Lauren Lakeberg blends a love of photography, nature, and disc golf to create a niche business

Photo-1-Lauren-Lakeberg-at-Pine-Nursery-Bend-OR-e1715530979167

By Valerie Hardy 

Lauren Lakeberg’s first word was “light” – fitting, given that she grew up to become a professional photographer. “Photography has been with me my whole life,” she said.
Lakeberg got her first camera from her mother, and said once she took it apart and understood how it worked “from the inside out,” she was hooked.

She further realized her passion when she took a darkroom photography class in high school (Lakeberg is a 2003 North High School graduate and lifelong Downers Grove resident). She ultimately got a degree in photography from Columbia College in 2018, but she practiced photography as both a hobby and a job for many years prior and since.

One of Lakeberg’s principal photography subjects is nature. She attributes this to having grown up near Belmont Prairie and with a father who was a fisherman and camper. Accordingly, she said, fusing nature and photography was – well – only natural.


“It is more a part of who I am than what I do.”

– Lauren Lakeberg on photography


When Lakeberg has a free day, she goes outside to take photos. “It’s a meditation for me,” she explained.

Lakeberg never has a shortage of visual inspiration. While most of her photography is from local settings, when she travels, she usually finds something environmental to capture on camera as well. “It is more a part of who I am than what I do,” she said of photography.

While Lakeberg described her love of nature and photography as innate, her other primary passion – disc golf – came later but is something she continues to cultivate. She played a bit of disc golf in high school, mainly at Downers Grove’s O’Brien Park, but the sport initially “didn’t really stick.”

This image of disc golfer Brian Earhart at the Clash at The Canyons tournament is an example of Lakeberg’s work.

However, when she met her boyfriend (now partner of 20 years), Chris Brenholtz, she rediscovered disc golf and began playing in tournaments. She played competitively “up to the pro level” in 2009 and 2010 before shifting back to recreational disc golf.

Lakeberg still enjoyed spectating competitive disc golf, though – including from behind the camera lens. She realized disc golf photography was “a missing piece in the media world,” noting that she rarely saw photographers on the course in the aughts.

Once again, she blended two of her passions, becoming one of the first and leading specialists in disc golf photography. “My work is more valued when I’m photographing [disc golf] than when I’m playing it,” Lakeberg said.

She took inspiration from the 2004 film Riding Giants, which documented the backstory and subculture of surfing, and committed to do the same for disc golf. In 2012, Lakeberg worked with Disc Golf Planet TV before becoming a freelancer.

She was asked to be the touring photographer for the 2016 Disc Golf Pro Tour. She savored the experience but explained the “grueling, across-the-nation, full-time, never-going-to-be-home-again” nature of being a Pro Tour photographer.

Though not sustainable for her on a full-time basis, Lakeberg said she will sometimes still “hop on the Pro Tour.” For example, she photographed the U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championships in Madison a couple years ago.

The majority of Lakeberg’s disc golf photography, however, is local. She enjoys photographing and reviewing new disc golf courses, then coming back years later to see how they have evolved. She also photographs disc golf events in the Chicagoland area, including those hosted by Lockport-based Dellwood Disc Golf, whose home course, The Canyons, is Illinois’ number one disc golf course, according to disc golf course directory UDisc.

Lakeberg explained disc golf’s growth over the past two decades, with an especially big boom in the last few years with the shift toward more outdoor activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared that in her early years as a disc golfer and photographer, she often had to explain to people what disc golf was. Today, she said, most people are familiar with the sport, even if they have not tried it. That said, she understands some are still unfamiliar with the sport; she has even seen people mistake the sport’s chain baskets for “a barbecue, hanging hotdogs from the chains.”

Lakeberg encourages novices to give disc golf a try, not just for the sport itself but for the community that comes with it. “It’s really neat, looking at it now, how many friends I’ve made through the disc golf community,” Lakeberg said.

As a guest on the Unstable Discourse podcast on a couple occasions, Lakeberg has spoken about her disc golf “why” and the ways in which being part of that community has enriched her life.

What else is part of Lakeberg’s life?
When not playing disc golf, taking pictures, or taking pictures of
people playing disc golf, Lakeberg joked that she is probably “going to bed at 8 p.m.”

This may be because – in addition to her photography, which typically runs spring through fall – Lakeberg also works full-time as a Communications Coordinator for a bankruptcy turnaround management firm in Chicago. She has also competed in the Chicago Triathlon twice, and she enjoys spending time with her “rock” – Brenholtz – an artist.

The couple merged their creative skills in homage to their beloved sport. Brenholtz constructed a miniature of the 18th hole at Dellwood Park, and Lakeberg photographed it.

For more information about Lakeberg and her work, visit DiscGolfPhotographer.com and LaurenLakeberg.com. Lakeberg also recommends watching the pros play live at the Clash at The Canyons tournament at Lockport’s Dellwood Park on July 27-28. Admission is free, and those interested can learn more at DellwoodDG.com.

Flowers and other elements in nature are among Lakeberg’s favorite photography subjects.


Disc Golf Courses

Looking to try the game? Lakeberg’s top recommendation is The Canyons at Dellwood Park in Lockport with 27 holes of varying difficulty. Other courses include:

• O’Brien Park in Downers Grove (9 holes)

• Lombard Common Park (9 holes and great for beginners)

• Madison Meadow Park in Lombard (18 holes)

• Central Park in Oak Brook (9 holes)

• Castaldo Park in Woodridge (9 holes)

• Katherine Legge Memorial Park in Hinsdale (18 holes)

• Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville (recently redesigned from 9 holes to 18 holes)

From a miniature kit, Lakeberg’s boyfriend, Chris Brenholtz, created a model of Hole 18 at The Canyons disc golf course.
Photo by Lauren Lakeberg

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