Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Miguel Lopez

Interview with Miguel Lopez

After winning the SanDisk Sequence award at Red Bull Illume, Miguel Angel Lopez had three words to say – “Viva la Mexico!” Even his t-shirt said the same. Although Miguel didn’t say much else that night in English and had fellow South American Orlando Duque translate from Spanish for him on stage, it reminded everyone how international Red Bull Illume is. But a Mexican winner was an awesome surprise nonetheless.

Just look at the map on the Red Bull Illume gallery. The west coast of the US, northern Europe and South Western Australia dominates the action sports world. Rightly, they have some amazing mountain or coastal locations for high-risk outdoor sports or massive metropolitan cities with every scene imaginable – skate, BMX, B-Boying etc. But there are many other undiscovered and less photographed places elsewhere. Look at the winning photo from Chris Burkard, who remembers the last surf photo they saw from Chile?

Likewise, Miguel’s win was a breath of fresh air. Even more so for the SanDisk sequence category, which was supremely technical and competitive. However, the winning photo was an elegantly simple shot, even the trick wasn’t complicated. The photo captured the moment, while the sequence of shadows in the background showed how the move was done which is why sequence shots became so popular in the first place. By being selective and not including too much detail in the photo, which some sequence shots are guilty of, Miguel’s photo elevated the sequence shot into art territory. Ever heard the advice “Keep it simple, stupid”? Well Miguel kept it simple and beautiful at the same time and managed to get an iconic skate image.
(Have a look at the 'Making Of' video in our last feature to see how the shot was taken.)

Working as a photographer for eight years and a director of Urbeskate.com, as well as a Red Bull Illume semi-finalist in 2007, Miguel didn’t come from nowhere however. Read on to find out more about the man behind the lens.

What reception have you received since winning your category in Red Bull Illume?
Well in Mexico, the reaction from my friends, family and people in general has been amazing. Until I came back with the trophy, the book, the magazines that I brought from Dublin, no one knew the magnitude of the event. My parents are very proud that I won. Before, they never really understood my work as a skate photographer and why I was putting so much effort and passion into it. But after seeing everything that’s happened since, they are really happy with me. And everyone is proud that my photo was able to represent Mexico. The Red Bull team in Mexico were really happy for me too. I have worked with them over the years helping to make skateboarding events in Mexico.

In January 2011, together with other photographers, I was present at a gallery in the city of Puebla, Mexico. They showed the pictures I submitted to Red Bull Illume. It was a pleasure to be exhibited. I was treated really well, people took pictures of me, kids asked me for autographs, and some new photographers approached me to say that I am an inspiration for them. Overall, I was so proud to represent Mexico in the contest.

What difference has winning made to your photography career?
Personally I'm still the same photographer with the same idea to keep doing things in action sports photography and more in skateboarding because it’s what I enjoy doing. Professionally, it’s helping my career because Red Bull Illume is the only major event dedicated to action sports photography.

A friend jokingly said to me, “Finally your skateboard photography leaves something in your life” because many people know me for other things within the Mexico skateboarding scene. Apart from being a photographer, I’m the director of Urbeskate and an event organizer. I try to help this sport grow in my country as good as possible and winning Red Bull Illume has helped me to open some more doors.

What’s inspiring you right now as a photographer?
Inspiration! Or as I said in an interview in Dublin, I realize that everything is possible and this event gave me the opportunity to show my work. I'm inspired to improve my photography so winning Red Bull Illume gave me the opportunity for further improvement. I want to do my best during these years and then, if all goes well, retire with a smile of accomplishment.

The funny thing is that I was in the first Red Bull Illume in 2007 and I was in the semi-finals with a photo but I didn’t get any further. I entered the second contest with more enthusiasm and was more optimistic about doing better. Then I won the SanDisk sequence category. Were my photos better or did I just have more enthusiasm for making things happen? What I know is that if you work every day with heart and energy, you will get good results and new opportunities or second chance can always happen. Red Bull Illume has inspired me to believe and keep doing what I like, no matter what happens.


What new photography equipment and techniques are you using or want to use more of?
You can use any equipment really. Your eyes and your mind is what makes the difference. I have not changed my equipment much. I want to buy a new digital camera, but I will shoot on 35mm until I due. I like the Holga and am starting to work on more video shoots, like this one.

My techniques have also been improving. I always want to improve how I use light, colors and need time to experiment. But it’s hard as my work as a photo editor and director for Urbe Skate consumes me but I have to keep up with new developments. It was amazing to see other professional skateboard photographers that I admire so much in the Red Bull Illume photobook. It made me realize that myself and others are doing a good job in the Mexican skateboarding scene.

What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
I want to make an exhibition next year with friends. I wish we could bring the Red Bull Illume exhibit to Mexico in 2011 but who knows! Still it was cool that there was the tour in Houston, Texas, which was just across the border.

In January, we had the urbeskate.com and we had our own awards, including a best skateboard photographer award. Otherwise I have so much to organize, so 2011 will be a busy year! I’m also hoping to finally have my own website, so I can show eight years of work as a photographer!

What must a photographer keep in mind while shooting an action scene?

The location, angle and equipment. The location is important because to photograph a trick, you have to show the difficulty of the trick and beauty of the place, so anyone will just see the photo and say “wow!” and be amazed.

The angle is an important factor because not all tricks require the same angle. Every trick has its aesthetic.

As for the equipment, you need to know what options your equipment gives you and you need to maximize the technical possibilities using your imagination.

How important is location in sports photography?
Location is as important as in the trick, so it’s 50:50. I sometimes I don’t take photos of some tricks for a particular location, as it just doesn’t fit. Of course there are also occasions that the trick is so difficult that you have the challenge of showing the difficulty and the beauty of the place.

Every day we seek new places to photograph which is so important. The street offers unimaginable places. Definitely the place you will provide the other 50% to your picture.

What are some of the challenges you face while doing action photography? How do you overcome them?
Well in my case there are many. The very common one is that the picture is not taken at the exact moment of the trick and you’ve missed it. Sometimes the trick is so hard you can’t expect the person to retry it. Or they re-do the trick over and over without any luck, then the light changes while you’re waiting. Sometimes you have to just cancel a shoot or forget an idea. You have to know your and the athlete’s capabilities.

Technical issues are normal - empty batteries, your camera fails, your fisheye won’t stay on properly. Stuff happens!

How do you define the 'perfect frame' in sports photography?
Good photos have three critical aspects: difficulty, place and the person being photographed. Obviously, a perfect frame has to amaze you in all three. But I think the perfect frame is the one which shows how exciting that sport is. It’s a moment when you know that as soon as you press the shutter, you feel you have to see that picture.

How do you prepare for action photography, physically and mentally?
Well I have nothing in particular. I just check my equipment is ready and in my mind I just think I have to try to do my best. If you’re shooting a well-known athlete, you have to think that you deserve to shoot someone that good. But I try to enjoy the moment, especially when I’m working with friends.

If you had just 5 pieces of your most important advice for a young action photographer, what would they be?

I have only one:
When taking a picture
Feel the photo. Live the photograph.

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CCS digital_fabric® illuminates the Global Indoor Exhibition 2019

The stunning finalist images of the Image Quest 2019 are illuminated in the true style of Red Bull Illume on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes provided by our partner CCS digital_fabric®.

© CCS digital_fabric

In 2019, Red Bull Illume presents an entirely new global exhibition. See the creative and captivating finalist images of the Image Quest 2019 illuminated in unique style on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes created by our partner CCS digital_fabric®.

CCS digital_fabric® GmbH is based in Dusseldorf. Established in 1979, it has a clear international driven orientation. In 2001, CCS revolutionized the display technology by introducing the fabric frame® which became a worldwide standard in a very short amount of time. CCS digital fabric has been an innovation driver and pioneer when it comes to digital printing.

On December 11 at the world-famous Hangar-7 in Salzburg, it was 'lights on' for this unique experience. Guests and photographers alike watched on in awe as the 60 finalist images from the Image Quest 2019 were lit up on these incredible screens for the first time.

The Global Exhibit Tour has stops around Europe and the USA in 2020 confirmed and soon to be announced. Make sure to stay tuned to see if Red Bull Illume, and CCS digital_fabric®, are coming to your city!

For more on CCS digital_fabric® and their incredible print services, check out their website!

Eva Berten makes shooting dancing a harmonious experience

Eva tells us how her passion for dance translates into her photography, and how a desire to capture her dancer friends artistic movements led her to be a semi-finalist of the Image Quest 2019!

© Eva Berten / Red Bull Illume

A dancer since the age of five, Eva Berten's photography captures all the vibrancy and dynamism associated with breaking. Her super clean shot of Charlize Glass executing a flip named 'suicide' won over the judges as she made it to the semi-finals of the Wings category, and into the Photobook! We wanted to know more!

Check out the interview and more great images below… 

How does it feel to have made it to the semi-final stage of the Wings category?

Honestly, I never thought that I would make it so far. This contest is known for the best sports and action photos and I'm extremely honored to have one of my pictures amongst them this year. Especially since it's in the Wings category. To me it represents Red Bull's slogan in the best possible way. 

Tell us a little bit about how you came to shoot breaking?

I started with dance photography in 2013/2014. I'm a dancer myself and some of my crew members needed photos for a workshop flyer. I was already working as a photographer that time, so of course they asked me to take the pictures. I was so amazed by the results and shooting what I love, dance, made me so happy. Since that day I couldn't stop anymore. I started to shoot more friends and somehow got my first bookings for some major dance events in Germany and international. The rest is history.

What’s the biggest challenge in capturing someone mid-air?

The hardest part is definitely the timing! You really need to have some kind of feeling for the right moment. And a fast finger. Personally, I think it really helps that I'm a dancer myself and know what exactly I'm trying to capture. I always try to get the picture with one shot only. I try to be patient and wait for that one moment. Burst mode would be too easy.

Do you choreograph the moves to get a shot that you have in mind? Or are you just capturing moments as they happen?

Usually I don't choreograph it. Most of the dancers just freestyle in front of my camera and I take the shots in the right moments. I try to study dancers and their style. If I know their signature moves, how they enter them and movements they usually do, I'm prepared and ready for the shoot. I only choreograph the moves if I have a specific picture that I want to capture. But usually I just go with the flow and see what's the result. I feel like choreographing everything and trying to realize this one specific idea, can kind of limit your freedom and opportunities during the shooting.

Any locations you would love to shoot breaking, but haven’t yet?

Yes! Definitely Iceland. And a trip with six amazing dancers is already scheduled for next year. I can't wait to take some breathtaking shots in these jaw-dropping landscapes. It's going to be a tough project, since Iceland is usually really cold and the dancers need to be warm to show their best moves. But I'm 100% sure the freezing is going to be worth it!

Finish the sentence: “If I wasn’t an action and adventure sports photographer I would be…"

... a professional dancer.

What’s next for you, and where can we find more of your work?

Next up are some small community events, editing tons of photos that I took at the Funkin Stylez World final in Düsseldorf and organizing a little shooting tour through Germany. You can check out more of my work on Instagram @evaberten or on my website www.evaberten.com!

World premiere of the new Indoor Exhibition at Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria

The finalist images of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest are exhibited for the first time in an entirely new indoor set up at the famous Hangar-7, Salzburg, Austria from December 12, 2019 onwards!

Red Bull Illume is excited to present an entirely new exhibition, which celebrated its world premiere on December 11 at the outstanding Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria! See the creative and captivating finalist images of the Image Quest 2019, selected by 50 esteemed judges out of 59,551 submissions, that make up this unique experience. The Top 60 images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 make their first indoor stop at the amazing work of architecture that is Hangar-7 in Salzburg. There, the stunning images are illuminated in the true style of Red Bull Illume on 2x2m T-shaped lightboxes.

This brand-new set up of the lightboxes, on which the images are displayed for the first time at Hangar-7, is provided by the German based company CCS digital_fabric®. They revolutionized the display technology by introducing fabric_frame®. These high-quality frames provide the perfect means of showcasing the high-tech prints and make the Red Bull Illume exhibition truly amazing!

From its architectural elegance to its beautiful interior, the venue itself is a sight to behold. Home to a stunning collection of historical aircraft, Formula 1 race cars and other unique mementos from sporting history, Hangar-7 makes the ideal space for the kick-off of the Global Indoor Exhibit Tour.

On December 11 the opening night for invited guests took place. Attending the event and celebrating the Image Quest 2019 were photographers like Masterpiece by EyeEm and Playground category winner Lorenz Holder, Wings category winner Philip Platzer, Lifestyle category winner Alexander Wick as well as Red Bull Illume 2019 semi-finalists Markus Berger and Luis Gallo.

They were joined by legendary BMX athlete Senad Grosic and paragliding hero Paul Guschlbauer. Special guests from the photography industry completed the line-up for this magical night.

The unique exhibition is free to visit and is open daily from December 12, 2019 until February 9, 2020 during Hangar-7’s usual opening hours of 9am to 10pm. The kickoff of the Indoor Exhibit Tour is set to be an event like no other, so make sure you stop by and get inspired by the amazing images!

The Global Exhibit Tour has stops around Europe and the USA in 2020 confirmed and soon to be announced. Make sure to stay tuned to see if Red Bull Illume is coming to your city!

Finalist images illuminate South Tyrol, Italy until January 2020

The world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery exhibition opened to the public on November 30, 2019 in front of the LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography atop Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, Italy.

© Damian Agreiter

Red Bull Illume has earned its place as the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. In November the winners of the Image Quest 2019 were crowned at a spectacular Winner Award Ceremony at LUMEN atop Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, Italy. The Museum of Mountain Photography will also host the first outdoor exhibit tour stop. The stand-alone exhibition will present the top 60 images of the Image Quest 2019 on 2x2m lightboxes in an amazing scenery at a height of 2,275m/7,464ft. above sea level. The opening of the exhibition coincided with the official start of the ski season at Plan de Corones on November 30 and will be open until December 15, 2019. After that, the images will be displayed in magical Brunico-Bruneck, Italy until January 6, 2020. 

The location is at least as stunning as the exhibited images themselves. The breathtaking LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography has an 1800m2 exhibition space and features the most amazing moments of mountain photography. Over four floors it shows the history of mountain photography, from its beginnings until today and gives well deserved credit to the photographers behind the pictures. 

Situated in the beautiful Pustertal Valley, Plan de Corones is considered by many to be the number one wintersports resort in South Tyrol, Italy and all those who enjoy culture and relaxation in beautiful surroundings. So, make your next ski trip extra special! Head to Plan de Corones for great snow and experience the 60 finalist images in front of LUMEN at 2,275m/7,464ft. The exhibition will be open daily from 8.30am until 4.30pm and is free to visit, the opening hours coincide with the opening hours of the gondola.

Following the stop at LUMEN, the exhibition will travel to Brunico-Bruneck, Italy, also known as the heart of the Pustertal Valley. The images will be illuminated at the town hall square after dark from December 19, 2019 until January 6, 2020. Visitors can get in the festive mood at the Bruneck Christmas market, and combine this with a unique look at the 60 finalists that were chosen by 50 esteemed judges out of 59,551 submissions, that make up this stunning experience.

These tour stops atop Plan de Corones and in Brunico-Bruneck, Italy are set to be an event like no other, so be sure to stop by!

See all the stops on our dedicated Exhibition Page!

Ben Thouard is crowned overall winner of the Image Quest 2019!

Taking home the grand title as overall winner of the fifth edition of Red Bull Illume is Ben Thouard with his mind-bending underwater image of athlete Ace Buchan surfing in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, in French Polynesia!

© Ben Thouard :

Overall Winner, Image Quest 2019 © Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest has a new name in the overall winner circle: Ben Thouard! His underwater epic shot in the glassy clear waters of Tahiti was chosen by a panel of 50 esteemed judges as the winner. If perspective were ever needed at a time like this, Ben’s image is number 1 out of a phenomenal 59,551 submissions.

We are delighted to add Ben’s name to the list of overall winners of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. A list that includes iconic photographers Lorenz Holder, Chris Burkard and Fred Mortagne. His progression from edition to edition has seen him rise from semi-finalist in 2013, to finalist in 2016 and now overall winner in 2019!

Every image tells a story, and here’s Ben’s story behind the shot:

“I‘ve dedicated the last few years to shooting underwater, looking for new angles and a new way to shoot surfing and waves. Shooting surfing from underwater is a whole new world and I love it! 

“Tahiti has some of the clearest water in the world so it was easy for me to take advantage of it and explore it as much as I could. 

“This photo was shot during a freesurf session right before the WCT event in Teahupo‘o. This is Ace Buchan kicking out from the barrel through the wave, a technique to escape a close-out wave. 

“Luckily I was right below, breathless with my waterhousing waiting for this moment and I was able to capture the whole sequence of it; this frame from the beginning of the sequence is the most powerful one because of the water around his face and body.”

As overall winner, Ben was selected from the 11 category winners, meaning he will take home the category winning prizes from Red Bull Illume Partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum and COOPH - PLUS a Sony a9 camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens from the G-Master range. SanDisk will also take him on a shooting experience the SanDisk Extreme Team!

That’s not all, his image, along with the other of the 60 finalist images, will now be illuminated on 2x2m lightboxes at the Red Bull Illume Global Outdoor Exhibit Tour which begins tonight at LUMEN

All of the finalists, as well as the rest of the Top 260 images, are also published in the Red Bull Illume 2019 Limited Edition Photobook, which is available to order right now!

Once again, a huge thank you goes out to our partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Salewa, Petzl and Sunnybag for a memorable event and an amazing Image Quest!

But, most of all thanks to every photographer and content creator out there that submitted to the contest!

Winner, SanDisk Extreme Award: Philip Platzer!

SanDisk presents the Extreme Award to Philip for his amazing sequence of a record-breaking mountain bike ride.

Markus Stoeckl performs during VMax 200 at the Atacama Desert, Chile on December 10, 2016
Editors Note: Pictures is stitched from multiple photos!

Winner, SanDisk Extreme Award © Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

Our partners at SanDisk are experts in making photography storage solutions ready to deal with the toughest of conditions, that’s why they present the SanDisk Extreme Award to Philip Platzer!

Here’s the story of the image:

“I took the photo for Red Bull during the V-Max Project at the Atacama Desert in Chile, in 2016. The highspeed mountainbiker Markus Stöckl tried to beat the world record in speed with a serial MTB – which was a success, he reached 167.6 km/h. After I did a few classic close-up shots and pans, I wanted to show the whole scenery in one shot. The problem was I could not go close enough to do it with a wide-angle lens and with a longer focal length I didn’t get the view in the frame.

”The solution was to do a panorama shot. After I found my position, I did multiple photos in portrait format on 35mm before Max did his run. When Max was riding I did the sequence of him with the same focal length and perspective. No tripod was required.

“To get the final result I had to do some extra work in photoshop: First of all I stitched the panorama, in the end it was made out of six single shots. After this I had to add the sequence, which was quite an issue because of the stitching. Everything was slightly distorted and it took some time to fit the 44 shots of Max back into the scenery.”

You can follow the Winner Award Ceremony live here!

Winner, Salewa Trophy: Kamil Sustiak!

Kamil Sustiak was chosen by our partner as the winner of the Salewa Trophy, awarded to the Best Mountain Sports Image!

Winner, Salewa Trophy © Kamil Sustiak / Red Bull Illume

The Dolomite based outdoor gear, clothing and shoes company Salewa, a partner of the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony, definitely has the necessary experience and knowledge to choose the Best Mountain Sports Image from the thousands of mountain sports submissions to the Image Quest 2019.

They chose Kamil Sustiak! Here is the info about the winning shot:

“We woke up and the first thought that came to my mind was that this morning was going to be special. I always say that as it makes snoozing the early morning alarm way harder. Little did I know that the nature had already started working on its magic tricks. We arrived to the line surrounded by fog so thick that we could almost not see each other. An hour passed and we could only sense the sunrise that was supposed to make this morning so special.

“I thought, well not today mate, happened before, will happen again … the world is not turning around your camera to make you happy every time you press the shutter. I was ready to bail when all of a sudden the fog dropped just a tiny bit down into the valley and showed us what was actually going on around us. This spectacular scenery lasted for about an hour before the clouds underneath us disappeared and the world turned normal again.”

Follow the Winner Award Ceremony live!

Category Winner, Wings: Philip Platzer!

The Megaswing gets the win! This phenomenal capture by Philip Platzer is the Wings category winner in 2019!

Marco Fuerst performs at the Red Bull Megaswing 2016 in Fromberg, Austria on July 7, 2016.

Category Winner, Creative by Skylum © Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

Take the Red Bull Sky Dive Team, two hot air balloons and a giant swing and what do you get? That’s right, it’s the winner of the Wings category!

Philip Platzer’s image is as joyful as it is exciting, and he told us all about it:

“Together with the Red Bull Skydive Team, I did this crazy Project called “Megaswing“ back in 2016. After my assignment I already knew this had to be a tricky one: Two Hot Air Balloons, one with a long rope attached and the other one to jump out with the swing, and of course the Skydiver with his parachute.

“After the first couple of jumps I realized that I wouldn’t get the perfect shot by simply shooting from the inside of the basket they were jumping out of. Lucky me, I had my monopod in the car as well as a pair of radio-triggers. My solution to get the right angle was to hold the camera, that I had attached to my monopod, as deep under the basket and just hope to get the perfect framing.

“Another thing, I asked the athlete Marco Fürst to turn a little bit towards my direction to avoid getting an ass-shot and to get this playful mood in the image. In the end it was the very last try which gave us the moneyshot.”

Congratulations to the other finalists; Pablo Jiménez, Martin Golob, Lachie Carracher, Marcelo Maragni and Jairo Díaz Dévora.

Head over to our Facebook live stream to see the overall winner announced!

Category Winner, RAW: Noah Wetzel!

So good you can’t believe that this image is straight out of camera – this winner of the all-new RAW category is Noah Wetzel!

Category Winner, Creative by Skylum © Noah Wetzel / Red Bull Illume

When we introduced the RAW category, the goal was to take photographers back to the fundamentals of photography, with composition, exposure and lighting all done in front of the lens. We knew we would see some expert creativity, but nothing quite as insane as this!

That’s right, the winner of the RAW category is Noah Wetzel:

“After weeks of preparation and creative conception, I loaded my Subaru and headed north to Wyoming for the Total Solar Eclipse in August of 2017. Arriving a couple days before the eclipse, I linked up with athletes Chris Brule, Evan Grott, and Blake Sommer. The imagery goal was to capture the Eclipse and showcase mountain biking utilizing an in-camera double exposure – a very complex process.

“The morning of, we loaded our packs well before sunrise with light stands, powerful flashes, extra camera gear, and two magnum bottles of champagne to celebrate. After capturing the first image successfully during two minutes of totality, all we had to do was endure the midday sun, waiting for twilight and the attempt at the second frame.

”Unfortunately, I was unaware I had damaged the hot shoe connection on my camera four weeks prior while shooting fly fishing, preventing me from triggering my flashes.

“Our only option required athlete Chris Brule to hit the feature in near darkness at 9pm, allowing me to set the camera to a 2.5 second exposure, manually firing the flashes and freezing Chris mid-air. Nearly escaping complete failure, we hiked out in darkness while sipping on champagne, truly in awe of the total solar eclipse and thankful we were able to capture something special.”

Congrats also to the other four finalists; Jan Kasl, Christian Gisi, Michael Clark and Daniel Bernstål!

Tune in to the Winner Award Ceremony live to see the remaining winners announced!