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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Mourning the passing of the great Jake Burton Carpenter

Jake Burton... snowboarding. © JEFF CURTES

Today we mourn the passing, and celebrate the life of the legend Jake Burton Carpenter. Without Jake’s passion and pioneering vision the snowboarding world that we so love would not exist today. In the spirit of taking adventure and action sports to the next level, there was no other like him, he will remain in our hearts forever. Everyone at Red Bull Illume extends our condolences to Jake’s family and friends.

Relive the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony 2019 at LUMEN!

A memorable three-day program including workshops and photo shoots for the finalists culminated in the Winner Award Ceremony, at which the winners were revealed.

The world’s greatest action and adventure photographers from every side of the world gathered at 2,275m / 7.464 ft. high in the LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography in Italy on November, 20 to celebrate the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. The Overall Winner, 11 Category Winners, and Top 60 finalist images were unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony by the host Zoran Filicic.

This incredible show, in phenomenal surroundings of Plan de Corones, South Tyrol, Italy, would not have been possible with just us alone, that's why we want to say a huge thank you to our partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Salewa, Petzl and Sunnybag for a memorable event and an amazing Image Quest!

Get a taste of the action from the ceremony with our gallery below!

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!

Category Winner, RAW: Noah Wetzel!

So good you can’t believe that this image is straight out of camera – this winner of the all-new RAW category is Noah Wetzel!

Category Winner, Creative by Skylum © Noah Wetzel / Red Bull Illume

When we introduced the RAW category, the goal was to take photographers back to the fundamentals of photography, with composition, exposure and lighting all done in front of the lens. We knew we would see some expert creativity, but nothing quite as insane as this!

That’s right, the winner of the RAW category is Noah Wetzel:

“After weeks of preparation and creative conception, I loaded my Subaru and headed north to Wyoming for the Total Solar Eclipse in August of 2017. Arriving a couple days before the eclipse, I linked up with athletes Chris Brule, Evan Grott, and Blake Sommer. The imagery goal was to capture the Eclipse and showcase mountain biking utilizing an in-camera double exposure – a very complex process.

“The morning of, we loaded our packs well before sunrise with light stands, powerful flashes, extra camera gear, and two magnum bottles of champagne to celebrate. After capturing the first image successfully during two minutes of totality, all we had to do was endure the midday sun, waiting for twilight and the attempt at the second frame.

”Unfortunately, I was unaware I had damaged the hot shoe connection on my camera four weeks prior while shooting fly fishing, preventing me from triggering my flashes.

“Our only option required athlete Chris Brule to hit the feature in near darkness at 9pm, allowing me to set the camera to a 2.5 second exposure, manually firing the flashes and freezing Chris mid-air. Nearly escaping complete failure, we hiked out in darkness while sipping on champagne, truly in awe of the total solar eclipse and thankful we were able to capture something special.”

Congrats also to the other four finalists; Jan Kasl, Christian Gisi, Michael Clark and Daniel Bernstål!

Tune in to the Winner Award Ceremony live to see the remaining winners announced!

Category Winner, Playground: Lorenz Holder!

It’s that man again! Lorenz Holder wins his second category of the Image Quest 2019, and this time it’s in Playground!

Category Winner, Playground © Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

The Playground category showcases not only the athlete, but the landscapes, locations, platforms and environments in which they play. The reputation of Lorenz Holder as one of the greatest ever location scouts continues with this unique image taken at the Ouse Valley Viaduct, that would look equally as good hung in a gallery as it would on the cover of a skateboard magazine!

“The Ouse Valley Viaduct is pretty cool old railway bridge in the South of England. When you approach it from the side, you can‘t really see the secret this bridge has to offer, but once you get underneath of one of the arches you can‘t believe your eyes. You are caught in a place that could easily be in the movie Inception. The arches create a very surreal visual effect – when you are taking a picture, you don‘t understand if you are looking down into something or at least you get very confused about what you‘re actually seeing. I was blown away by this fact, but also blown away that this looked like a pretty good spot for skateboarding.

“When I showed Vladic an image of the viaduct, he was on fire to try it out. To be honest it was super hard to ride and Vladic‘s quote that got stuck in my mind was: “This is so hard, when my brain is going down in the transition, my body is already going up again – this will be difficult to get something done here.“ A couple of hours later, when his brain and body came together, he landed this kickflip while the sun was just at the perfect angle as well.”

Lorenz beat other finalists Chris Tedesco, Kamil Sustiak, Geoff Coombs, Matt Georges and Andrius Aleksandravičius to win his second category of the night!

Follow all the action live!

Category Winner, Moving Image: Rupert Walker!

For the first time in Red Bull Illume history, images are no longer standing still. The winner of this brand-new category is Rupert Walker!

Category Winner, Moving Image © Rupert Walker / Red Bull Illume

Congratulations to Rupert Walker and the team at Revel co., who mastered the challenge set by the Moving Image category and in one take created a winning sequence that is dynamic and action packed. Well worthy of being the first ever champion of this brand-new category!

Here’s the story behind the video:

“This shot features Brandon Semenuk and Ryan Howard riding down a custom-built slalom line built and designed by Revel Co. The idea for the shot was to have Brandon Semenuk start out solo in the shot, and have Ryan Howard appear in frame and then exit, doing this a couple times during the shot.

“It was particularly challenging because it required extreme precision from the FPV drone pilot, Jonny Durst, and during this shoot we experienced very heavy rains, which caused the track to be nearly unrideable. From the moisture the track was riding much slower than anticipated and caused the athletes to struggle at performing their best. The dig crew was all hands-on deck with tiger torches and shovels to dry up any wet spots and dig out any soft spots. With hard work from all, a solid shot plan, and great coordination between the drone pilot and the athletes, the shot was accomplished.”

Huge congrats also to the other four finalists; Ben Thouard, Stu Gibson, Maxime Moulin and Joey Schusler!

As we’re on the subject of vide, the Winner Award Ceremony is being stream live right now – check it out!

Category Winner, Masterpiece by EyeEm: Lorenz Holder!

Followers of Red Bull Illume will instantly recognize the photographer, and fans of Game of Thrones will instantly recognize the location! The Masterpiece by EyeEm winner is Lorenz Holder!

Category Winner, Masterpiece by EyeEm © Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

If you go down into the woods today you’ll never believe your eyes. That’s right, it’s two-time overall winner of Red Bull Illume Lorenz Holder teaming up with Senad Grosic again to make another incredible image!

Lorenz goes back-to-back adding the Masterpiece by EyeEm category crown in 2019 to his victory in the Masterpiece category back in 2016! Here’s how the image was made:

“The first time I saw this location was when I was watching Game of Thrones and I was blown away by the pure magic this road generated in me. First, I thought that it‘s of course a CGI composition, but after a little research I found out that this place is actually real and located in Northern Ireland. A year later I was actually standing there with Senad Grosic and trying to get a bunny-hop-tailwhip on camera.

“It was early in the morning with the first sun rays hitting the road and we managed to get a pretty cool shot, but somehow I knew that there was pure potential in the spot. So, we decided to stay a couple days longer and waited for some kind of rain, fog or other particles in the air, so I could use one flash from behind and create a white background to make Senad stand out a bit more and get the focus a bit more on the action. The rain came on our last day and I still remember the goose-bumps I had when I saw the image appearing on the screen of the camera. That‘s when I felt the same magical feeling I got when I watched Game of Thrones for the first time.”

Big shout-out to the other finalists: Kevin Molano, Morgan Maassen, Daniel Rönnbäck, Robin Pearson and Jeffrey Kiefer!

Find out if Lorenz will be the overall winner again! Follow the Winner Award Ceremony live!