Catching up with the Winners: Chris Burkard

Back in 2010, Chris Burkard was an action and adventure sports photographer trying to make a name for himself. Submitting a number of images to Image Quest 2010, he says his goal was to have an image considered. Then, he won. We caught up with the California native to talk about what he's been upto since that faithful day...

© Carlo Cruz

What have been some of the memorable projects you have worked on in the years since winning Red Bull Illume back in 2010?

That’s a tough one, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on a lot of projects since winning Illume back in 2010. However perhaps my favorite is a recent personal project to surf under the northern lights in Iceland this past winter. With three hours of light each day, brutal winter storms, and freezing temperatures, Iceland was far from the ideal surf trip. I’ve been working pretty tirelessly on a feature length film from the trip and it should be releasing this March. You can check out the trailer here.

What stuff do you enjoy shooting right now?

When I started to get into photography I was inspired by landscapes and I think that still holds true today. Whether I’m shooting surf, skiing, or even hiking I always try to incorporate the surrounding landscapes. From the slopes of Utah to the ocean in Norway. Beyond anything I’m inspired by our interactions with the outdoors and the places we get to experience. 

What impact has Red Bull Illume had on you?

When I first started shooting it was obviously a benchmark and goal to have an image considered. When I won in 2010 I was amped! It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to win this award in front of all of my peers and the people I respect, it was truly a blessing. When I submitted my image, my expectation was just to hope that a few editors would see it. It definitely helped me to get my name out there and gave me a great platform for future projects.

What do you think makes Red Bull Illume different from other contests?

It’s unlike most contests in that it’s only held every three years and is limited to the action sports realm. What that translates to in terms of the content submitted is that only photographer’s very best work is submitted. The images can’t be re-created easily. The images took tons of careful planning, potentially had elements that weren’t planned for, and still required a high level of skill from both the athlete and the photographer to fully execute. 

What tips would you give to beginners who are planning to enter photo contests?

The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know an image was mine instantly when they see it.

What would you look for in an image if you were judging Red Bull Illume?

Honestly it would need to be something that couldn’t be recreated. A combination of spectacular light, a unique perspective, and a talented athlete excelling in their craft. I would personally look at things in two ways: a photo that was conceived, planned and executed beautifully, or a photograph that is simply a once in a lifetime moment that the photographer put themselves in the right place to capture. 

What has changed in adventure and action sports photography in the last 10 years? 

This is all my personal perspective, but for the longest time I felt like the action sports and adventure worlds were so focused on getting high action imagery at the expense of storytelling. Now with social media and other platforms you can share a more complete story. While high action photography is still the core of the adventure and action sports world, the importance now has somewhat shifted to imagery that can help showcase the whole story.

Which action and adventure sports photographers do you like right now?

Christian Pondella is one of my all-time favorites. So humble and always pushing the limits simply because he is an athlete himself and is just as good as many of the guys he shoots. Also Reuben Krabbe! Both guys are just as talented in their sports as the people they are shooting and it reflects in the images they produce.

What do you think is next for action and adventure sports photography?

That’s a really tough question. From my perspective, it’s about going to more remote and wild places to pursue the sports we document. I think the stakes need to be raised. Less large scale productions and more about getting way out into nature and finding that image. 

What plans and projects do you have lined up for the future?

Future goals would always be to simply inspire people. Create work that is meant to last a lot longer than I am. I always hope to continue exploring parts of the globe that feel wild and remote and ideally bring those experiences back to people through social media, books, films, editorial publications, etc. There are a couple remote Russian islands I’ve had my eyes on that I want to visit. Additionally, I have a book about Iceland’s glacial rivers, and my film about surfing under the northern lights that releases this Spring!

Check out more of Chris Burkard's work on his website and follow his adventures by giving him a follow on Instagram. 

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Introducing the Energy category semi-finalists!

See 20 images that demonstrate the energy, speed and strength required for an athlete to perform. These are the Energy semi-finalists!

© Felix Pirker / Red Bull Illume

With just one glance at the Energy category semi-finalists you immediately feel the buzz between rider, athlete and photographer. These images turn the stoke level up to eleven and are sure to energize your day!

Here is the full list of Energy category semi-finalists for 2019:

Ben Thouard
Graeme Murray
Piotrek Deska
Cameron Mackenzie
Evgeny Pavlov
勉 白川
Jan Kasl
Michael Clark
Satoshi Saijo
Ken Etzel
Tristan Shu
Garrett Bradley
Burhan Kaçar
Antoine Justes
Artem Yamshchikov
Jon Paciaroni
Felix Pirker
John Price
Ryan Moss

Have a great weekend, and catch us on Monday as the Winner Award Ceremony begins!

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One week to go until the Winner Award Ceremony - meet the finalists!

With just 7 days to go until the big show, today we announce the names of the finalists...

The final week is here and the energy is palpable as the Winner Award Ceremony on November 20, 2019 draws ever nearer.

We know it’s really tough to wait when there’s only a few days remaining, but don’t worry, to keep you going we decided to release the names of the 52 finalist photographers today!

The images remain under wraps until the ceremony, but for now you can get a feel for how they might look by checking out the finalists below:

Kamil Sustiak, Australia
Lachie Carracher, Australia
Matt Horspool, Australia
Nick Green, Australia
Stu Gibson, Australia
Jeffrey Kieffer, Australia
Philip Platzer, Austria
Marcelo Maragni, Brazil
Geoff Coombs, Canada
Rupert Walker, Canada
Robin O’Neill, Canada
Pablo Jiménez, Chile
Kevin Molano, Colombia
Jan Kasl, Czech Republic
Baptiste Fauchille, France
Fabien Maierhofer, France
Jb Liautard, France
Jeremy Bernard, France
Marc Daviet, France
Martin Golob, France
Matt Georges, France
Maxime Moulin, France
Ben Thouard, French Polynesia
Alexander Wick, Germany
Lorenz Holder, Germany
Robert Garo, Germany
Kohei Ueno, Japan
Andrius Aleksandravičius, Lithuania
Jay French, New Zealand
Matt Wood, New Zealand
Emil Sollie, Norway
Robin Pearson, Portugal
Dasha Nosova, Russia
Denis Klero, Russia
Justin Coomber, South Africa
Tyrone Bradley, South Africa
Enrich Adrian Gener, Spain
Jairo Diaz, Spain
Nicolas Pina Calvin, Spain
Daniel Bernstål, Sweden
Daniel Rönnbäck, Sweden
Christian Gisi, Switzerland
Hamish Frost, United Kingdom
Laurence Crossmann-Emms, United Kingdom
Andrew Miller, United States
Austin James Jackson, United States
Chris Tedesco, United States
Joey Schusler, United States
Mahallia Budds, United States
Michael Clark, United States
Morgan Maassen, United States
Noah Wetzel, United States

Catch every minute of the Winner Award Ceremony live!

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See them soar! Wings category semi-finalists revealed

See athletes take flight with the 20 images that made it to the semi-final stage of the Wings category!

© Serge Shakuto / Red Bull Illume

The heart-stopping moment when athletes catch air, free fall, leap or fly captured perfectly by these incredible photographers. Their images made it to the Top 260, and will be published in the Limited Edition Red Bull Illume Photobook, which is already available to pre-order!

Here is the full list of Wings category semi-finalists for 2019:

Mahallia Budds
Craig Grant
John Webster
Eva Berten
Carsten Snejbjerg
Nans Clerc
Jan Kasl
Pally Learmond
Boris Beyer
Tino Scherer
Tal Roberts
Patrick Steiner
Sterling Lorence
Ian Collins
Wayne Reiche
Chris Burden
Ben Herndon
Serge Shakuto

The trophies have arrived, the Winner Award Ceremony takes place in exactly one-week, and you can watch it live!

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RAW, unscripted and untouched – a moment with Krystle Wright

The RAW category stripped everything back to the fundamentals of photography and this was ideal for semi-finalist Krystle Wright. She tells us how she considers every inch of the frame in-camera, so she can do less work out of it!

© Krystle Wright / Red Bull Illume

Another new category in the Image Quest 2019 that was open to huge interpretation was the RAW category. We spoke to Krystle Wright to get a photographer’s view on the challenge that was set, how best to overcome it, and what it feels like to have an image published that has come straight out of camera!

Now you’re a semi-finalist, describe what the ‘RAW’ Category means to you…

When I first began in photography, my thought process behind certain images was that I could always tidy it up later, whether that was applying a small crop or enhancing the curves. One of my mentors quickly stamped out this lazy habit and taught me that a great photographer is one who can shoot as much in frame as possible and therefore minimalist editing would be needed aside from the fact a RAW image must always be processed. The RAW category I believe embodies the spirit of photography and documentary where I wish only to be a 'fly on the wall' and document moments that unfold in front of me and shoot with the conscious thinking to consider every inch that I decide to frame in that moment. 

In your words, what type of photographer are you?

I often find myself describing my work as an artist. From working as a photojournalist and seeking out the unscripted natural moment, I also work as an artist by collaborating with athletes at times to create specific ideas, and therefore a scripted moment. I enjoy the challenges of working on these two particularly opposing methods.  

How does it feel to have a completely un-edited image published?

I think it’s a great initiative as it strips away any distractions and returns to the foundation. I appreciate all the forms of photography and the unlimited imagination that individual artists bring to the table. I think the greatest images that have resonated with me the most are moments that feel raw, unscripted and appear as if they are untouched. 

What was the biggest challenge in capturing this photo?

It had been 5 years since my tandem paragliding accident in northern Pakistan. I had long dreamed of returning and wanting to fly back above the majestic Karakoram Range. During our three week stay in Hushé, the weather pattern this time was much more volatile and making it increasingly difficult to successfully get into thermals and soar above the Karakoram. This was the only day we were able to stay in the sky all afternoon and as the sun began to lower, I was just in an ecstatic state watching the dramatic shadows grow and capturing my friends Tom De Dorlodot, Horacio Llorens and Hernan Pitocco fly in such magic light. There is so much out of my control when flying in a tandem paraglider. Ferdi Van Schleven is an incredible pilot to work with as I lack the skills to fly solo but also the reality that I am far too excited to be taking images when I am in the sky. I would describe to him where I wanted to be in relation to the other pilots but a lot of it comes down to luck that we line up in the right place and the right time. There were many images in this sequence where Tom is lost in the frame but this one stands out. 

Do you shoot analogue, or are you regularly making images that require less digital enhancement?

I work with my Canon digital cameras as I learned in the era when everything was switching over to digital. However, I do dream to source a film camera that I can work with when I feel the freedom to create without any expectations or involvement from clients and create just to create. Plus returning to film would also force me to work on skills and not rely on the latest technology. Even though I will always have my digital camera, I find myself throughout my career in wanting to experiment and change things up from time to time to see whether it alters my creative process. But ultimately as I work with digital, I desire to do minimalist digital enhancement as it means less time on the computer. 

Do you always have your camera with you?

No, not always. It’s quite often that I miss moments that I feel the desire to capture in a photograph, however I also want to be selfish and keep that image entirely to myself. Sure, there is the chance I will forget this moment since the memory works in weird and wonderful ways. But I love those days when a memory spontaneously comes back to me and I don't believe in sharing every single special moment. Some are meant to be held close to the heart. 

What’s next for you, and where can we find more of your work?

I'm excited to wind down after a rollercoaster of a year. I realize that I need to create more space and downtime in my life in order to be more creative and develop bigger ideas to pursue. I am excited for 2020 and to continue to evolve as an artist. 

Discover more of Krystle’s work on:
IG: @krystlejwright 

Fun without filter! These are the RAW category semi-finalists

The brand new category for images straight out of camera threw up some big surprises, and incredible results! Check out the 20 images that made it to the semi-final stage.

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

These are the semi-finalists of the brand new RAW category; straight out of camera, un-cropped, un-touched, no filter and forever enshrined in the Top 260 of the Image Quest 2019! With only 2 weeks to go until the 5 finalists and 1 category winner are revealed at the Winner Award Ceremony, we present to you the 20 phenomenal images from that almost made it, but are champions in their own right!

Here is the full list of RAW category semi-finalists for 2019:

Sterling Lorence
Ben Thouard
Anthony Smith
Grant Gunderson
Krystle Wright
Nic Alegre
Matteo Pavana
Sofia Sjöberg
Robert Garo
Alex Buisse
Paris Gore
Gaston Francisco
Tristan Shu
Oskar Enander
Elliott Bernhagen
Vana Isa
Christian Gisi
Ben Herndon

These 20 photographers made it to the semi-final stage of the Image Quest 2019, however 5 photographers went even further! Tune in to the Winner Award Ceremony on November 20, 2019 to find out who the 5 finalists from the RAW and all other categories, the 11 category winners and 1 overall winner of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest are!

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Moving mountains with Matteo Mocellin!

Matteo tells us how it feels to be one of the first ever semi-finalists of the new Moving Image category, and how working with athletes inspires him to push further as both a photographer and a climber!

© Matteo Mocellin

One of the most exciting things about the Image Quest 2019 was the new categories. For the first time, the Moving Image category offered content creators the chance to make the Top 260 with dynamic short videos of any kind. To keep it in the spirit of photography, entrants were allowed only one take!

We caught up with semi-finalist Matteo Mocellin to find out what the main challenges were and how he overcame them!

The ‘Moving Image’ Category was new to the Image Quest 2019; how does it feel to be a semi-finalist? 

Moving Images are not far from photography, to me they are like an extended picture. You can describe a moment in a different way, particularly in adventure and action sports. To be a semi-finalist in this new category makes me so enthusiastic. I’m excited to see my take alongside other great images from the world of outdoor creativity!

Your IG feed is all still photography, how do you describe yourself?

Good question. I started my career as a nature photographer, but in working on outdoor productions I began to understand that the relationships with athletes are the most important part of my work. If you want to take a good image, you have to be part of the project, a friend of the athletes and enjoy your work every time. 

Where did the idea for your semi-finalist video come from? 

The idea of the drone shot come from North3 – the project by Salewa. It followed Simon Gietl and Vittorio Messini climbing three iconic mountains in the Alps connecting them by foot and bicycle in only 47-hours! I took the image on the Cima Piccola di Lavaredo during an epic weather moment :) It was incredible to see them climbing that wall after the rain!

Salewa was decisive in the outcome, supporting the project as main sponsor and organizing the logistics during the transfer of the athletes between the mountains.

Does this increase your motivation to make more videos in the future? 

For me not only as a photographer, but also as a climber, following such inspirational athletes makes me super motivated to tell new stories and be part of more projects like that in the future!

Tell us about any future projects we should look out for?

Salewa is growing it’s support for new and young European athletes with really cool climbing projects and with Storyteller-Labs we're going to follow them.

In some mountain festivals around the world our movie ‘Playing with the invisible’ is coming out; a film about flying in the Dolomites with Aaron Durogati. soon also in the Salewa network!

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Discovering killer locations in local newspapers!

Is there a big future for BMX in ice caves? That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure; Vegard Aasen had the vision to make it happen and his ingenuity landed him a spot as one of the semi-finalists of the Image Quest 2019 in the Playground category!

© Vegard Byrkjeland Aasen / Red Bull Illume

Every once in a while, Vegard Aasen grabs his best friend Knut-Hendrik Lajord Snitjer, his Sony a7rii and heads out on a ‘jobby’. The combination of ‘job’ and ‘hobby’ is a platform on which Vegard can create serious images while having fun in newly discovered locations. This is what the Playground category is all about! And that’s what made him a semi-finalist of the category this year.

Check out our interview with Vegard below to find out more…

Now you’re a semi-finalist, describe what the ‘Playground’ Category means to you…

Playgrounds means a lot to me. I love to show the landscapes surrounding the action, and not just the action. My personal favorites are always photos that show both, so I´m really glad I made it to the semi-finals in this category!

How did you discover the location for your semi-finalist shot?

I found this one in the local newspaper! Not the place I usually find locations. The entrance to the cave became visible for the first time this spring. The glaciers in this area are retreating, but some of the ice was hidden inside a moraine, and was protected from further melting. A group of skiers found it, and sent some photos to the local news. I knew that this was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to see an ice cave like this in our region, so me and some friends went to check it out. The cave was insane! 

You described this day as a ‘jobby’ – do you carry much gear on such a day? What’s in the bag?

It is a remote location, so yeah, it was a lot of gear. We brought two cameras with different lenses (did a bit of filming in there as well), a few flashes, gear for a day in the mountains, safety equipment (not always safe inside a cave like that), and a BMX... It was about 4.5km from to road to the cave, so we tried to minimize the weight of what we carried, but we always end up with more than we planned for. 

Do you see a big future for BMX in ice caves?

Yes, absolutely! I think we will see X-games inside ice caves in the future. It is so nice to just ride around in there! Not.

What motivates you to get out there and find new playgrounds?

I´m always searching for something unique. I want to create something that no one has seen before. I want people to say ‘WOW’ when they see my photos for the first time. For me, the playground is the biggest ‘wow-factor’ in a photo like this. I love to put action sports into spectacular landscapes, like the ice cave. I need those spectacular playgrounds to create unique photos. I also love to search for new playgrounds. Location scouting is one of the best parts in a project like this! I went to the ice cave twice. The first time we went we spent more than two hours in there, just wandering around exploring the cave.

The race is on to find unique locations, what advice would you give to anyone that is out there searching for new places to shoot?

Because of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, it is easier than ever to find new locations. You don´t even have to search, they just pop up in the newsfeed on Instagram... Many of the locations I´ve found are on there, but most of my photos starts with an idea, and then I start searching for the perfect location. I´m spending a lot of time studying maps, searching for photos online, and going to those places to see if they will work. The light has to work as well. Finding the right time to shoot is essential. If possible, you should always go to the location in advance to figure out how you want to shoot it.

Your ultimate location to shoot?

I think it has to be somewhere north in winter. I want to build a big kicker, and shoot someone doing a huge trick with the fjord/ocean and alpine peaks in the background, while the Northern Lights are dancing above us.

Where can we find you in the coming months?

In November you´ll find me in the office, drinking coffee and editing videos. From December until May, hopefully in the mountains skiing powder! Maybe you´ll find me in a sick location far north, with alpine peaks, the ocean, and Northern Lights everywhere!

Follow Vegard on Instagram!

Where photographers and athletes play - here are the Playground semi-finalists!

We continue our reveal of the images that made it to the Top 260 of the Image Quest 2019. This week, it’s the turn of the Playground category!

© Erik Gross / Red Bull Illume

The Playground category is a dedicated category for epic images showcasing not only the athlete, but the landscapes, locations, platforms and environments in which they play. To many people, seeking out new spots in which to perform and capture is the very essence of adventure and action sports photography. As usual, the results are pretty spectacular - see them for yourself right here!

Here is the full list of Playground category semi-finalists in 2019:

Steve Shannon
Austin Jackson
Karim Iliya
Simon Bischoff
Dave Trumpore
Marc Daviet
Piotrek Deska
Robert Garo
Guy Fattal
Jb Liautard
Kamil Sustiak
Erik Gross
Ale Di Lullo
Brian Nevins
Nathan Hughes
Lorenz Holder
Bruno Long
Chris Burkard
Vegard Aasen
Miloš Štáfek

These 20 photographers made it to the semi-final stage of the Image Quest 2019, however 5 photographers went even further! Tune in to the Winner Award Ceremony on November 20, 2019 to see the 5 finalists from each category, the 11 category winners and 1 overall winner of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest unveiled.

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Behind the lens and beyond the boundaries with Filip Zuan

We caught up with Masterpiece by EyeEm category double semi-finalist Filip Zuan to talk concepts, locations and the inspiration behind his photography!

© Filip Zuan / Red Bull Illume

With not one but two images in the making it to the semi-finalist stage of the Image Quest 2019 in the Masterpiece by EyeEm category, we wanted to find out a little more about the person behind the lens. Filip’s images take intriguing concepts to extraordinary locations and produce beautiful results that perfectly match the description of the category.

Read the interview to discover more!

Now you’re a semi-finalist, describe what the ‘Masterpiece by EyeEm’ Category means to you…

Absolutely humbled to be selected! Especially considering the volume of images submitted this time around… Masterpiece by EyeEm was the category that first attracted me to the contest, so it feels even better!

How would you describe yourself as a photographer?

I like to see myself as a silent observer, pushing the limits with a simple, raw and honest approach. But it’s up to the spectator to pin me!

Talk us through the process for both shots – did you find the location first, then have the idea? Or the other way around?

It really can go both ways; from having a concept/location and try to make it come to life. Or just go with the flow. Both shots that got selected were on the spontaneous side of things and not premeditated.

Living in the Swiss alps, the winters are long and you have to get creative. We had been dabbling with the idea to skateboard on ice for a few years, but it never really happened … Eventually, my good friend Ivo (pictured) found a way to make it work and off we were. Pure fun run & gun session on the cold, frozen lakes in the middle of the Swiss alps.

We were on a trip with the Doodah crew (a Swiss shop). Timmy had been playing with this spot for a while, did a few sweepers on the edge and then went straight to the signature frontside flip. You can feel when everything aligns and something special happens. That frontside flip was simply perfect: the skating, the spot, the light and the execution. Definitely one to remember.

Who are your biggest influences in photography?

It might sound cliché, but life is my biggest influence. Family, people, culture, travel, music, art and the mash of it all makes my persona and ultimately my photography what it is. I admire photographers with a clear vision and uncompromising approach - Boogie, Brian Gaberman, Ben Thouard, Anton Corbijn, Stephen Vanasco, my good friend Sergio Villalba… there are so many people putting out great work…

Any athlete you would love to shoot with?

I love to work with athletes who have a good sense and understanding for photography and the big picture of concepts. When the athlete and photographer are in sync, the magic happens. It would be amazing to shoot with Brandon Semenuk or Mark Suciu!

When not shooting sports, what type of photography are you most into?

Besides sports, it would have to be people. I really enjoy shooting portraits and getting to know new people and their stories. I love to shoot my kids; it’s pure & unfiltered life! But really it can be anything from travel, outdoors, commercial assignments or editorials… if it feels right, I’ll shoot!

How did you discover Red Bull Illume?

I have been following Red Bull Illume since the early beginnings. It always is a huge source of inspiration and reflection of the current state of adventure and action sports photography.

Where can our readers find you in the coming months?

Real life - after a summer full of adventures I am wrapping up the last projects and will be spending some quality time with my family back home in the Swiss Alps. Winter is just around the corner and I got some interesting projects lined up. On the digital side of things, feel free to browse: / IG: @filipzuan

Feast your eyes on the Masterpiece by EyeEm semi-finalists!

This week, it’s the turn of the category that blurs the lines between adventure and action sports and fine art photography: The Masterpiece by EyeEm category!

© Florian Ledoux / Red Bull Illume

Introducing the 20 images that made it to the semi-final stage of the Masterpiece by EyeEm category! Get blown-away by the photographers’ artistic skill and unique styles. It’s a category that calls for the best shot, the image that represents the art of adventure and action sports. It’s about more than just the moment of action, but also about how the photographers transform these moments into masterpieces.

Here is the full list of Masterpiece by EyeEm semi-finalists for 2019:

Jan Kasl
JB Liautard
Stu Gibson
Peter Cirilli
Ken Etzel
Matteo Pavana
Daniel Bernstål
Florian Ledoux
Ydwer van der Heide
Filip Zuan
Kamil Sustiak
Jeremiah Watt
Nils Ohlendorf
Lorenz Holder
Wayne Reiche
Leo Cittadella
Erik Boomer
Fred Murray
Sterling Lorence

The anticipation is building as the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 commences the four-week countdown to the Winner Award Ceremony on November 20, 2019. Mark this night in red in your calendars because at the LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography, 2,275m above sea level, the 11 category winners and 1 overall winner of the world’s greatest adventure and actions sports imagery contest will be announced from 6pm (CET) onwards and viewers will be able to follow the occasion on our social media channels.

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