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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Lucho Vidales: What's in the Bag?

Our pack-exploring journey continues. This week, Red Bull Illume unzips Lucho Vidales’ bag and takes a look at what the Argentinian commercial sports and lifestyle photographer carries with him.

© Lucho Vidales

Quite a lot of gear you have there. You damaged any on your travels?
"Haha! That made me laugh, but it's not funny. Luckily not recently, but some time ago during a project in Patagonia I was snowboarding and had a pretty nice fall in the mountains with all my gear on my back. No damage was done, but it was a reminder that a good backpack is always a must."

Your favorite items? 
"I would pretty much pick the 1DS and the 35mm – I'm always happy with those guys."

Anything else you carry not included in the shot?
"Mmmm, probably my bike. She helps me get to locations around the city and I use it to carry my batteries, which I strap to the back of it."

Planning anything special for Red Bull Illume 2016?
"I'm working on it! I have some things in mind that I want to shoot next month if everything goes according to plan. Also, I can't wait to see the entries for this edition. Each year the images are even better. I don't know what to expect, but it’s definitely going to be mind blowing as usual."

Lucho’s full gear list:

Fujifilm X100
Canon 1DS mark III
Canon  15mm 2.8 fisheye 
Canon 35mm 1.4L
Carl Zeiss 50mm 1.4ZE
Canon 135mm F2L

Pocket Wizards 2x Flex TT5 + 1 Mini TT1 + 1x plus 2 

Fstop Gear Tilopa BC Backpack 

Broncolor Move 1200L Battery Pack
Broncolor MoviLED 
Broncolor P70 Reflector
Broncolor Grids 
Broncolor Light Stands 

Visit Lucho’s website for more of his work or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open. 

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

Red Bull Illume Stays Current With New Website

As the clock ticks towards the highly anticipated opening of the Red Bull Illume submission phase on December 1, we’ve decided to freshen things up with an updated website.

Red Bull Illume 2013: Stuart Gibson, Spirit category finalist

© Stuart Gibson

The new site has been designed to provide the ultimate user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality throughout. The changes allow photographers and fans to quickly access stories and contest information – and of course – browse through Red Bull Illume's glorious image galleries.

Created with user-experience firmly in mind, the website has been designed using the latest technology so the site is compatible with modern browsers and mobile devices – allowing you to see every epic action and adventure sports image in crystal clear clarity.

The launch of the re-skinned site also coincides with the rise of the Red Bull Illume Instagram account, offering avid photographers and fans a peek at the amazing images, interviews and mind-blowing content that make up the famous contest.

Take a browse around the new and improved Red Bull Illume site or head over to Instagram and start following. 

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open. 

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

The Illume Effect: Dean 'Blotto' Gray

Continuing our series looking back on past winners, we catch up with Dean ‘Blotto’ Gray – a 2013 sequence category finalist – to hear how Red Bull Illume impacted his career and how he got that name.

Red Bull Illume 2013: Blotto Gray, Sequence category finalist

© Blotto Gray / Red Bull Illume

So is it Dean or Blotto? 
“As kids we always used to do what we saw the pros are doing in the magazines. Mark Gonzales was this legendary skateboarder and he was putting artwork on his grip tape – so we’d do the same thing because we thought that was rad. We were just writing some random stuff on the board and I put Blotto on there for some reason. My best friend later just started shouting, ‘Blotto, Blotto!’ It stuck since then. In old school lingo it means drinking a lot of beer, which I don’t actually do, but I like it as a name.”

Since the contest what have you been up to? 
“We’ve been doing these ‘Burton presents’ videos. That completely occupies my time. I work with the filmmakers on the slopes, create set design and do assistant filming. Then I still have the whole photography gig I have to take care of. I’ve been really busy with that.”

Was Red Bull Illume a big thing for you? 
“It was a huge deal for me! Outside of snowboarding I’ve been contacted by a number of publications wanting to know what Red Bull Illume was like, the experience. They want to know about my photography. It opened up a world outside snowboarding. Red Bull has such a strong name and Red Bull Illume is definitely viewed as the premier photography contest in the world. And I believe that myself as well. I would hate to be a judge – that would be a difficult job.”

How’s it feel for your image to go on tour?  
“I was very thrilled that the images tour on big light boxes – that’s just incredible presentation. I was unable to see the one that started in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona but my family was able to go and it was really special for them to see my work.”

You were at the Hong Kong tour stop right? 
“Yeah… that was really cool – the dinners, tours and all the workshops. What was inspiring was to meet the photographers you always looked up to for many years. I was especially thrilled to meet Chris Burkard. That guy has such a wide reach these days. Also Scott Serfas, who’s one of my homies. He’s a blast to be around as well.”

Did you walk away with any fresh ideas? 
“I like to be inspired by photography but not influenced by it. It just gets you thinking about how you’d approach the next Red Bull Illume and what you’d do specifically for it.”

Any plans? 
“I’ve got a few in the back of mind I’m going to enter. Mostly likely about 70% snowboarding and 30% skateboarding.”

View some of Blotto’s images in the gallery and find out more about his work on his website or Facebook page.

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open. 

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

Red Bull Illume Grand Prize Announced!

There are only a few short weeks left until December 1, the day submissions open for the world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016. This year, the contest takes an exciting turn with the inclusion of a Mobile category and the addition of awesome new prizes, judges, partners, and even more mind-blowing images.

When submissions open, photographers will submit their shots into 11 different categories: Close Up, Energy, Enhance, Lifestyle, Masterpiece by Yodobashi, New Creativity, Playground, Sequence by Sony, Spirit, Wings and the new addition – Mobile.

A team of 50 renowned photo editor judges will then select 55 finalist images, including the 11 Category Winners and the Overall Winner. The first selection of judges have already been announced, with Eva Maria Tomé, a Photo Editor from El Pais and Kathrin Kosaca, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of Stern View signing up to join the judging panel. 

In 2016, the photographers’ efforts certainly won’t go unrewarded – the Overall Winner will walk away with a Yodobashi voucher to the value of €40,000, which can be redeemed for any number of the company’s massive selection of consumer goods. Electronics giant Sony, who recently joined as an official Red Bull Illume partner, will also award the various winners with photography gear worth over €60,000. The prizes will include cameras such as the Sony ILCE-A7RII or the Sony DSC-RX1RII along with a variety of accessories and lenses. 

The full list of prizes, including those from Red Bull Illume’s other esteemed partners, will be announced right here on redbullillume.com.

Finalist images will be unveiled at the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony in the autumn of 2016 before traveling to capitals and cultural hubs across the world as part of a unique nighttime photo exhibition.

Submissions open December 1, 2015 when photographers can start uploading their images – here on redbullillume.com.

For more, check out the teaser video. You can also visit past contest galleries, head to the rules or the FAQ section, or catch up on the latest by visiting Facebook.com/redbullillume, Twitter.com/redbullillume and Instagram.com/redbullillume.

Jesper Grønnemark: What’s in the Bag?

It’s another edition of Red Bull Illume ‘What’s in the Bag?’ This time, we zip open sports photographer Jesper Grønnemark’s pack to take a look at what he carries with him on assignment.

© Jesper Grønnemark

Ever dropped or damaged any gear?
"I take good care of my gear, but with that said, I do use my gear as tools so they get banged up and muddy every once in a while. The only two times my gear got damaged was when it got thrown around on flights."

Any surprising items in your bag? 
"My noise cancelling Bose headphones. They are priceless when flying."

If you could add any one item to your pack?
"Definitely a Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Power Pack for charging of my gear on trips."

You entering Illume 2016?
"Yes, for sure!"

Jesper’s full gear list:

Canon Eos 1D X
Canon Eos 5D mark II
Canon EF 17-40 f/4
Canon EF 24-105 f/4
Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6
Canon Speedlite 540
Quantum Turbo SC
Pocket Wizards
Broncolor Move + flash heads
Ikelite underwater housing
Manfrotto tripods + light stands

Visit Jesper's website for more of his work or follow him on Facebook.

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open.

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

The Other Look with UV Light – Shooting Ice Climbing with Markus Berger

© Markus Berger

Red Bull photographer Markus Berger decided to flip the switch on action sports photos by using a different approach to lighting his subjects. 

"The UV project is something I have been working on quite a while. I started it October 2014 when I put together the concept of shooting various action sports using only UV light."

"The main idea is to show athletes in a different light which might make themselves and their sport look completely weird but reveals also different perspective of what we are used to see everyday. I wanted to create something new and unseen before by using a maximum of UV light and almost use it like normal lighting with short shutter speeds. The interesting part is that this kind of light has different wavelength other than visible light and therefore also shows a complete different behavior of reflecting structures or various substances. Actually ultraviolet radiation can cause many things to glow or fluoresce. I was aiming to use this effect for my shoots, but then also to use it very subtly and only in unicolor without too many bright glowing colors giving the traditional 80’s UV look."

"My goal was to get clear and clean action shots accompanied with portraits that show the athlete within his playground and with a completely different look as the UV radiation would also reflect different parts of his skin that usually are not visible in natural light. It is a super interesting way of shooting and every time it is so exciting to check the results because you never know beforehand what you end up with."

"In terms of photography the biggest challenge is to get enough light in the areas where you need it and that is a tricky task if you know that UV radiation only has a fraction of the power that your flash usually has. This means that I had to push my broncolor  Moves to full power almost all the time and get as close to the action as possible with the flash heads to not end up with complete underexposed shots. With full power flashes, freezing fast action becomes even trickier. Yet it is possible and so far I managed to achieve all the results I was aiming for in 3 different sports disciplines already."

"All the different disciplines of my project will be revealed together in a exhibition in 2016, so I can not tell you too much about the rest..."

For a look at the first UV shoot Markus Berger did with ice climbing legend Rudolf Hauser in Kaprun, Austria, head over to the broncolor blog and check out the full story including photos.

Chris Burkard: What's in the Bag?

© Chris Burkard

Once again, Red Bull Illume takes a look at what pro photographers pack on assignment. In this edition of our ‘What’s in the Bag?’ series, we zip open Californian Chris Burkard’s pack. See what’s inside:

Do you carry anything with you that no one else has? 
“My Spot sat phone is something that seems like overkill to a lot of people, but believe me - on the rare occasion when you need it, it's invaluable.”

What about the skateboard and duct tape?!
“Why wouldn’t you take a skateboard and camo duct tape with you? A skateboard is basically a multi-tool for moving – you can put bags on it at the airport and save yourself a cart rental, you can use them as dollies for moving shots, and they're tons of fun when you have a little down-time.  As for the camo duct tape – camo makes everything cooler. It's science.”

Have you dropped or damaged any gear recently?
“Absolutely. It seems like at least once a week I manage to wreck something!”

If you could add any one item to your pack?
“Any type of massage related device I can make fit.”

No room for a selfie stick in the bag, eh?
“Hahaha! – no way.  My OlloClip wide-angle lens is the closest I get to a selfie stick.”

You entering Red Bull Illume 2016?

Chris’s full gear list:

Sony A7rII with Zeiss Batis f/2 25mm lens
Sony A7s with Sony f/4 24-70mm lens
Sony a6000 with Sony f/3.5-5.6 16-50mm lens
Sony f/4-5.6 70-400mm G2 lens
Sony batteries
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod with BH-25 Pro ball head
OlloClip 4-in-1 lens
GoalZero Venture 30 charger
GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern
SPOT Gen3 GPS tracker
Northern Lights NL7 sunglasses
Gerber multitool
Rise protein bar
Amazing Grass Superfood packets
Mizu water bottle
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork walking poles
F-Stop Ajna backpack
Sleeping bag
Lens puffer
Mini tripod
Camo duct tape

Visit Chris's website for more of his work or follow him on Facebook.

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open.

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

The Illume Effect: Clark Fyans

Red Bull Illume 2013: Clark Fyans, Illumination category finalist

© Clark Fyans / Red Bull Content Pool

Leading up to Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016, we catch up with with key former finalists and photographers to find out more about their careers since entering the contest. In the second installment of The Illume Effect, we talk to Clark Fyans, whose shot of boarders scoping a line in Alaska earned him a category finalist award in 2013.

Photography’s not your only profession, is it?
"I’ve never been a straight-up 100% pro photographer. From a pretty young age I always wanted to be a heli ski guide. I followed that career path and fortunately have been very successful. But I’ve always loved photography. I’ve been shooting since I was seven years old, back in the film days. I did a course in high school and even learned how to develop in a darkroom with chemicals and all that stuff."

So you’re proper old school! 
"Yeah! I’m fortunate to be honest. It broadens your eye."

But you followed your passion into the mountains?
"Long story short: I was always taking pics. When I first became a heli ski guide I started packing a camera and pretty quickly started working with pros in the ski and snowboard world. I’m super fortunate to be in helicopters flying around crazy locations. I never really thought I’d make any money off photography and never pursued it. It’s just been a passion."

Tell us about your winning shot.
"I only entered one photo. I selected 50 photos to enter but I got super busy in the middle of a Red Bull event I was running and couldn’t get any of them to upload! I was freaking out and thought maybe I had blown it. I just picked my favorite photo and submitted it. To have it go all the way to the Top 50 was surreal."

Did it bring any recognition? 
"It definitely got me more recognition and more of an international look. Everyone knows I was in Red Bull Illume. It’s one of the biggest honors."

What was the best part? 
"The Winner Award Ceremony in Hong Kong was amazing – to be among all these guys who inspire me, like Scott Serfas and Chris Burkard. It validated me and made me think; maybe I do have an eye and need to pay a bit more attention to this. I received a lot of recognition, even within Red Bull."

Open any doors? 
"100%! I’ve been featured in four or five publications. GoPro reached out to me and asked me to be a media ambassador. It’s all from that image. Maybe they knew me before but Red Bull Illume took it to a new level. It’s opened a ton of doors for me. I also sold the print and it’s on walls in a couple of places."

So will you enter this time?
"Red Bull Illume 2013 was a really cool thing to happen in my life. Since then I’ve had the contest in the back of my mind all the time! I already know which images I want to submit. This time, I’m not going to be an idiot and leave it to the last minute!"

View some of Clark’s images in the gallery and find out more about his work on his website or Facebook page.

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open. 

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

Freezing Free Solo in Cape Town, South Africa

© Kelvin Trautman

Red Bull photographer Kelvin Trautman was handed an adrenaline-pumping assignment a few weeks ago; to document Matt Bush free soloing in and around the picturesque city of Cape Town in his native South Africa. We've got the backstory, including some stunning photographs. 

What was the shoot for?
"The shoot was commissioned by Red Bulletin and my brief was to document Matt Bush free soloing and performing some of his trademark "artistic movements" on some beautifully exposed features around the iconic Table Mountain in South Africa."

Matt Bush looks like an interesting character. How was it to shoot with him?
"Free soloing is a sporting discipline that demands a great mix of human traits, respect and humility, self awareness, courage, tenacity… and Matt has all of these in bucket loads. More so, Matt is a consummate professional. His approach to his sport is meticulous and he works extremely hard. For example, the prep that went into this shoot was huge and Matt was on hand to offer his help at every step. This synergy between athlete and creative is really important and makes working in these pressure environments that much more rewarding."

Sound challenging. What difficulties did you face?
"Aside from the obvious difficulties of shooting on exposed rock faces, the biggest challenge was to ask Matt to do retakes. It is gut-wrenching to ask someone to risk their life for a photo. Prior to the shoot Matt and I spoke a lot about this. I was acutely aware that during the shoot Matt was going to need the head space to focus on climbing rather than worrying about camera angles and crew. We scouted a myriad of different lines, trying to find something that had a balance of the wow factor but that wasn’t the most technically challenging."

Seems like a rewarding experience?
"Yes. I was reminded again on this shoot that if you are willing to put yourself in places that others are not prepared to or not capable of, you then give yourself a great chance at producing unique content."

What equipment did you use?
"On the wall, I predominately used a Nikon D4s and Nikon D800 camera body, Nikon 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 50mm, and 70-200mmm lenses. I loaded this glass into a series of lens cases which were strung to my Black Diamond climbing harness."

What’s next for you?
"I’m in the edit suite at home in Cape Town for the next month. It’s nice to be home for a while after a lengthy 7 week stint away shooting in Papua New Guinea, Japan and Iceland with The African Attachment (an independent production company I have teamed up with)."

For the feature piece on Matt's ascent, head over to Red Bulletin

The world's greatest action and adventure sports photography contest is back and better than before with the addition of a new mobile category. Find all information here and mark Dec 1, 2015 on your calendars! That's when submissions open. 

Visit the Red Bull Illume Facebook page for regular updates.

Q & A: Lucho Vidales on his beginnings

© Luis "Lucho" Vidales

Lucho Vidales is an Argentinian photographer currently based in Barcelona. Specialized in sports and lifestyle photography, he has been chosen by Red Bull to be part of the team of photographers of this brand known all over the world.

At present Lucho is using artificial light for a large part of his productions, which is supported by broncolor lighting equipment. The other day Lucho paid us a visit in the tx-lab studio and talked to us about his current projects. 

How did you start in photography?

"I started in photography some five years ago, everything began as a hobby. At that time I was playing rugby, and for personal reasons I had to stop, but so as not to give up the habit I started to carry my camera to the matches and take photos. Both of the action itself and of the people and situations which arise in these meetings of the family which is larger than the club."

"In the course of time I became more and more interested, I began to experiment with other types of photography and other sports and studied a lot on my own. I improved with prac-tice until I realized that I didn’t want to do anything else besides photography."

Where does this bias towards sports photography come from?

"My enjoyment of sports photography comes from everyday life. I have always been surrounded by sports, both rugby in the past and now more urban sports. I believe that it is vital to lead a healthy and active life and to take care of our body, this also helps us to hold our heads properly."

"I have always been very interested in action, but I try not to focus on this. In my photographs I try to place importance on the settings in which the activities take place, and also to tell the story of those who practise these activities and their lifestyle."

When and why did you decide to include artificial light in your photographs?

"The subject of flashes came up after a Red Bull workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was intro-duced to this new universe of possibilities offered to us by the use of external flashes."

"I had my first experience there, and to discover new tools and to be able to continue learning more every time this was sufficient for me to become intrigued by the subject and become more interested in it. I very much like the aesthetics which the use of artificial light gives us, all the variations and possibilities which can be generated. Both for portraits and for action photographs."

At what point in your work did you decide to start using broncolor? What are the advantages of being able to use this type of lighting?

"This came about after seeing that some colleagues who are involved in fast-action sports photography were using this, and the results looked very good thanks to the advantages of the broncolor packs. What I hope to see from these packs is how they freeze the action thanks to their short flash duration and their large power capacity to beat the sun; even so, I do not understand how these 1200 watts fit into such a small pack … Hahaha."

An Argentian who has recently settled in Barcelona. What are your reasons for coming here?

"Well, my idea is to be able to express all the possibilities which can open up in a city like Barcelona, and hopefully to continue knocking on doors; some close while other new ones open. Time will tell…"

"For the time being I am here and I very much want to continue growing and following the photography road. My plan is to get to know a lot of new people, so if they already know whether they want to start taking photos they should just ask my permission first!"

Check out Lucho Vidales and his work on Facebook and Instagram, where he shares behind the scenes photos of his shoots. 

This article first appeared on the broncolor blog