BMX Pro Senad Grošić and photographer Lorenz Holder follow in the footsteps of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Arya Stark as they travel to the forests of Ireland for a shoot of a lifetime. When Holder, an award-winning sports photographer and multiple winner of Red Bull Illume, saw the first installment of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “My mind just went, ‘Wow!’,” he recalls. “The landscape and look of the world of Westeros were visually amazing. I was immediately inspired and knew I wanted to shoot there.”
There was only one problem of course. Westeros is a fictional place that doesn’t exist. After some research, though, he found out that many scenes were filmed in a relatively small area of Northern Ireland. The desire to go and find some of the locations used in the series grew stronger. “I don’t know why, but from the very beginning, I always saw a BMX rider when thinking about whom I’d like to take to Westeros,” says Holder. “I asked Austrian BMX star and friend Senad Grošić if he’d be up for such a project. I’ve never received a faster confirmation, and that’s how our journey started.”
Holder spent some time researching locations that could work for the photo-led concept he had in mind, but it wasn’t until he flew to Northern Ireland to check all of the potential locations that everything finally began to set in his mind about how to execute the project. The goal was to capture a variety of shots of Grošić doing tricks around the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed, within a time frame of 10 days.
Two locations were chosen by Holder for the shoot. The first was nearby Bushmills, a small town close to the north coast, to cover images featuring the Iron Islands, Dorne, Winterfell, the Kingsroad, and Dragonstone. In the Games of Throne series, these mythical areas cover the more rocky part of Westeros. The second location was Tollymore Forest Park, in the south of Northern Ireland. Holder wanted a location to get shots with the feel of the darker mood that prevails throughout the TV series. In Game of Thrones, think of the ‘Haunted Forest’ and Wolf’s Creek, where the Stark kids find the dire wolf puppies. Shooting in such locations brought its challenges. With the series being so famous all over the world, the locations are flooded with tourists most days. Getting shots of just Grošić, his bike and the landscape proved to be difficult, and in the end Holder and his team had to get up very early to shoot as dawn broke and then shoot again late in the day when dusk was about to set in.
Northern Ireland has its charms, but anyone who’s been there also knows the weather is extremely changeable. The rain was a constant companion, but ever so often the scenery was immersed with sunlight to provide mystical backdrops to some of the shots. Both Holder and Grošić have their favorite images from the shoot, but the most memorable ones often come from how much hard work was put in to get that shot. For Holder, it was a Kingsroad shot that they did after sunset, where rain fell and he had flash issues, while Grošić mentions it was the Backflip shot on the bridge, due to the landing space on the bridge being very small. The effort that went into this project was extreme and Holder, Grošić and the support team had to work really hard for some shots – like having to carrying equipment down a 100m high cliff or getting the flash to work in some situations.
“Within those 10 days of shooting, every day was entirely different,” Holder explains. “It has undoubtedly been one of my favorite shoots ever. Despite some hassle, it all worked out well, and the final shots turned out almost exactly the way I dreamed of them.”