Michael Clark: What’s in the bag?

Red Bull Illume’s exploration into the bags of action and adventure sports photographers continue, as we take a look at what outdoor photographer and former physicist Michael Clark has stashed in his bag.

© Michael Clark

Do you have a go-to body and lens combo?
“I’m not sure – I tailor the cameras I take to each assignment and shoot a wide variety of adventure sports. If I’m shooting fast-moving action, then I go for the Nikon D4 and a 24-70mm or 70-200mm Nikkor. If it’s a slower adventure sport like rock climbing or ice climbing then I would take the Nikon D810 and the 24-70mm or the 14-24mm Nikkor. 

For portraits, lifestyle and predictable adventure sports I will also add the Hasselblad kit and a few lenses. If I’m shooting portraits, the Hasselblad is my main camera with the ridiculously sharp Hasselblad HC 100mm f/2.2 lens, which is the equivalent to an 80mm f/1.0 lens in 35mm terms. The Nikons are still my go-to kits for 70% of what I shoot. At a bare minimum, I’ll take a Nikon camera body and the big three zoom lenses – the 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm.”

Tell us about more about that Hasselblad…
“I purchased the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi and four lenses in December last year. In the film days I shot a fair bit with medium format cameras and loved the look and feel of the images. These days it’s getting tougher and tougher to set your work apart from the pack. To that end, I opted to get a digital medium format camera for several reasons, including the high shutter speed flash syncs, the shallow depth of field and the insanely amazing 50 MP 16-bit image files. 

Making the decision to buy a camera system that costs way more than my car was a tough decision and there were many factors that went into this purchase. The image quality out of the Hasselblad is stunning. No 35mm DSLR can touch it and the 16-bit files allow me to really work over the image files if I need to with no banding or degradation. 

As for lenses, I have the 24mm, 100mm 150mm and 50-110mm Hasselblad lenses. These lenses are wicked sharp from corner to corner. As far as sharpness goes, these lenses are very nearly just as sharp in the corners as they are in the center. I work with the Hasselblad for everything from portraits to lifestyle images and even action photography – if I can accurately predict the movement of the athlete. 

The Hasselblad certainly isn’t as versatile as my Nikon DSLRs, especially when it comes to adventure sports, but when it works it is a phenomenal tool. It also really slows you down and forces you to get creative in a way that I have not found with DSLRs, so the images end up looking more crafted. For a full explanation of why I added such an expensive camera system to my already extensive DSLR kit, check out this post on my blog.”

Any other items you wish you could add to your bag?
“For still photography I have more gear than I can deal with. The gear images here are only a fraction of all the photo equipment that I own and use. You can see my complete gear list on my blog. I have a ton of lighting gear and work with strobes on just about every shoot. I suppose it would be awesome to add a Red Digital Cinema camera (like an Epic or the Scarlet) and flush out my video gear a bit more.”

Do you carry anything that no one else has? 
“I almost always carry a Lastolite EzyBalance White Balance disc and a Sekonic L-478DR light meter. These may not be super unique but I rarely ever see my peers carrying a light meter or a white balance disc. I learned long ago that setting in-camera custom white balance settings results in better color out of my Nikons and also speeds up my workflow considerably. Using the white balance disc assures that I am capturing accurate ski tones when shooting portraits. 

When using Strobes, I always use a light meter to dial in the lighting perfectly. The Sekonic also has quite a few advanced functions that allow you to control all of your lighting and even tells you if the lighting falls within the dynamic range of your camera. Another item I always take with me is the Sensor Gel Stick to clean my camera sensors. I clean my sensors before (and sometimes during) each and every assignment to avoid dust spots and especially when shooting video.” 

Where was the most challenging location you had to shoot?

“Oddly enough, the most challenging location I have ever had to work in was not on an adventure sports assignment but in the Vale do Javari in the Amazon while documenting indigenous tribes in an extremely remote area of Brazil. I do well in the cold, and even in extreme cold, but heat and humidity are really hard for me. In the Amazon, it was 113°F (45°C) and very nearly 100% humidity. That put us all on the edge of heat stroke. Then add in the mosquitos and no-see-ums eating you alive — it was pretty miserable. 

There were also way more objective hazards including: jaguars, anacondas, pit vipers, giant spiders, caimans, uncontacted indigenous tribes, malaria, diseases etc. With skiing, climbing or most other adventure sports there are objective hazards but at least you can predict them to some degree and make decisions about when and where to go. In the Amazon there were 50 ways to die and you hadn’t even gotten out of your hammock yet. There are still 60ft (18m) long Anacondas in that region of the Amazon that can swallow an adult human in the blink of an eye. 

I don’t really feel the need to ever go back to the Amazon. It was a beautiful and amazing place to see, especially such a remote area, but it was really tough. It took me a month or so to recover and at least six weeks before all of the bug bites went away. I also brought home a parasite on the last trip and it took six months to get rid of that.”

Check out a selection of Michael’s images in the gallery below and find out more about the man on his website, Facebook and Instagram.

Keep coming back to redbullillume.com for your weekly dose of action and adventure sports photography and galleries of inspirational images. 




You can also get a sneak peek of the Red Bull Illume 2016 submissions on Facebook and Instagram.

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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!

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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.

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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 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.

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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