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.

Read the latest stories

The New Red Bull Illume Best of Instagram by SanDisk Category Starts Today!

Submit your most gram-worthy adventure and action sports images on Instagram by tagging @redbullillume and #rbi19submission now!

Photographer: Corey Wilson Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athlete: Mick Fanning Location: O'ahu, Hawaii, USA

Photographer: Corey Wilson Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athlete: Mick Fanning Location: O'ahu, Hawaii, USA

Red Bull Illume, the world´s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest, returns for a fifth edition with the entirely new Best of Instagram by SanDisk category which starts today! This category is for photographers most gram-worthy moments of show-stopping adventure and action sports submitted on Instagram. This category begins on February 1, 2019 which is three months earlier than the submission phase for the main contest and each month a winner will be chosen by the community. However, and this is important, the category is an essential part of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 and is not separate to the main contest.

From February to June 2019, photographers can submit their images within the first two weeks of each month, from noon on the 1st until noon on the 14th (CET). They only need to tag @redbullillume and use the hashtag #rbi19submission in the caption on their Instagram post. After the submission phase a shortlist of 25 images will enter the public vote (link to page) which is open from noon on the 15th until noon on the 22nd (CET) of each month. The monthly winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Best of Instagram by SanDisk is considered as an official Image Quest 2019 category; the five monthly winning images will automatically qualify as one of the 55 finalist images of the overall contest and will be on display at the Exhibit Tour. Winning photographers will also be invited to the Winner Award Ceremony at the end of November 2019 and have the chance to become the category winner as well as the overall winner of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019.

Remember, Best of Instagram by SanDisk means exactly that; the Best of Instagram.  If a photographer has a great image that’s not best suited to the Instagram category, no problem. From May 1 until July 31, 2019 this image can be submitted to the main contest with 10 other categories that make up the Image Quest 2019.

So, whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer it’s time to submit your images!

Make sure to tag @redbullillume and #rbi19submission to enter!

Red Bull Illume is back! And it’s easier than ever to enter

Red Bull Illume begins again – the contest that was already at the pinnacle of adventure and action sports photography is taking things even higher.

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

Good news, photography fans: Red Bull Illume returns – and it’s better than ever.  The adventure and action sports imagery contest has evolved – but it’s still the ultimate window into the world of outdoor athletes and the incredible lives of those who document them.

Two incredible new submission categories
There’s two great new categories (yes, including one for video) that bring new challenges to image creators everywhere – and inviting a whole new world of incredible action into the Red Bull Illume ecosystem. The next new category brings some of the best news – it’s easier than ever to enter! For the new Instagram by SanDisk category, with just two tags - @redbullillume and #rbi19submission -on your most gram-worth shots, you’re in – it’s that easy. Learn more here – and start submitting your best Insta stuff ASAP!

Submissions start May 1 – but Instagram by SanDisk starts sooner

For the general contest, the submission period opens on May 1, and ends July 31. As in years past, just register here at redbullillume.com to submit your images for the contest. But for the contest category Best of Instagram by SanDisk, you can start tagging and submitting as soon as February 1 – more on that here.

New Partners arrive, good friends return

A contest of this scale simply wouldn’t be possible without some help from our friends – we’re happy to say that Sonyis on board as a major sponsor, specifically for the Innovation by Sony category – as well SanDisk standing strongly behind the Instagram by SanDisk category.

Other sponsors include Skylum – producers of next-generation photo-editing software – and photography accessory and apparel brand COOPH.

The categories of competition

One of the defining marks that set Red Bull Illume apart as a photo contest was the unique categories for submission. These carefully chosen themes helped shape the atmosphere of the contest, challenged photographers, and helped judges narrow down their selections from thousands of incredible images.

2019 Categories

  • Creative
  • Energy
  • Innovation by Sony
  • Playground
  • Wings
  • Spirit
  • Masterpiece
  • Moving Images
  • Instagram by SanDisk
  • Raw
  • Emerging

A quick note: Raw is a category for images is aptly named after industry term for files ‘straight out of camera’ – RAW. Distilling the requirements means no post-processing – so it’s all about it getting the shot, in camera. Composition, exposure, timing. How good can you get?

The Emerging category is something we’re particularly excited about – it’s for content creators aged 25 and under, who we believe bring a fresh new look to photography and imaging.

Red Bull Illume – now every two years & global exhibitions

2019 marks the fifth edition of the contest, which began in 2006. We’re happy to announce that Red Bull Illume will now happen a little more regularly – with submission phases opening up every other year, with exhibition years following. Exhibitions will be more global than ever before, with three tours running in parallel, including both the famous nighttime outdoor exhibitions, and the new indoor exhibitions – all touching down in capitals and cultural hubs worldwide.

The best Red Bull Illume yet

With all these changes – plus all the stunning images Red Bull Illume photographers have been shooting over the last 2.5 years – we’re absolutely confident this will be the best Red Bull Illume yet. So, don’t waste any time – start shooting and gathering your images for submission now – and maybe drop a couple into the Best of Instagram category right away!

For up-to-date information on the Best of Instagram, make sure you're following Red Bull Illume!

Infographic: Your guide to Red Bull Illume 2019!

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest is back for more! With new categories, new submission dates and more. To help you keep up, we have put everything you need to know in 2019 into one handy infographic!

For up to the minute updates - follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube!

Video Teaser: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019

Red Bull Illume is back! The world's greatest adventure and actions sports imagery contest returns in 2019 for a 5th edition... and this one is set to be better than ever!

In this video we introduce to you what’s new, what’s returning and how to enter the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

We are social! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Youtube!

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!

Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the 2019 Image Quest!

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.

Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the 2019 Image Quest!

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.