Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Eric Berger

Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Eric Berger

Eric Berger’s winning photo in Red Bull Illume’s New Creativity category is a reminder for any photographer who thinks they need complex lighting techniques or a 'big photo concept' to produce a truly creative photo. The photo combined all the classic elements of a ski shoot – a powder trail, a sense of acceleration, bluebird skies – with a really interesting twist. Eric literally got down 'in the hole' to shoot the action from below while capturing some beautiful ice formations.

As Eric also noted in his description of the photo, "it resembles a closing wave shot from within". The photo has depth, that says it all.  It was also Eric’s 'lucky photo', winning him 'Photo of the Year' at Powder Magazine in 2010

With over twenty five years experience as a freelance photographer, including ten years at Transworld Snowboarding in the 1990s, Red Bull Illume caught up with Eric to find out more about his life as an action sports photographer and what advice he would give to photographers working their way up in action sports photography.

Q: What reception have you received since winning your category in Red Bull Illume?
I was surprised to see how many people were aware of the victory and I’ve had a great reaction from friends and peers.
 
Q: What difference has winning made to your photography career?
I wouldn't say it has made a difference in my career other than being further motivated to create exhilarating images and experiment with creative techniques.

Q: What’s inspiring you right now as a photographer?
I am getting much pleasure out of furthering my digital processing abilities and experimenting with creative manipulations.

Q: What must a photographer keep in mind while shooting an action scene?
When I get ready to shoot and action image, my first thought is composition. How can I best capture the moment and convey the excitement. I also think of exposure. Do I want to freeze the action or create the illusion of motion through a blur? What sort of depth of field will work best and so on.

Once I have established these points, I move towards communicating my expectations to the athlete so that we are on the same page as to what is going to happen and where. Planning and communication are everything in the type of photography I capture. I also think of safety and make sure that both the athlete and myself are out of harms way and if necessary, we have a safety plan in place.

Q: How important is location to you?
It depends on what you are trying to capture. Often in sports photography, the action is what you are after, regardless of the location. However, when shooting sports, I always try to capture the image in a setting that enhances the action. So for me, location is very important.

Q: In the field, what kind of challenges do you get and how do you overcome them?
I shoot ski and snowboard photography mainly so the obvious challenges are working in cold temperatures and being exposed to the elements. Other challenges include accessing the locations which in my case, are often in the backcountry. This brings other concerns such as avalanche hazards and exit strategies.

I overcome all these challenges through experience. First I choose to work with gear that is designed to withstand the elements. I dress accordingly and have years of experience working in the mountains. Sometimes I shoot in resorts, which is relatively safe and easy to get around. Other times we use helicopters, which requires patience around the machine and awareness of the surrounding dangers. I also occasionally use a snowmobile to access backcountry locations. This requires a whole different set of skills that can only be overcome through experience.

Q: How do you physically and mentally prepare for your shoots?
It really depends on the assignment. For basic, day to day shooting at the resort, I check the weather forecast, call up athletes and plan a meeting time. Once we are on the hill, I let my gut take over and look for inspiration around me as we move through the mountains. I don’t like to 'force' a shot if I don’t feel it creatively.

For more complicated shoots such as location travel, I inform myself of the details of the location and how best to prepare for it. For dangerous locations I draw upon my experience and try to use good judgment.

Q: What is the best equipment for practicing sports photography?
You need to adapt to whatever it is you are shooting. In my case, I work in mountainous winter conditions so I choose to work with the best gear available to me whether it be clothing, camera gear, skis, etc.

Regarding camera equipment specifically, I choose to work with a digital SLR body and fast lenses. My body is a Nikon D3s, which is incredibly rugged and versatile. I have a number of lenses ranging from a fisheye to 300mm f2.8. I prefer to work with zoom lenses for the most part to minimize the gear I have to carry.

Q: What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
I’ve been working on putting together a vintage collection of images for a British Cycling magazine that is re-publishing a story I was involved with 13 years ago in Bike Magazine. Beyond that I am beginning to put together ideas for trips for this coming winter season. They include heli-skiing in British Columbia and hopefully a trip to Europe.

Q: What words of wisdom would you share to anyone wanting to become an action sports photographer?
1. Learn the fundamentals of photography and understand how your equipment works. Do not rely on automatic settings.
2. Understand the sports you are going to shoot so that you know what moments to capture and how best to create exciting images of them.
3. Prepare yourself so that you can overcome complications such as bad weather and logistics.
4. Learn to communicate with your athletes and gain their trust. Never force anyone to do something they are not comfortable with.
5. Have your act together and always be professional in your approach.

www.ericbergerphotography.com

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Beneath the SURFACE

A semi-finalist of the Image Quest 2013 and finalist in 2016, Ben Thouard returned to our attention with his submissions to the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category back in February and April. Like Ben, we always want to go beneath the surface to discover more about the images that are submitted – little did we know that ‘SURFACE’ would be the name of this project!

© Ben Thouard :

© Ben Thouard

In search of shooting watersports in great conditions, Ben Thouard became a resident of Teahupo’o, Tahiti for ten years. The area is known for its surf break and heavy, glassy waves perfect for Ben’s now iconic underwater photography. It was in this playground that his obsession with the surface - and what’s below it – became the driving force behind SURFACE – The Book.

Today, Ben shares with us his vision of the ocean and his motivation behind creating this eco-friendly book:

“SURFACE is more than just a series of photos, it is a body of work that tells my story and expresses my personal vision of the ocean! This unique element is my source of inspiration and creativity. It is where I spend the most of my time, it’s my comfort zone, and it’s where I feel at home.

“Being in the water since my younger age, I developed an obsession for waves. This is what took me to the island of Tahiti, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For the last 10 years in Tahiti, I developed my own style and path to create new and unseen ocean images.

“This is when the surface became an obsession.

“It’s on the surface, or rather just below the surface, exactly where everything takes place for me, that I decided to focus. Sculpted by the crazy energy of the swell, giving birth to the waves, the surface takes on unique shapes, changes appearance by the hour, displaying light shows and infinite textures.

“Underwater, it sometimes fades, for a split second, offering a glimpse into our world. Becoming a perfect mirror, you feel as though inside a giant bubble. It is, after all, the subject of all my images.

“I hope that through these pages, I have been able to convey a feeling for the ocean. A wonderful place that I’m passionate about, that I love and protect.”

Discover more about the book by following Ben on Instagram!

Beyond Day Zero

Bringing the reality of Cape Town’s then-impending Day Zero into reality. What started as a project to kitesurf across the city’s largest water supply dam, Theewaterskloof, during its worst ever drought would evolve to become a celebration of collective action.

© Kelvin Trautman

Kelvin Trautman entered Red Bull illume back in 2016 with the hope of attracting the attention of some editors. Being selected in the Top 55 images, among the prodigious talent that the Image Quest 2016 allowed him to continue to push boundaries, and propelled his storytelling to higher levels.

Just over a year ago, Cape Town’s four million residents faced the reality of becoming the first major city in the world to completely run out of water. 'Day Zero' was the day when taps would run out and street water collection would become a reality in Cape Town. 

To highlight the issue, Kelvin had the idea of having Bruna Kajiya attempt to kitesurf across Theewaterskloof at a time when it was only 11.4% full. Here is the project in his words: 

“This series of images is of Bruna… formed part of photo project that was meant to put a spotlight on the Cape Town water crisis, and deliver a message that we, as a city, needed to change our relationship with water. 

“A year later it has become a way to celebrate the power of collective action, not only because we managed to avoid a crisis but mostly for the way the people of Cape Town have fundamentally changed the way they save and use water. 

“A series of aerial images of the some of the six feeder dams that hold the vast majority of Cape Town's drinking water. The images were taken at the height of the worst ever recorded drought that Cape Town and its surrounding areas have faced. The textures and patterns streaking the bottom of the drying dams were as both haunting as they were beautiful - this paradox made for a thought-provoking scene, and sharp reality check that I felt should be seen by as many people as possible.”

Artists, Athletes and Activists.

“I have always thought that as content creators we have such a powerful medium to educate, inspire and change minds for the better. In the same way, adventure athletes, whose profession is embedded in the wilderness, are aptly placed to be a voice for the environment, and as such deserve to be heard. I hope we can turn more artists and athletes into activists for our increasingly precarious natural world.”

See more of Kelvin's stories on Instagram!

Life at sea with Alex Voyer

Back in May, Alex made it to the Top 25 of the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category with and epic shot of Freediver Marianne Aventurier in the depths of the Mexican cenotes. This shot intrigued us so much that we wanted to know everything, so here’s Alex’s story of how they gave up life in the city to live at sea – and the adventures that came with it!

© Alex Voyer

My girlfriend Marianne and I are 40 years old, passionate about marine life, freediving, swimming, and now sailing... that's it! We left our Parisian lives and our respective jobs to discover life at sea for better or for worse.

Diatomée is the name of our lovely 18-meter aluminum sailboat, manufactured in the 1980s. She is the starting point of our project that started one year ago, an attempt to realize a childhood dream: to live on the water, discovering the oceans and their inhabitants.

When we decided to live only aboard a sailboat, we barely knew how to navigate. It took the best part of a year to learn all this with the help of a friend and Captain by profession Gilles Rigaud. His 30 years’ experience was vital to our success.

How does photography fit to this project? The idea was to invite on board Diatomée personalities with a particular attachment to the water, to form a collective to develop projects rich in challenges, learning and artistic creations.

With an ecological approach and to limit our impact on the natural environment, we want to develop this concept by traveling at the speed of the wind, and to dive without heavy equipment.

This boat is now placed in associative form and we wish to develop 4 axes for the purpose of raising awareness about conservation of the oceans:

  • An artistic axis - as an underwater photographer, it seems to me essential to sublimate the richness of the ocean and highlight our desire to protect it.
  • Pedagogical axis led by Marianne, who communicates directly with children France.
  • Sporting axis - sport is an integral part of our lives and it seems only logical to take up sporting challenges with the athletes who wish to get involved in the adventure.
  • Scientific axis: whether trying to participate in studies or by inviting scientists on board, it is important for us to try to contribute, even very humbly, to the research that can take shape aboard a sailboat.

Very sadly, Diatomée was crashed into this summer while we were back at work in Europe, so the project takes on a new challenge!

See more updates from Alex on Instagram!

Record broken with a phenomenal 59,551 submissions!

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

© Markus Rohrbacher / Red Bull Illume

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

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

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

Judging Phase

You can just sit back and relax now, as the judges will select the 260 semi-finalists, 60 finalists, eleven category winners and one overall winner! You can get to know the judges right here, and more will be added each week! The judging format in full can be found on our rules page!

260, 60, eleven, one

You will hear these numbers a lot in the coming months, so here’s a brief intro to why they are important. The 260 semi-finalist images will be on display in a gallery on our website, and also be published in the limited-edition coffee table book!

Should you be selected as one of the 60 finalists, you will be invited to the Winner Award Ceremony that takes place from November 18-20, and your images will be on display in the Global Exhibit Tour that begins immediately afterwards.

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

Special Announcements

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

If you are selected as one of the 260 semi-finalists, you will be notified within the next few weeks!

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

Breaking news: you have 24 additional hours to enter!

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

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

© Maiko Mou / Red Bull Illume

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

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

This is your final call – Submit Now!

How to create stunning photos with a smartphone and drone!

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

© Marcel Lämmerhirt

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

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

About the shot: 5 epic images from the Masterpiece Category

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

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

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

1. Jeremiah Watt

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

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

2. Elliott Bernhagen

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

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

3. Ben Thouard

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

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

4. Alex Buisse

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

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

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

5. Roman Neimann

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Markus Berger / Red Bull Illume

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

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

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

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

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

Creating magic - with Dan Vojtěch!

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

© Daniel Vojtěch / Red Bull Illume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you select the final images that you enter?

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

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

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

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

The clock is ticking - just two weeks to go!

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

© Desré Pickers / Red Bull Illume

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

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

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

Christian Pondella:

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

Morgan Maassen:

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

Jimmy Wilson:

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

Jody MacDonald:

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

Zak Noyle:

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

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

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