My first cliff diving shoot

Ben Dean at the World Cliff Diving series in La Rochelle

To get gigs as a professional photographer takes years of experience. But how do you get that experience in the first place to learn your craft and shoot like a pro?

Aspiring photographer Ben Dean got the opportunity to fly to the beautiful medieval town of La Rochelle in south-west France to cover the second round of the World Cliff Diving Series through Red Bull Reporter. We caught up with him to find out what he learned.

Ben spotted the request for an event photographer on April 30th at Red Bull Reporter, who regularly give young photographers, writers, filmmakers and presenters in the UK the chance to cover the best sports and cultural events. By May 15th, Ben was in France on his own special assignment.

“My brief was basically to get 30 decent shots of the venue and location and to get a few snaps of the athletes during the competition, mainly focusing on the UK’s Gary Hunt. I was also asked to get behind-the-scenes shots, to give people a taste of what goes on behind the barriers.”

Cliff diving is regarded as one of the purest extreme sports around, being both beautifully simple and extremely dangerous to execute. Divers must be extremely fit, have the reflexes of a gymnast and possess the mental strength to cope with the pressure of competition as well as the risk of injury if they get their timing wrong.

For a photographer then, cliff diving has everything – spectacular dives, great locations, tough competition, drama and some real personalities. When you add in a 27 metre tower and 50,000 spectators at the event in La Rochelle, a photographer has all the ingredients they need for a great shoot.

The biggest challenge for the twenty year old from Devon however was that he had no experience of shooting the sport.

“I’ve been to quite a few events in the past like London Freeze, Red Bull Empire of Dirt, MX des Nations, but never as part of the media as an official photographer. Cliff diving was completely new to me.”

“When I saw the first diver jump off the 27m high tower I was completely shocked! I’ve seen a lot of extreme sports live but this really took my breath away. I had to remember to take photos as I was so transfixed by how crazy it was!”

With no prior experience of shooting the sport, Ben also had to learn fast on the day about how to adjust his lens and adapt to the light conditions to capture the action. Divers spend three seconds in the air and hit the water at 85km/h.

Although it takes years for a photographer to build up their equipment to pro standard, Ben was fortunate to have some good gear for his first big photography assignment.

“I used a Canon 50D with battery grip and a Canon 480 flash. Lens-wise I took my Canon 70- 200mm f4 L series lens for the action shots, a Canon 50mm f1.8 for portraits and a Sigma 15- 35m f2.6 for the background and general shots.”

“My main enemy on the day, apart from not having a tripod that worked, was the weather. One minute it was beautifully sunny, the other dark and cloudy so it was pretty hard to keep adjusting settings to make sure the shots came out alright.”

Ben also had to quickly initiate himself with the competition’s new format. As only the top six athletes after the first two heats made the final, divers couldn’t save their best jumps until last, meaning that Ben had to stay focused during the whole event.

What other challenges did he face on the day?

“The media centre, where I was based, was on the opposite side of the harbor to the divers – so I found myself constantly running around from one side to the other to get photos. On the plus side I did manage to talk my way to some good vantage points during the event, which photographers have to do. I had to get someone to hang on to the back of my jeans while I took a shot over the edge of the tower from about 90 feet up [27 metres], which was scary!”

As well as having to deal with the impact of several huge dives, the biggest in the World Cliff Diving series, the athletes also had to cope with cold water conditions at 14°C. Divers were even struggling to walk afterwards. This gave Ben the opportunity to capture some interesting shots of the athletes as they went through a rollercoaster of emotions during the event.

Was he trying to get any particular type of shot on the day?

“I have a strange love for sequence shots. I feel they show exactly what’s happening in one photo without having to explain anything to the viewer.

“My favorite photo was the one of Orlando Duque just before he hit the water, he must have been less than 30cm off the surface. It was a pure stroke of luck as well. I only found out I’d shot it when I got home and started looking through my photos! It’s a shame the picture wasn’t totally sharp though.”

What did he learn from watching the professional photographers at the event?

“I picked up a lot of things on the day. The main thing is that if you’re shooting the same location for years, it’s your job as a photographer to be able to spot something new and exciting that will set you apart from the rest of the field.”

Even better for Ben was that Gary Hunt won the event, giving him the perfect pictures to send back to Red Bull Reporter in London. The British athlete scored perfect tens on his last dive and received an overall score of 390 points, thereby maintaining his lead in the Cliff Diving World Series leader board in front of Russia’s Artem Silchenko and Colombia’s Orlando Duque.

Considering it was his first cliff diving shoot, would he do anything different if given the chance again?

“I’m lucky enough to work for an underwater camera specialist and I would be able to get hold of some pretty cool kit. If I ever get another opportunity to go to a cliff diving event I’d love to take some photos from the water so I could get a half and half shot of a diver entering the water - that would look awesome!”

Ben admits he has a lot to learn before he can mix it with the pros but he was happy to get some experience under his belt thanks to Red Bull Reporter. If he ever needs inspiration of course, Ben can always check out the online Red Bull Illume gallery in the future to see some of the world’s best cliff diving photography.

Check out the video and picture gallery to see Ben's assignment at the Red Bull World Cliff Diving event in La Rochelle. If you are based in the UK and want the opportunity to photograph for Red Bull Reporter, register at www.redbullreporter.com.

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Record broken with a phenomenal 59,551 submissions!

The Image Quest 2019 submission phase is officially over and a new record for submissions has been set. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone that helped make this happen!

© Markus Rohrbacher / Red Bull Illume

Another milestone in the fifth edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 has been reached, and we’re stoked to announce that a new record for submissions has been set! Yes, that’s right, a total of 59,551 photos and moving images were submitted to the 11 categories that made up this year`s edition.

To put that into perspective, that’s an increase of 72% on submissions from 2016. We want to say thank you to our amazing partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Red Bull Photography and EyeEm for helping to make this happen.

Even more importantly we want to say thank you to YOU – everyone that took the time to submit! So, you’re probably wondering what happens next? So, let us explain!

Judging Phase

You can just sit back and relax now, as the judges will select the 264 semi-finalists, 64 finalists, eleven category winners and one overall winner! You can get to know the judges right here, and more will be added each week! The judging format in full can be found on our rules page!

264, 64, eleven, one

You will hear these numbers a lot in the coming months, so here’s a brief intro to why they are important. The 264 semi-finalist images will be on display in a gallery on our website, and also be published in the limited-edition coffee table book!

Should you be selected as one of the 64 finalists, you will be invited to the Winner Award Ceremony that takes place from November 18-20, and your images will be on display in the Global Exhibit Tour that begins immediately afterwards.

On November 20, the eleven category winners and one overall winner will be crowned during the ceremony at the Lumen – Museum of Mountain Photography on top of Kronplatz. They will take home an incredible set of prizes that you can see here.

Special Announcements

We have some big news to share with you in the lead up to the Winner Award Ceremony, so don’t forget to check your inbox regularly and to stay tuned to our social channels so you don’t miss a thing.

If you are selected as one of the 264 semi-finalists, you will be notified within the next few weeks!

So, once again a huge thank you to everyone that participated, and good luck!

Breaking news: you have 24 additional hours to enter!

You now have until August 1, 2019 and entries close at midnight (CEST). Submissions are quick, easy, and free; don´t wait any longer and submit your best adventure and action sports images now!

Red Bull Illume 2010: Maiko Mou, Close Up category finalist

© Maiko Mou / Red Bull Illume

Hundreds of photographers have reached out to us, to say that they need a bit more time to edit those last-minute shots and make those final image selections before submitting. Due to the huge amount of traffic and submissions on redbullillume.com currently coming in, the servers are also a little bit slower than usual. That is why we’ve extended the final deadline by 24 hours so you still have time to make sure you’re a part of this edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

So it really is your last chance to take your chance! There is still time to search through your folders, dig through your desktop files and submit that winning shot. Imagine attending the Winner Award Ceremony on top of a mountain, getting your work featured in a Global Exhibit and the Coffee Table Book, winning prizes to the value of €100,000. Choose the categories you want to enter and go do it already! You have an additional 12 hours, so now is the time for action.

This is your final call – Submit Now!

How to create stunning photos with a smartphone and drone!

Red Bull Illume finalist and SanDisk Extreme Team member Marcel Lämmerhirt teams up with Fabio Studer and Thomas Feurstein to show you how to create and take epic adventure and action sport photos with your smartphone or drone.

© Marcel Lämmerhirt

Whether shooting action, portraits or at night you don't need heavy camera equipment at all times, all that is required is your phone or drone, some apps and imagination. Let SanDisk Extreme Team Member Marcel Lämmerhirt guide you!

Submit your smartphone and drone photos to the Image Quest 2019: redbullillume.com/submission.

About the shot: 5 epic images from the Masterpiece Category

The Masterpiece by EyeEm Category blurs the line between adventure and action sports and fine art photography. One of the great things about Red Bull Illume is that it allows photographers total freedom of style and method and express themselves to a global audience – this category is the pinnacle!

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

With 5 days left to submit to the Image Quest 2019, we take a look at 5 phenomenal images from 2016 and hear the story of each shot, as told by the photographer.

1. Jeremiah Watt

Andrew Burr has a photo of thick ice, in deep desert sandstone. I’ve wanted both that shot and that experience ever since seeing it. Scott Adamson is an alpine climber who long suspected that Zion National Park held wild ice flows in deep, sandstone slots.

We drove out late in the evening, bivied on a shop floor and hoped for the best. This shot tells of the ice. It was huge, one the coolest spaces I’ve ever encountered – crisp desert air, sweeping pines and solid sandstone with flowing ice for hundreds of feet.

2. Elliott Bernhagen

This was the most unique moment of mountain light I have ever witnessed. It was a winter filled with struggle and scary conditions, but there were some glorious moments for those who put in the time.

We were very lucky to have this surreal light gracing the exact area we hoped to ski. By the time Tatum Monod got into position I was ecstatic – I knew we had the potential to create something special. Snow crystals were cascading from the sky and being backlit as they fell in front of my lens and onto the spines. 

3. Ben Thouard

I decided straight away to only shoot underwater photos that morning, because the waves were perfect – completely glassy as there was no wind at all. Also, it had not rained the last few days so the water clarity was just a dream. These were the conditions I was waiting for!

I spent four hours just shooting below the surface and the show was unreal! That wave came in, I dove under as the surfer was paddling for it, just early enough to be under and get the right position. Everything lined up perfectly and I was really happy with the result!

4. Alex Buisse

Mich Kemeter had already rehearsed the last pitch of Marches du Temps, which even though it only gets 6a, is quite tricky and technical. The biggest problem, though, is the exposure, as it’s a 300m straight drop to the canyon floor. 

By luck, a highline had been set up right above the route, so I was able to use a pulley to suspend myself over thin air and get a really unique angle, looking straight down on Mich while still being nicely separated from the wall.

Mich was lowered by his girlfriend Karine, got to the next belay and slipped out of his harness which was promptly pulled up. He was committed to climbing out, ropeless. I held my breath and kept on shooting as he climbed smoothly and efficiently, taking no more than two or three minutes for the entire pitch.

5. Roman Neimann

Joosep came straight from a competition he competed in the day before, bringing a friend with him to help with the shot. But these guys came straight from the party so they were pretty tired!

For this shot I knew we needed morning sun with some haze or smoke, and those tired friends were responsible for the bonfire and the smoke we needed. It took a long time to get the correct shot and the angle I wanted, and the guardians of the bonfire fell asleep!

At the end though, we managed to pull it off. Not with the first sunlight of the day, not with the perfect smoke but still enough to make it look good.

There are just five days remaining to stamp your style on the Masterpiece by EyeEm Category, submit now!

For those that love the thrill, here comes the final rush!

We know that adventure and action sports imagery photography is full of thrills and the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 is no different. We have reached the final week to enter your images, so, it’s time to take the opportunity to get your work shown to the world.

© Markus Berger / Red Bull Illume

That's right, there is just 1 week left to submit your images to the Image Quest 2019. Still not sure if you’ve got the winning images? Take a look at the 10 categories you can enter. We talk about the categories a lot, but with good reason - you could have the greatest image of all time, but if it doesn't match the category description it won't be selected by the judges!

Take a look at the 10 categories you can enter, and submit your images by July 31,2019!

  • Creative by Skylum: The only category that allows image manipulation and total creative freedom in your postprocessing endeavours. This is an open category so anything goes! 
  • Emerging by Red Bull Photography: The up-and-coming category is for rising talents to compete on similar footing – submissions accepted only from photographers 25 years old or less.
  • Energy: Images that demonstrate the force that powers an athlete to perform
  • Innovation by Sony: Images that reveal a unique angle, something that’s never been seen before! It’s the purely creative image.
  • Lifestyle: Images that visually capture the creativity of the lifestyle and culture that surrounds action and freesports, before and after the action.
  • Masterpiece by EyeEm: This category speaks for itself, submit your best shot! Show us your artistic skill, your personal best, your unique style.
  • Moving Image: This category is an open playing field for video sequences between 5 and 30 seconds. Ready… set… action!
  • Playground: Dedicated to epic images showcasing not only the athlete, but the landscapes, locations, platforms, and environments in which they play.
  • RAW: Uncropped, untouched, unfiltered. Images must be straight out of the camera!
  • Wings: Images that capture the point in a performance in which the athlete jumps, catches air, free falls, soars.

There so many opportunities to show off your creativity to the judges, and the world. It could be your chance to not only win prizes to the value of €100.000 but also get invited to the global Winner Award Ceremony and be featured in the Global Exhibit Tour as well as the limited Coffee Table Book.

So, make sure you submit your images into their best suited categories now!

Creating magic - with Dan Vojtěch!

As the old cliché goes: you don’t take a photograph you make a photograph – and this is certainly true of Dan’s method. So, in this short interview, and with the Image Quest 2019 in mind, we asked Dan to take us with him through his creative process.

© Daniel Vojtěch / Red Bull Illume

When you think of Dan Vojtěch you think of creative photography. Three of the 11 finalist images in the New Creativity category in 2016 were his, and he won the same category back in 2013.

As the old cliché goes: you don’t take a photograph you make a photograph – and this is certainly true of Dan’s method. So, in this short interview, and with the Creative by Skylum category of the Image Quest 2019 in mind, we asked Dan to take us with him through his creative process.

You started shooting analog, then moved into digital photography. How would say that’s influenced the way you create shots?

I think so. With an analog camera you are limited so you need to think about the final photo in advance. You need to know what film stock you are going to use, if you need any filters – there are many variables. Now I mostly shoot digital, but still love to shoot film when I can.

Let us in on your creative process. Do you already have the final image planned when you shoot the parts, or do you take the parts and then think of an image?

I usually have a clear vision of how the final image should look. Usually, the result is quite similar and I am happy. But sometimes I get another idea during photoshoot so I change it little bit or improvise. When you have a good group of people and a strong idea improvisation is made easier, and I like to do it. But the most difficult yet rewarding part of the creative process is to take the concept on paper and turn it into the real thing.

In your opinion, how can you submit an image that stands out to the judges in a such an open-ended category?

You never know what judges will like, so I don’t think about this too much. Maybe the best way is to aim for something you’ve never seen before, chances are that the judges won’t have seen it either! :)

Has Red Bull Illume motivated you to get more creative with your photography?

Red Bull Illume is a big motivation for sure. My first impulse is always to create something new and interesting, then I check gallery of winning images on the website. There are so many awesome photos which are always a real inspiration.

How do you select the final images that you enter?

I put my all good images to the one folder and then sort them to each category. My selections are quite tough so there are not too many photos in that folder. Next, I am trying to match each category to a good photo.

Will you be submitting to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019?

Working on selections right now so I hope I will find some winning images for this year as well!

Not long left to submit your images, and take your chance at winning some great prizes. Submit Now!

The clock is ticking - just two weeks to go!

Here is your chance to stand amongst the past winners of this amazing imagery contest and claim your own fame. There are just 2 weeks left of the submission phase for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. Submit now for the opportunity to win great prizes, fantastic experiences and worldwide exposure.

© Desré Pickers / Red Bull Illume

Here is your chance to stand amongst the past winners of this amazing imagery contest and claim your own fame. There are just 2 weeks left of the submission phase for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. You have until July 31 to enter your best adventure and action sports images to the different categories.

Submissions are free, plus you can enter up to 10 images per category. So, don’t waste time and submit your incredible shots now!

But don't just take it from us, here are what some past finalists had to say about the effect Red Bull Illume had for them:

Christian Pondella:

“It’s definitely a great thing to be a finalist. Personally, I’ve been a pro almost 20 years now. If you’re a young photographer it will open up a lot of doors. If you win the whole thing it will help tremendously.”

Morgan Maassen:

“Overnight it really transformed my whole operation, my career, my artwork!”

Jimmy Wilson:

“It’s a good experience. It’s awesome that Red Bull supports photographers and gives them this platform. Usually it’s the athletes who always get the credit. They deserve it but it’s cool to see photographers get the recognition too.” 

Jody MacDonald:

“The great thing about Red Bull Illume is that it validates you as a professional photographer to the outside world. People definitely perceive you more as a professional and because of that you’re simply more inclined to get more work.”

Zak Noyle:

“Red Bull Illume is a huge platform and it was great exposure for me. But the best part of it was having my image displayed on those lightboxes over any prize. Having it displayed in these great cities; to me that was the great part. It was crazy…” 

This is the utimate way to gain worldwide exposure and recognition for your photography, emulating these guys and also previous winners Fred Mortagne, Chris Burkard and Lorenz Holder.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’ve just got amazing images just waiting to be seen; you have two weeks left - Submit Now!

Global Winner Award Ceremony to take place at 2275m!

Red Bull Illume is thrilled to announce that we will honor the winners of the Image Quest 2019 at the breathtaking LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography in South Tyrol, Italy. This stunning location on Kronplatz will host a celebration of Adventure and Action Sports Imagery at a three-day event from November 18-20, 2019. You don't want to miss this!

© Manuel Kottersteger

After cities like Chicago, Dublin and Hong Kong – now the Winner Award Ceremony is heading for the mountains, the place where the magic of these breathtaking photos happens! We are delighted to announce that the location for the announcement of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 Winners is on top of the mountain Kronplatz in the stunning Dolomites of South Tyrol, Italy: The LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography.

This jaw-dropping venue will host the three-day-event from November 18 to 20 – in addition to the ceremony there are workshops, seminars, and more, in an inspiring environment for the 100 most influential photography minds of this scene including the finalists and judges. On November 20, the 64 finalist images, 11 category and the overall winner will be unveiled and they will pick up an incredible set of prizes valued at €100,000. Check out the video for more!

Kronplatz has granted the Red Bull Illume guests exclusive access to the LUMEN on top of the mountain a week before its official season opening. Throughout the year and regardless of the weather, the mountain can be explored because of its unsurpassed variety of hike and bike trails exuding a unique, magical appeal. The backdrop of the Dolomites surrounding Kronplatz provides the perfect place for the Winner Award Ceremony.

At this three-day-event a variety of workshops will be held by the global partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum and COOPH with plenty of shooting opportunities. All of this will be reserved exclusively for finalists, so don’t miss your chance to become one and earn your invitation for the gathering of the 110 most influential people in adventure and action sports imagery!

At this time, we’re also happy to officially welcome Salewa, the Dolomites based company, to the Red Bull Illume Partner family for the Winner Award Ceremony. They will bring all their knowledge of the region, as well as tradition and innovation to engineer equipment intended to change the game of mountain sports equipment, making them the perfect fit as Local Partner for this event.

Do you want to be part of the Winner Award Ceremony? Submit your best shots to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest now!

Red Bull Illume Grand Prizes: Even More Reason to Enter

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 prize packages include some serious camera equipment and accessories for each category winner and the overall winner.

© Morgan Maassen / Red Bull Illume

This year, the grand prizes get even grander. With the introduction of new categories and sponsors, the 11 category winners and 1 overall winner will pick up an incredible set of prizes valued at €100,000, to help them take even more incredible adventure and action shots.

Each category winner will pick up this unbelievable set of prizes:

  • The phenomenal Sony Alpha a7 III camera kitted out with the 24-105mm F4 G Master lens.
  • A bundle of memory cards & mobile workflow solutions from storage specialist SanDisk.
  • The award-winning company, Skylum, will provide photo-editing software including Luminar 3 and their Signature Presets. Skylum will also present a special prize for the winner of the ‘Creative by Skylum’ category, welcoming the winner as part of the Global Skylum Ambassador Team.
  • Red Bull Photography will award the winner of the ‘Emerging by Red Bull Photography’ category a spot at the Red Bull Rising Talent photography workshop in 2020. This includes travel, accommodation, and board expenses.
  • To top it all off, COOPH will provide high quality photography apparel and accessories to keep them equipped and protected for upcoming shoots.

In addition to this, the overall winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 will win a shooting experience with the SanDisk Extreme Team and take home the Sony Alpha a9 camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens from the G-Master range. The perfect camera for capturing high-speed action and adventure moments. It’s the perfect prize for the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019.

The 64 finalists will earn a place at the November 18-20, 2019 at the Lumen - Museum of Mountain Photography on top of Kornplatz at 2275m! This will be a gathering of the most influential photography people in the world. They’ll also gain immense exposure as their images tour around the world in the Global Exhibit Tour and be featured in the limited-edition Coffee Table Book. Stay tuned for further announcements on this, coming soon!

So, what are you waiting for? Submit your photos here!

Go on an adventure with the new Moving Image Category

If you are a storyteller, making short video sequences capturing the essence of adventure and action sports with a single take, it’s time to enter the new Moving Image category.

Whether you are a stop motion superstar, a big production filmmaker, or just making cool clips with nothing but your smartphone in hand – you have a great chance of winning this category. Images are no longer standing still, and you shouldn’t either! 

Don't wait, submit now!