Gearing Up for Shoots

Denis Klero, winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 Close-Up category, recently completed a gigantic photo-mission: three weeks on the road during the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme, an ultra-stage bike race from Moscow to Vladivostok. Following that, there were no days off for him, as he headed out to the Red Bull Flugtag. Two completely different photo-missions, two different approaches and he talked us through them.

© Denis Klero

What's your go-to gear setup?

First of all, we need to divide shoots into two types; Active Reporting and Staged Photography.

During Active Reporting, what really matters is mobility, accessibility of gear and a quick response time. This is why I carry all my gear to the shoot in a backpack or rolling bag, and at the site I put it on a harness I attach to my belt (Photos of this are below).

To summarize the gear: I carry two cameras, two powerful flashes and some fast lenses - all of these are crucial to this kind of reporting.

Fast lenses, wide open, allow blurring the background when it's impossible to beautifully link foreground and background because of so-called "rubbish". 

Usually, I carry two Sony A99II, two flashes and four to five lenses; a 24mm 2.0, a 50mm 1.4, a 70-200mm 2.8 a 16-35mm 2.8 and (to be safe) a 15mm 2.8 fisheye.

Staged Photography is much simpler in terms of gear. I try to use one lens: 24–70 mm 2.8.First of all, in some cases it allows you not to distort space (70 mm), and in some cases it adds an effect of viewer's presence in the photo (35 mm). Availability of a large number of intermediate focal distances is an undeniable advantage.

Secondly, I work mostly with fixed aperture, and it is easier for me to zoom on a photo rather than to go forward and back. Contrary to reporting, staged photography makes it possible to work on the scene for a much longer time and to use and elaborate backgrounds for my own purposes. All the above mainly relates to wide-shot scenes. Of course, when I shoot portraits, still life, big details, I use different optics, including prime lenses.

In both cases, I use two cameras. During reporting, they are equipped with different lenses to have a possibility to quickly change the focal distance, simply by changing camera. This takes no more than a second while changing optics on one camera may take up to 15 seconds, which is inadmissible in some cases. The second camera is also a spare one for the case of possible malfunction. During staged photography, it is used as a reserve camera. It would be very hurtful if, due to a camera malfunction, the long hours spent on preparation on arranging the shooting goes down the drain.

What never leaves your bag/what goes with you to every shoot?

My brain! Everything depends on the type of shoot. I always have my Sony A99II in my bag, regardless of what I'm shooting on that given day or during that assignment.

How do you choose gear for different projects?

Surely, it depends on the specifics or, in case of staged photography, on the idea of the project. In case of events, the site size is of importance. It is necessary to understand whether a usual "report" set is sufficient for work, whether focal distances are sufficient. Then, if upper points are available, it is possible to use such lens as tilt-shift. Another important parameter for selection of additional gear is duration. The duration of the event determines availability of time to experiment with filters, lenses and any methods used in photography (long exposure, unusual shooting angles, etc.). Depending on the time of holding the event (day or night), a decision is made to use additional studio flashlights.

And it is possible to use any type of equipment at staged photography: from smartphone camera to a full-fledged analog camera. Everything depends on the creative task.

How different is packing for an event like the Trans-Siberian Extreme and for the Flugtag?

Red Bull Flugtag in comparison with Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme bicycle racing is a rather short, bright, and emotional event, just manage to shoot. Creativity involves usage of unusual points for shooting, that is why I try to get in such places where shooting is not obvious. All the rest is classical reporting: it is important to quickly see the moment and push the button. And the main thing here is that the gear does not fail. So, I rely on autofocus, especially when I shoot with open aperture.

It is simultaneously simpler and more complicated for Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme. The event is time-stretched, and action is the same day after day, so there is a chance to reshoot if something doesn't work. Lifestyle scenes are also quite long, you have time to take in the situation and compose the photo.

The tricky thing is that during 23 days a spectator watching the race is not bored when looking at your photos. You have to use all the potential of your brain and look for not only interesting creative solutions but use different technical means and special effects to create something new, non-standard, and unusual for such race. Here, your photographer's talent is not only fully manifested, but seriously improved due to the tasks solved.

Studio, artificial light, smoke cartridges, water sprays – all this gave the possibility to diversify photos. And at night I had to use additional flashlight.

In comparison with Flugtag kit, Trans-Siberian Extreme kit was upgraded with another camera — a mirrorless system Sony A9 and almost the same set of lenses (not available in the photo). This is the newest camera that came into the market this summer, and we decided to test it in the field. There are also two tripods in the kit, mainly to use at night or to install a remote camera with the possibility to run it at a distance.

Also, in the picture we can see a 220V car voltage converter for continuous charging of batteries of different devices. An Internet router is required to promptly send photos directly from car to web-site. Both kits have a laptop, which is necessary for quickly processing and transferring photographic materials for publications.

The used lighting gear is worth discussing separately.

 

In the picture, we can see impulse light with a possibility of high-speed synchronization, a LED lamp, smoke cartridges for generating fog and other effects, two types of light stands, light generating heads, etc.

LED lamp was used for night lifestyle shootings at stops during rest and for shooting cyclists from car while they are on road. Constant light is more convenient in such cases:

it enables the autofocus to work better, and the final picture does not feature "frozen" parts of moving parts of bicycle and driver, as with impulse light. And such light is just convenient to form a light-and shadow picture, so to speak, online.

At the top of Photo 4, there is overwrap: it was used to protect the lighting gear from rain.

During the race, I used two types of light stands because each one has its advantages: Black stands are light-weighted and compact, and chrome plated C-stands are convenient for use on uneven surfaces which are typical for races.

 

Smoke cartridges made it possible to diversify boring night photos. They added volume to the photo and made the light more visible and tangible.

Sometimes, in search of an unusual shooting angle I have to climb different piles and trees. To climb trees, I typically use usual climbing irons.

If there’s only one body + lens setup you could use for an assignment, what would you use?

Sony A99II + 24-70 2.8

Do you carry anything with you that no one else has?

I think I have nothing special in my bag.

Any items you would like to add to your gear bag?

It would be nice to have additional pockets and sections.

Any tips for starting photographers?

Start small and gradually complicate and increase the number of your gear. Do not think that if you buy all types of lenses and studio light you will get genius shots. You have to know how to use this equipment, I mean not only to study manuals but to understand experimentally how this gear affects the final result. Years may pass... Everything must be gradual. Good luck!

 

To see more of Denis' work, head over to his website and give him a follow on Instagram!

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Behind the Winner Shot by JB Liautard

With four of his images in the Semi-Final and two images in the Final JB Liautard is one of the big winners of the Red Bull Illume 2019 Image Quest. One of his creations even made it all the way to the top and took away the win for the all-new Emerging by Red Bull Photography Category. Watch close, cause THIS is how he managed to get the shot!

Featuring in the winning shot is the talented rider Jeremy Berthier, who told us the exciting story behind the shot from his perspective:

"Shooting with JB is fun and we always have a good time but it can be kind of intense sometimes. When we are focusing on a special picture at the end of a long day of riding when I'm already pretty tired and the light starts to fade."

But it takes more than the perfect timing - the relationship between photographer and athlete is essential for a spectacular shot. "It's way easier to work with someone you know well, we trust each other and that's a big thing. Jb also knows my limits and which tricks are possible", Jeremy says.

He is still buzzing with excitement when it comes to Red Bull Illume: "Having this shot winning a category at Red Bull Illume is just amazing and it's a real pleasure to see how it's shared around the world. I'm stoked we took this picture near the village I grew up in and on the trail I built myself. It's a great reward and I would like to thank my friend JB for his crazy work and the people at Commencal Bicycles for putting together the video project that lead to this picture."

Video by: Léon Perrin for Commencal Bicycles

See more incredible work by Jean-Baptiste Liautard on his Instagram or check out his website!

Find the outstandig athlete Jeremy Berthier on Instagram and Facebook!

Gallery: 7 Skiing Images To Stoke Your Backcountry Sessions!

Once again this winter season has got the skiers amongst us praying for snowfalls and blue bird days. To make waiting more bearable and up your motivation to level "Chest-Deep", we looked for those one of a kind shots, moments that let your mind drift and your knees shiver at the same time. No matter if you're a Freerider, Tourer or a mix of both, these 7 images from the Image Quest 2019 will make you want to hop in your boots and eat some champagne pow!

Feel inspired? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more adventure and action sports! 

CCS digital_fabric® illuminates the Global Indoor Exhibition 2019

The stunning finalist images of the Image Quest 2019 are illuminated in the true style of Red Bull Illume on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes provided by our partner CCS digital_fabric®.

© CCS digital_fabric

In 2019, Red Bull Illume presents an entirely new global exhibition. See the creative and captivating finalist images of the Image Quest 2019 illuminated in unique style on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes created by our partner CCS digital_fabric®.

CCS digital_fabric® GmbH is based in Dusseldorf. Established in 1979, it has a clear international driven orientation. In 2001, CCS revolutionized the display technology by introducing the fabric frame® which became a worldwide standard in a very short amount of time. CCS digital fabric has been an innovation driver and pioneer when it comes to digital printing.

On December 11 at the world-famous Hangar-7 in Salzburg, it was 'lights on' for this unique experience. Guests and photographers alike watched on in awe as the 60 finalist images from the Image Quest 2019 were lit up on these incredible screens for the first time.

The Global Exhibit Tour has stops around Europe and the USA in 2020 confirmed and soon to be announced. Make sure to stay tuned to see if Red Bull Illume, and CCS digital_fabric®, are coming to your city!

For more on CCS digital_fabric® and their incredible print services, check out their website!

Eva Berten makes shooting dancing a harmonious experience

Eva tells us how her passion for dance translates into her photography, and how a desire to capture her dancer friends artistic movements led her to be a semi-finalist of the Image Quest 2019!

© Eva Berten / Red Bull Illume

A dancer since the age of five, Eva Berten's photography captures all the vibrancy and dynamism associated with breaking. Her super clean shot of Charlize Glass executing a flip named 'suicide' won over the judges as she made it to the semi-finals of the Wings category, and into the Photobook! We wanted to know more!

Check out the interview and more great images below… 

How does it feel to have made it to the semi-final stage of the Wings category?

Honestly, I never thought that I would make it so far. This contest is known for the best sports and action photos and I'm extremely honored to have one of my pictures amongst them this year. Especially since it's in the Wings category. To me it represents Red Bull's slogan in the best possible way. 

Tell us a little bit about how you came to shoot breaking?

I started with dance photography in 2013/2014. I'm a dancer myself and some of my crew members needed photos for a workshop flyer. I was already working as a photographer that time, so of course they asked me to take the pictures. I was so amazed by the results and shooting what I love, dance, made me so happy. Since that day I couldn't stop anymore. I started to shoot more friends and somehow got my first bookings for some major dance events in Germany and international. The rest is history.

What’s the biggest challenge in capturing someone mid-air?

The hardest part is definitely the timing! You really need to have some kind of feeling for the right moment. And a fast finger. Personally, I think it really helps that I'm a dancer myself and know what exactly I'm trying to capture. I always try to get the picture with one shot only. I try to be patient and wait for that one moment. Burst mode would be too easy.

Do you choreograph the moves to get a shot that you have in mind? Or are you just capturing moments as they happen?

Usually I don't choreograph it. Most of the dancers just freestyle in front of my camera and I take the shots in the right moments. I try to study dancers and their style. If I know their signature moves, how they enter them and movements they usually do, I'm prepared and ready for the shoot. I only choreograph the moves if I have a specific picture that I want to capture. But usually I just go with the flow and see what's the result. I feel like choreographing everything and trying to realize this one specific idea, can kind of limit your freedom and opportunities during the shooting.

Any locations you would love to shoot breaking, but haven’t yet?

Yes! Definitely Iceland. And a trip with six amazing dancers is already scheduled for next year. I can't wait to take some breathtaking shots in these jaw-dropping landscapes. It's going to be a tough project, since Iceland is usually really cold and the dancers need to be warm to show their best moves. But I'm 100% sure the freezing is going to be worth it!

Finish the sentence: “If I wasn’t an action and adventure sports photographer I would be…"

... a professional dancer.

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

Next up are some small community events, editing tons of photos that I took at the Funkin Stylez World final in Düsseldorf and organizing a little shooting tour through Germany. You can check out more of my work on Instagram @evaberten or on my website www.evaberten.com!

World premiere of the new Indoor Exhibition at Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria

The finalist images of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest are exhibited for the first time in an entirely new indoor set up at the famous Hangar-7, Salzburg, Austria from December 12, 2019 onwards!

Red Bull Illume is excited to present an entirely new exhibition, which celebrated its world premiere on December 11 at the outstanding Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria! See the creative and captivating finalist images of the Image Quest 2019, selected by 50 esteemed judges out of 59,551 submissions, that make up this unique experience. The Top 60 images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 make their first indoor stop at the amazing work of architecture that is Hangar-7 in Salzburg. There, the stunning images are illuminated in the true style of Red Bull Illume on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes.

This brand-new set up of the lightboxes, on which the images are displayed for the first time at Hangar-7, is provided by the German based company CCS digital_fabric®. They revolutionized the display technology by introducing fabric_frame®. These high-quality frames provide the perfect means of showcasing the high-tech prints and make the Red Bull Illume exhibition truly amazing!

From its architectural elegance to its beautiful interior, the venue itself is a sight to behold. Home to a stunning collection of historical aircraft, Formula 1 race cars and other unique mementos from sporting history, Hangar-7 makes the ideal space for the kick-off of the Global Indoor Exhibit Tour.

On December 11 the opening night for invited guests took place. Attending the event and celebrating the Image Quest 2019 were photographers like Masterpiece by EyeEm and Playground category winner Lorenz Holder, Wings category winner Philip Platzer, Lifestyle category winner Alexander Wick as well as Red Bull Illume 2019 semi-finalists Markus Berger and Luis Gallo.

They were joined by legendary BMX athlete Senad Grosic and paragliding hero Paul Guschlbauer. Special guests from the photography industry completed the line-up for this magical night.

The unique exhibition is free to visit and is open daily from December 12, 2019 until February 9, 2020 during Hangar-7’s usual opening hours of 9am to 10pm. The kickoff of the Indoor Exhibit Tour is set to be an event like no other, so make sure you stop by and get inspired by the amazing images!

The Global Exhibit Tour has stops around Europe and the USA in 2020 confirmed and soon to be announced. Make sure to stay tuned to see if Red Bull Illume is coming to your city!

Finalist images illuminate South Tyrol, Italy until January 2020

The world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery exhibition opened to the public on November 30, 2019 in front of the LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography atop Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, Italy.

© Damian Agreiter

Red Bull Illume has earned its place as the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. In November the winners of the Image Quest 2019 were crowned at a spectacular Winner Award Ceremony at LUMEN atop Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, Italy. The Museum of Mountain Photography will also host the first outdoor exhibit tour stop. The stand-alone exhibition will present the top 60 images of the Image Quest 2019 on 2x2m lightboxes in an amazing scenery at a height of 2,275m/7,464ft. above sea level. The opening of the exhibition coincided with the official start of the ski season at Plan de Corones on November 30 and will be open until December 15, 2019. After that, the images will be displayed in magical Brunico-Bruneck, Italy until January 6, 2020. 

The location is at least as stunning as the exhibited images themselves. The breathtaking LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography has an 1800m2 exhibition space and features the most amazing moments of mountain photography. Over four floors it shows the history of mountain photography, from its beginnings until today and gives well deserved credit to the photographers behind the pictures. 

Situated in the beautiful Pustertal Valley, Plan de Corones is considered by many to be the number one wintersports resort in South Tyrol, Italy and all those who enjoy culture and relaxation in beautiful surroundings. So, make your next ski trip extra special! Head to Plan de Corones for great snow and experience the 60 finalist images in front of LUMEN at 2,275m/7,464ft. The exhibition will be open daily from 8.30am until 4.30pm and is free to visit, the opening hours coincide with the opening hours of the gondola.

Following the stop at LUMEN, the exhibition will travel to Brunico-Bruneck, Italy, also known as the heart of the Pustertal Valley. The images will be illuminated at the town hall square after dark from December 19, 2019 until January 6, 2020. Visitors can get in the festive mood at the Bruneck Christmas market, and combine this with a unique look at the 60 finalists that were chosen by 50 esteemed judges out of 59,551 submissions, that make up this stunning experience.

These tour stops atop Plan de Corones and in Brunico-Bruneck, Italy are set to be an event like no other, so be sure to stop by!

See all the stops on our dedicated Exhibition Page!

Ben Thouard is crowned overall winner of the Image Quest 2019!

Taking home the grand title as overall winner of the fifth edition of Red Bull Illume is Ben Thouard with his mind-bending underwater image of athlete Ace Buchan surfing in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, in French Polynesia!

© Ben Thouard :

Overall Winner, Image Quest 2019 © Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest has a new name in the overall winner circle: Ben Thouard! His underwater epic shot in the glassy clear waters of Tahiti was chosen by a panel of 50 esteemed judges as the winner. If perspective were ever needed at a time like this, Ben’s image is number 1 out of a phenomenal 59,551 submissions.

We are delighted to add Ben’s name to the list of overall winners of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. A list that includes iconic photographers Lorenz Holder, Chris Burkard and Fred Mortagne. His progression from edition to edition has seen him rise from semi-finalist in 2013, to finalist in 2016 and now overall winner in 2019!

Every image tells a story, and here’s Ben’s story behind the shot:

“I‘ve dedicated the last few years to shooting underwater, looking for new angles and a new way to shoot surfing and waves. Shooting surfing from underwater is a whole new world and I love it! 

“Tahiti has some of the clearest water in the world so it was easy for me to take advantage of it and explore it as much as I could. 

“This photo was shot during a freesurf session right before the WCT event in Teahupo‘o. This is Ace Buchan kicking out from the barrel through the wave, a technique to escape a close-out wave. 

“Luckily I was right below, breathless with my waterhousing waiting for this moment and I was able to capture the whole sequence of it; this frame from the beginning of the sequence is the most powerful one because of the water around his face and body.”

As overall winner, Ben was selected from the 11 category winners, meaning he will take home the category winning prizes from Red Bull Illume Partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum and COOPH - PLUS a Sony a9 camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens from the G-Master range. SanDisk will also take him on a shooting experience the SanDisk Extreme Team!

That’s not all, his image, along with the other of the 60 finalist images, will now be illuminated on 2x2m lightboxes at the Red Bull Illume Global Outdoor Exhibit Tour which begins tonight at LUMEN

All of the finalists, as well as the rest of the Top 260 images, are also published in the Red Bull Illume 2019 Limited Edition Photobook, which is available to order right now!

Once again, a huge thank you goes out to our partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Salewa, Petzl and Sunnybag for a memorable event and an amazing Image Quest!

But, most of all thanks to every photographer and content creator out there that submitted to the contest!

Winner, SanDisk Extreme Award: Philip Platzer!

SanDisk presents the Extreme Award to Philip for his amazing sequence of a record-breaking mountain bike ride.

Markus Stoeckl performs during VMax 200 at the Atacama Desert, Chile on December 10, 2016
Editors Note: Pictures is stitched from multiple photos!

Winner, SanDisk Extreme Award © Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

Our partners at SanDisk are experts in making photography storage solutions ready to deal with the toughest of conditions, that’s why they present the SanDisk Extreme Award to Philip Platzer!

Here’s the story of the image:

“I took the photo for Red Bull during the V-Max Project at the Atacama Desert in Chile, in 2016. The highspeed mountainbiker Markus Stöckl tried to beat the world record in speed with a serial MTB – which was a success, he reached 167.6 km/h. After I did a few classic close-up shots and pans, I wanted to show the whole scenery in one shot. The problem was I could not go close enough to do it with a wide-angle lens and with a longer focal length I didn’t get the view in the frame.

”The solution was to do a panorama shot. After I found my position, I did multiple photos in portrait format on 35mm before Max did his run. When Max was riding I did the sequence of him with the same focal length and perspective. No tripod was required.

“To get the final result I had to do some extra work in photoshop: First of all I stitched the panorama, in the end it was made out of six single shots. After this I had to add the sequence, which was quite an issue because of the stitching. Everything was slightly distorted and it took some time to fit the 44 shots of Max back into the scenery.”

You can follow the Winner Award Ceremony live here!

Winner, Salewa Trophy: Kamil Sustiak!

Kamil Sustiak was chosen by our partner as the winner of the Salewa Trophy, awarded to the Best Mountain Sports Image!

Winner, Salewa Trophy © Kamil Sustiak / Red Bull Illume

The Dolomite based outdoor gear, clothing and shoes company Salewa, a partner of the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony, definitely has the necessary experience and knowledge to choose the Best Mountain Sports Image from the thousands of mountain sports submissions to the Image Quest 2019.

They chose Kamil Sustiak! Here is the info about the winning shot:

“We woke up and the first thought that came to my mind was that this morning was going to be special. I always say that as it makes snoozing the early morning alarm way harder. Little did I know that the nature had already started working on its magic tricks. We arrived to the line surrounded by fog so thick that we could almost not see each other. An hour passed and we could only sense the sunrise that was supposed to make this morning so special.

“I thought, well not today mate, happened before, will happen again … the world is not turning around your camera to make you happy every time you press the shutter. I was ready to bail when all of a sudden the fog dropped just a tiny bit down into the valley and showed us what was actually going on around us. This spectacular scenery lasted for about an hour before the clouds underneath us disappeared and the world turned normal again.”

Follow the Winner Award Ceremony live!

Category Winner, Wings: Philip Platzer!

The Megaswing gets the win! This phenomenal capture by Philip Platzer is the Wings category winner in 2019!

Marco Fuerst performs at the Red Bull Megaswing 2016 in Fromberg, Austria on July 7, 2016.

Category Winner, Creative by Skylum © Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

Take the Red Bull Sky Dive Team, two hot air balloons and a giant swing and what do you get? That’s right, it’s the winner of the Wings category!

Philip Platzer’s image is as joyful as it is exciting, and he told us all about it:

“Together with the Red Bull Skydive Team, I did this crazy Project called “Megaswing“ back in 2016. After my assignment I already knew this had to be a tricky one: Two Hot Air Balloons, one with a long rope attached and the other one to jump out with the swing, and of course the Skydiver with his parachute.

“After the first couple of jumps I realized that I wouldn’t get the perfect shot by simply shooting from the inside of the basket they were jumping out of. Lucky me, I had my monopod in the car as well as a pair of radio-triggers. My solution to get the right angle was to hold the camera, that I had attached to my monopod, as deep under the basket and just hope to get the perfect framing.

“Another thing, I asked the athlete Marco Fürst to turn a little bit towards my direction to avoid getting an ass-shot and to get this playful mood in the image. In the end it was the very last try which gave us the moneyshot.”

Congratulations to the other finalists; Pablo Jiménez, Martin Golob, Lachie Carracher, Marcelo Maragni and Jairo Díaz Dévora.

Head over to our Facebook live stream to see the overall winner announced!