Miles Holden fell in love with photography from the moment he first picked up a camera, and is just as passionate about it today, describing his career shooting sports as “the best job in the world.” The 41-year-old Kiwi got started at a young age, shooting pictures of tourists on jet boats in Queenstown, New Zealand, as a way of earning some money.

“Shooting 30-odd rolls of film every day and getting to see the results really quickly was a good way of learning how to shoot action photography,” he says. “I would say to my friends, ‘I’m a photographer’ and they’d think that was really cool!”

Braden Currie training near Wanaka in New Zealand.  by Red Bull Photography on

Like many starting out in photography, Miles took on other jobs to pay the rent and shot pictures in his spare time. “I worked for a while selling radio advertising, and actually, those skills came in very handy when I started trying to sell myself as a photographer too. Knowing how to write to people and say ‘Hi, I’m Miles. I can do this for you. It’ll cost this much. And it’ll do this for your business.’ That’s a very useful skill to have, I think.

“I also worked in a pizza restaurant in the evenings, where most of the staff were there just so they could go skiing in the daytime. I thought that was such a cool approach to life, and started to do the same. I bought the best camera I could and started photographing these guys on the slopes. It’s just the coolest thing; I’ll never get sick of it!”

Keith Murray competing at Red Bull Defiance in Wanake, New Zealand. by Red Bull Photography on

Approach and style

Miles’s approach to photography is rooted in scenic imagery. “I love to shoot landscapes, but I think that a landscape image is massively improved by adding a person to it. Then if that person is an athlete performing, the image is multiplied even more. And if they are lit with flash, then you multiply it again. And so on until you end up with these incredible situations to photograph.

“Traditionally when you are starting out in photography people always say ‘keep the sun behind you’, but I have to say that I’ve had so much success shooting into the light. I love those big shadows and highlights and the look and feel of lens flare. When I first started shooting digital I loved how I could play around with that, and I love the mystical way in which sunlight changes when it gets near the edge of a dark object like a tree or mountain. It makes the whole thing look three dimensional. That’s something I really chase.

Braden Currie training near Wanaka in New Zealand.  by Red Bull Photography on

“Styles change and develop, but it’s been a very cool journey for me. As technology has developed, the tools I’m working with now are just blowing my mind in what you can do with them. It amazes me how good cameras are now, the sharpness and quality you can get with them.”

It’s hard to imagine a time when Miles isn’t enthusiastic about photography. “I do love to talk about it,” he laughs. What does the future hold for him, and how does he see his photography changing and developing further?

Red Bull Defiance participants at Wanaka, New Zealand. by Red Bull Photography on

“I’d really like to try and develop a project that I can continue over a long period of time,” he says. “I need to flesh out the ideas I already have, but I like the idea of shooting portraits – maybe of people who have really performed and excelled in their area. They might have gone out on the ocean for a few months, reached a peak in their sport, or farmed a really hard piece of land.

“Over the years I’ve gone for a lot of different things. Some I got and some I didn’t, but you’ve got to try. I say that to people asking me how to get into the industry: aim high and just keep chasing it. It can be daunting working as a photographer in this digital age, where there is so much competition, but if you just stay realistic and true to yourself then you can get there.”

Headline photo: Team Chiru Magura at Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, New Zealand