Lehmann travels extensively with his work, including to Borneo, Southeast Asia where he took this image of a group of orphaned orangutans. "A lot of photographers are hunting for a special image, but I don't usually have a specific shot in mind," says Robert. "I'm just trying to document everything as naturally as I can." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D C (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) 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 200mm, 1/400 sec, f/4 and ISO3200. © Robert Marc Lehmann

Not many people can truly describe themselves as an "adventurer", but in the case of Canon Ambassador Robert Marc Lehmann, the term feels entirely justified. Over the course of his career, the German photographer and filmmaker has travelled to more than 120 countries across all climate zones, capturing spectacular images in some of the planet's most inhospitable environments.

Whether going toe-to-toe with poachers in the Sumatran rainforest or documenting illegal shark finning in the Gambia, the ardent conservationist isn't afraid to address uncomfortable topics. "I'm passionate about changing people's minds," he says.

Born in the former East German city of Jena, Robert's ethos stems from a childhood fascination with nature, which began while he was exploring local wildlife with his grandfather. This evolved into a keen interest in marine biology, spurred on by reading a book about sharks. "Nature has been my favourite topic for as long as I can remember," reveals Robert. "I used to cut out pictures of marine animals from encyclopaedias, which made my mother really angry!"

Canon Ambassador and wildlife photographer and filmmaker Robert Marc Lehmann.
Location: Germany
Specialist areas: Wildlife, nature, documentary
Favourite kit: 
Canon EOS R5
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

At 18 years old, Robert enrolled at the Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel, where he fulfilled his dreams of becoming a marine biologist and scientific diver. Before long, he was embarking on research expeditions across the globe and was briefly in charge of Europe's largest aquarium. However, his attitudes towards keeping animals in captivity changed when he was in his mid-20s.

"I initially thought it was the best way to get children and adults interested in marine life," says Robert. "But animals can suffer great harm in captivity, and I realised that there are better ways to show people nature's beauty. This is when my real passion for photography started."

A grey seal swims on its back off the coast of Heligoland in northern Germany.

Taken using a DSLR and wide-angle zoom in an underwater housing, this image of a grey seal swimming near the coast of Heligoland, northern Germany earned Robert the title of German National Geographic Photographer of the Year in 2015. "It was a big honour that opened some new doors for me," says Robert. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM) at 16mm, 1/125 sec, f/22 and ISO250. © Robert Marc Lehmann

Although Robert had previously dabbled with analogue cameras, he didn't purchase his first digital model, the Canon EOS 7D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 7D Mark II), until 2010. Despite lacking formal training, he was able to gain valuable photography experience while acting as a guide for professional photographers and film crews.

"I knew where the animals were located and the best spots to get pictures," he says. "Some of the photographers I met were quite secretive, but others, such as underwater specialist Franco Banfi, were open-minded and willing to show me their tips and tricks."

Thanks to Robert's diving expertise, he has been able to shoot in some of the world's most remote underwater locations. These include the perilous Yucatán cave system in Mexico, which he explored in 2012 while making the German documentary, Hidden Worlds 3D: Caves of the Dead, which he both helped film and appeared in.

However, Robert received one of his greatest accolades while working closer to home. In 2015, he was named German National Geographic Photographer of the Year for his split-level image of a grey seal frolicking in the North Sea. "It was actually taken off the coast of Germany," he says, "so it's a picture I'm particularly proud of."

A hunting Northern gannet hovers in the air above the German North Sea.

This striking image of a Northern gannet in motion was captured by Robert in the German North Sea. The largest seabirds in the Northern Atlantic, Northern gannets have a wingspan of up to two metres and can hit the water at speeds of 60mph. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 90mm, 1/10 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Robert Marc Lehmann

Robert may have been awarded numerous photographic prizes, but he's more concerned with the educational potential of his work. This is something he has been able to take to new heights in his upcoming seven-episode TV series, Mission Erde (Mission Earth), on the German channel VOX.

"If someone sees my images and comes away saying: 'Wow, I didn't know about the palm oil problem' or 'I had no idea that sharks were being killed', for example, then I feel like I have achieved something," says Robert. "It's what keeps me going."

What is your approach to working with animals?
"You need to let the animal come towards you, not the other way around. Sadly, I've witnessed a lot of bad behaviour from other photographers and film crews, who don't respect the animal's space and even go as far as to harass it. You see this in the final outcome: the animal won't be facing the camera or it will be running away."

Your efforts to document wildlife crimes can sometimes get you into hostile situations. How do you cope with the pressure?
"The most important thing is to be quick and professional, but it can be really hard. When I'm documenting illegal wildlife trafficking, for instance, I just want to scream and cry. However, you don't have time to give your feelings a free run or you won't get the best images."

How do you deal with light when shooting in underwater caves?
"I'll sometimes be carrying up to 10 different diving torches, lit up like a Christmas tree! I place these in the cave myself or give them to my diving partners to illuminate the scene for me. There will also be lights on the camera itself. When I was filming in the Bahamas a few years ago, I used a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in a specially designed housing with two video lamps and two strobes."

Whose work do you most admire?
"Sir David Attenborough has been one of the most influential filmmakers on my work. However, in terms of wildlife photography, I think Paul Nicklen is the best in the world. I've also discovered a lot of amazing photographers on social media. Only a few years ago I used to say, 'Nobody needs Instagram!', but I've since found lots of people on there with similar interests to me – conservation photojournalist Paul Hilton, for example."

One thing I know

Robert Marc Lehmann

"Use your camera every single day. Even if you have all the best gear, you're not automatically going to become a better photographer if it's just sitting at home. To use a German expression, 'You need to know the device better than the pocket of your pants.' You'll then be able to react to situations within a millisecond and be ready to capture what I call the '1% image' – because 99% of the time you can end up with nothing."

Facebook: @RobertMarcLehmannOffical

Instagram: @robertmarclehmann

YouTubeRobert Marc Lehmann

Robert Marc Lehmann's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Robert Marc Lehmann's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

Canon's flagship full-frame mirrorless camera offers next-level image quality and breathtaking performance for professional photographers and filmmakers. "I love everything about the Canon EOS R5. It's small, fast and durable, and the animal autofocus system is just fantastic for my photography. The new RF lenses are amazing, too," says Robert.

Canon EOS R6

Ideal for enthusiast photographers and videographers, this full-frame mirrorless camera boasts groundbreaking speed, stability and technology. As with the EOS R5, Robert praises its durability and lightweight nature – essential for when he's on the move. "They're the perfect combination," he says.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Tough, reliable and intuitive, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III offers a 20.1MP full-frame sensor and the ability to shoot 4K/60p video. "I love the way the camera feels in my hands," says Robert.


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

Capture more, even in low light, with this fast f/2.8 L-series ultra-wide-angle 15-35mm zoom with 5-stops of image stabilisation – ideal for when innovative angles can make all the difference. "It's the perfect wide-angle range," says Robert.

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

Offering superb optical engineering, a speedy f/2.8 maximum aperture and 5-stop image stabilisation, this lens can give your full-frame mirrorless photography a new edge. "This is the lens I'll use if I'm documenting people in action, perhaps at a market," says Robert.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

This telephoto lens offers exceptional image quality in a compact body. "It is probably my favourite wildlife lens," reveals Robert. "It's fast and sharp, meaning I can use it when photographing birds in flight or whales and dolphins from a boat."

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

The ideal companion for any full-frame EOS camera, this L-series lens has a standout reputation among professional photographers. "I love working with the EF 24-70mm. It's perfect for my documentary work," says Robert.

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

This robust L-series telephoto zoom lens is a modern classic, designed to perform in even the most challenging conditions. Its 3.5-stop Image Stabilizer and fast f/2.8 aperture mean it can also handle low light with ease.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

Durable and surprisingly lightweight, this telephoto super-zoom lens has a built-in extender capable of increasing the focal length to a maximum of 560mm. "I use it for capturing images of skittish animals or in situations where you can't get too close. When photographing bears, for example!" says Robert.

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

An L-series fisheye zoom lens offering a choice of full-frame or circular image and a wide angle of view. "Wider is always better, especially when you have big animals such as hammerheads or tiger sharks just centimetres away from your lens," says Robert.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

A professional L-series sports and wildlife zoom with Image Stabilizer and ASC coating for superb sharpness. Robert says: "When you cannot move but you need to be flexible in terms of distance, such as when photographing whales or dolphins from a drifting boat, this lens is key for successful framing of your image."


Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Engineered for fast frame rate shooting in a range of light conditions, the Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT can be used off-camera or in the hotshoe. Robert always tries to keep one in his kitbag.

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