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!

Read the latest stories

The New Red Bull Illume Best of Instagram by SanDisk Category Starts Today!

Submit your most gram-worthy adventure and action sports images on Instagram by tagging @redbullillume and #rbi19submission now!

Photographer: Corey Wilson Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athlete: Mick Fanning Location: O'ahu, Hawaii, USA

Photographer: Corey Wilson Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athlete: Mick Fanning Location: O'ahu, Hawaii, USA

Red Bull Illume, the world´s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest, returns for a fifth edition with the entirely new Best of Instagram by SanDisk category which starts today! This category is for photographers most gram-worthy moments of show-stopping adventure and action sports submitted on Instagram. This category begins on February 1, 2019 which is three months earlier than the submission phase for the main contest and each month a winner will be chosen by the community. However, and this is important, the category is an essential part of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 and is not separate to the main contest.

From February to June 2019, photographers can submit their images within the first two weeks of each month, from noon on the 1st until noon on the 14th (CET). They only need to tag @redbullillume and use the hashtag #rbi19submission in the caption on their Instagram post. After the submission phase a shortlist of 25 images will enter the public vote (link to page) which is open from noon on the 15th until noon on the 22nd (CET) of each month. The monthly winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Best of Instagram by SanDisk is considered as an official Image Quest 2019 category; the five monthly winning images will automatically qualify as one of the 55 finalist images of the overall contest and will be on display at the Exhibit Tour. Winning photographers will also be invited to the Winner Award Ceremony at the end of November 2019 and have the chance to become the category winner as well as the overall winner of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019.

Remember, Best of Instagram by SanDisk means exactly that; the Best of Instagram.  If a photographer has a great image that’s not best suited to the Instagram category, no problem. From May 1 until July 31, 2019 this image can be submitted to the main contest with 10 other categories that make up the Image Quest 2019.

So, whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer it’s time to submit your images!

Make sure to tag @redbullillume and #rbi19submission to enter!

Red Bull Illume is back! And it’s easier than ever to enter

Red Bull Illume begins again – the contest that was already at the pinnacle of adventure and action sports photography is taking things even higher.

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

Good news, photography fans: Red Bull Illume returns – and it’s better than ever.  The adventure and action sports imagery contest has evolved – but it’s still the ultimate window into the world of outdoor athletes and the incredible lives of those who document them.

Two incredible new submission categories
There’s two great new categories (yes, including one for video) that bring new challenges to image creators everywhere – and inviting a whole new world of incredible action into the Red Bull Illume ecosystem. The next new category brings some of the best news – it’s easier than ever to enter! For the new Instagram by SanDisk category, with just two tags - @redbullillume and #rbi19submission -on your most gram-worth shots, you’re in – it’s that easy. Learn more here – and start submitting your best Insta stuff ASAP!

Submissions start May 1 – but Instagram by SanDisk starts sooner

For the general contest, the submission period opens on May 1, and ends July 31. As in years past, just register here at redbullillume.com to submit your images for the contest. But for the contest category Best of Instagram by SanDisk, you can start tagging and submitting as soon as February 1 – more on that here.

New Partners arrive, good friends return

A contest of this scale simply wouldn’t be possible without some help from our friends – we’re happy to say that Sonyis on board as a major sponsor, specifically for the Innovation by Sony category – as well SanDisk standing strongly behind the Instagram by SanDisk category.

Other sponsors include Skylum – producers of next-generation photo-editing software – and photography accessory and apparel brand COOPH.

The categories of competition

One of the defining marks that set Red Bull Illume apart as a photo contest was the unique categories for submission. These carefully chosen themes helped shape the atmosphere of the contest, challenged photographers, and helped judges narrow down their selections from thousands of incredible images.

2019 Categories

  • Creative
  • Energy
  • Innovation by Sony
  • Playground
  • Wings
  • Spirit
  • Masterpiece
  • Moving Images
  • Instagram by SanDisk
  • Raw
  • Emerging

A quick note: Raw is a category for images is aptly named after industry term for files ‘straight out of camera’ – RAW. Distilling the requirements means no post-processing – so it’s all about it getting the shot, in camera. Composition, exposure, timing. How good can you get?

The Emerging category is something we’re particularly excited about – it’s for content creators aged 25 and under, who we believe bring a fresh new look to photography and imaging.

Red Bull Illume – now every two years & global exhibitions

2019 marks the fifth edition of the contest, which began in 2006. We’re happy to announce that Red Bull Illume will now happen a little more regularly – with submission phases opening up every other year, with exhibition years following. Exhibitions will be more global than ever before, with three tours running in parallel, including both the famous nighttime outdoor exhibitions, and the new indoor exhibitions – all touching down in capitals and cultural hubs worldwide.

The best Red Bull Illume yet

With all these changes – plus all the stunning images Red Bull Illume photographers have been shooting over the last 2.5 years – we’re absolutely confident this will be the best Red Bull Illume yet. So, don’t waste any time – start shooting and gathering your images for submission now – and maybe drop a couple into the Best of Instagram category right away!

For up-to-date information on the Best of Instagram, make sure you're following Red Bull Illume!

Infographic: Your guide to Red Bull Illume 2019!

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest is back for more! With new categories, new submission dates and more. To help you keep up, we have put everything you need to know in 2019 into one handy infographic!

For up to the minute updates - follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube!

Video Teaser: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019

Red Bull Illume is back! The world's greatest adventure and actions sports imagery contest returns in 2019 for a 5th edition... and this one is set to be better than ever!

In this video we introduce to you what’s new, what’s returning and how to enter the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

We are social! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube!

Gallery: 9 Ice Cold Images from Red Bull Illume History

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

© Kirsten Quist / Red Bull Illume

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

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

A new year, a new Red Bull Illume!

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

Red Bull Illume 2013: Morgan Maassen, Lifestyle category winner

© Morgan Maassen / Red Bull Illume

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

The first ‘digital’ photo contest

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

A new standard set, a global audience

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

The ultimate career Launchpad

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

Working for the photos

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

Bigger, better, broader

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

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

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

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

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

© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Illume

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

Red Bull Illume Image Quest: Timeline Revised for 2019 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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