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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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.

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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.

Gallery: 8 Surf Shots to Stoke Your Summer Sessions

The summer season has got the surfers amongst us dreaming of big swells, so here’s a tribute to some of the great surf photographers from the 2016 Image Quest. The nature of the sport means that surf photographers can wait for hours, days, even weeks for the perfect shot. Here we present 8 times that determination, skill and timing have come together before the lens to create epic moments that will last forever.

© Zakary Noyle / Red Bull Illume

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