Ben Horton: What's in the bag?

Los Angeles based photographer Ben Horton says he started his career by taking photographs of places where other people simply couldn't go. In our latest ‘What’s in the bag?’ feature, we take a look at what he takes with him.

© Ben Horton

Where was the most challenging location you had to shoot?
"Probably when I dogsledded 1400 miles across the Arctic with Will Steger for National Geographic. Goal Zero didn’t exist yet, and we weren’t able to really recharge anything consistently, so I spent two months shooting without reviewing my images so I wouldn’t waste my limited batteries. The temperatures were as low as -40 degrees, and we were living out of tents the entire time.  Besides the difficulties presented by the weather, we had to run alongside the dogsleds the whole time, so it was physically very demanding.”

What’s the latest addition to the bag?
“The latest addition to my kit is probably the DJI phantom drone. I didn’t want to get stuck behind the trend like I did when I didn’t buy a GoPro right away. It’s given me the ability to shoot some pretty incredible images from really dramatic perspectives, and for now they are unique.”  

How often do you use it?
“I only use the drone when it’s clearly the only option.  I believe that it’s the photographers job to put themselves in a unique position, no matter how hard it is. I have found though, that some angles are impossible without it. On a recent shoot in Moab, it was the only way I could shoot a group of standup paddle boarders in a rapid, and the drone allowed me to follow them for 4 miles while I moved down a nearby road.”

How’s the tamrac bag performing?
“The tamrac camera bag is a huge step up from the camera bags of old.  The foam is denser and lighter, so the bag is more streamlined, and its solid, so I don’t mind taking it into rough scenarios.  I haven’t found an outdoor bag company that I’m happy with yet, so when I really need a bag that functions well in the outdoors, I take my backpacking or hiking bag, but use the tamrac gear pouches to protect my camera equipment. It’s a great system, and it doesn’t require a compromise.”

Is there a special story behind the surfboard?
“There’s no special story behind the board, it’s more of a mindset. I photograph adventures, and as the photographer often times I get stuck behind the camera while everybody else is having fun. The board just means that when I go on a shoot, I don’t forget to join in the fun once in a while.“

Ben’s full gear list:

Camera Image

KNEKT dome port and trigger
SKB cases
Underwater housing
tamrac camera pouches
Blackrapid R-Sport strap
40mm fxed Canon lens
5D Mark II
5D Mark III
Peak Design Camera quick connector
Go Pro
Canon 100-400mm
tamrac bag
Zeiss 24 MM lens
Canon 24-70mm
Canon flashes
Canon 16-35
Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod

Gear Image

Bluesmiths hydrophobic waterwear
DJI Phantom 3 Pro Drone
Riffe freediving fins
Outdoor Research puffy jacket
Tamrac gear pouches
SKB cases
Zeal goggles and glasses
KNEKT dome port and trigger
Ice Axes, screws, and crampons
Goal Zero power supply
Black Diamond climbing protection
Climbing rope

For examples of Ben’s work, visit his website or head to Instagram.

Keep coming back to for your weekly dose of action and adventure sports photography and galleries of inspirational images.

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

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Climb through the Red Bull Illume years

Ever since Red Bull Illume started in 2007, it has been witness to some spectacular climbing imagery. Not only that, climbing photos have also consistently impressed the judges every single edition.

Red Bull Illume 2010: Adam Kokot, Spirit category winner

© Adam Kokot / Red Bull Illume

So let's take a look at some of the coolest climbing photos that have made it into the final rounds throughout Red Bull Illume history!

Own a piece of Red Bull Illume history!

Can't get enough of the amazing imagery of the world's best adventure and action sports photos? We've got you covered with our Limited Edition Coffee Table Book. Want to own one? Read on below!

Showcasing the finalists of the 2016 Red Bull Illume competition, there are only 5,000 copies of this limited edition collectable book, each individually numbered. It displays all 275 semi-finalist images, highlighting the top 55 images by including photographer biographies, their stories about their shot and the technical details.

And this time around, we're sweetening the deal - each book comes with a Fine Art Print of the Overall Winner, a photo shot by Lorenz Holder.

The Red Bull Illume Coffee Table Book is a true collector's item and can be purchased here.

A part of the profit resulting from the sale of this book will be donated to Wings for Life and used solely for the purpose of spinal cord research.



InstaBangers: Red Bull Illume

We're kicking off a new series in which we'll be taking a look at the Instagram accounts of the Red Bull Illume photographers. Let's start by showing you some of the biggest InstaBangers from Red Bull Illume history...

We hope you're sitting down for these...

Dave Lehl

David Carlier

Garth Milan

@robbiemaddison keeps it cool for this #RedBullIllume #SneakPeek shot by @garthmilan

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Jens Staudt

Flip into the weekend! #SneakPeek © Jens Staudt #redbullillume #bike

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Nate Hughes

Jeremiah Watt

A climbers' hands tell a story. Photo: @miahwatt #SneakPeek #redbullillume #climbing

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Check out the Red Bull Illume Instagram for some more gems and make sure to give the guys listed above a follow: Dave Lehl, David Carlier, Garth Milan, Jens Staudt, Nate Hughes and Jeremiah Watt.

From the Windy City to the Aurora Borealis: Catching up with Emil Sollie

Emil Sollie shot into the Top 55 of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 with his amazing nighttime shot of Mons Røisland in Folgefonna, Norway! Following his week in the Windy City, he flew straight to Norway's Lofoten for an epic photo mission with Mick Fanning, and we caught up with him to see what he's been up to.

© Emil Sollie

What’s been going on with you since the Winner Award Ceremony?

There's been a lot going on! I went straight from the Winner Award Ceremony in Chicago to Lofoten, up north in Norway with surfer Mick Fanning and a full-on Red Bull crew. The mission was to shoot Mick surfing under the Aurora Borealis. That turned out pretty well! (Check out the shots below). Otherwise I've been shooting a lot of snowboarding, been exploring Iceland for a week and just work a lot in general.

Has anything changed for you since making it to the Top 55? We saw you were in a few TV shows…

A lot changed after making it to the Red Bull Illume Top 55. Been working with Red Bull on a lot of bigger projects, as they put budgets to missions I pitch for them! The TV shows were actually because of the mission in Lofoten. That went 'hella' viral. Discovery came to my apartment to make a short documentary about the shoot and I happened to be live at the National Morning show. Pretty stoked about that!  

Any cool projects you’re working on?

There are. First up, there's a shoot with the national team of snowboarding at Folgefonna, one of the most epic locations for snowboarding on this planet! Folgefonna is the glacier where I happened to capture the picture that ended up in the Top 55 in 2016.

After that I'm going to follow a skydiving team for a couple of weeks.

What do you think the secret is to an image doing well in Red Bull Illume?

As I watched Lorenz win almost every category last year, I think it is the «perfect picture» photo contest.

Of course, there has to be some kind of action in the frame, but I think composition is the key to doing well. To be honest, I missed some proper action in the 2016 winner pics, but no hate, there were a lot of amazing pictures!

Working together with any other Red Bull Illume finalists?

Nope, not at the moment! But I am still in contact with a lot of them. I definitely met a lot of talented people over there!

And what’s your personal favorite from Red Bull Illume?

Overall it might be Burkard's photo from 2010. Really liked Lorenz`s from last year as well.

What's one crazy photo assignment you've been on?

The mission up north in Norway with Mick Fanning has to be the most crazy photo mission I've been a part of. We planned this photo for so long and there was a lot of elements to happen at the same time to get this photo. But I didn’t do it alone, the picture is both mine and Mats Grimseth's photo. Mats was the guy in the water with the flash!

Last question: will we see you again in 2019?

Yes, of course!

Looking to get inspired? Make sure to follow Red Bull Illume on Instagram!

Red Bull Illume teams up with Memento Smart Frame™

Since it began in 2007, Red Bull Illume has been widely recognized as the greatest action sports photography contest of its kind. For over 10 years, it has exhibited hundreds of pictures from the image quest, displaying them on unique lightboxes in stunning locations around the world. Such an innovative concept however requires a forward-thinking approach. It’s for this reason that Red Bull Illume is proud to announce their recent partnership with Memento Electronics.

The Canadian company specializes in the design and manufacturing of intelligent and highly innovative electronic devices for the rapidly growing home technology market. Its flagship product, the Memento Smart Frame, is the world´s most advanced 4K digital picture frame that allows to showcase photography with depth, sharpness and colours which was not possible until today.

Its Ultra High Definition technology and impressive display interface made them the perfect fit for Red Bull Illume. The Memento Smart Frames are set to enhance the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour by bringing the images to indoor locations as well. 

Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume says; “Having Memento Smart Frame on board is an exciting development for the Exhibit Tour. True to our theme of illumination, the high definition displays will make it a unique experience for all who visit. We can’t wait to see the new technology in action and we are looking forward to a series of unforgettable exhibitions."

The outdoor exhibition is currently touring the globe and is soon to be followed by the indoor version; both of which may be visiting a city near you.

To learn more about Red Bull Illume and to keep up to date with the indoor and outdoor tour stops, head over to the Exhibit Tour page now. For more information about Memento Smart Frame click here

Nick Webster: What's in the Bag?

A master at combining natural and artificial lights, it's easy to spot a photo shot by Nick Webster. We caught up with him to talk about gear and take a look into his bag!

© Nick Webster

Talk us through your gear. What are your go-to items? 

I have swapped from the traditional DSLR to smaller mirrorless models now and my favourite camera to use is my Sony A7ii. It is a 24 Megapixel full frame camera which is fast enough to shoot sports. The handling is close to perfect and results are gorgeous. In terms of lenses, I shoot as much as possible with wide angles, as it gives so much more impact, so have zoom lenses in my bag covering everything from 16mm to 200mm. I also love Bowen’s new GenerationX studio lights. They are powered by in-built batteries so I can take them anywhere without the need for a plug socket. 

Is there anything special you carry with you on shoots? 

I always carry two-way radios when shooting. It makes a shoot so much easier. If working with an individual, such as a snowboarder, I can communicate with them without the need for mobile phones and the hassle of removing gloves or patchy reception. When shooting a sport like cycling, I can retune the radio to listen into the commissaire's car which broadcasts time gaps and incidents etc, so I can keep abreast of the action even when it is miles away.

When shooting in the snow, I now always carry a set of crampons with me. It gets very icy at the side of ski slopes and it’s never dignified to fall and end-up 100 metres down the mountain. I learnt this the hard way.

How do you choose gear for different projects? 

Size and weight is the main factor. I have to think how much I can carry with me. Cycling is a great example where my switch to mirrorless cameras has benefitted. I ride in the passenger seat of the team car and everything has to sit in the foot well, together with spare drinking bottles, energy bars and anything else the riders may need, like rain jackets and arm warmers. I also have to consider weight when shooting in the show, as I often have to snowboard to the park from the lift and the lighter my bag, the easier it is to ride.

Which piece of gear would you never leave at home? 

I never leave home without my Sony Cybershot RX100v. It may only be a compact, but it is packed with high-end features and the quality of photo is superb. I can shoot 4K video and super slow motion too. I never leave home without it.

Does your gear sometimes take a pounding to get the shots you’re known for? 

I have never been very precious with my gear. I put screen protector on the back, but apart from that it gets no special treatment. It’s never let me down. Half the time it is banging around as I run to get in position for a photo. In my career I have been run-over, had it hit by wayward footballs and been clamped to the roof of cars as it’s been driven through a storm. It all survived.

Any items you wish you could add to your bag?

I really wish Sony made a 300mm f/4 for it’s mirrorless range. I don’t need the big white f/2.8 lenses sports photographers traditionally use any longer. In the days when we all shot on film and the early days of shooting digital SLRs, you could only shoot up to ISO 400 before the quality was really compromised. As a result, I needed lenses which would suck in as much light as possible in order to allow me to shoot at lower sensitivities. The latest generations of sensors are so good it’s easy to shoot up to ISO6400 before seeing a significant drop-off, so swapping my big, cumbersome 300mm f/2.8 for a compact 300mm f/4 lens would be amazing.

Any tips for aspiring photographers? 

Don’t worry about your gear. You don’t need the fastest or best and latest model to take great shots. You just have to remember that before the late 1980s nobody had autofocus and it was that long ago that there were no motorwinds or in-built metering and the professionals were still producing outstanding results, because they were often anticipating the picture and with this skill and a little luck producing jaw-dropping pictures. Slow down and practice your technique. In my opinion, it’s a common mistake to hold your finger down on the shutter and hope you get one picture from the hundreds being captured. I often find it’s the shots I plan and know I want to take are the ones I like best.

Nick's Gear: 

  • Sony a7 Mark ii
  • Sony a6500
  • Sony 16-35mm f/4 Zeiss
  • Sony 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss
  • Sony 70-200mm f/4 G
  • Sony 55m f/1.8 Zeiss
  • Sony HVL-F60M Flash (x2)
  • Cactus V6iiS Remote triggers 
  • Memory Cards
  • Batteries
  • Business Cards
  • Sony Xperia XZ
  • Two Way Radio
  • Sensor Blower
  • Lens Cloth

See more of Nick's work on his website and by following him on Instagram. While you're there, make sure to give us a follow as well! 

5 Surf Photographers You Need To Know!

With the summer days coming up and the swells coming in, we wanted to show some love to the extremely talented surf photographers out there, who spend days on end floating in the deep blue trying to get that perfect union between wave and rider...

© Corey Wilson / Red Bull Illume

Stuart "Stu" Gibson

Could easily already be considered Red Bull Illume royalty, with Category Finalist spots in 2010, 2013 and 2016. 

"I was born in Tasmania in 1983 and became a photographer around 2003, although I’ve always loved cameras and filming. It wasn’t until I borrowed a friend’s Canon EOS 5 that I fell in love with still photography – the quality amazed me! Shooting on 35mm slide film was a true test to learn the skills to become a photographer.

My main passions are surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding. But my photos are more than 90% surfing, or in the water in some way. I was practically born surfing so it’s hard to be away from the coast for too long. My life as a photographer consists of traveling, swimming, sun, and sitting behind a computer – a lot!"

Green pits @tilodge @nikonaustralia

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Zakary "Zak" Noyle

"I was born in Hawaii in 1985 and have been in and around the ocean all my life. My father is a commercial photographer who helped me find my love and passion for shooting in the ocean. Working as a staff photographer for Surfer Magazine for the past five years has allowed me to travel to many exotic locations such as Tahiti, Rapa Nui and Indonesia to name just a few.Being in the water is my specialty, shooting mainly heavy and large waves with shallow reefs. I have a passion to show people a world they have never seen before, from a perspective that is almost inconceivable. I try to bring the viewers into my images and make them feel as if they’re right there alongside me in the world's most famous surf breaks."

Corey Wilson

"I am from Santa Cruz, CA. I started photography about eight years ago when I was in high school and I fell in love with shooting photos, deciding to make a career out of it.I currently live in Newport Beach, CA and I travel the world all year round, working as a staff photographer for Surfing Magazine, Rip Curl, and freelancing for other companies. I’m constantly on the road going on surf trips and fashion shoots etc."

Creating mind tricks with/ @microsurfacademy

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Ben Thouard

"My name is Ben Thouard, and I’ve lived in Tahiti for eight years. I started photography when I was a teenager, using an old Nikon camera from my father that I’d found at home.Being a surfer since a very young age, it was natural that I started shooting my friends surfing. After going to photography school in Paris, I flew to Hawaii when I was 19, and this was my first professional challenge.Since then I’ve traveled around the world to shoot watersports in search of great conditions, encounters and stories. Nine years ago I was invited to make a trip to Teahupo’o, Tahiti, a place I completely fell in love with. A year after moving it became my favorite playground."

Follow me ! @kaulivaast shot with @aquatech_imagingsolutions @airtahitinui

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Fred Pompermayer

"I have been shooting big wave surfing and action shots for more than a decade. I was born in Brazil. From a very young age I was transfixed by the ocean and waves. I majored in architecture at college; afterwards I travelled the world taking photos as my hobby and surfing as much as I could.I live in Los Angeles where I can catch a quick flight to most places – most of the time it’s last minute to catch the swells – and where I can surf year round."

Make sure to check out Instagram next week (18.4 to 21.4), as we're hosting surf week, with a bunch of cool surf photos from throughout Red Bull Illume history! 

How To Shoot Action Sequences

Sequences can capture an entire range of motion in one single image, but you will need a little editing magic to put the action together. Photographer Leo Rosas Morin shows you a few easy steps you'll need to make it work.

Skater: Armando Rodriguez © Leo Rosas Morin

A sequence shot is the perfect chance to show an athlete in action, from start to finish and arguably is also the category that takes the most time. Check out some tips and tricks on how to shoot a great sequence brought to you by Leo Rosas Morin.  

A while back, Leo travelled to Austria's Absolut Park, recruited some local shredders and snapped away, but because we want to bring you summer vibes, we decided to include Leo's shot of Armando Rodriguez. 

Step 1: Set your camera to continuos shooting mode and the highest fps possible


Depending on what you're shooting (biking, snowboarding, diving, surfing, freestyle motocross etc.), you'll want to catch as much of the action in as little time as possible. 

To achieve this, you'll want to have a camera that shoots at a relatively high fps (or Frames Per Second). For this tutorial, Leo used a Sony RX10 Mark iii, which shoots at up to 14 frames per second. You won't need that many frames, but you'll want something that shoots at least at 5fps. 

Quick tip: Use continuos shooting mode, which will keep making photos as long as you're keeping the shutter button pressed down. 

Step 2: Find the best angle to capture all of the action


You'll want to find a sick spot for the shoot, but more importantly; you'll want to be in a position that let's you capture all of the action in one smooth motion - so stand back a little (or use a wide-angle), get ready to shoot and make sure nobody is going to walk in front of your camera. Oh, and of course tell your athlete to get ready. 

A few other things to keep in mind: 

Manual focus: If you have a "slow" lens, switch your focus to manual and focus on the spot where the action will happen. 

Fast Shutter Speed: Start at 1/500 when shooting action sports, do a couple test shots, and see whether you need to go even faster. 

Small aperture: A small aperture will result in a greater depth of field. This means more of the image will be in focus - anything above 5,6 will keep all of the action in focus. 

Step 3: Shoot the Action!


Ready, steady, shoot...

Just make it smooth and keep holding on to that shutter button! 

Step 4: Now it's time for post-processing


Go through your shots, choose which ones you want to turn into a sequence and import them into your photo-editing software of choice (we used Photoshop for this, and the below instructions are based on that). 

1. Open Photoshop, then go to File > Automate > Photomerge

2. Select Browse, choose your images, then make sure to tick Reposition and untick Blend Images Together and click Ok. 

3. Grab a cup of tea, because this will take a while. 

4. For each photo, create a new layer by going to Layer > Layer Mask > From Transparency

5. Select your brush, make sure it's black and turn down the "Hardness"

6. Paint over the mask, which will make the image below it appear

7. Refine the edges with a smaller, harder brush to mask out any overlapping edges

8. Repeat for the other layers. 

9. Once your done and happy with your sequence, crop out any transparent edges and edit the look of the sequence to your liking. 

Step 5: Share your sequence with the world!


Now it's time to hop on Instagram, Facebook and any other platform you use and share your sequence with the world! 

While you're at it, make sure to follow Red Bull Illume on Instagram and Facebook

Flashback: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010

It's been 7 years since the Winner Award Ceremony in Dublin, Ireland. Do you remember the winners? Which photo impressed you the most? Relive that moment by looking back at the Overall Winner and the Category Winners of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010...

Red Bull Illume 2010: Chris Burkard, Illumination category winner

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

2010 marked the second edition of Red Bull Illume and once again, the level of action and adventure sports photography got pushed to a new level. Chris Burkard's shot of Peter Mendia conquering the Chilean surf stood out among the thousands of entries, taking home the Overall Winner for 2010. 

Here's the story behind the shot: 

"It was a last minute decision to go to Chile. We sat in the pouring rain for days and days waiting for the swell to come. We thought we had planned it perfectly, but even in the fall you can still get a winter storm."

"We woke up the morning after the rains to howling offshore winds, swell was pulsing and the conditions were as good as they get. We drove to a spot in the afternoon that the locals had said, “rarely breaks.” When we pulled up it was reeling left barrels for almost a football field’s length. We scrambled to get out and surf. I was sun burnt and tired and had no idea how to document this moment. The waves were some of the most I had ever seen, so I decided to risk it. I sprinted down the beach and hiked up a sand dune to get a pulled back perspective."

"The shore break was so big, and the offshores’ plumes so high, that I was missing most of the best waves, but finally a set came through. The light, the wind, and the swell were perfect. It was as if everything in nature fell into perfect harmony for this single moment. As Peter Mendia eased into this wave, the backwash hit, sending a golden shower of water 10-feet above his head, and sending him down the line of another 20-second barrel."

Now check out the other 9 winners below and let us know your favorite. 

Close Up: Nathan Smith

Red Bull Illume 2010: Nathan Smith, Close Up category winner

Culture (now known as Lifestyle): Vincent Perraud

Red Bull Illume 2010: Vincent Perraud, Culture category winner

Energy: Stuart Gibson

Red Bull Illume 2010: Stuart Gibson, Energy category winner

Experimental (now known as Enhance): Daniel Grund

Red Bull Illume 2010: Daniel Grund, Experimental category winner

New Creativity: Eric Berger

Red Bull Illume 2010: Eric Berger, New Creativity category winner

Playground: Tim Korbmacher

Red Bull Illume 2010: Tim Korbmacher, Playground category winner

Sequence: Miguel Lopez Virgen

Red Bull Illume 2010: Miguel Angel López Virgen, SanDisk sequence category winner

Spirit: Adam Kokot

Red Bull Illume 2010: Adam Kokot, Spirit category winner

Wings: Marcel Lammerhirt

Red Bull Illume 2010: Marcel Laemmerhirt, Wings category winner

We're ready to illuminate Toronto

The world’s greatest action and adventure sports images are on the road again, with the first stop of the year being Toronto, Canada. For almost two weeks, Toronto's Union Station will be home to the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour.

© Lucas Gilman

The finalist images of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 are currently on their world tour with unique night-time exhibitions at prominent landmarks across the globe.

The first tour stop of 2017 will take place in Toronto, Canada, in the bustling forecourt of Union Station; a National Historic Site and the busiest transportation hub in Canada. Located just off of Front Street, it serves as the perfect location for residents, tourists and even commuters.

To showcase the amazing imagery in a unique way, the exhibition will only be open after the sun goes down between the hours of 7.30pm and 11.00pm. The illuminated images will be displayed on stunning 2x2m light boxes.

The outdoor exhibition will present the top 55 images from 11 different categories. The five Canadian finalists from Red Bull Ilume’s newly introduced National Mobile Contest will also see their work on display. Union Station will undoubtedly be a spectacular and immersive backdrop for the most creative and captivating photography on the planet.

Visitors can enjoy the exhibit from March 31st to April 9th 2017.Parking for the exhibition is located near the intersection between Front and University Street. Public transit is recommended as visitors can get off at Union Station and simply head to street level.