From Snow to Sea: Catching up with Vernon Deck

Vernon Deck is the definition of a season-chaser. As much at home in the snow as he is on the open seas, he spends the summer months sailing around the world, while fulfilling his "regular" job as a photographer in the winter. We caught up with him to talk about what's been going on lately.

© Vernon Deck / Red Bull Illume

First off, it’s been a while since we last spoke. How have you been?

Life is good, 2017 has been another interesting year. The European winter was the worst that I've ever seen, almost no snow and much too warm but I still managed to shoot some great moments and keep my clients happy. Then in May I flew back to Australia to continue my mission to sail around the world in my 37ft sailboat “Lets Live”.

There's a popular saying “you cant change the weather”, well this is proving to be wrong. We have managed to change the weather and its having a pretty massive impact. I see it on both sides of the world, in the mountains and in the ocean.

I try to keep my footprint light and hope that my images will inspire at least a few people to go out and see our beautiful planet and think about their own impact on the world.

Right now I'm recovering from surgery. Last week I was on a photoshoot at Kitzsteinhorn in Austria and ended up breaking my collarbone badly. Back in Zurich they screwed me back together and I'll be fine in a few weeks.

How has Red Bull Illume influenced your career or life as a photographer?

Getting the invite to Chicago as a Red Bull Illume finalist was huge! Just being surrounded by all that talent, I mean the 55 best action sport photographers in the world, that's something! That alone gave me a confidence boost. Generally we fly under the radar, we go from shoot to shoot, images get used widely and the public see a great image but have no idea of who made it.

Red Bull Illume celebrates the photographers. I saw some very inspirational work in Chicago and had the opportunity to speak with some of the photographers and gain an insight into their work ethic and motivations. Obviously it doesn't hurt to be able to tell clients about this success.

What’s it like shooting for a brand with a special mission in mind versus what you would normally shoot? How different is the approach?

I am fortunate enough to have worked closely with Volcom for over a decade now. They give me a very loose brief and leave me pretty much total freedom creatively. This is amazing and I cant thank them enough for trusting me. It also means that I have to continually come up with ideas which in turn keeps everything fresh. I just trust my instincts on this.

I have other clients though that provide pretty exact storyboards for each shoot. They still want my input and personal style but need for example a very specific shot of a girl hiking through the snow at a 40 degree angle to me while looking past my left shoulder in order to portray the jacket well. Working to strict guidelines is very easy in a way as you can tick off images as you get them and be very efficient with your time.

How does your daily life influence your photography? We know you spend summers sailing around the world, so how does this impact your work?

Photography is my passion and I do it all the time, wether I'm getting paid or not. I shoot more photos in summer and dont sell any of them. For me life is all about balance. If I chase every job, compete for every contract and really make “success” my goal then I think I would very soon not enjoy photography anymore.

I feel if I can combine photography with my other passions then I will never tire of it. Sailing during summer, getting away from all the social media and hi-speed lifestyles really calms me down and at the same time regenerates within me the passion and energy needed to stay at the top of my game in winter. I find myself sailing along, its 35 degrees in the tropics and I'm thinking about this icefall drop I want to shoot next winter. Its a perfect balance for me.

What would you say is the coolest project you’ve worked on this year? Either personal or professional?

In early September I flew to southern Australia to join a large crew of Volcom riders at a ski resort called Falls Creek. A lot of prep work was done in advance and when we arrived there was a very cool feature waiting for us. I cant say too much more as Volcom will be rolling out the images internationally in an upcoming campaign. We were a crew of 16 and it was a pretty epic week! Such a mix of individuals, so talented, not just snowboarding, they were also making art, playing all sort of instruments and singing. We just had a blast! On top of all the fun though we created some amazing content that people the whole world over will see in the coming months. These are the jobs that I live and breath for!

What’s your current go-to setup for photography?

I have been using Canon products since 1997. Currently I use a 5D lll with prime and zoom lenses from 15mm through to 400mm. I have a bunch of Elinchrom flash gear that I haven't used in about 4 years.

Canon and Nikon, the two major brands for the last 20 years have in my opinion been left in the dust though. I feel like for 80% of my work now I could literally have a couple of Go-Pros, a DJI Mavic and my new iPhone and that would be fine.

This of course also has to do with the fact that a good proportion of my work these days is really for online use only. The actual quality of the image is slowly taking a backseat to the ability to shoot anytime, anywhere and at the drop of a hat. I don't think the big prime lenses will go away but I just might be carrying them a bit less which my knees will appreciate.

What’s one piece of gear you won’t leave your house without?

These days its my iPhone! I did a trip to Brazil last year and took all my normal 30kgs of equipment. Right before I left I brought an iPhone 7+, it has 2 camera/lenses, shoots 10 frames per second, films 4k and super slomo. During the whole trip I hardly used my Canon gear. Obviously in some situations, bad/low light for example the iPhone cant compare to the Canon but in other situations the iphone was way better.

In Rio, where crime is very high, I felt much safer shooting with a iPhone rather than a huge Canon with that white lens that everyone know costs many thousands of dollars.

GoPro and DJI both make it possible to shoot RAW/DNG format now and I'm sure the next iPhone will have that capability too.

Any tips for aspiring photographers?

If you're read this far you will realize that the entry into this profession is much easier than back when I started. A reasonable setup will cost you about the same as 1 decent Canon prime lens. So the best tip I can give is to go and use that cheap amazing equipment as much as you can. When everyone has access then it comes down to how you use it. Most people are not prepared to lie in the mud or climb a tree to get a different angle. Be that person! Get dirty, the gear is all waterproof now anyway.

And last but not least, will we see you at the next Red Bull Illume?

I really hope so! One of the things I noticed in Chicago was that many photographers there had shot their images specifically for the Illume competition. It's such a huge event that it makes sense to devote part of your year to coming up with a concept and spending time and money to create those images.

This is a strategy that I choose not to take. Its like anything, when everyone starts doing it the results will all start to look the same. In Chicago there were quite a few images that were totally amazing but in reality completely posed. The photographers would find amazing locations and then figure out what element of sport they could add to change it from a great landscape image into an image that would qualify it as Action Sport.

I'll keep shooting real action and submit my best images and hope that Red Bull appreciates that. It would really be an honor for me to be chosen as a finalist in the next edition of the Red Bull Illume!

To see more of Vernon's work, check out his website, follow him on Instagram and watch him travel around the world on his YouTube channel!

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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 opens on December 20, 2018, 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.

Don't miss out on the big announcements. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram

Gallery: 7 Diving Images From Another World

Spending hours beneath the waves, dive photographers explore and document the stunning depths of the world's oceans. We have selected 7 of the most incredible diving images from Red Bull Illume. These photos show the gorgeous aesthetics of the underwater world that most will never see with their own eyes. Significantly, they also highlight the importance of interacting with marine life responsibly. This selection takes you from San Salvador Island in the Bahamas to the White Sea in the Arctic Circle, with many stops in between!

© Liz Rogers / Red Bull Illume

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for some big announcements! 

Talking surf photography in Sweden with Sophie Zander

"The surf is best during the fall and winter, but it’s the worst for photographers. When it rains, it rains horizontally into the lens because of the wind!"

© Sophie Zander / Red Bull Illume

What are your basic stats?

I’m Sophie Zander, born in 1993 and raised in the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden. I work full time in a warehouse but photography is one of my biggest interests, so sometimes I get photography work too.

How did you first get into photography?

I was pretty much born into photography. When I was a kid, my father and his best friend had a small studio and dark room just for fun. As I got older, my dad and I would go on trips each year, stopping every time he saw a photo opportunity. Instead of complaining and being a pain in the ass, I thought I would try take some photos too. My parents got me a small compact camera as a summer gift and later I got my dad’s old Canon 10D. I went from hanging around in the studio, to studying media in high school with a focus on photography. That’s how I got to where I am now.

What’s in your camera bag?

In my camera bag you’ll find two camera bodies and a bunch of lenses; 24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8 and sometimes I’ll steal my dad’s 16-35mm 2.8. I take batteries, memory cards, rain covers for the cameras, reusable hand warmers for both me, the surfers and other photographers. You might find some candy in there too.

Why surf photography?

It all started 10 years ago with what I thought was a lie. My dad told me it was possible to surf in Sweden and I said; “No you can’t, liar!”. However, he kept telling me it was true so I told him we had to go shoot some surfing the next time the forecast looked good. Turned out he wasn’t lying! I fell deeply in love with it and became obsessed with the weather forecasts so I wouldn’t miss the next session. 

I honestly don’t know what the appeal is! If I lived somewhere warmer and more tropical I would understand, but I live in Sweden and it’s the complete opposite!

What are the challenges of shooting surfers in Sweden?   

The surf is best during the fall and winter, but it’s the worst for photographers. When it rains, it rains horizontally into the lens because of the wind! It’s snowing, it’s windy, it’s stormy and it’s so cold that your fingers and toes hurt. You wear so many layers of clothing that you look like you’re going to hunt polar bears! I’ve often questioned myself why we do this to ourselves over and over again. Why do we go outside when there are storm warnings on the news? 

I guess it’s a mix of things I love about it - and it gets better and better each time I go. The first time I went to the surf spot, I didn’t know a single person. Now I have an extra family which means a lot to me in so many ways; I’m forever thankful for everything they’ve done for me. 

How did it feel to be a Red Bull Illume semi finalist? 

It felt so surreal! I’ve been following Red Bull Illume since it all started and I’ve been amazed by every photo. Many of my favorite photographers have done really well in the competition; I never thought I’d stand a chance, but I guess I was wrong.  

Talk us through your semi final photo…

My semi final photo was taken in Unstad, Lofoten Islands, Norway! I went there for the yearly father-daughter trip, my dad is more of a landscape photographer and I’m obviously into extreme sports. Norway has a great mix of both and it’s not too far away from where we live. Unfortunately, the sea decided to be flat the whole week and the day the photo was taken was the only day with some kind of waves, more like surf school kind of waves. I was slightly disappointed in both the weather and the waves. Parts of the mountains were covered by fog, then these three random surfers showed up. It looked really cool so I had to take a photo. When I saw the shot on the camera I was like; “this will be one of my Red Bull Illume photos”.

Are there any other adventure and action sports you like to shoot?

I’ve shot motocross and fmx a few times, once in a while I’ll end up in a skatepark. Last summer a few friends went wake surfing, me and my camera joined them and it was so much fun. If I had to choose one sport to shoot for the rest of my life it would be surfing for sure, but it’s fun to add variety.

What other things do you shoot?

Since I’m a music nerd I love to shoot concerts as well. I’ve also found out how fun it is to shoot portraits, simple portraits, nothing too fancy. When there’s no action sports or concerts there’s always different landscapes to explore, Mother Nature sure knows how to blow our minds.

What lessons has photography taught you?

Photography made me more confident, maybe not in life general, but it’s easier for me to make contact with strangers than it was before. If I have my camera with me and I see someone who will be a perfect model for my kind of portraits I will walk up to them and ask if I can take a photo. It’s almost as if I can hide behind my camera and skills.

Photography has also taught me that there’s no “next time”, the light, the composition, nothing will be the same next time. If you want that specific photo, you have pick up the camera and press the shutter button NOW! Not tomorrow or next month. One thing I know for sure is that it sucks to regret things like that. I guess it’s the same in real life too. I’m still kind of bad at it but I’m always trying to learn by mistakes and regrets!

Any upcoming photography projects?

There are a lot of things I’d like to shoot but I’m trying to focus on photos for Red Bull Illume 2019, it’s getting closer! 

What are your plans for the future?

I try to not have too big plans because life never turns out the way you plan it. I’m just going to see what life has to offer and take it from there! 

But I’d love to travel, both to new places and to revisit some old places. 

Thanks to Sophie for this amazing interview! Check out more of her work on her website and on Instagram.