Jakub Frey

A woman wearing bright clothing skis expertly down a steep mountain.

Canon Ambassador Jakub Frey captured this image of his wife, Sabina, skiing in Hochfügen, Austria in March 2014. It was taken during the couple's last shoot together in exposed mountain terrain. "This photo is very valuable to me. From the moment our baby was born, we tried not to go together to avalanche terrain. Even if you follow all the rules, there is never certainty that no avalanche will come," says Jakub. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) 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, 1/1600 sec, f/6.3 and ISO200. © Jakub Frey

Czech photographer and Canon Ambassador Jakub Frey's portfolio includes a diverse range of subjects shot for both editorial and commercial clients. It includes cars, motorcycles, portraits and his favourite subject: action sports. "I love nature, like to travel and meet new people, and I'm fascinated by incredible sports performances," he says.

Jakub's dynamic images capture the excitement of activities such as skiing, mountain biking, motorcycling, skateboarding and snowboarding. His photographs are often shot in extreme conditions: on frozen mountain slopes, in rain-soaked fields, and even while strapped to the side of a helicopter.

Photography has been an important part of Jakub's life since his youth in Prague. "When I was a child, I often pulled out various old cameras from the closet that belonged to my grandmother and imagined that I was a photographer," he recalls. Later, while at high school, Jakub would take pictures of his friends' sporting activities and bought a camera with money from a summer job selling ice cream.

"I mostly photographed action sports and really enjoyed shooting sequences," he says. "An amateur camera was not enough, so I bought my first professional SLR in 2000."

Jakub's images started appearing in an online magazine and he went on to become the editor of its ski section for seven years. Alongside this, the Canon Ambassador developed a filmmaking and editing career that led him to work for Czech TV. For several years, he couldn't decide whether to shoot video or photography. In 2010, however, he resolved to devote his career to still images and became a pro photographer. He's been using Canon kit professionally since 2013, when he bought a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III).

A black and white headshot of Canon Ambassador Jakub Frey taken by Claudia Ziegler.

Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Specialist areas: Action, sports
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
A professional mountain biker rides a bike at speed through woods near Prague.

Professional mountain biker Jakub Pytlík on a trail behind Jakub's house, not far from Prague, lit by two Canon Speedlite 580EX external flashes. "I wanted to show that even in a simple bend around a tree, you can create a dramatic photo," says Jakub. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 16mm, 1/250 sec, f/5.6 and ISO800. © Jakub Frey

Jakub's favourite sports to photograph – free-ride skiing and snowboarding – are also the most difficult to shoot, he says. "I love them both, but these sports involve a lot of complications at once. The photographer and athlete need to be in tune. They both need to have experience in the winter mountains, otherwise the risk increases too much," he explains.

"When I want to take a nice backcountry photo, I need snow without the tracks and footsteps, so we always have only one try," Jakub continues. "If for some reason it doesn't work out, we have to look for a new place. We are constantly struggling with the weather and other factors."

Two men wearing aviation headsets look out over a snowy landscape from the cockpit of a helicopter.

Jakub fondly recalls this photo shoot in Nikkaluokta, Sweden in 2014. "For the first time, I was behind the Arctic Circle and I felt as though I was in a fairy tale. The special light and sun almost never goes away. This photo was taken at 3am. We flew by helicopter looking for a suitable slope to shoot." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 16mm, 1/320 sec, f/5.6 and ISO200. © Jakub Frey

In recent years, Jakub's work has diversified further, from shooting portraits for print media to photographing automotive ads for brands including Škoda and Volkswagen. He has also "fallen in love with custom motorcycle culture" and co-founded the Klasick Wheels brand in a barn near the centre of Prague where he organises concerts, motorcycle trips, races and exhibitions.

For Jakub, the most enjoyable thing about being a professional photographer is the sheer variety and unpredictability. "You have to adapt quickly, because with this work, everything changes all the time," he says. "I think you have to really love it or you'll go crazy.

"I really enjoy the feeling of going to a photoshoot prepared but certain that something will change," he adds. "I can't imagine a job where I would arrive in the morning and leave in the evening without being surprised by anything throughout the day."

What has been the most challenging action shot you've taken so far?
"I can't choose! Sometimes it's a photo shoot on an avalanche slope. Sometimes I'm strapped to the side of a helicopter. Sometimes the hardest thing is to force yourself to take your frozen hands out of your gloves and try to press the shutter button on the frozen camera body. Once, while taking a base-jumping photo, I was climbing a rock overhanging 500m above the ground and found out that I was badly tied on the rope."

Which images are the most complicated to shoot from a technical viewpoint?
"Backcountry photo shoots taken at night with flashes are always the most complicated. It is not easy to focus accurately in the dark. The rider also doesn't see much and setting the flashes so that the snow remains intact is quite complicated. In addition, there's the frost and humidity, which do not suit lighting at all."

How much post-production work do you do on your images?
"It depends on whether I'm shooting sports photos or advertising sports photos. I usually take a classic sports photo by looking out the window in the morning and deciding, 'Today it's great light, let's go for bikes or skis and maybe take a picture.' I edit such photos only minimally, but I like them the most. Advertising photography is often created in non-ideal conditions and many retouches are sometimes required, such as drawing intact snow, removing trees and changing the sky, to achieve the desired result."

One thing I know

Jakub Frey

"If you want to become an action sports photographer, your life will be greatly simplified if you practise the sport yourself. You can then imagine the possibilities much better. For example, when looking for a suitable place for a photo of a biker on a drop, it's important for the rider to be able to start well, land well and leave safely. Then you have to imagine how fast the rider will be, how high he will fly and where. It is also important to build a portfolio so that the rider believes that you can take a good photo. If the rider trusts you, they will do much more for the result."

Facebook: @jakubfreyphoto

Instagram: @jakubfreyphotography


Jakub Frey's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs


Canon EOS 5DS R

The EOS 5DS R is designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with 50.6MP resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor. "I like the camera's reliability, its simplicity and huge resolution – all this in a small body," says Jakub.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The successor to the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV that Jakub favours is the ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. Jakub says: "One of the main reasons I started using Canon products was their great durability and reliability."


Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

With its incredible f/1.2 maximum aperture, the super fast EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a consummate low-light performer. "Very often I use it for reportage photography. It is tiny and people are not as afraid of it. The photos I shoot with this lens are closest to my natural view," says Jakub.

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

The latest version of the EF 16-35mm that Jakub uses is a premium quality, ultra-wide angle zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, for the highest image quality possible even in low-light conditions. Jakub says: "I use it when I want to show how small a person is against nature."

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

A high performance L-series telephoto lens with constant f/2.8 aperture, ideal for low light and action. "I use it when I want to draw all the attention to the rider. I also often use it to take portraits and also, of course, in cases where for some reason it is not possible to get closer to the subject," says Jakub.

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