Adventure photography in South Africa’s Drakensberg

Adventure photography in South Africa’s Drakensberg

© Kelvin Trautman / Red Bull Content Pool

© Kelvin Trautman / Red Bull Content Pool

Photographer Kelvin Trautman recently covered athletes Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s record-breaking run in South Africa’s Drakensberg mountain range, notorious for its tough terrain and changeable weather. We asked Kelvin a few questions about covering the Drakensberg Grand Traverse:

How tough was it to set everything up?
It took three months of route recce’s, team meetings, hours poring over maps, back and forth with permit offices, to collate a 45 page production booklet that mapped out, in theory, how we (the film crew and myself) were to cover the event. I say ‘theory’ because as with any shoot in the mountains, mother nature often throws a seemingly faultless shoot plan out the window within a couple hours of starting.

How did you keep up with the athletes?
By helicopter and on foot. When on the ground I ran with Ryan and Ryno anywhere between 2 and 25km at a time (night and day). The remoteness of the area meant getting images out to the world posed a problem so we planned two helicopter ferries back to our mobile base camp during the attempt so that I could quickly download, tag and upload images for media.

What kind of shots were you after?
When in the air I looked to shoot images that put into perspective the remote, raw landscape. The time spent in close quarters with the athletes gave me a chance to shoot the more emotive, detailed images – I planned on shooting most of these images towards the end where Ryan and Ryno’s mental and physical exhaustion had no filter!

What difficulties did you face?

Since the Drakensberg mountain range is incredibly inaccessible, everyone had to be mountain savvy and vigilant about safety at all times. To be safe, we set aside a weather window of 10 days as to reduce the chances of running into any major weather nuances during the record attempt.

Finding the athletes was a major hassle as Ryan and Ryno could course their way along the escarpment wherever it suited. To avoid flying around aimlessly, the mobile base camp sent us GPS co-ords of the runners’ position every 20 minutes.

How did you gear up?
I divvied my gear into two bags. A helicopter bag and a running bag. The heli bag obviously contained a much wider array of gear when compared to the much lighter, slimmed down running pack.

The helicopter bag included the following:
Lowerpro Rover Pro 45L backpack
Nikon D4, D800 camera bodies
Nikon 400mm, 70-20mm, 105mm macro, 24-70mm, 50mm, 14-24mm, 16mm fisheye lenses
A Manfrotto monopod
Two spare camera batteries per body
Four 32G x800 Lexar CF and four Lexar 32G SD memory cards
A couple Hoya filters, namely a 77mm ND4, and variable density
A MicroPro LED LITEPANEL

The running bag included the following:
Lowerpro Rover Pro 35L backpack
Nikon D610 camera body
Nikon 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 14-24mm
A couple spare camera batteries
A Nikon SB-900 Speedlight plus a Pocket Wizard mini TT1 and Flex TT5 transmitter and transceiver
Two 32G x800 Lexar CF and two Lexar 32G SD memory cards

Be sure to check out Kelvin’s website or follow him on Twitter.

Read the latest stories

Kelvin Trautman: What's in the Bag?

The Red Bull Illume mobile category finalist talks us through what he takes on his back.

© Kelvin Trainman

Seems as though there’s as much adventure gear there as camera stuff?

To date, a lot of my work has involved following athletes to remote locations, which means I have to be physically prepared and have the right gear to capture what I need to. I really enjoy this participatory approach.

What gear did you start out with? 

It was during my sailing days – I did a four-year yacht racing stint, which took me around the world and made me enough money to buy some decent camera equipment. The first camera was a Canon 40D and one wide-angle lens. I shot a lot of onboard shoot briefs at the time but I didn’t really have money to afford waterproof housings so I had my gear wrapped in ziplock bags and duct tape – needless to say that green corrosion became a feature on most of my camera gear. 

Any specific reason why you use Nikon cameras?

When all my gear got stolen in South Africa. A determined thief scaled a three story drain pipe, climbed in a window and left with all my camera equipment. I wrote to Canon and Nikon asking for help and Nikon came back with a good deal. I’ve been with them ever since. 

Is there one piece of gear you wouldn’t leave home without?

It would probably be the Nikon D500, the one I took to Iceland and a 50mm prime lens. Having less gear is not always a bad thing –  it means your camera bag is lighter and you are forced to be more creative when taking pictures

What item do you wish you could add to your bag?

A packable drone that shoots medium format images. Most of my photography is about putting humans in perspective in mother nature and aerial images are a great way to show scale. With the advances in technology, this could be a reality soon. Exciting times!

Check out what Kelvin Trautman carried with him on his recent Iceland trip! 

1. Nikon D5002. Nikon 14-24mm3. Nikon 70-200mm4. Nikon 16mm fisheye5. iPhone6. Llama Bars - nougat snack bars7. Spot tracker 8. Favorite sun hat9. Silva Head torch10. Salomon waterproof shell jacket11. Gloves12. Salomon running shoes13. Water bottle14. Stuff sacks

Lucho Vidales x Adam Raga: Cruise Ship Trials

broncolor ambassador Lucho Vidales gets eyes for his crazy creativity and this time it's no different. Check out how he used his broncolor gear to the fullest while shooting trials bike World Champion Adam Raga on a cruise ship.

Hi everybody! It’s Lucho here once again, trying to make some time to share my experience with another great product from broncolor.

I was lucky enough to have been one of the first ones to try the Siros L 800 packs on assignment. I had an upcoming shoot on a cruise ship with Trial Bike world champion Adam Raga thanks to the awesome Black N Rad productions Crew. So I had a call from Txomin from tx-lab and he was kind enough of telling me that he had a surprise… some new flashes that he knew I would like. Which indeed, I ended up really enjoying using. 

Working with this new monolights and the bronControl App was very satisfying, making the workflow have more…. flow. Which from my point of view thats always a great thing.

Being able to move fast in between the different locations inside the ship without having any cables lagging around was also great, making the job easier, not having to worry about having cables stuck to furniture, people’s feet or anything that could cause a mess while being on set. In the end having this tools make a big difference on being able to concentrate on the final result, and doing what we are there for, shooting the pictures and focusing on getting the most out of every different location and action. And being able to do it with the highest quality that we can.

Enjoy the final results and the video from the promo, hope you like them!

"Taxi!" - how Aaron Chase hails a cab!

Riding a bike over a New York taxi cab for Ale di Lullo’s award winning shot? Just another day in the office for pro downhill rider Aaron Chase. He gives us the behind-the-scenes lowdown on the shoot.

© Ale di Lullo / Red Bull Illume

How much fun was that shoot?

Ale had a plan and we locked that in pretty fast. I had an idea about a location in Brooklyn, we rented a car and the party started there!

Guessing taxis aren’t your usual terrain?

I had a little kicker ramp and knew I could ride the windshield as long as it lasted long enough before breaking. 

Were you seriously worried?

No, I knew I wouldn’t go through, I just didn't want to break it and that would kind of screw up the shot ya know.

How do you like the image?

I like the angle from the passenger’s POV of this action. Once Ale and I staged this we knew that the shot was going to be sick. We had the building on the left, Williamsburg bridge on the right, taxi driver locked in and when I hit the windshield it filled up the entire open space, just like we planned!

Generally, how important are photographers to you as an athlete? 

As a rider I need to concentrate on the my job and have full confidence in my photographer that the image is being captured perfectly. It feels so satisfying to land the trick and hover over the camera and double check your style.  

Do you think you’d be where you are without quality images?

In this day and age imagery is everything. I’m definitely known for my images and videos over the years. It takes a team to build quality content and real photographers that can hang with the action and the down time. They end up traveling the world.  

Photographers don’t always get a lot of love. You think they deserve some?

Yes of course, but the photographer’s job is to highlight the action & athlete and not really himself. A photographer rarely gets the recognition that an athlete gets from a photo but that’s kind of the nature of the beast! 

How was it working with Ale? Did you have any creative input into this image? 

Oh yeah, we talked about the shot and the action like old war buddies. Ale is an easy guy to get along with.

Tell us about the collaborative process between athlete and photographer.

It all depends, this photo Ale and I collaborated on no doubt, but in general if out with a photographer I generally do my thing and let him do his.

What advice would you give an aspiring action sports photographer?

Get on Instagram and see what people are doing. Follow people that inspire you and apply some of the grand images to your world. When traveling, I often look at post cards and imagine a bike in the setting, stuff like that.

Have you seen the other images in Red Bull Illume?

I was just saying to Ale that Red Bull Illume is like winning a raffle, all the photos are insane but I’m stoked to come out on top!

What in your mind makes a great image? 

The best photos tell a story.  

Want to hear more about the story behind the shot? We recently caught up with Red Bull Illume Category Winner Ale di Lullo to talk about what went into creating the award-winning shot! 

The Winner's Circle: Dean Treml

Three images in the final, two of which were category winners – not bad for a photographer who doesn’t do set-ups and prefers to avoid Photoshop. Dean Treml explains why he’s stoked.

© Dean Treml / Red Bull Illume

Surprised? 

It was quite unexpected to be honest. With photo competitions you never know what’s going to happen. You’re in the audience and they show the finalists and say: “And the winner is.” When that happened the second time I was blown away. 

Was it important that the shots were ‘editorial’?

It is for me! A lot of stuff is created over a period of time with a lot of forethought and planning. That’s to take nothing away from the photographs but that’s just not my way. To have three photos that were taken in real life situations in that mix was pretty satisfying.

Why is editorial different?

The primary thing with editorial is the integrity of the image. It has to be truthful. If someone sees it they have to believe 100% what was in that scene. That involves not setting up the photograph, not creating something that’s untrue, not manipulating it in Photoshop. It’s common place these days to use Photoshop to make your photos outstanding but it’s not so much photography as ‘photoshopography’. Editorial has to be telling a story with an image. It needs to drag you in and make you want to find out what’s going on.

So it’s quite ironic then that you won the Enhance category?

That’s totally not lost on me! That particular venue was kinda cool and abstract but always had the the platform sticking out, which created a distraction. The platform’s necessary but when I was looking at the Red Bull Illume [Enhance] category, this photo jumped into my mind – maybe I could rip the platform out? In all honesty, I didn’t expect it to be a finalist. It was something I did in Photoshop in two minutes: take the platform out, increase the contrast a little bit and send in.

What does Red Bull Illume mean for you? 

From a sports and adventure perspective it’s a big deal. The quality of the photos submitted – everything’s of a really high standard. You can see it’s a worthwhile thing, showcasing fantastic work from all around the planet.

Two of your images show what can go wrong in action sports. Is that important? 

A lot of content tends to be somewhat sterilised. If you get people doing extreme sports you get injury and sometimes extreme injury. It goes with the territory. I don’t think these sports should be painted as something where everything always goes fantastically: people leaping off buildings, backflipping on motorbikes, careering off waterfalls and everyone’s got a big smile on their face. It can go bad sometimes. As an editorial photographer you want to document all aspects, not just focus on the shiny stuff.

And the guys bounced back?

Josh was fairly determined to rehabilitate and he did; he was was back in a kayak one year later. Nicholi took a hell of a spill but was fine. He got up pretty quickly afterwards, continued his run, went down and finished. He had a bit of a cut on his face but is clearly quite a resilient kid. 

What’s next in action sport photography?

The trend for action is to try anything that’s new and hope you can do something different to everyone else.  

Should photographers be worried?

Photographers have been worried for years – so many colleagues have lost work. It’s not valued in the same way as used to be. Publications don’t care about the quality as much as they used to. They want the content and they want to have it cheaply. If you can get something from the guy on the street and stick his name under it, everyone’s happy except for the photographers who make a living from it. Photography’s not a trade where you have a certificate saying, ‘I did four years’. Now everyone has a camera that can shoot sharp and well exposed photographs. I’ve been lucky to work with Red Bull who value photography and see the value of photography. It’s one of the few companies that let you go out and do your job. 

What are you working on? 

Ultimately a holiday! 

The Winner's Circle: Ale di Lullo

Photographer Ale Di Lullo captured one of the most unusual shots in this year’s Red Bull Illume – shooting a mountainbike rider from inside a New York cab. He tells us why winning a category was so amazing – and why photographers need to ‘innovate or die’!

© Lucas Gilman

How does it feel to have four images selected with one a category winner?

Oh man it was awesome and will be so forever. Red Bull Illume is documenting the progression of action sports photography and so to be part of this with a winning shot in the New Creativity category with a shot that I made specifically for Illume? It's just great!

What really went down in Chicago?

What an event! With extreme sports, it sometimes happens that you stay in nice hotels and locations, but to be in that city downtown in a hyper classy fancy hotel, wow. The Winner Award Ceremony was really another experience! It was surreal and the photos displayed at night on those white panels in an area of towering buildings was priceless! 

One funny thing is that I missed the group shot with all the winners on stage as I was already drinking beers and celebrating! They didn't realize I was missing because having Dean Treml and Lorenz holder winning more than a category messed up the counting! 

How was it to win the New Creativity category? 

I'll remember it for a while I think! I was hanging with Christof Kalt, one of the judges and a big fan of my photo. I didn't know which one was the finalist or if there was more than one. I was hoping for the windshield but I didn't know and Christof kept the secret until the end so I really had no idea. 

Then when the New Creativity category was presented and I saw the shot on the screen which had made top 5 I said to him: ‘Man I'm happy already that that shot made top five and three others were in the Top 275. I felt I had accomplished something good already. But then, in a matter of seconds they said, ‘And the winner is…’ and my shot was displayed on the screen. It’s like when you dive into the water – that moment when all the sounds around you change and all your senses adapt to the new environment. I put the beer on the table and ran to the stage. The stage panic almost got me for one second in front of the mic but I was too stoked for panicking! 

Can you describe some of the challenges of getting the shot? 

The big question was, is the windshield gonna crack, is Aaron going to smash it at first try and do we have to go home with no shot. It was in preparation for over a year and the first similar attempt we did ended with Aaron under broken glass. Read the full story on how Ale got the shot here

Was it good to hang with other photographers?

Again, I wish I had the time to meet them all! It was great to put together faces and shots. Big respect for everyone. I hope to see them again somewhere. 

What did you think of the other images?

All the winning shots were just winning big time and in the selection of the Top 275 there are some gems. There are shots that go beyond the action by capturing the essence of the sport. And the progression of photography together with the sports is just amazing.

Red Bull Illume has done a great job with this contest because it's so interesting to see the shots from 2007 and see how different they were back then. And I remember some of the shots that ten years ago were outstanding, they seem to be just more normal now! I believe because they were the first, they opened the vision for others to develop the ideas with new technology and fresh ideas. Red Bull Illume is documenting this evolution and it's awesome.

What is your favourite shot in the contest? 

Probably mine – just kidding.. ahahah! I definitely love Dean Treml enhance category winner, so powerful. It seems to me something like a 2001 space odyssey stage or some 70s sci-fi futuristic comic or illustration. Jody MacDonald lifestyle was also so good.

What’s coming up in your calendar?

I have a couple of assignments in southern France and a three week shoot on the west coast. I always force myself to think of new stuff and find new locations around the world. I'll be also doing a cool project with some badass extreme sports movie production company. That is something I would love to work on more in the future.  

Where do you think the next challenges in action sports photography are?

It's hard to predict. With new technology growing so quickly, still photography could even became irrelevant and obsolete in five years. Hopefully that won't be the case but the challenge is to keep up with the sport, with the technology we have and the progression that photography is having.

With everyone being a photographer now, should pro photographers be worried?

I think we have the chance to still use the most powerful equipment available plus we have a trained eye that is supposed to give an advantage. I believe quality and professionalism pays in the long term. As my buddy the freeride legend Darren Berrecloth loved to say: ‘innovate or die’.

Frozen in time

What is it like being the subject of a Red Bull Illume category winning shot – especially one as surreal as Dean Treml’s black and white cliff diver? Jonathan Paredes tells us.

© Dean Treml / Red Bull Illume

What’s your view of the shot?

This photo is simply amazing, one of my favorites! 

Does it matter to you that you’re not recognisable?

It doesn't matter at all. I know that the people that really know my sport and me – they would recognize me and they would be as surprised as I am to see this wonderful shot.

How important is photography to Red Bull Cliff Diving? 

They are one of the most important people in our team, they are able to show in one shot probably the best moment of our competitions.

How important has photography been to you personally in your career?

It’s been really important. Personally it’s given me the chance to keep all those memories from all those beautiful places where I've been diving and it means a lot to me. It’s also the way to show people and the entire world in a few shots the beauty of our sport and the beauty of the photographers’ work.

Cliff diving looks so terrifying. Walk us through that moment of leaping off. 

The only time to think is the moment before you dive. Once you are at the edge of the platform no one else exists, it’s just you and 27 meters waiting for you!

What is it like to see an image yourself mid-air?

It's a really nice feeling to see how crazy we are! 

Photographers don’t always get a lot of love. You think they deserve a bit of time in the spotlight? 

Of course they deserve it, they are heroes and they are showing the world behind their lenses! 

What in your mind makes a great cliff diving photo? 

I think I am the person in charge of diving off a cliff, but the magic begins when the photographer sees the photo before you dive. 

What are you more interested to see, the right body movement or the creative spirit in a cliff diving image?

I'm super into photography, I like to play a lot with my phone pretending be a photographer, so I really respect the artistic merit.

Have you seen the other images in Red Bull Illume?

I’ve seen the book a thousand times, and it's simply AMAZING.

In the middle of the Apache Roll

Selecting the Sequence category winner is always an agonizing call for judges – the creativity on display is awesome. With his 360º shot of the Czech Flying Bulls team in action Daniel Vojtěch took the artform to a new level. Here, their aerobatic leader Stanislav Cejka pays tribute to the photographer.

© Daniel Vojtech / Red Bull Illume

We’re guessing you like the shot? 

It’s very nice and a rare picture. I’ve never seen such a thing before. Dan always has very original ideas on what to do.

Is it unique to have this view from the cockpit? 

We have hundreds of pictures from the cockpit! Sure they are different from the images on the ground, they have different emotions. But the best pictures are dependent on special ideas. All of our air to air photos are very similar but Dan’s photos are absolutely different.

Tell us about this shot?

Two aircraft are in the mirror level flight. The leader is on his back and the wingman is in the normal position. The third aircraft is rolling around. We call this maneuver the ‘Apache roll’. The speed of the whole flight is around 250 km/h and of course rolling aircraft speeds up downwards and slow down upwards.

From a flying perspective, was it difficult to perform?

Firstly, this maneuver is not easy to make. The pilot in the rolling aircraft will have learnt for about one year how to do a steady roll. He is flying just around the two, in mirror flight. All the time he can fall back to stay safe. But during the photo shoot there was another aircraft behind. So he had to be very precise in rolling and keep in mind additional safety issues.

What was the Flying Bulls’s first reaction when approached by Dan? 

Many photographers come and say: “I can shoot whatever you want.” But I don’t know what I want! I don’t have artistic ideas. So we make some passes over the ground or make air to air shoots and then have hundreds and hundreds of the very same photos. But suddenly some guy came and said: “I have an idea. Let’s sit and talk about it and how we can connect my idea with your flying.” And that was Dan. With him we’re able to connect his artistic and our technical thinking.

How important is good photography to aviation?

It’s similar like in other professions. You can have an ordinary photo, like I do, and a perfect photo, like Dan does. The perfect photo can represent many things. The difference with aviation when making air to air pictures is you have the photographer sitting in the cockpit, he’s in the three dimensional move. He shoots in turbulence. And finally, he can suffer from sickness!

Do you have a favourite photo of flying?

I know it´s embarrassing, but again I have to salute Dan. We spent the whole day shooting with him and at the end have less than ten photos. But all of these pictures are absolutely perfect.

The Winner's Circle: Denis Klero

Recently back from photographing the freewheeling mayhem of Red Bull Soapbox, Azerbaijan, the Russian photographer Denis Klero tells us why his Close Up winning shot of a climber’s hands has left his own head spinning.

© Denis Klero / Red Bull Illume

Are you still stoked to have won the Close Up?

I still do not believe that it happened to me! I am the first participant from Russia to have won in this competition in 10 years.

How was it at the Winner Award Ceremony?

Absolutely incredible! It was the first time for me at an event of this level where celebrated photographers came together. There were a lot of new emotions for me which I had not experienced before. The passion and intrigue was nothing less than an Oscar award ceremony. Respect to the marching band in particular! (ed. the marching band as part of the Winner Award Ceremony killed it, for real)

What was it like to see your own image on display?

This was also a new experience for me. There was this feeling that this was not happening to me. Many times I have seen different ceremonies where others received awards, but this was such a serious international competition! On the way to the stage, I thought only one thing: I am a representative of my country so I could not do anything wrong. It was a huge responsibility for me! And yet in the room were the best of the best photographers in the world and many guests.

Was it good to hang with the other photographers?

A huge honor. Over the next two years, part of me will travel around the world together with the work of other photographers.

What did you think of the other images?

All the finalists are worthy of first place.

What was your favourite shot?

Dean Treml's shot of a cliff diver in Copenhagen. It’s awesome!

What projects are you currently working on?

I am preparing a project with a BMX rider in the forest. It’s not a very sporty project, but rather more artistic. But it's still a secret, so sshhh! I've also got an advertising project coming up in the new year. 

Click here for the background story on how Denis got the shot of Rustam Gelmanov’s chalky hands and check out his website to see more of his work. 

 

 

It's time to vote!

As part of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour, which is travelling the world until the summer of 2018, the Public Vote is now open!

© trashhand

Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 raised the level of action and adventure sports photography once again. Following the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony, which was held in Chicago on September 28th, 2016, which saw German photographer Lorenz Holder win highest honors, there is one more prize to award, and there's a twist. 

The winner of the Public Choice Award will, fittingly, be chosen by you! Each image from Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 that made it into the Top 275, which can be seen in our gallery, has a vote button beneath it. By choosing your favorite image, the photographer has the chance to win another great prize package. 

Voting is simple: 

1. Go to the Gallery

2. Look through the photographs

3. Choose your favorite

4. Press the "vote" button! 

The public vote runs till the summer of 2018 and will be awarded ahead of the kick-off of the next Red Bull Illume Image Quest. 

The Winner's Circle: Jody MacDonald

With her shot of a surfer riding a freight train in the Mauritanian desert Jody MacDonald won the Lifestyle category. She tells us what it was like at the Winner Award Ceremony and which images get her vote.

© Jody MacDonald / Red Bull Illume

How does it feel to have won the Lifestyle category? 

It’s really such an honor. When you see the caliber of photography that was submitted and how many images that the judges had to go through, it really is special. I'm incredibly stoked! It's both humbling and very motivating!

How was Chicago? 

The Winner Award Ceremony was great. Red Bull Illume really pulled out all the stops to make the evening a memorable one. All three days were exceptional from the hotel, to the events. We were made to feel special. 

What was it like to see your own image? 

The displays and venue were so impressive. It’s always great to see one of your own images in a large print format but the backlit displays at the event were really incredible. It really makes you want to stop and look closely at each image because they all look incredible when they are displayed like that. 

Was it good to hang with the other photographers? 

Yes! Definitely – I think for many of us that was the best part. Being a photographer can be such a solitary profession and getting to meet and potentially collaborate with other photographers in the industry is particularly special. Many of us have so much in common so it’s great to be around other creatives for feedback and inspiration. There is really no other event that would bring us all together quite like this one.

What did you think of the other images? 

All the images are so impressive. It’s great because it really makes you want to push your own photography to new levels. That is so important for our own creativity and for adventure sports as a whole. 

What was your favourite shot? 

That is a tough question. I actually have two. I love Alexandre Voyer’s shot of his girlfriend’s encounter with the blue shark. I’ve spent a decade living at sea and I know how rare these incredible moments are and to be able to capture them on camera makes it even more rare, so that photo is impressive.

The other is Victor Sukhorukov’s image of the BASE jumper jumping off the lighthouse. It’s hauntingly beautiful and again the effort and timing that went into making that photograph was extraordinary. 

Any interesting upcoming trips? 

I’m getting ready to work on some projects in India and Asia that I can’t really talk about but I’m looking forward to getting back on the road. See more of Jody’s work on her website.