Putting a shot together with Vitek Ludvik

Putting a shot together with Vitek Ludvik

Vitek Ludvik is always looking for innovative new ways to find a new angle. The 2007 Red Bull Illume photographer recently got busy with some DIY tripod construction to capture an image that had been growing in his mind for a year.

It was a plan to capture some breathtaking white water images with Honza Lasko, the extreme kayak champion, kayak designer and manufacturer.
“I only knew him from the pages of white water magazines," says Vitek.
"But when we finally met, we made a plan to work together as soon as possible.The pair agreed that conditions were best in Norway and began planning a trip.

“I did not want to destroy my camera because of a poor mount and Honza refused to have an Eiffel Tower on his kayak,” says Vitek. “We tried with an old tripod, but it buckled after a few minutes of testing. We knew we needed a more solid camera mount and drew up a new layout. My neighbour, a craftsman hobbyist, helped construct the mount just two days before the trip began. It was light, solid and reliable.”

Vitek also tried to find the right camera with the size and weight of a compact but with DSLR performance. “Olympus had just released a model called the OM-D. When I pulled the camera out of the box, I was rather skeptical as it was like a toy. However after a successful test shoot with the Flying Bulls in Jarom??, Czech Republic, where I hung the OM-D with a Pocketwizard under my paraglider, I knew it could do the job.”

Overall, the photoshoot was a success. “The project was exciting," he says. "Best off all was meeting the crew and making new friends, Honza Lasko, Honza Muska Musil, Honza Kolar and Eva Filova!”

And the final image itself?
“The photoshoot went fine and the image looks great. My idea was slightly different as I was looking for a higher waterfall with a sharper edge, but the rest of the image looks the way I wanted. I’m happy!”

Vitek is no stranger to kayak photography, watch his shoot with London 2012 silver medallist Vavra Hradilek on a Prague slalom course. www.sharp-pictures.net.   

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Agustin Muñoz shoots mobile

Agustin Muñoz is best known for his work in the water, but the Red Bull Illume winner is also a fan of mobile photography. He tells us why.

© Agustin Muñoz

You’ve always shot with your phone?
"Yes. I’ve been using the phone camera since they started with the little Motorola and tiny 1.2MP cameras! The funny thing is, I was talking to another friend, a photographer of 55 years, really old school photography film guy, and he was saying it’s not about the camera you have and whether it’s good or bad. it’s knowing how you use it. Whether it’s a 50MP pro camera or a 2MP phone if you know the tool, you can get a stunning image. If you take advantage of that cheap lens or that bit of plastic in front of the lens you can do weird things you can’t get with a pro camera. It’s all about taking advantage of the tool."

What tool are you using now?
"My phone is an iPhone 6. It has a pretty dynamic range which allows you to tweak the photo and there’s also a really cool stabiliser on the lens. You can also take advantage of low light situations which are the most dramatic moments. For fashion and lifestyle – and moving images – I use a Sony A7R Mark II. It’s mirrorless but full frame. But I use my Canon DSLR mostly for action sports, shooting surfing and bike, BMX, skate. For that, it’s the camera!"

Do you use your iPhone professionally?
"I use the Sony a lot to shoot with. It has that WiFi thing so you can see the image right away on your phone. The screen on the phone allows me to zoom in more and see if it’s as sharp as I want, just to check. I just got back from Puerto Rico where I’m doing this project for Adidas. I’ve been following these girls with big Instagram followers at these running events on a daily basis, training, the clothing eating, everything. I take the photos with the Sony which allows me to use a cinematic style and send those to my phone and share via airdrop to all the girls so they can post right after the picture’s been taken. So my iPhone really helps with my job."

Any advantages of shooting with one?

"If you’re taking a portrait of someone you don’t know, you get a very nice look on the phone. It’s not the same if you pull out a huge camera with a 40-70mm lens with a lens hood. The person is relaxed – that’s one of the advantages of cellphone photography. Now, the new phones have pretty  much got everything you need for a web job."

What apps do you use?
"I like Snapseed for fixing photos. There are some nice time-lapse apps. You can now get those devices where you stick on your phone and it tilts so you can now have time-lapse with motion and that costs like 50 bucks. It’s awesome. Another app is a dimmer for the flashlight so you can get a portrait with a lower or higher power. I also have the Red Dot Camera app, which gives you the look of a rangefinder camera. One of the things I like to do is put my sunglasses in front of the camera. It’s like a filter. It’s an organic filter – not the same as Instagram!"

What are you working on right now?
"I just came back from Hawaii and saw some of the best surf I’ve seen in my life. I’m releasing now a magazine: Lineup Magazine. It’s going to be an App. It’s pretty cool, a lot of lifestyle, not just pro surfing."

Any tips for shooting with a phone?
"Don’t use the flash that comes with the phone and don’t use the zoom – treat it like a fixed lens. If you zoom in you lose a lot of quality. No flash, no zoom!" 

For more of Agustin’s work, head to his website and Instagram.

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

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Olaf Pignataro: What's in the bag?

Former Red Bull Illume finalist Olaf Pignataro says he always aims for high quality images with a strong focus on creativity and a fresh photographic view. We caught up with Olaf to take a look at what gear he uses to get his shots.

© Olaf Pignataro

Firstly, what’s the duct tape for?
“Duct tape is lighter than a magic arm to fix a remote camera, and it may also be helpful to quickly fix an athlete's equipment, a broken car and so on.”

What lessons have you learnt about travelling with photography gear?
“I always bring the essential equipment with me – packed in a backpack small enough to be accepted as a carry-on on any flight. Not just cameras and lenses, but battery charges as well, just in case my hold luggage gets lost or delayed. I also avoid airlines with a strict weight policy for carry-on baggage. Lately, I don’t carry flashes with me that much anymore. They are bulky and heavy, and easy and cheap to rent. Finally, I keep my underwater housing equipment at home in a Peli case. This way, if I need it while traveling, I can ask a friend to pick it up and ship it to me.”

Are those Sony headphones? Tell us about them?
“Headphones are a must for traveling – not only for listening to music or watching a movie when stranded at the airport, but also to close off when seated next to crying baby when flying. The Sony MDR-XB950 is very comfortable and light, with soft ear cups designed for extended use.”

Have you entered Red Bull Illume this year?
“Yes of course! I have a couple of pictures I really like, but I submitted more – you never know which images the jury is going to choose, as judges come from a broad scope, with different backgrounds and taste in photography.”

Olaf’s full gear list:

D4 and D3
Zoom lens from 14 to 200mm
Pocket wizards (but no flashes)
GoPros & batteries + mounts
Air pump and paper tissues
USB car charges
Duct tape
Headphones and book

For more of Olaf Pignataro’s work, head to his website and Instagram.

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

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Slacklining with Lucas Gilman and Alex Mason

When it comes to capturing great shots of slackliner and Red Bull Athlete Alex Mason, Lucas Gilman knows his workflow can't be 'slacking'.

G-Technology went behind the scenes of a Lucas Gilman shoot recently, while he was working with slackliner Alex Mason. Lucas lets us in on how he likes to work, stay flexible and how he tries to avoid being tied down to one location. 

Gilman also shines some light onto his workflow. Take a leaf out of his book and try to apply it to your own work.

Stay tuned to redbullillume.com in the coming weeks as we introduce a sneak peak of the images submitted to Red Bull Illume 2016 and the incredible athletes who feature in them.

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

The Athlete's Perspective: Gee Atherton

Athletes and photographers have a very unique relationship. Below, legendary downhill rider Gee Atherton tells us in his own words why good action sport photographers rock – and why keeping it real is what matters most.

© Sven Martin

"Downhill mountain-biking is quite a tricky sport to showcase to the masses. The nature of the sport means you’re hidden on some steep rugged mountain away from the crowds so you need these guys who are willing to spend so much of their time to capture the shots, but also to take the risks to get into those places." 

"The importance of photography is huge. From quite an early age I realised there was so much more to it than just race results. I learnt quickly that sponsors were as attracted to the cool shots and the creative side, often more than the race results themselves. That really excited me."

"When I started racing it was before social media and all about the magazines. Me and Dan would religiously buy these magazines and trawl through them. You’d see these incredible photos of guys winning World Cups that were taken from incredible angles. Some of the shots would literally send shivers down your spine. Those are the shots that would affect us so much and grow our passion for the sport and make us desperate to get on the racetrack ourselves."

"I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of amazing photographers, it’s been an honor to work with these guys – an eye opener to see how hard they work. One guy who stands out is Sven Martin. I’ve worked a huge amount with him." 

"For him getting the shot that he wants is top priority. Everything that goes with that is a side-note. From long days stood out in the rain to hours spent waiting at the side of a World Cup track to capture that one shot, or sat outside a dusty turn where he’s getting coated in dirt, to climbing trees, hanging off rocks, roping himself off things, there’s literally no end that he won’t go to in order to get the shot." 

"Something I’ve learnt from photographers is that there’s more to the photo than me liking it! A good photographer can get that appeal to a huge audience. A good photographer can also get that appeal to the athlete. But an excellent photographer can do both."

"I’ve spent hours and days doing set-up shots, looking nice in the air, but I want to see a real shot, something that shows me during a world cup final run, I want to see some passion in there, a facial expression or position on the bike that’s almost a mistake, something raw that gives a glimpse into my world. It’s a difficult shot to get as a photographer can either play safe and get the finish line shot or take the risk to get a mid-race run. But those are the shots the pay off – they give an incredible insight into what racing a mountain bike is all about."

Stay tuned to redbullillume.com in the coming weeks as we introduce a sneak peak of the images submitted to Red Bull Illume 2016 and the incredible athletes who feature in them.

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Red Bull Illume submission numbers you should know

Two weeks after Red Bull Illume submissions closed, the dust has finally settled. After receiving a record 34,624 images, our judges have whipped out their monocles in search of the world’s greatest action and adventure sports photographs. See what they've found so far.

Red Bull Illume 2010: Ricky Adam, Close Up category finalist

© Ricky Adam

Here's a look at some of the more interesting numbers to come out of the judging process to date:

11 – the percentage of females (out of 5,642 registrations) who entered Red Bull Illume in 2016. Find out why Krystle Wright thinks the number should be higher.

49 – the percentage of submissions from photographers who do it for a living. 41% claim to be amateurs, while 10% are trigger-happy students.

12 – the amount of different camera brand used to capture the 34,624 submissions.

3 – the preferred camera choices: Canon, Nikon and Sony.

2040 – the amount of submissions stored on G-Technology external drives on photographer's desks. 

45 – the percentage of entrants who label themselves as ‘adventure sports’ photographers. Bike sports, water sports and winter sports are some of the other popular disciplines.

89 – the number of photographers who only started shooting seriously last year (2015).

2 – the amount of photographers who first started capturing images in the 50's – about the same time photographer Sam Shaw shot the famous "flying skirt" image of Marilyn Monroe.

What the stats can never show is the truly breathtaking quality of all 2016 submissions. Stay tuned to redbullillume.com in the coming weeks as we introduce a sneak peak of some of the images and the incredible photographers who shot them.

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Ben Horton: What's in the bag?

Los Angeles based photographer Ben Horton says he started his career by taking photographs of places where other people simply couldn't go. In our latest ‘What’s in the bag?’ feature, we take a look at what he takes with him.

© Ben Horton

Where was the most challenging location you had to shoot?
"Probably when I dogsledded 1400 miles across the Arctic with Will Steger for National Geographic. Goal Zero didn’t exist yet, and we weren’t able to really recharge anything consistently, so I spent two months shooting without reviewing my images so I wouldn’t waste my limited batteries. The temperatures were as low as -40 degrees, and we were living out of tents the entire time.  Besides the difficulties presented by the weather, we had to run alongside the dogsleds the whole time, so it was physically very demanding.”

What’s the latest addition to the bag?
“The latest addition to my kit is probably the DJI phantom drone. I didn’t want to get stuck behind the trend like I did when I didn’t buy a GoPro right away. It’s given me the ability to shoot some pretty incredible images from really dramatic perspectives, and for now they are unique.”  

How often do you use it?
“I only use the drone when it’s clearly the only option.  I believe that it’s the photographers job to put themselves in a unique position, no matter how hard it is. I have found though, that some angles are impossible without it. On a recent shoot in Moab, it was the only way I could shoot a group of standup paddle boarders in a rapid, and the drone allowed me to follow them for 4 miles while I moved down a nearby road.”

How’s the tamrac bag performing?
“The tamrac camera bag is a huge step up from the camera bags of old.  The foam is denser and lighter, so the bag is more streamlined, and its solid, so I don’t mind taking it into rough scenarios.  I haven’t found an outdoor bag company that I’m happy with yet, so when I really need a bag that functions well in the outdoors, I take my backpacking or hiking bag, but use the tamrac gear pouches to protect my camera equipment. It’s a great system, and it doesn’t require a compromise.”

Is there a special story behind the surfboard?
“There’s no special story behind the board, it’s more of a mindset. I photograph adventures, and as the photographer often times I get stuck behind the camera while everybody else is having fun. The board just means that when I go on a shoot, I don’t forget to join in the fun once in a while.“

Ben’s full gear list:

Camera Image

KNEKT dome port and trigger
SKB cases
Underwater housing
tamrac camera pouches
Blackrapid R-Sport strap
40mm fxed Canon lens
5D Mark II
5D Mark III
Peak Design Camera quick connector
Go Pro
Canon 100-400mm
tamrac bag
Zeiss 24 MM lens
Canon 24-70mm
Canon flashes
Canon 16-35
Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod

Gear Image

Bluesmiths hydrophobic waterwear
DJI Phantom 3 Pro Drone
Riffe freediving fins
Outdoor Research puffy jacket
Tamrac gear pouches
SKB cases
Zeal goggles and glasses
KNEKT dome port and trigger
Ice Axes, screws, and crampons
Goal Zero power supply
Black Diamond climbing protection
Climbing rope

For examples of Ben’s work, visit his website or head to Instagram.

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

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

The Illume Effect: Fred Mortagne

No one shoots skate photography like the master of black and white, Fred Mortagne. The unique way he plays with the light and lines of urban structures has propelled his work into art form. He tells us how winning the Wings category back in 2007 was the ultimate endorsement.

© Fred Mortagne

How was it to win? 

"It brought me a really strong sign about my photography and what I was doing. I was not expecting to win anything. Someone suggested to enter the contest. I really thought I had no chance because at the time a lot of sport photography was color and used a lot of flash and I was doing black and white. I had a hard time getting published, as it was kind of the opposite of what was going on. Winning it was a really positive sign that what I was going in the right direction."

How was it at the winner award ceremony?

"It’s always good to meet other photographers as we live in our own bubbles. I know all the skate photographers, but I got to meet other people from different sports and kept in touch which is cool. You meet different people, from big time photographers but also small-scale like this kid from Mexico I met in Dublin, Miguel Lopez who did a really cool sequence with flash. It’s inspiring to see all kinds of different photography gathered in the same place."

Fame and fortune followed? 

"Well, it didn’t really bring much directly, except one really big thing. At the last edition Leica was a partner and they offered me this deal, loaning me the Monochrom. They said if I could place a photograph in the [top 50] I could keep the camera, and I had big hopes it would happen. I did come up with some really strong images but only made it to the [top 250]. But it still brought a relationship with Leica which has been really strong and important for me. Ever since I’ve been shooting mostly digital with this camera. I did an exhibition at their LA gallery and more projects are coming about – this came directly from Red Bull Illume."

Still love film? 

"I’m kind of old fashioned! A while ago I experimented with burning negatives with fire. The result was really cool. It was when digital was really getting much bigger. Burning negatives was translating how film photography was in danger of disappearing. I entered one picture and it was a finalist, so I was really happy about this too. Still people are responsive to that."

Given your love of analog, how do you like smartphone photography?  

"Not so much. For a long time, I didn’t have an iPhone and my other phone I was not so much into it. And now the camera on my iPhone is broken so I can’t even shoot with it. Any way, I’d rather shoot with my main camera. But, the thing with smartphones, everyone has the potential to be a photographer. Everyone has their own unique perspective and I like that." 

What makes a winning shot? 

"From previous editions, you see all kinds of different pictures and categories, there are really different techniques and it’s really open to anything. I think pictures have to bring something special and unique and not follow a particular style."

For some of Fred’s latest work check out the gallery below or visit his website. He's also publishing his first retrospective later this year with the publisher Um Yeah Arts, which will showcase his best work from the last 16 years. 

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

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

The Athlete's Perspective: Corey Martinez

No one better understands what action sports photographers go through to get the shot than the athletes themselves. In a new series we talk to them about their unique relationship. Below, BMX legend Corey Martinez tells us why photographers deserve some love.

© Lucas Gilman / Red Bull Content Pool

Why should we turn the spotlight around?
It’s very important they get their time to shine because if it wasn’t for them the athletes wouldn’t shine."

How important has photography been to your career? 
"Absolutely key! It helped tremendously. The era I grew up in was magazines – it was the only way you were exposed to BMX content and you relied on them to see what was the next big thing. I had several covers which was my exposure to the BMX world."

And to the sport? 
"It was expressing BMX as an artform. A lot of photographers experimented with different things. They put in their time. It’s a relationship thing as well, when you’re always working with the same photographer you build this friendship where you create a photograph together. It was a form of documenting things before videography came around."

Does photography still have the same value today?
"Because of social it’s about a 50-50 balance with video but photos still have a strong play in that game, partly thanks to smart phones. I follow multiple photographers on Instagram and one of the reasons I like that is they try to highlight whatever it is they’re shooting, even when it’s on a DSLR."

Any photographers you worked with who went the extra mile to get the shot?
"Pretty much every photographer has been there in some rough times to get the shot, a few in particular have gone the distance, guys like Jeff Zielinski, Rob Dolecki and Mark Losey. These are legendary photographers. Mark was one of the first photographers I worked with for Ride. He’s the one who pushed me in that world, doing a couple of trips together – he just wanted to photograph me. From that point on I continued to travel, shooting with other photographers. With Jeff we shot a few double exposure shots. Rob’s always super creative, you’d be warming up for a set up trick and be like, ‘where’s Rob?’ and he’d be up a tree somewhere."

Why is it important that the audience sees the right side of the sport? 
"It’s important because the timing of a trick needs to be showcased to an audience in a proper form. It’s good they’re educated on it. If they see a certain trick and it’s a bar spin trick, the timing is really important to showcase the rider. It says a lot about the photographer and them knowing the sport to get it right. If it’s something really scary, and the image is slightly off on the timing the photographer will work with the athlete, saying probably, ‘I can do it better but don’t feel like you have to’. That’s part of the relationship. You need to have that proper timing to express your skills."

The perfect photo? 
"You can try to express the wow or fear factor of an athlete doing something crazy or you can showcase something simple in the lifestyle form, where people say, that’s an amazing photograph. It’s very rare you get both, where both the rider and photographer killed it."

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

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Red Bull Illume submissions closed

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest draws to a close.

Red Bull Illume 2013: Vince Perraud, Lifestyle category top 25

© Vince Perraud / Red Bull Illume

It’s all over. After 4 months, countless registrations and a record 34,624 images submitted, entries to Red Bull Illume 2016 are officially closed.

The Red Bull Illume team would like to thank each and every photographer who participated. The world of action and adventure sports photography certainly isn’t for the fainthearted, but if the stunning images entered are anything to go by, then the effort is certainly worth it. Once again, we have received thousands of truly outstanding images and will now do our bit to ensure that the photographers who took them get the credit they deserve.

For photographers, the agonizing wait now begins, but spare a thought for the Red Bull Illume judges who have the unenviable task of selecting the best shots from such an impressive field. Over the next few weeks, the panel will cast their votes in four judging phases. If your image has been shortlisted, Red Bull Illume will contact you directly.

The Top 55 finalists will then be unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony in Chicago on September 28, before the announcement of the various Category Winners and the Overall Winner. Following the ceremony, finalist images will travel to capitals and cultural hubs around the world as a unique nighttime photo exhibition – The Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour. 

It’s been an epic journey so far, but one that’s only just begun. Keep visiting redbullillume.com for your weekly dose of action and adventure sports photography and galleries of inspirational images. 

For more regular updates, head to Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Red Bull Illume submission deadline extended!

Good news for those who still have images to submit to Red Bull Illume 2016 – the deadline has been extended!

Red Bull Illume 2013: Vince Perraud, Playground category top 25

© Vince Perraud / Red Bull Illume

Due to overwhelming interest and engagement received so far, the deadline for submitting entries to Red Bull Illume has been extended by 12 hours to April 1, 2016 at 12:00 (CET).

So, there is still time to search through your folders, dig through your desktop files and submit that winning shot. This is your last chance to be a part of the greatest action and adventure sports photography contest.

In addition to the biggest prize purse of any photo contest in the world, Red Bull Illume provides professional and aspiring photographers with immeasurable exposure through connections to the biggest players in the media industry, renowned photo editors and a huge social network.

The various winners will be announced at the prestigious Winner Award Ceremony on September 28 in Chicago, USA, before the finalist images hit the road as part of a unique worldwide exhibit tour.

Still not sure whether you want to enter? Check out what's in it for you.

Once you have your images ready to go, simply register your account right here on redbullillume.com and submit your images. Take a shot at greatness – the clock is ticking!

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook and Instagram pages for regular updates.