Behind the Scenes: Lucas Gilman's Waterfalls Shoot

Behind the Scenes: Lucas Gilman's Waterfalls Shoot

Professional outdoor and adventure photographer Lucas Gilman recently contacted Red Bull Illume, telling us about a trip on the USA’s West Coast where he documented a group of kayakers in search of large waterfalls to launch off.

Here, Lucas shares his trip diary with us, explaining what it took to get great shots in remote and occasionally dangerous locations.

“I got a call from pro-kayaker Pat Keller who said that the water levels in Washington State and Oregon were epic and lots of 80-100 foot (25-30m) waterfalls were good to go.

“Two days later I hopped on a plane and we headed for Oregon’s beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Washington and Oregon are a waterfall hucker's paradise when the flows are right. Joining us were Jesse Coombs, Evan Garcia and the Wells Brothers - Todd and Brendan.”

DAY 1: WARM-UP, UPPER LEWIS FALLS
The first day we thought it would be good to warm up a bit and that Upper Lewis Falls would be the ticket. These falls are a two-stage drop approximately 25 and 20 feet (8 and 6m) respectively. Pat went first and chose a risky middle line. His line was dialed until he hit a little kicker rock on the second drop and was rocked over the handlebars.

The waterfall pulled him and his boat back behind the veil and we could hardly see him as he tried to roll. He pulled the ripcord and bailed just as we lost sight of him behind the veil of roaring water. Two tense minutes passed as we waited for some sign. We decided it was time to get someone in there and Brendan launched off a 50-foot cliff above the falls and swam across the river to the area where Pat was last seen.

At that moment Pat flushed out of the death cave behind the falls to our relief. His boat never resurfaced and is still deep in that cave somewhere. After Pat's misfortune, Brendan, Evan and Todd all ran the falls with no major problems. At this point I wasn’t sure how the trip would proceed and my dream of shooting100 footers was fading.

DAY 2: SCOUT METLAKO
We figured it would be an idea to scout some falls and take a breather after Pat's near-drowning experience. We headed to the 101-foot Metlako falls near Hood River, Oregon. As we hiked up the canyon we could hear the thunder of the falls growing louder. Finally we could see it off in the distance: 101 feet of water plunging from a spigot high on the far canyon wall into a huge caldron of exploding whitewater.

We bushwhacked around trying to find the best vantage point to shoot, trying to avoid poison oak, which was hard since it was pretty much everywhere. Foliage grew up to the very rim of the gorge so it was difficult to see where to go until you were right at the lip. The water levels were perfect and we decided to come back in the morning.

DAY 3: RUNNING 101-FOOT METLAKO FALLS
Running big waterfalls is a dangerous duty. The paddler has to have a perfect line and hit the water as vertical as possible, otherwise things could be catastrophic. If the paddler lands too flat, there's a good chance he'd break his back and shatter his ankles. If the paddler goes over vertical and lands on his head it could be fatal.

I decided I'd only use two cameras on the day as logistically moving around was difficult and I wanted to make sure all cameras were dialed. I decided my handheld would be a Nikon D3S with 24-70mm to shoot a sort of scenic horizontal showing paddler and waterfall giving the image a sense of place.

My remote would be a Nikon D3S with a 70-200mm on a Gitzo tripod and ball head, shot vertical and tight. I shoot remote cameras to maximize the amount of images from each shoot as well as having vertical and horizontal versions so editorial and commercial clients have choices, i.e. cover or two-page spread, banner or poster, etc.

I use Pocket Wizard MultiMaxes to trigger the remote camera and SanDisk Extreme Pro compact flash cards for their durability and super fast camera-to-card write speeds. When shooting big waterfalls you only get one chance.

With my cameras in place I radio the athletes who are gearing up. My nerves start to kick in and I run my mental checklist on my camera setups: Is the focus ring taped down on the remote? Check. Shutter speed above 1000/second? Check. Test shot done? Check. Camera/tripod safety cabled? Check. Aqua Tech cover zipped up? Check.

Now it's up to the kayakers. We are out of cell phone service and without sat phone, so any injuries will have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In the event of a major injury we would hike or paddle out to where there is service and call for help. Not the best situation, but the athletes are OK with the risk.

One by one the crew successively stick their lines and roll up mostly unscathed as I digitally documented the day, firing away sequences on the D3Ss.

Afterwards, I asked the crew what it was like at the bottom. Jesse replied, "It's kinda like getting in a car crash.... you're rolling along and then BAM!"

I walked away from the day with a great feeling and some great images. I can't think of a better way to spend a day shooting. Outside, beautiful scenery, amazing action and everyone walked away with no major injuries. Beers are on me tonight!

Lucas’ waterfall shoot gear list:
1x NIKON D2X
2x NIKON D3S
6x SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB cards
1x AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
1x AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED,
1x AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
3x Pocket Wizard MultiMax
3x AquaTech rain covers
2x Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod
2x Gitzo Ball Heads
1x ManFrotto Super Clamp
1x LowePro Dryzone 200 waterproof backpack
Various remote cords

Climbing gear:
Dry climbing rope
Harness
Numerous daisy chains
Numerous locking karabiners
ATC
Ascenders
Grigri
Plenty of webbing

A winner of numerous prestigious awards, Lucas Gilman grew up in the mountains of Western Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Journalism. Traveling the world in search of untouched places and wild experiences, Lucas captures images ranging from kayaking in India, Brazil, Uganda and Costa Rica to backcountry skiing in Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Alaska and South America.

www.lucasgilman.com

Lucas' Facebook page

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Gallery: 9 Ice Cold Images from Red Bull Illume History

Shooting epic photography in icy conditions is challenging, but that makes it even more rewarding. Here's 9 of the most stunning ice images from Red Bull Illume history that show you why!

© Kirsten Quist / Red Bull Illume

Shooting epic photography in icy conditions can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs in all of adventure and action sports. Whether you’re in an ice cave, or climbing the north face of a mountain, it’s definitely not an activity for the sun chasers among us. Ice formations and landscapes, however, provide one of the purest aesthetics in photography. Add to this a human aspect, and suddenly you have a powerful visual metaphor of the relationship between people and nature. So, find a warm space, get comfortable, and enjoy this gallery of 9 of the most stunning ice images from Red Bull Illume history!

Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the 2019 Image Quest!

A new year, a new Red Bull Illume!

A new year is upon us – and this new year brings a lot of change to the most respected Image Quest in the adventure and action sports world.

Red Bull Illume 2013: Morgan Maassen, Lifestyle category winner

© Morgan Maassen / Red Bull Illume

The first Red Bull Illume edition happened in 2006 – and while it’s just over a decade ago, it’s safe to say the world of photography has changed significantly in that time. How? Let’s talk about it.

The first ‘digital’ photo contest

The first Red Bull Illume that spread across 2006 and 2007 was a smashing success – largely thanks a revolution in print-quality digital photography. The ability to shoot practically unlimited amounts of images with no concern for the amount of film to develop brought down the cost and difficulty of photography. This meant that adventure and action sports – typically happening in far away or difficult to access places, with the key moment only happening for an instant – saw a flood of incredible images from established photographers, and new ones.  While images shot on film were (and still are) by all means allowed, the digital revolution played no small part in the number of images taken and shared – and seen. Why? Because in 2007, the smartphone appeared – ushering in a totally new era of media consumption.

A new standard set, a global audience

Coupled with an explosion of interest in adventure and action sports, Red Bull Illume quickly gained notoriety as the place to see incredible images. The number of submissions grew ever higher, and so did the standards – to make it as a finalist, an image had to be not great, but unforgettable. The unique ten-category format gave images the opportunity to uniquely stand out from other similarly fantastic images – and what quickly became clear at the global exhibit tours was that people couldn’t get enough of great photography.

The ultimate career Launchpad

For young, aspiring photographers looking to make their name in an increasingly competitive industry, Red Bull Illume became a take-off point – finalist images caught the eyes of photo editors and marketing managers everywhere. Surf photographer Chris Burkard’s winning image from 2010, entitled ‘The Perfect Day’, established him as one of the most widely-known surf photographers on the planet.

Working for the photos

In 2013, a sharp eye would notice a slight shift in the best photos: rather than submitting their best shots from being at the right place at the right time, photographers were going out to shoot specifically for the contest. It was in this edition that we saw the first winning image from German photographer Lorenz Holder, whose images are notable for the amount of research and work that goes into making them happen. With an eye for finding unique landmarks to frame his action, plenty of planning, and some patience he’s managed to take home top honors for the last two contests in 2013 and 2016.

Bigger, better, broader

Like the art of creating images, Red Bull Illume has done nothing other than evolve. As the numbers of photos being submitted grew, so did the contest change. In 2016, an 11th category was added, in fitting with the times: the mobile category. This category is for shots taken only on a phone, challenging photographers to think beyond their equipment and truly get to the photo itself. As a result, the fourth edition saw a record 34,624 breathtaking images submitted by 5,646 photographers from 120 countries.

2019 will mark the fifth edition of the contest, and after a three-year break, we can’t wait to see what images are out there simply waiting to be seen. And in the spirit of evolution, this year’s contest will bring some unique new challenges. Exactly what? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the 2019 Image Quest!

Gallery: 12 Mountain Sports Images That Will Light Up LUMEN!

To celebrate the opening of an exhibition of the world’s greatest mountain sports photography from the four previous editions of Red Bull Illume at the brand-new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography, we wanted to give you a little teaser of what visitors will see.

© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume

So here we present a selection of 12 of the images that will be lighting up the ‘Adrenaline Room’ for the next three years! The museum is now open, so get your adventure gear out and meet us at the peak to see the rest of the exhibition set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps!

Red Bull Illume enlightens the new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography with a permanent exhibition

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world´s greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

Mountain life is something deeply ingrained in human history. For hundreds of years, men and women have tried to tell the story of this ever-changing landscape by capturing light through photography; a story in which adventure and action sports photography has played a large part. Now this story has a home; LUMEN – the Museum of Mountain Photography which opens its doors on December 20, 2018. On this note, Red Bull Illume, the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest is delighted to announce its new partnership with the LUMEN Museum.

Located on the top of Mount Kronplatz-Plan de Corones at an altitude of 2,275m, the Lumen Museum lies in the heart of the South Tyrolean Alps and the Italian Dolomites. The legendary Kronplatz offers 119 kilometers of ski slopes, attracting thousands of visitors every day during the winter season. In summer, the resort transforms into a colorful paradise for mountain bikers and hiking enthusiasts. Best of all, LUMEN is perfectly located next to the Messner Mountain Museum, just a few hundred meters away on a neighboring peak.

The museum will showcase a range of stunning mountain photography from different perspectives such as alpinism, tourism, politics, spirituality and history. Visitors of the museum will be treated to a captivating exhibition space which spans the past, present and future of mountain photography. All of this is set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps and the museum’s stunning architecture.

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world's greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest. This unique exhibit will be found in the museum’s mind blowing ‘Adrenaline Room’. In total, around 50 images and videos will be displayed on lightboxes and screens, providing an interactive digital experience that is both visual and audible. The exhibition will run for an initial three years and guarantees an unforgettable visit to a truly innovative exhibition space.

The LUMEN Museum at an enormous 1,800m2 in size will also act as an event venue perfect for conferences, product launch events, seminars or workshops. Additionally, visitors can dine in the AlpiNN Mountain Restaurant with mouth-watering cuisine by Three-Michelin-Star legend Norbert Niederkofler. Sound good? Then get your adventure gear out and join Red Bull Illume at the LUMEN Museum of Mountain Photography! We’ll see you at the peak for true enlightenment! 

More information on the LUMEN Museum can be found on their website.

Gallery: 10 Photos Capturing The Emotions Of Adventure And Action Sports

Emotion is something that belongs to both photography and action sports. Attempting a stunt can be as emotional as it is physical. There’s fear, frustration, pain and glory. One trick can have it all and it’s the photographer’s job to capture it. Here are 10 photos to celebrate those feelings that you won’t find anywhere else.

© Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Illume

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on the upcoming Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019! 

Red Bull Illume Image Quest: Timeline Revised for 2019 Edition

Red Bull Illume, the world`s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest returns in 2019 for its fifth edition. But what’s new? The sheer volume and quality of the submissions has grown exponentially since it started, so the decision has been made to hold the event every two years, rather than the original three-year interval. With this comes a new timeline, so here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to take part.

In May 2019, the submission phase for the contest will officially kick off. This gives photographers a chance to enter their most spectacular adventure and action sports images before the closing deadline in July. Keep an eye out though; a special announcement in January is set to revolutionize the contest and may well inspire an entirely new approach from those who wish to participate!  

After the submission phase comes the judging stage. Between August and October 2019, a panel of widely renowned photo experts will vote to determine the top five images from each of the contest’s categories. This is no easy task when you consider the record-breaking 34,624 photos that were submitted to the contest in 2016 – and 2019 looks set to be bigger than ever! As the judging gets under way, preparation for the Winner Award Ceremony will begin.

The ceremony itself is widely regarded as the most prestigious event in the world of adventure and action sports photography. It’s here that the finalists, category winners and the overall contest winner will be announced. With each edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest comes a new and exciting venue in the heart of a vibrant cultural hub. Although the location for the next ceremony is still to be announced, it promises to be an unforgettable night for the world of adventure and action sports photography. Just wait and see! 

Once concluded, the year 2020 will be devoted to a series of international exhibitions. The winning images will be displayed in major cities around the world, giving the photographers an unprecedented level of exposure. There will also be a few innovative changes to the tour that will revolutionize the contest as we know it, but all will be revealed soon! Sound appealing? Then get shooting and submit your images for a chance to make history at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

For upcoming announcements and more information, keep an eye on our website and social channels.

Gallery: Czeching out the top Czech images from Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Indoor Exhibition Tour is heading to Prague this October. In honor of this momentous occasion, we have put together a gallery showcasing some of the best adventure and action sports photographers that the Czech Republic has to offer.

© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

In the 2016 Image Quest alone, no less than five Czech photographers got their images in the Top 275. The country is a breeding ground for up and coming street sports athletes, with Prague’s famous marble plazas serving as a meeting point for hundreds of skateboarders, BMX riders and the photographers who come to document them. Here we bring you 7 of the best images by Czech photographers from Red Bull Illume history.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on the upcoming Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019! 

Riding Thrones: The journey behind Lorenz Holder’s latest shoot

Inspired by the fictional world of Game of Thrones, two-time Red Bull Illume-winning photographer Lorenz Holder teamed up with BMX legend Senad Grosic on a stunning fantasy project in Northern Ireland.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Content Pool

The project, fittingly named ‘Riding Thrones’, is the culmination of an entire year of location research to find backdrops reminiscent of the show's fictional location of Westeros. The popularity of the world-renowned series and the incredible untouched beauty of the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland made 4.30am starts an essential part of this ten-day shoot.

Speaking about his original Game of Thrones idea, Lorenz explains: “I was immediately inspired and knew I wanted to shoot there as well. When we arrived in Northern Ireland, I was blown away by how beautiful and untouched everything was. You get the weather of a whole year in one day.”

See all the photos below!

For more inspiration ahead of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019, head over to our gallery to see all the top images from the previous editions of Red Bull Illume.

Images © Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Content Pool

Gallery: 7 Glorious Mountain Biking Images From Fall

Summer is almost over in the northern hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean the adventure and action stops there. Far from it... fall brings new challenges and new opportunities, especially for those that like having fun on two wheels. As the leaves change color and drop to the ground, we bring you seven of the best fall-inspired mountain biking images from Red Bull Illume history.

© Joey Schusler / Red Bull Illume

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on the upcoming Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019! 

Red Bull Illume is back for more in 2019

After 10 years of continued success, the world’s largest adventure and action sports photography contest will light up for its fifth edition with some exciting new changes.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

Because the ever-growing world of image creation is a very different place to what it was three years ago, Red Bull Illume 2019 will be updating the format and scale of the competition. This commitment to innovation has led to the contest’s exponential growth over the years, with 2016 accumulating as many as 34,624 submissions from over 120 countries. 

The first big change is the frequency of the event. For the past four editions, Red Bull Illume has taken place every three years. In light of the globally growing interest in photography, as well as the sheer number of talented photographers and stunning images that have emerged from the contest, the decision has been made to host the event every two years - starting with its fifth edition. These developments will bring about a new timeline for both the upcoming Image Quest in January 2019 and the resulting global exhibit tour. The first stages of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 will kick off early next year with a few surprises and a wider range of categories, such as new technologies and digital trends. 

As the changes are announced in the coming weeks, photographers and fans will get to learn more about the exciting new possibilities of the next contest. However, when it comes to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography, two things will stay the same; the beautiful images and the thrilling feats of human athleticism! Think you’ve got what it takes to be crowned the overall winner? Get out there, be creative and take your shot at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019.

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