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.

Read the latest stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

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

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

Submissions start May 1 – but Instagram by SanDisk starts sooner

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

New Partners arrive, good friends return

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

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

The categories of competition

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

2019 Categories

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

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

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

Red Bull Illume – now every two years & global exhibitions

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

The best Red Bull Illume yet

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

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

Infographic: Your guide to Red Bull Illume 2019!

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

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

Video Teaser: Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019

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

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

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Gallery: 9 Ice Cold Images from Red Bull Illume History

Shooting epic photography in icy conditions is challenging, but that makes it even more rewarding. Here's 9 of the most stunning ice images from Red Bull Illume history that show you why!

© Kirsten Quist / Red Bull Illume

Shooting epic photography in icy conditions can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs in all of adventure and action sports. Whether you’re in an ice cave, or climbing the north face of a mountain, it’s definitely not an activity for the sun chasers among us. Ice formations and landscapes, however, provide one of the purest aesthetics in photography. Add to this a human aspect, and suddenly you have a powerful visual metaphor of the relationship between people and nature. So, find a warm space, get comfortable, and enjoy this gallery of 9 of the most stunning ice images from Red Bull Illume history!

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

A new year, a new Red Bull Illume!

A new year is upon us – and this new year brings a lot of change to the most respected Image Quest in the adventure and action sports world.

Red Bull Illume 2013: Morgan Maassen, Lifestyle category winner

© Morgan Maassen / Red Bull Illume

The first Red Bull Illume edition happened in 2006 – and while it’s just over a decade ago, it’s safe to say the world of photography has changed significantly in that time. How? Let’s talk about it.

The first ‘digital’ photo contest

The first Red Bull Illume that spread across 2006 and 2007 was a smashing success – largely thanks a revolution in print-quality digital photography. The ability to shoot practically unlimited amounts of images with no concern for the amount of film to develop brought down the cost and difficulty of photography. This meant that adventure and action sports – typically happening in far away or difficult to access places, with the key moment only happening for an instant – saw a flood of incredible images from established photographers, and new ones.  While images shot on film were (and still are) by all means allowed, the digital revolution played no small part in the number of images taken and shared – and seen. Why? Because in 2007, the smartphone appeared – ushering in a totally new era of media consumption.

A new standard set, a global audience

Coupled with an explosion of interest in adventure and action sports, Red Bull Illume quickly gained notoriety as the place to see incredible images. The number of submissions grew ever higher, and so did the standards – to make it as a finalist, an image had to be not great, but unforgettable. The unique ten-category format gave images the opportunity to uniquely stand out from other similarly fantastic images – and what quickly became clear at the global exhibit tours was that people couldn’t get enough of great photography.

The ultimate career Launchpad

For young, aspiring photographers looking to make their name in an increasingly competitive industry, Red Bull Illume became a take-off point – finalist images caught the eyes of photo editors and marketing managers everywhere. Surf photographer Chris Burkard’s winning image from 2010, entitled ‘The Perfect Day’, established him as one of the most widely-known surf photographers on the planet.

Working for the photos

In 2013, a sharp eye would notice a slight shift in the best photos: rather than submitting their best shots from being at the right place at the right time, photographers were going out to shoot specifically for the contest. It was in this edition that we saw the first winning image from German photographer Lorenz Holder, whose images are notable for the amount of research and work that goes into making them happen. With an eye for finding unique landmarks to frame his action, plenty of planning, and some patience he’s managed to take home top honors for the last two contests in 2013 and 2016.

Bigger, better, broader

Like the art of creating images, Red Bull Illume has done nothing other than evolve. As the numbers of photos being submitted grew, so did the contest change. In 2016, an 11th category was added, in fitting with the times: the mobile category. This category is for shots taken only on a phone, challenging photographers to think beyond their equipment and truly get to the photo itself. As a result, the fourth edition saw a record 34,624 breathtaking images submitted by 5,646 photographers from 120 countries.

2019 will mark the fifth edition of the contest, and after a three-year break, we can’t wait to see what images are out there simply waiting to be seen. And in the spirit of evolution, this year’s contest will bring some unique new challenges. Exactly what? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

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

Gallery: 12 Mountain Sports Images That Will Light Up LUMEN!

To celebrate the opening of an exhibition of the world’s greatest mountain sports photography from the four previous editions of Red Bull Illume at the brand-new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography, we wanted to give you a little teaser of what visitors will see.

© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume

So here we present a selection of 12 of the images that will be lighting up the ‘Adrenaline Room’ for the next three years! The museum is now open, so get your adventure gear out and meet us at the peak to see the rest of the exhibition set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps!

Red Bull Illume enlightens the new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography with a permanent exhibition

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world´s greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

Mountain life is something deeply ingrained in human history. For hundreds of years, men and women have tried to tell the story of this ever-changing landscape by capturing light through photography; a story in which adventure and action sports photography has played a large part. Now this story has a home; LUMEN – the Museum of Mountain Photography which opens its doors on December 20, 2018. On this note, Red Bull Illume, the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest is delighted to announce its new partnership with the LUMEN Museum.

Located on the top of Mount Kronplatz-Plan de Corones at an altitude of 2,275m, the Lumen Museum lies in the heart of the South Tyrolean Alps and the Italian Dolomites. The legendary Kronplatz offers 119 kilometers of ski slopes, attracting thousands of visitors every day during the winter season. In summer, the resort transforms into a colorful paradise for mountain bikers and hiking enthusiasts. Best of all, LUMEN is perfectly located next to the Messner Mountain Museum, just a few hundred meters away on a neighboring peak.

The museum will showcase a range of stunning mountain photography from different perspectives such as alpinism, tourism, politics, spirituality and history. Visitors of the museum will be treated to a captivating exhibition space which spans the past, present and future of mountain photography. All of this is set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps and the museum’s stunning architecture.

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world's greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest. This unique exhibit will be found in the museum’s mind blowing ‘Adrenaline Room’. In total, around 50 images and videos will be displayed on lightboxes and screens, providing an interactive digital experience that is both visual and audible. The exhibition will run for an initial three years and guarantees an unforgettable visit to a truly innovative exhibition space.

The LUMEN Museum at an enormous 1,800m2 in size will also act as an event venue perfect for conferences, product launch events, seminars or workshops. Additionally, visitors can dine in the AlpiNN Mountain Restaurant with mouth-watering cuisine by Three-Michelin-Star legend Norbert Niederkofler. Sound good? Then get your adventure gear out and join Red Bull Illume at the LUMEN Museum of Mountain Photography! We’ll see you at the peak for true enlightenment! 

More information on the LUMEN Museum can be found on their website.

Gallery: 10 Photos Capturing The Emotions Of Adventure And Action Sports

Emotion is something that belongs to both photography and action sports. Attempting a stunt can be as emotional as it is physical. There’s fear, frustration, pain and glory. One trick can have it all and it’s the photographer’s job to capture it. Here are 10 photos to celebrate those feelings that you won’t find anywhere else.

© Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Illume

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Red Bull Illume Image Quest: Timeline Revised for 2019 Edition

Red Bull Illume, the world`s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest returns in 2019 for its fifth edition. But what’s new? The sheer volume and quality of the submissions has grown exponentially since it started, so the decision has been made to hold the event every two years, rather than the original three-year interval. With this comes a new timeline, so here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to take part.

In May 2019, the submission phase for the contest will officially kick off. This gives photographers a chance to enter their most spectacular adventure and action sports images before the closing deadline in July. Keep an eye out though; a special announcement in January is set to revolutionize the contest and may well inspire an entirely new approach from those who wish to participate!  

After the submission phase comes the judging stage. Between August and October 2019, a panel of widely renowned photo experts will vote to determine the top five images from each of the contest’s categories. This is no easy task when you consider the record-breaking 34,624 photos that were submitted to the contest in 2016 – and 2019 looks set to be bigger than ever! As the judging gets under way, preparation for the Winner Award Ceremony will begin.

The ceremony itself is widely regarded as the most prestigious event in the world of adventure and action sports photography. It’s here that the finalists, category winners and the overall contest winner will be announced. With each edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest comes a new and exciting venue in the heart of a vibrant cultural hub. Although the location for the next ceremony is still to be announced, it promises to be an unforgettable night for the world of adventure and action sports photography. Just wait and see! 

Once concluded, the year 2020 will be devoted to a series of international exhibitions. The winning images will be displayed in major cities around the world, giving the photographers an unprecedented level of exposure. There will also be a few innovative changes to the tour that will revolutionize the contest as we know it, but all will be revealed soon! Sound appealing? Then get shooting and submit your images for a chance to make history at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

For upcoming announcements and more information, keep an eye on our website and social channels.