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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Jody MacDonald is living the lifestyle she chose!

Jody tells us how following her dream helped her to become the Lifestyle Category winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016.

© Jody MacDonald / Red Bull Illume

If spending 15 hours slithering through the desert on a three-kilometer long train transporting approximately 84 tons of iron ore across a country sounds like a dream to you, then you’re probably one of two things. Either, you’re ready to be the winner of the Lifestyle Category of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest, or you’re Jody MacDonald.

Thankfully for us, Jody is both! Her iconic and unforgettable image of a surfer on board the Mauritania Railway was the realization of her dream as a youngster of being on adventures like the ones she read in magazines. The image has gone on to define the Lifestyle Category, so we caught up with Jody to find out a bit more about her lifestyle, and how this is reflected in her photography.

Please give a small intro about yourself…

I was born in Ottawa, Canada but grew up in Saudi Arabia. I was fortunate enough to travel a lot when I was young and it really inspired me to travel and explore. I’ve been doing adventure sports for as long as I can remember.

I began my photography career when I started sailing around the world. I ended up living at sea for 10 years and sailing around the world twice visiting over 90 countries in search of having adventures in the most remote corners of the planet.

I’m passionate about stepping off the beaten path in pursuit of documenting issues that blend insightful storytelling, big adventure exploration and social change inspiration. I currently live in a ski town in the US called Sun Valley, Idaho.

In your words, what type of photographer are you?

I call myself and adventure and documentary photographer.

What’s more important in photography, action or emotion?

Tough question but I would say emotion. In my opinion the images that are most powerful evoke some kind of emotion.

How long does it take to capture the perfect ‘Lifestyle’ image of action sports?

I don’t think there is a definitive time frame but I don think it generally requires quite a bit of time. Spending a lot of time with your subjects and the sports they do is key to understanding the lifestyle behind the sport. I think the more time you spend with your subjects, the more likely you are to produce much stronger images.

Do you always have a camera with you?

Not always but when I’m on assignment, definitely!

Do your images display your own lifestyle, as well as the people in them?

Yes, without a doubt. I like to photograph sports that I do myself and am apart of that community so yes, my images definitely represent my own lifestyle.

Will you be submitting to Red Bull Illume 2019?

If I think I have any that are worthy, I will ;)

If Jody’s words resonate with you, or if you want to test your adventure and action sports images against the best, you can submit to this or any of the other 10 categories here!

Follow Jody on Instagram!

Three overall winners tell us how Red Bull Illume changed their life!

Need a little inspiration to sit down and sort through your best work? See how this photo contest impacted the lives of Chris Burkard, Lorenz Holder, and Fred Mortagne.

© Fred Mortagne / Red Bull Illume

How do you know you got a good shot? Recognition – literally. Four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest have produced three different winners, and they have been on quite the journey ever since.

Fred Mortagne bucked the trend of vivid colored, fisheye action shots to become heralded as one of the premier skateboard photographers around. Chris Burkard is a household name using natural light to capture humanizing moments, achieving a phenomenal reach. Lorenz Holder is recognized by many as the bench-setter in blurring the lines between adventure and action sports, and fine art photography.

How did Red Bull Illume help them, and what keeps them coming back? It’s best said in their own words.

“In the photography world there are very few instances of validation,” says adventure photographer Chris Burkard. “Bagging a cover shot or a spread in a magazine is about as close as we get.”

To be honest – Chris is better off than most. A good chunk of his 3.4 million Instagram followers validate most things he posts with 50,000 likes, give or take.

But here’s a question: would he be where he is today without Red Bull Illume? According to him… he’s pretty glad he clicked ‘submit’. “It definitely elevated my career to a different level,” he says. “When I look back on some of the more pivotal moments of my career it stands out as one of the most important to me. I was able to gain recognition to an audience larger than just the surf world which proved to be really valuable in the long run.”

For Lorenz Holder, it’s less about the external validation and more about the internal. He admits it’s been a major boost to his career – giving brands the confidence to work with him as a photographer – but for him, it’s all about the art. “I think the greatest thing for myself was to see that the way I work and the way I see action sport works, and people like it. This gave me the inner trust to go on with that way and style. I’m always on the search for something special and I guess the Red Bull Illume competition is a good platform to show the results.“

Original winner of the first contest, Fred Mortagne, surprised everyone, even himself. “I would have never imagined that a black and white image could win such a competition. Especially when I discovered the 50 finalist images just before the award ceremony... I was 100% sure that I didn't stand a chance,” he says. “I was completely going against the stream of what was happening in sports photography. The style I was building was at the opposite of the evolution of action sports images... I needed strong signs like this win to give me confidence in what I was doing and trying to achieve. I built a style and a body of work that is now very strong and rather unique.”

And don’t forget – one of the best parts about it? Getting all the glory at the Winner’s Award Ceremony. Lorenz Holder remembers it clearly. “When I was in Hong Kong for the prize-giving, I just wanted to have a good time with the other photographers, without any expectations,” he says. “When the overall winner was announced, I was speechless and couldn’t understand what was just happening. I was not expecting it at all. Not in my wildest dreams!”

So, if you to feel like joining the 64 finalists of Red Bull Illume in attending the Winner Award Ceremony in November 2019; a gathering of the most influential photography people in the world. Then there’s the immense exposure as their images tour around the globe – and you get featured in the limited-edition Coffee Table Book. And that’s all before we even mention the hardware: more than €100,000 worth of exceptional photography prizes from our global partners.

One thing Holder, Burkard and Mortagne – can say for certain is this: they’re definitely entering the contest again this year.

It could be your image that millions see around the world this time, so take a chance and submit by the July 31 deadline here!

Fred’s website: frenchfred.com
Chris’ website: www.chrisburkard.com
Lorenz’ website: www.lorenzholder.com

Inside the Greenland ice cap, Christian Pondella's smallest piece of gear was a big deal

SanDisk Extreme Team photographer Christian Pondella's most important piece of gear goes everywhere with him and is the size of a coin: It’s his SanDisk Extreme SD card.

© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Content Pool

How would you feel if you spent thousands of dollars, traveled thousands of miles, and came home with… nothing? Christian Pondella and Will Gadd have been wandering over the world for 20 years, and have ticked off a few adventures – but this trip to climb ice in the Greenland Ice Cap was one of the “coolest adventures I’ve ever been on!” – his words, not ours, and he follow up with a quick “no pun intended!”

In the remote, icy wilderness on the Greenland ice cap, a gaping hole marked the spot where climber Gadd and his support crew and film team would descend into the unknown. What they discovered was a sparklingly beautiful, but terrifying 90m-deep cavern, with a roof made of hundreds of tonnes of cracking, creaking and groaning ice.

It took skill, experience and knowledge simply to come back alive. Let alone to get THE shot. And what about their equipment? Well, Pondella told us that what’s pretty funny is that one of the smallest and most lightweight pieces of gear on his adventure is the most important – his camera’s memory cards. Even though they’re tiny, you could say the whole adventure depends on them – if they don’t work, the boys come home with nothing but a memory. Great for them… but not so great for the story they want to tell. 

All of this is why he’s packing SanDisk Extreme memory cards – they’re designed to withstand extreme environments. They’re shockproof, temperature-proof and even waterproof – all things which are real risk when you’re rappelling into a frozen cave somewhere near the Polar Ice Cap.

A moulin is basically a giant hole in a glacier, created when surface water finds its way into a crack in the ice and melts through. And in this dream project, the plan was to climb into one and go deep inside the Greenland ice cap to a place nobody has ever been before.

“My first thought was this thing looks f**king scary,” recalls Pondella. It took all of their skill, expertise and experience to know not only when to go in, but also when to pull back. After a first unsuccessful drop, conditions were in their favor second time around.

Just getting out there was an adventure. It was a half-hour heli flight from Ilulissat with amazing views and then we were dropped off in the middle of this ice desert. Just flat ice, as far as you can see. Totally surreal.” See the full interview here.(link)

Whether he’s in the freezing cold depths of a moving river of ice, or in thin high alpine air, one thing is for sure: his photographic environment and what’s happening in it is always changing. With all that in flux, it’s good to have something one can count on – even if it’s just the size of a quarter. 

Want to show us your own stuff from crazy adventures and dramatic environments? Submit to the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category by tagging your posts with @redbullillume and #rbi19submission – but hurry, there’s just over a week left – the last entry needs to be in by June 14 at midday (CEST) – so get ‘gramming!

May Best of Instagram by SanDisk Winner Revealed!

We’re happy to announce the winner this month is French photographer Jeremy Bernard, for this incredible slack-line shot taken at sunset – or is it sunrise? And… does it matter?

© Jeremy Bernard / Red Bull Illume

So here you have it, monthly winner number 4 out of 5 in the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category looks like this:

Jeremy spent months living on board a sailboat in the South Pacific, working on creating images like these – and they’re absolutely worth checking out. The story is best told in his own words:

“This shot of slackliner Nathan Paulin was taken on Ua Pou, Marquesas Island, during an expedition onboard of Maewan in French Polynesia. Maewan’s captain Erwan Le Lann is always looking for the craziest thing to achieve anywhere his boat brings him. So, when he had the idea to set the first highlines in Marquesas Island, I did everything possible to be onboard.

“The line was set above Sharks Bay in Ua Pou. It was 370m long and 72m high above the ocean. The name says it all, we were able to see the sharks and a few turtles in the bay from the line. It’s funny to think that five minutes prior to this shot it was pouring rain, we thought we just missed the most beautiful sunset ever and we would have to go back to the boat with nothing.”

On how it feels to be guaranteed as a finalist of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019:

“To bring this photo to the final is a great reward for all the team to have our work shown and highlighted in such an amazing competition. Also, I would like to say a big thank you to all the community who voted for me and I’m really looking forward for the ceremony in November!”

Well deserved, especially considering how close the public vote was this month. It literally went down to the last minutes before a winner was clear, and no wonder when you see the level of submissions. Check them all out here!

Next month is June, meaning there’s only one more month left to enter the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category.

But don’t forget, you can submit to the other 10 categories until July 31 by clicking here!

Creativity doesn’t end after you have taken your image

In an imagery contest with tens of thousands of submissions, the editing process is so important to boost your photos and make them stand out in the eyes of the judges. This is true even more so in the Creative by Skylum category, the only category where anything goes in terms of image editing – and here is why Skylum is a perfect partner for Red Bull Illume!

© Fabiano Rodrigues / Red Bull Illume

Any good photographer can tell you – clicking the button is just one part of the process – there is so much work before and after that is necessary to make an image great! Skylum is all about making photo editing easy – their flagship product, Luminar 3, is a robust photo cataloging and editing tool that lets pro photographers spend less time waiting for images to get ingested, and get right to the work that matters the most to them – making gorgeous stuff. 

So – why do we love Luminar 3? Well, it’s just perfect for adventure and action sports imagery. With just a few simple clicks, Luminar 3 can make your athlete pop and your background tones blend to create that perfect result that every photographer craves.

To be even more specific, here’s three of the many features that we love: ultra-fast import, customizable workspaces, and… layers. Getting your photos off the card and into a catalog is super simple, and most importantly super-fast – so if you’ve got a quick-turn-around delivery, you can start sorting out the good from the bad, right away. Customizable workspaces mean you can set up your computer desktop to your liking, letting you see the information and use the tools relevant to you. Finally – and what is perhaps the most important – layers. Alternative photo editors mean you have to take your image out of the program and into another one to use layers. In Luminar 3, you can do it right in your catalog, making it a much more powerful and capable tool. It’s all powered by artificial intelligence, and the premise behind it is simple: automate what can be automated, and leave creative control in the hands of the artist. 

Maybe you have already shot your images for submission, but still need to edit them to make them perfect before uploading. Luckily, you can try Luminar 3 for free and get a $10 discount with the promo code RED-BULL-ILLUME when you purchase it. Open a window to your creativity, by downloading it here!

The best news for Red Bull Illume entrants? Prize packages will certainly include Skylum software – making winning all the more fun, and your future photo editing workflow even better!

To learn more about Skylum and Luminar 3, check out their website – and don’t forget, submissions for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 are now open – until July 31, 2019!

First judges confirmed… and they have advice for you!

There’s another secret to what makes Red Bull Illume so great: it’s not just the photographers – it’s also the judges. The first judges for the Image Quest 2019 have been confirmed, and they’ve been kind enough to give us their tips – so listen up, this could help you win!

Red Bull Illume 2013: Dean Barnes, Lifestyle category top 25

© Dean Barnes / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume judges are hand-picked as people who, somehow or someway, made their mark on the photography industry, some as photographers, but more often as photo editors, curators, founders of photography brands or media outlets – these are the people with taste and unrivalled know-how, which they wanted to share with you!

Be original 

Laura Luykenaar, from Salt Magazine, makes it even more clear: “Just don’t take the shot that has already been shot a thousand times before.” Daniel Havlik – founder of Shutterbug – strongly agrees. "Dare to try something different – but don't forget the human element.” Which lead us to another good point… it’s often very much about the person. 

Show a human experience 

It’s not a hard-and-fast rule that images for Red Bull Illume require a person or athlete in them, but the contest is about adventure and action sports. People are the ones that have adventures and do action sports, so it’s a good idea to think about what the humans in your images are doing – and what they’re showing us. Says Hideko Kataoka, Photo Editor for NewsWeek Japan: "I am fascinated about the ability to capture intense moments of the human experience, and beauty of human body and activity.” Another esteemed photographer – Denis Balibous from Reuters – puts it more simply: “A picture has to cause a strong emotion.” 

Don’t be afraid to smash the shutter button 

Laura Luykenaar: "You can take 100 pictures of a scene and have 95 technically good photos, some crappy ones, but just 1 might turn out to be perfect. I think that luck and timing add a great deal to make a great photo.” Your takeaway? Take risks, and get lots of shots! 

Nail your timing 

"The two most important things for me with adventure and actions sports images are timing and composition,” says Daniel Halvik. When there’s high-speed, high-altitude, high-consequence action happening right in front of your lens, there’s no question – you’ve got to nail the timing. So, plan, plan, plan. Evgeny Tchebotarev, 500px founder and VP of Growth Asia, Skylum Software, sees it as almost a science: “The amount of work, precision, and accurate timing that goes into that resembled more a scientific lab experiment rather than an action sport photo shoot.”

… finally, just make it great. 

"I can’t just name one thing,” says Luykenaar. "The composition, the light, the focus should be the best for the subject that you are photographing. A great photo needs to be ‘just right’”.

See more from the judges in the image gallery below, and more judges are set to be announced very soon on our dedicated judges page. 

OK, photographers – armed with this knowledge, we implore you: go out and get your best stuff. And waste no time in getting it submitted – the July 31 deadline is going to be here before you know it! 

In Search of Innovation – with Jaanus Ree!

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 has a new category: Innovation by Sony. Nowadays with so many photography websites and apps available, we see more images each day than ever before. So how can you find something truly ‘innovative’ to submit to this category? We asked Red Bull Illume legend Jaanus Ree!

© Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Illume

Tell us a little about you!

I am Jaanus Ree I am from and based in Estonia. I started my photographic career with shooting windsurfers as I did it myself as well. I enjoyed photography so much that I also started to find challenges with other sports. Today I am known mostly as a rally photographer but I do work with some other athletes as well occasionally. 

Your image of the cat in the Image Quest 2016 was one of the most innovative angles we’ve ever seen. How often do people ask you if it was Photoshopped?

Thanks! Often, too often. But to be honest I was expecting that and this is why we also shot the same shot on a film once we had secured it on digital. It was on black and white film and camera jammed after every exposure. I was pretty sure it did not work. Imagine the surprise when I got it back from development and everything was perfect. However, I submitted the color one as it looked better.

Are you always thinking of what could be the next innovative image, or do you prefer to let it come to you?

Both! With the cat photo my girlfriend had asked me to shoot some photos of our cat. So, I thought up something a little different...!
With skate shot everything was there, it was just a quick thought and realization.

With so many images available on social media sites, is it harder to create a newly innovative image now compared to the last Image Quest?

Actually, I think it’s even easier… you have so much of inspiration so easily reachable!

Are there any photographers out there that you think are truly innovative?

Definitely! Lorenz Holder, Dan Vojtech, Dave Lehl and many more! All of the past finalists of the Red Bull Illume competition have something seriously innovative in their works, that’s what makes the Image Quest so great!

What’s the best piece of advice you could give photographers that want to enter the Innovation category?

Take risks to capture something different! 

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

Yep! First shots already uploaded!

You can submit to the Innovation by Sony category right here!

Innovation by Sony

Decades of innovation have made Sony one of the recognizable names in the camera world – here’s why they are the perfect partner for Red Bull Illume!

© William Struntz / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume is more than happy to have Sony on board for the second time in a row as a key partner to the world’s best adventure and action sport imagery contest. The reason they’re back again? Because it’s a perfect partnership – just like us, Sony is all about excellent photography – and innovation.

Sony’s ground-breaking innovation has kept their cameras in the hands of past Red Bull Illume winners like Chris Burkard. Their dedication to bringing mirrorless cameras up to and beyond the capabilities of DSLRs has earned them an incredibly influential position in the content-creation world – one that they’re furthering every day. They know what photographers need to innovate creatively: Inspiration, athletes who can push limits of possibility, a little bit of early morning or late evening light helps – but one thing that can’t be left behind is technically capable tools.

That’s why they are making cameras ideally suited to Red Bull Illume photographers; perfect for capturing the kind of high-speed, faster-than-the-eye-can-see action in board sports, bike sports, aerial or any other adventure and action sports. That’s nowhere more apparent than in the Sony Alpha α9, their full frame mirrorless body that can pop off a stunning 20 frames per second with no buffering, using one of the best autofocus tracking systems in the world that simply doesn’t blink. Sounds like the ideal shooting companion for you? Well, by entering the Image Quest 2019 you might have more chance of owning one than you think!

Of course, there’s another reason Sony makes such a great partner for Red Bull Illume. They’ve long been video experts, and we’ve now introduced the Moving Image category – clips from 5 – 30 seconds are permitted. Since Red Bull Illume is all about quality and innovation, this isn’t just about mounting an action camera– high-quality tools like a proper camera body and lens, and the skills to know how to use could potentially help content creators score points here. 

But, ultimately, it’s that core value – innovation – also makes them an excellent sponsor the Innovation by Sony Category, where judges will look not only for stunning images, but those that approach photography in a new way. Just what that innovation is? Entirely up to the photographer – it can be technical, artistic, thematic – as long as it shows demonstrates intention to innovate. We really can’t wait to see what you submit!

All the phenomenal shots in this story were shot on Sony cameras! Check them out below.

The Playground Category: Where Photographers & Athletes Play

French Photographer and former Playground category finalist Vince Perraud tells Red Bull Illume why seeking new spots to shoot is in the essence of adventure and action sports photography!

© Vince Perraud / Red Bull Illume

Vince Perraud is predominantly a BMX photographer, who shot to fame in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2013 as a double finalist in the Playground category. His images are a juxtaposition of insane tricks and epic locations perfected through years on the road.

The Playground category is one of eleven categories now open to submission in the Image Quest 2019. It is a dedicated category for epic images showcasing not only the athlete, but the landscapes, locations, platforms, and environments in which they play.

The judges are in a position to elevate each category winner to new heights; with a place at Winner Award Ceremony, and incredible photography equipment included in the prize list (link). It’s vital that your image meets the description of the category perfectly, as each judge will have this in mind when voting!

We caught up with Vince this week and we’re sure that his words below will inspire you to visit, and re-visit many different spots in search of that spectacular Playground shot that could see you crowned as a winner!

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hey! okay I’ve been taking pictures for about 15 years! I was always passionate about BMX but realized early on that I was better behind a camera. I come from Burgundy which is great for wine but nothing much... I studied art for 5 years but needed freedom so I started going on trips with my friends to document the BMX way of life. I was on the road for almost 8 years working for various magazines, that was the good life! Now I live in Biarritz which is an amazing for location for weather, landscape, people... love it!

How does it feel to work in places where people play?

Haha good question! I have never considered myself to be working while I was shooting BMX, just having fun with my friends!

What motivates you to get out there and find new playgrounds?

I think it’s the essence of adventure and action sports to constantly look at new spots! You always want new stuff to ride. I always liked to explore new areas, cities, even countries... and it’s a great way to build the relationship between the riders and the photographers.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give photographers that are looking for a unique location for a shoot?

I would say don’t scared to be explore a lot! And sometimes to re-check places that you already scouted, places are constantly changing - and so are your eyes..!

Will we see entries to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 from you?

I hope so!!

Have you got great Playground images that need to be shared with the world? You can submit now to this category!

Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 submissions are officially open!

Submissions for the world´s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest are open now until July 31, 2019.

© Oskar Enander / Red Bull Illume

Submit your top images to the fifth edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019, open now until July 31, 2019. We are ready and waiting for your incredible images, plus the best part is that this year it’s easier than ever to enter. How easy could it be, you ask? All you need is an existing e-mail or social media account to submit your images.

We suggest entering as many categories as possible to broaden your chances of winning, but consider what you enter into each category; it influences the judges’ selection – so choose wisely!

In parallel to the main competition is the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category. All you need to do to is post your most gram-worthy moments on Instagram and tag @redbullillume and #rbi19submission to your account. There have already been 3 monthly winners announced, with 2 more to go. It could be you!

Got your adventure and action sports shots ready to go? Submit as soon as possible – we can´t wait to see your best work!

Submit your images NOW!