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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Flashback: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010

It's been 7 years since the Winner Award Ceremony in Dublin, Ireland. Do you remember the winners? Which photo impressed you the most? Relive that moment by looking back at the Overall Winner and the Category Winners of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010...

Red Bull Illume 2010: Chris Burkard, Illumination category winner

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

2010 marked the second edition of Red Bull Illume and once again, the level of action and adventure sports photography got pushed to a new level. Chris Burkard's shot of Peter Mendia conquering the Chilean surf stood out among the thousands of entries, taking home the Overall Winner for 2010. 

Here's the story behind the shot: 

"It was a last minute decision to go to Chile. We sat in the pouring rain for days and days waiting for the swell to come. We thought we had planned it perfectly, but even in the fall you can still get a winter storm."

"We woke up the morning after the rains to howling offshore winds, swell was pulsing and the conditions were as good as they get. We drove to a spot in the afternoon that the locals had said, “rarely breaks.” When we pulled up it was reeling left barrels for almost a football field’s length. We scrambled to get out and surf. I was sun burnt and tired and had no idea how to document this moment. The waves were some of the most I had ever seen, so I decided to risk it. I sprinted down the beach and hiked up a sand dune to get a pulled back perspective."

"The shore break was so big, and the offshores’ plumes so high, that I was missing most of the best waves, but finally a set came through. The light, the wind, and the swell were perfect. It was as if everything in nature fell into perfect harmony for this single moment. As Peter Mendia eased into this wave, the backwash hit, sending a golden shower of water 10-feet above his head, and sending him down the line of another 20-second barrel."

Now check out the other 9 winners below and let us know your favorite. 

Close Up: Nathan Smith

Red Bull Illume 2010: Nathan Smith, Close Up category winner

Culture (now known as Lifestyle): Vincent Perraud

Red Bull Illume 2010: Vincent Perraud, Culture category winner

Energy: Stuart Gibson

Red Bull Illume 2010: Stuart Gibson, Energy category winner

Experimental (now known as Enhance): Daniel Grund

Red Bull Illume 2010: Daniel Grund, Experimental category winner

New Creativity: Eric Berger

Red Bull Illume 2010: Eric Berger, New Creativity category winner

Playground: Tim Korbmacher

Red Bull Illume 2010: Tim Korbmacher, Playground category winner

Sequence: Miguel Lopez Virgen

Red Bull Illume 2010: Miguel Angel López Virgen, SanDisk sequence category winner

Spirit: Adam Kokot

Red Bull Illume 2010: Adam Kokot, Spirit category winner

Wings: Marcel Lammerhirt

Red Bull Illume 2010: Marcel Laemmerhirt, Wings category winner

We're ready to illuminate Toronto

The world’s greatest action and adventure sports images are on the road again, with the first stop of the year being Toronto, Canada. For almost two weeks, Toronto's Union Station will be home to the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour.

© Lucas Gilman

The finalist images of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 are currently on their world tour with unique night-time exhibitions at prominent landmarks across the globe.

The first tour stop of 2017 will take place in Toronto, Canada, in the bustling forecourt of Union Station; a National Historic Site and the busiest transportation hub in Canada. Located just off of Front Street, it serves as the perfect location for residents, tourists and even commuters.

To showcase the amazing imagery in a unique way, the exhibition will only be open after the sun goes down between the hours of 7.30pm and 11.00pm. The illuminated images will be displayed on stunning 2x2m light boxes.

The outdoor exhibition will present the top 55 images from 11 different categories. The five Canadian finalists from Red Bull Ilume’s newly introduced National Mobile Contest will also see their work on display. Union Station will undoubtedly be a spectacular and immersive backdrop for the most creative and captivating photography on the planet.

Visitors can enjoy the exhibit from March 31st to April 9th 2017.Parking for the exhibition is located near the intersection between Front and University Street. Public transit is recommended as visitors can get off at Union Station and simply head to street level.

Catching up with the Winners: Chris Burkard

Back in 2010, Chris Burkard was an action and adventure sports photographer trying to make a name for himself. Submitting a number of images to Image Quest 2010, he says his goal was to have an image considered. Then, he won. We caught up with the California native to talk about what he's been upto since that faithful day...

© Carlo Cruz

What have been some of the memorable projects you have worked on in the years since winning Red Bull Illume back in 2010?

That’s a tough one, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on a lot of projects since winning Illume back in 2010. However perhaps my favorite is a recent personal project to surf under the northern lights in Iceland this past winter. With three hours of light each day, brutal winter storms, and freezing temperatures, Iceland was far from the ideal surf trip. I’ve been working pretty tirelessly on a feature length film from the trip and it should be releasing this March. You can check out the trailer here.

What stuff do you enjoy shooting right now?

When I started to get into photography I was inspired by landscapes and I think that still holds true today. Whether I’m shooting surf, skiing, or even hiking I always try to incorporate the surrounding landscapes. From the slopes of Utah to the ocean in Norway. Beyond anything I’m inspired by our interactions with the outdoors and the places we get to experience. 

What impact has Red Bull Illume had on you?

When I first started shooting it was obviously a benchmark and goal to have an image considered. When I won in 2010 I was amped! It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to win this award in front of all of my peers and the people I respect, it was truly a blessing. When I submitted my image, my expectation was just to hope that a few editors would see it. It definitely helped me to get my name out there and gave me a great platform for future projects.

What do you think makes Red Bull Illume different from other contests?

It’s unlike most contests in that it’s only held every three years and is limited to the action sports realm. What that translates to in terms of the content submitted is that only photographer’s very best work is submitted. The images can’t be re-created easily. The images took tons of careful planning, potentially had elements that weren’t planned for, and still required a high level of skill from both the athlete and the photographer to fully execute. 

What tips would you give to beginners who are planning to enter photo contests?

The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know an image was mine instantly when they see it.

What would you look for in an image if you were judging Red Bull Illume?

Honestly it would need to be something that couldn’t be recreated. A combination of spectacular light, a unique perspective, and a talented athlete excelling in their craft. I would personally look at things in two ways: a photo that was conceived, planned and executed beautifully, or a photograph that is simply a once in a lifetime moment that the photographer put themselves in the right place to capture. 

What has changed in adventure and action sports photography in the last 10 years? 

This is all my personal perspective, but for the longest time I felt like the action sports and adventure worlds were so focused on getting high action imagery at the expense of storytelling. Now with social media and other platforms you can share a more complete story. While high action photography is still the core of the adventure and action sports world, the importance now has somewhat shifted to imagery that can help showcase the whole story.

Which action and adventure sports photographers do you like right now?

Christian Pondella is one of my all-time favorites. So humble and always pushing the limits simply because he is an athlete himself and is just as good as many of the guys he shoots. Also Reuben Krabbe! Both guys are just as talented in their sports as the people they are shooting and it reflects in the images they produce.

What do you think is next for action and adventure sports photography?

That’s a really tough question. From my perspective, it’s about going to more remote and wild places to pursue the sports we document. I think the stakes need to be raised. Less large scale productions and more about getting way out into nature and finding that image. 

What plans and projects do you have lined up for the future?

Future goals would always be to simply inspire people. Create work that is meant to last a lot longer than I am. I always hope to continue exploring parts of the globe that feel wild and remote and ideally bring those experiences back to people through social media, books, films, editorial publications, etc. There are a couple remote Russian islands I’ve had my eyes on that I want to visit. Additionally, I have a book about Iceland’s glacial rivers, and my film about surfing under the northern lights that releases this Spring!

Check out more of Chris Burkard's work on his website and follow his adventures by giving him a follow on Instagram. 

Sign up for the Wings For Life World Run 2017

Running to cure spinal cord injuries one step at a time.

The Wings for Life World Run is returning this year on May 7th. The charity event will take place simultaneously in multiple locations across the globe. With a moving finish line, the participants must attempt to outrun the Catcher Car for as long as possible. Those who take part help support crucial research into curing spinal cord injuries.

Red Bull Illume is proud to support the cause and has chosen to donate a portion of the proceeds from the Red Bull Illume 2016 Coffee Table Book to the Wings for Life Foundation. The money will be used to fund world class scientific research and clinical trials aimed at curing spinal cord injuries.

To do your part, sign up for the Wings for Life World Run today and run for those who can’t! Register here and become part of the global movement by downloading the official Wings for Life World Run APP, available for both iOS and Android.

How To Win Photography Contests With The ‘POP’ Principle

The Cooperative of Photography caught up with Red Bull Illume 2016 Overall Winner Lorenz Holder to learn more about the story behind the shot that made everyone utter a collective "Wow" and asked him about his winning formula - the POP Principle...

A two-time winner of Red Bull Illume, Lorenz Holder shares his secrets in the video above and talks us through the process of making sure that your images POP - plan, organize, position - as a guide for other photographers to improve the quality of their work.

While it's in no way a guarantee to help win photography contests (photography skills are fundamental), it could just give you that edge you're looking for while preparing for your next photo shoot. 

Make sure to check out his website and give him a follow on Instagram

Catching up with the Winners: Fred Mortagne

Following the recent celebration of Red Bull Illume’s 10th anniversary, it was time to find out what the winners have been up to. Fred Mortagne, aka French Fred, was the winner of the very first contest back in 2007.

© Christian Pondella

It’s been 10 years since you won the first ever Red Bull Illume. How have things been since and what are some memorable projects you have worked on?

I never stopped working and shooting passionately, so it’s always been good. I just released my first major publication, which is so far the highlight of my photographic career.

Can you tell us a bit about your publication ‘Attraper Au Vol’ ?

It compiles 15 years of work, although it is not a massive book. We went through a very selective editing process. It was published by Um Yeah Arts, the entity of Thomas Campbell who I love to work with. As of now, the book is already sold out. It has been a huge success and I’m glad it can be found in great bookstores, not just through the skateboarding network. I guess we have to print a second edition! You can still find the remaining copies in some stores, as well as on eu.elementbrand.com for example.

What do you think makes Red Bull Illume special, or different from other contests?

Its diversity and its modernity; focusing strictly on the new school extreme sports, while television for example still mostly cares about the classic stuff. I like the format of the contest, with all these different categories that highlight various aspects of the sports such as “Playground” which is about the location. This of course for me has always been an important category. For many years, in skateboarding for example, the focus was strictly on the action and nothing else. It was a big surprise to win in 2007 with a picture that was the opposite of the current standards.

Do you think Red Bull Illume helped you to get your work out there?

In life, I learned that sometimes things come much later on; sometimes even years after you do an exhibition. It’s wrong to have instant expectations.  So to my good surprise, when Leica became a partner of Red Bull Illume in 2013, a collaboration was started with them that has been very enjoyable and productive. Although winning the competition didn’t lead to any direct jobs, it eventually brought something very important to my career.

What tips would you give to beginners who are planning to enter Red Bull Illume?

Maybe I can just say that when I first entered, I thought I didn’t stand a chance, so it doesn’t matter what expectations you have.

There have now been 4 Red Bull Illume contests. What do you think is the winning formula?

If I would know, I would have won 4 times! But I’m glad that I made it to the finals twice, and to the semi-finals twice. Looking at the 4 winning images, it seems that they all brought something that you are not used to seeing within these sports, something that is not the standard, a little surprising, a little refreshing. They were unformatted expressions of individuals who want to bring something new and dare to step outside of the norm.

What has changed in adventure and action sports photography in the last 10 years? 

I think it became a little less formatted. People have started to experiment more and are not following any so-called rules. I always say that there shouldn’t be any rules to follow except those that you create for yourself. This is the best way to create your own unique style and will help you to stand out from the rest.

Any advice for up and coming adventure/action sports photographers that you could share?

As I also always say, anyone can become a photographer… and in the age of social networks, this is totally obvious. No one has specific genes to become a great photographer. Indeed we become photographer by chance, coincidence, and also often because we are passionate about something. We all have the potential. Then it’s about developing a unique view on life to bring something interesting. I like to make little photo competitions on Instagram to create some energy around photography, just like Illume is doing on a much larger scale!

Where do you see action and adventure sports photography going in the next 10 years?

Every athlete will shoot themselves without any outside help other than technology. All the devices are here already. Is it the end of professional photographers? Surely not, but we will have to adapt and work with it. It will require us to have a much more conceptual approach rather than focusing on just capturing the action. This is what I have been doing and it is stronger than ever right now. 

What plans and projects do you have lined up for the future?

I will keep on doing stuff to do with the book for a while and shoot for my personal projects. Working on the book gave me a lot of ideas for stuff to shoot, within and outside of skateboarding. Also, as I am an advocate for Element Skateboards, I will keep on shooting for them and their great Element Perspective programs which beautifully showcase photography.

Check out more of French Fred's work by checking out his website and give him a follow on Instagram

Craig Coker: What's in the Bag?

Never one to shy away from trying out new technology, action sports photographer Craig Coker tries to put a unique twist on his images by adding drones into the mix, especially when it comes to lighting his shots. Check out his go-to gear below!

© Craig Coker

Talk us through your gear. What are your go-to items? 

For most, this might be considered an unusual assortment of gear. Particularly, the lighting equipment attached to my drones. It has been my biggest, newest addiction in the world of photography. It’s a perspective rarely explored but with reason. This genre of drone technology is sparsely practiced because there isn't plug in, and play equipment at the caliber of images I’m looking to create. Lucky for me, I’m technologically knowledgeable in this field and have fabricated my own setups. The right lighting equipment is key for night drone operations. Not just on the drone but on ground as well so that you can illuminate your gear for preparation. Most locations I go to are pitch dark so I rely on Foxfury LED’s to help me throughout the night.

For my go-to glass coupled with my a7R II is Sony’s FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA. It’s fast and sharp for night shooting. I’ve also found that these wireless triggers by Aputure are affordable and reliable with exceptional range. That is a must when your drone is over 1000ft from you.

Why does one person need three drones? 

Each one provides a different use. One 3DR Solo has a flash while the other has a powerful LED lighting system for a constant spotlight. I sometimes operate both drones simultaneously. This enables you to shoot a long exposure and light paint with the spotlight while using the flash to capture a moving subject. It’s a complex operation but the end result is pretty unique. The DJI Mavic is my mid grade photo/video drone. It's not necessarily a part of my drone light projects but It’s small enough that I can take it everywhere without sacrificing much space.

How do you choose gear for different projects? 

For me, step one is to pre-meditate the project. It’s the same process as what an athlete does before they physically preform a trick. In my mind, I virtually process the shoot and think of all the details and tools I need to capture the perspective I desire. Step two is physically gathering the gear I pre-meditated and then grabbing alternative gear just in case my vision doesn't pan out.

Which piece of gear would you never leave at home? 

Lately I haven't left home without my Mavic drone. Mainly because its small yet so powerful and easy to use. I can get up in the air and fire off shots faster then mounting a camera on sticks. Plus I get the aerial perspective.

Does your gear sometimes take a pounding to get the shots you’re known for? 

Yes. I’m constantly pushing my drones to their max capabilities. Drones are notorious for rapid battery discharge in high altitude and cold temperature and thats when I put them to the test. I'm always putting stress on these mechanical creatures with hundreds of flight hours in every weather situation. Although, I still have a vigorous maintenance ritual to make sure my drones are in top shape for the next project. With drones, the slightest doubts can quickly turn into disasters so if theres a part in question I replace it immediately.

Any items you wish you could add to your bag?

I’m working on a drone light that is so bright it can illuminate large mountains. I’ll be using this for some future projects that are, at the moment, concealed of secrecy. 

Any tips for aspiring photographers? 

I believe if you can stand out from the crowed you will be successful. Be unique and try to think steps ahead of the trends. Drone crashes can get expensive and cause serious injury if not operated correctly. Be comfortable and confident in your abilities to operate a drone before jumping into light projects. Night flying takes a different skill set from day flying. Your perception of distance from you, the drone and subjects are misleading. For cameras, I suggest something that can provide exceptional results in low light scenarios but also accommodates high resolution capability. I’m a mirrorless guy so the Sony a7R II is my go-to. If I was on a budget I would look to the Sony a6500. It’s compact, 24.2mp, fast and a fraction of the cost versus the a7R II.

Craig's Gear: 

  • Sony A7Rii
  • Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G
  • Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
  • Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
  • Sony FE 16-35 f/4 ZA
  • Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar T ZA
  • 3DR Solo x2
  • DJI Mavic Pro
  • GoPro Session + GoPro Hero4
  • Aputure Trigmaster +II
  • FoxFury Nomad Now + Rugo (x3)
  • Selens Light Modifiers

Check out Craig's website and make sure to give him a follow on Instagram.

Flashback: Remember the first Red Bull Illume Category Winners?

It's been 10 years since the first-ever Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony took place in Aspen, Colorado. To celebrate this momentous occassion, we're taking a look back at some of the defining moments in Red Bull Illume history!

Red Bull Illume 2007, wings, Andrew Brophy

© Fred Mortagne / Red Bull Illume

Let's take a look back at the 2007 Red Bull Illume Category Winners! 

Shown above is Fred Mortagne's (a.k.a. French Fred) shot of Andrew Brophy for the Wings category, a shot that eventually netted him the very-first Red Bull Illume Overall Winner trophy. 

Close-Up: Dawn Kish

Red Bull Illume 2007, close up, Dawn Kish

Culture (now known as Lifestyle): Desre Pickers

Red Bull Illume 2007, lifestyle, Desré Pickers

Energy: Thomas Stöckli

Red Bull Illume 2007, energy, Thomas Stöckli

Experimental (now known as Enhance): Tim McKenna

Red Bull Illume 2007, experimental, Tim McKenna

Illumination (now known as Masterpiece by Yodobashi): Gian Paul Lozza

Red Bull Illume 2007, illumination, Gian Paul Lozza

New Creativity: Jimmy Wilson

Red Bull Illume 2007, new creativity, Jimmy Wilson

Playground: Wojtek Antonow

Red Bull Illume 2007, playground, Wojtek Antonow

Sequence (now known as Sequence by Sony): David Blazek

Red Bull Illume 2007, sequence, David Blažek

Spirit: Brian Bielmann

Red Bull Illume 2007, spirit, Brian Bielmann

Red Bull Illume – 10 Year Anniversary

Celebrating a decade of the world’s greatest action and adventure sports photography.

Red Bull Illume 2010: Chris Burkard, Illumination category winner

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

On this day, 10 years ago, the winner award ceremony for the very first Red Bull Illume contest was held in Aspen, Colorado. At the time, action and adventure sports photography was typically found in niche publications and rarely gained the momentum to reach the masses. It was hard to tell whether the emerging art form could hold its own on the global stage of photography, but there was only one way to find out.

With over 7,000 submitted images in the first contest alone, Red Bull Illume quickly surged in popularity. Having returned every three years since, the most recent edition saw almost 35,000 submissions from 5,642 photographers in 120 different countries. Over the last decade, the competition has exhibited the finalist’s images at 21 tour stops in cultural hubs across Europe, the UK, the USA and Canada. The response has been amazing.

There is a famous saying that goes; ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ In many ways, the same can be said for photographers. Their ability to capture unique moments in a single frame doesn’t just validate an adventure; it immortalizes it. After all, who else would witness a skier’s first descent of an untouched mountain, or document a BMX crew on a 4am mission to downtown New York?

The talent behind the lens is often as important as the athletes in front of it. To capture a great action shot, the photographer must truly understand the sport itself. They must know the composition, perspective, timing and form for every conceivable stunt. Often, they must take risks and put their photography before their comfort. Most importantly, they support the athletes every step of the way. The photographer motivates them when they’re scared, consoles them when they’re hurt and shares the thrill of victory when the battle is won. They really are the unsung heroes of action and adventure sports.

The aim of Red Bull Illume is to give light to those who document the extraordinary. Without them, there would be no way to expose the incredible subcultures that thrive in the hidden corners of our world. Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume says: ‘There is a whole lot more to life than wealth and possessions. It’s the experiences we have that matter most; and that’s exactly what Red Bull Illume sets out to do. By showcasing these beautiful moments and promoting our engagement with the great outdoors, we can create a like-minded community of individuals who share a hunger for adventure.’ 

As an anonymously judged contest with a global audience, anyone can participate and anyone can win. Lorenz Holder, two-time winner of Red Bull Illume says: “The contest gave me the confidence to believe in my work and it was a great platform to demonstrate my take on action sports photography. It had a major impact on my photography career. My photos were seen by a huge number of people and I received interview requests and job offers from all around the world. I’m really happy that there is a photo competition like Red Bull Illume.”

For its vision, Red Bull Illume has gained widespread success and is honored to support and promote talented photographers around the world. It is of course those with the cameras who bring action and adventure sports to life. In the future, the hope is for Red Bull Illume to become one of the most globally recognised photography contests. It has been an incredible 10 years and in some ways, an adventure of its own. Here’s to many more!

Want to have a look through Red Bull Illume history? Check out our Gallery

Killer shots

During the making of one image he wanted to kill the photographer. In another he was worried about killing himself. Senad Grosic gives us the lowdown of being the subject of Red Bull Illume winner Lorenz Holder’s Masterpiece by Yodobashi and Playground shots.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

So it’s no secret that you guys spent some time cleaning leaves from the lake?

Oh, I hated him for this! Lorenz I love you but I hate you. It was 5:00am in the morning. I had these fishing boots on and a net and it was -4ºC.  We were there for three / four / five hours. At this moment I was like, Lorenz how can you put so much love and effort and time into one picture? The whole situation was messed up. It was crazy to do this all for one shot. I laugh now every time I tell the story. It took three days to clean the lake, then half an hour to make the picture. 

But it was worth it in the end? 

Oh definitely. We had a really good time. I knew the picture would be good but not that it would be that good! I was super happy to help him.

How is it to work with Lorenz? 

I really love to work with passionate photographers. It’s so good to have someone who is like you on a bike but with a camera. (I would do a trick 100 times to make it perfect.) To see how much power and energy [Lorenz] puts into one shot? It’s crazy. I have super respect for him. 

Did you try other tricks?

The bridge was quite rocky and not a nice bridge to ride. I tried a few tricks but this one looked the best. 

What about the Playground shot of you on that surreal steel structure?

It was way tougher than the bridge because it was really high. I’m not straight on the railing but just behind it. It was super small and slim and we built a small table just behind in case – I really didn’t want to slide out and fall 15m down. Lorenz was like, ‘can you do it’? I was like, ‘yes I can,’ but it was really f*cked up. I would not do it again! I was really scared as it was quite risky. But it’s done and I’m happy we did it.

We’re guessing you did it just one time?

I told Lorenz: ‘I’m not going to do it 100 times. You have to get the shot in one go.’ Just imagine looking at your front tire and 15m down! Afterwards I realised how much more dangerous it was. 

How important is photography to you?

It’s very important! When you land a trick and there’s another guy who appreciates it so much they capture this one special thing in a unique way? This perfect moment of you on your bike is the best thing you can have in life.

What’s your feeling on Red Bull Illume? Have you seen other images in the contest? 

I was in Chicago for the Winner Award Ceremony, so I’ve seen the other images. I would not want to be a judge! I think they’re all winners. It’s just crazy, every single picture is more than beautiful. I love the contest. It’s just unbelievable how many good young photographers are out there – they’re like athletes, just with cameras.