Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Stuart Gibson

Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Stuart Gibson

2010 was an incredible year for action sports photography and the Red Bull Illume category winners and finalists in particular. Their images went global within a night and are still gracing the pages of magazines and websites today.

In 2011, Red Bull Illume will catch up with the photographers to find out how their lives have changed and find out more about the person behind the lens.

This month, we interviewed Australian Stuart Gibson, winner of the Energy category about THAT image of Ryan Hipwood from Tasmania’s twisted, torture-chamber of a tube better known as Shipstern Bluff in October 2009.

Interestingly, the waves that day also gave Ryan a nomination at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards for the biggest wipe outs of the year and plenty of youtube attention. However, surfers live the highs and lows. Another video tells a different story from a later run – when Ryan cleared that beast of a wave, ending with him punching the air in celebration.

It was testament to Ryan Hipwood’s bravery and Stuart Gibson’s timing and positioning that such an incredible moment was captured on camera. No one talks about the wipe out much anymore, just THAT moment only a second before when Ryan dropped six feet back onto the wave.

Read on to find out more about the life of an award winning action sports photographer.

Q: What reception have you received since winning your category in Red Bull Illume?
It’s been good since winning the award. I’ve been getting countless emails about the image and orders for a print of it through my website www.stugibson.net.

Q: What difference has winning made to your photography career?
I wouldn’t say it’s made a drastic change in my career but people have definitely noticed the image and followed it back to me. It’s been gaining a lot of attention from my home to all around the world, so its good to get my name out there more and more! Plus I got sent to Ireland so that was the biggest plus ever haha!

Q: What’s the key ingredients to be an action sports photographer?
Equipment, light, angle, composition, subject, danger...the list goes on!

Q: What new photography equipment and techniques are you using or want to use more of?
I’ve bulked up on new lenses after getting half of my equipment stolen on my way back from Ireland. I use Canon DSLR equipment with Spl water housings. Everyone has their own opinion but these work best for me so I’ve stuck with them. Also, I’m focusing on remote flash a whole lot more.

Q: Some locations are over-shot, but your photo from Shipstern Bluff is becomming one of the iconic ones. Why is location key in surf photography?
Location for Surf Photography is everything! You can’t have a good surf photo without surf. There are so many people taking surf photos these days so finding a new spot is really rare, so that can be one of the best things about a surf photo sometimes. The location can make the image.

Q: That surf in that photo looks vicious, dangerous and amazing at the same time. What’s it like to work in waters like that?
There are so many variables with this type of photography. Not to mention the 15 ft wave that is about to land in your head, but you also have a surfer flying right at you. 95% of the time I’ll be using a 10mm fisheye and for the best water shots the surfer has to be right on top of you to get the angle – I’m talking milimetres away from your lens!

To control all of this while treading water, making sure your port on the water housing has no water drops on it, let alone expose the shot correctly, this can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, haha! But when it all works out, it makes the shot all worth while.

Q: Do you have to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the shoot?
I don’t think there is a major part of mental preperation for me unless I know the waves are going to be huge. Even still it’s just one of those things you get in and do rather then think too much about it. It’s something I do for fun that sometimes makes me some money.

Physically, I used to just surf a lot. But it seems the older I get, I’ve lost my sting to surf, I still chase it as hard as I can for photos, but I’m almost bored with surfing! Maybe that’s cause I only get to surf when it’s bad because I shoot when it’s good! So these days I do a lot of my own fitness work. A friend of mine just made me a weekly program that is nailing me, but you have to keep to it.

Q: What’s inspiring you right now as a photographer?
I’ll always have a love with images made in the water, and I’ve been shooting them as much as possible. But in my down time, I’ve been working on a lot of strobe work and getting right into portraiture. I’d love to strengthen this side of my photography rather than just be labeled a surf photographer – I cringe at that title to be honest!

Q: Is there such a thing as the perfect shot?
I hope there isn’t one, because my job would be over!

Q: What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
Since the Red Bull Illume awards I shot in Fiji for 6 weeks. That place is so amazing – it’s got the best water clarity in the world! In 2011, I’ve been booked on a snow trip to Alaska. I’m seriously frothing about going on that trip!!!

Q: What advice would you give a photographer getting started in the "game"?

  1. Know the field of photography you're in, but don’t get stuck in it!
  2. Take photos of everything! Shoot around the action, not only the action itself.
  3. Taking the photo is only half the work.
  4. Know the person you're shooting, build a relationship with them and the shots will flow naturally
  5. Do it for fun!

www.stugibson.net

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Six Skate Photographers You Need To Know

Time to show some love to the photographers out there who pound the pavement day after day, hoping to capture that outstanding skate shot. Here are six skate photographers you need to know...

© Jonathan Mehring / Red Bull Illume

Davy van Laere

@philzwijsen #ElementWaterproof @elementeurope #Bilbao @soloskatemag @aproposskatemag

A post shared by DVL (Davy Van Laere) (@dvlphoto) on

"French" Fred Mortagne

I am re-discovering this picture of @charlescollet that I didn’t originally pick, from what was an epic shooting day. I had so much great material that this one got abandoned. Maybe it didn’t attract my attention because we don’t fully see the skateboard, but I now like this picture very much. What about you? // Full immersive video of that shooting day on my Youtube channel (LINK IN BIO) // As not seen in #AttraperAuVol // #frenchfredfoto #skateboarding #fullpipes #LeicaMMonochrom

A post shared by Fred Mortagne (@frenchfred) on Jul 12, 2017 at 2:03pm PDT


Roberto Alegria

Jonathan Mehring

Roberto Bragotto

Jeroen Nieuwhuis

2/3 Red Bull Illume | CLOSE-UP FINAL IMAGE Early in 2016 I sat down with art director @ElroyKlee & cinematographer @ErikJournee from @NEWDAY.studio to come up with a concept for this year’s @redbullillume After pitching different ideas at each other we quickly agreed to try shooting something with mirrors. Instead of a street spot we decided to go indoors, but not to a typical skatepark. We contacted the guys at skatepark Pier 15 in Breda (The Netherlands). This skatepark is more like an indoor ‘street spot’, with concrete ramps, curbs and stairs. We knew this would fit the image we had in mind. We started cutting mirrors in our studio into different (small and large) shapes and tested them to see how big they needed to be to see the trick and different parts of the obstacle. We opted for triangle shaped mirrors to complement the obstacles in the background, to create a clean, even balanced look. Almost 12 mirrors later we finally had the pieces that would fit the picture. We headed out to Pier 15 together with Dutch skateboarder @RobMaatman. A couple of c-stands were used to angle the mirrors in a way that they almost looked like a puzzle; connect all the pieces and you see the entire obstacle. The outcome is a balanced action picture combined with graphic pieces and skatepark objects. #Photography #behindthescenes #RedBull #RedBullillume #mamiya #mediumformat #broncolor #skateboarding #skateboard #flash #robmaatman #newdaystudio #emerica #iso1200magazine #famousbtsmag

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Did we miss a skate photographer you follow and we should check out? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram!

All Out with Ale di Lullo

We caught up with crazy Italian MTB photographer Ale di Lullo to talk about what's been going on with him since that fateful evening in Chicago, when he took home a Category Winner Award for his shot of Aaron Chase rolling over a New York taxi cab.

© Ale di Lullo

What’s been going on with you since the Winner Award Ceremony?

It's been a very busy off-season and my Air Miles Award program is just on fire. I've been shooting catalogs and some adventure stuff all over the world, from New Zealand to the Dolomites, passing through British Columbia, Oregon, California and most of Europe.

Has anything changed for you since making it to the Top 55 and in the Top 275?

It didn't change anything with clients and the kind of shooting I do, but it gave me more tranquility and confidence in trying to experiment a bit more, or at least as far as a mostly commercial bike photographer can go.

And you know what?

I think that the Red Bull Illume categories really make sense and summarize the shots in them really well. When I'm on assignment I often find myself thinking "Oh this could be a good shot for Spirit category...or for Wings or for Playground!"

So maybe it slightly changed the way I think when I'm shooting...at least it helped me to categorize things.

Actually, there is something that changed in me after the Red bull Illume finals...it was already an ongoing process, but now it's annoying...I became my own worst critic! I struggle to be happy with any of my shots!! (Fortunately, my clients still are...ahahah)

Any cool projects you’re working on?

I'm trying to bring a new way into what I do for my clients and bringing them more exclusive shoots and less contest/event stuff. More planning, more research, more exploration and bringing back the essence of mountain biking, which is just out there in nature.

Can we expect a new project with Aaron Chase? Involving other forms of transport?

I have some ideas following the transportation wave...but the shot was more on the point of view, the new angle. The car was just a medium, so my mind is roaming more for new angles or new things to ride.
But I cannot exclude that I won't be back with some new vehicles!

I also found a mountain location where I want to try a Masterpiece shot...I'm studying angles and light right now. Hopefully it will happen before the end of the year...but there is a lot of building involved.

Aaron is probably gonna be part of a couple of adventures during the summer, but nothing for a specific Red Bull Illume project...but you never know when the next Illume shot could happen, right?

I try to keep myself active and exposed to cool situations when the magic could happen and if Aaron is around, chances are just higher!

What do you think the secret is to an image doing well in Red Bull Illume?

I think it's a very unpredictable balance between the classic photography rules (like composition and light) and the ability to tell a story...also for people who don't practice the sport or are passionate about a specific sport, which is hard to keep in mind sometimes for insiders.

You need to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has no knowledge of that sport and get the outside perspective. It's easy to forget that a Regular Joe won't have the same perception of the shot... so I believe that, in the end, it has to be an simple, essential, perfectly executed shot that tells a great story or the lifestyle around it. It's not easy.

Working together with any other Red Bull Illume finalists?

Well, I do some Downhill World Cup and Rampage shoots where a few finalists shoot as well, but we are just at the same event and not really working together. But it's always great to share ideas when you're there together with them.

And what’s your personal favorite from Red Bull Illume?

I clearly remember Dean Treml's shot which won the Enhance category...and Jody MacDonald Lifestyle winner shot. Lifestyle shots are the hardest to take...when you see the moment you want to capture, it's gone. Most of the time you're living it and it's hard to understand when the right moment is that will tell the whole story.

What's one crazy photo assignment you've been on?

That has to be shooting a bike catalog in British Columbia and California. 3 weeks, 15 bikes, 5 different riders, 10 different locations, 2 injuries, cold, hot, rain, snow, fog, high wind, customs delays with the bikes and the shortest daylight time of the year...and the specific request to shoot lifestyle in trashy and sketchy parts of different cities.

That was very hard, but really rewarding from a strictly professional point of view. There was a lot of variety and that specific type of lifestyle shot that only comes from a long road trip. Priceless. Unfortunately, logistically, it was a nightmare for the client, so next year we'll probably go back to a more traditional way of doing a catalog shoot.

Last question: will we see you again in 2019?

I'll be submitting a few shots for sure!! The fact of having 4 shots in the top 275 and a Category Winner set the bar pretty high for me. I don't have the 'illuminated idea' as it was for Chase cab driver shot just yet... but I already have a few nugs ready for the 2019 submission from a different shoot I did and maybe a new idea will pop into my mind while I'm on the road, just as it was for the cab shot.

Make sure to follow Ale di Lullo on Facebook and Instagram!

How It's Made: Bike on Bike Action

Falling into photography through writing and after a crash course shooting BMX with some of the world's biggest photographers, Ryan Fudger's passion for still images was triggered.

© Ryan Fudger / Red Bull Illume

"I really don’t know anything about motorcycles. I’ve actually spent most of my life with an unnatural fear of them. There’s just something about BMXers and motorcycles that don’t go well together. Putting my personal fear aside I spent ten or so days on the road chasing Corey Martinez, Garrett Reynolds, and Tony Neyer through the South, as they mobbed through small towns on motorcycles with their bikes strapped to the backs.

This particular photo was shot on a stretch of road known as Tail Of The Dragon in Deals Gap, North Carolina – 318 curves in 11 miles, all of which I spent hanging out the back of a minivan maxing out the memory buffer on my Canon 6D to the point I actually got motion sickness.

This particular photo was shot with a Canon 20-200 F2.8L at a motion-blur inducing 1/50th of a second shutter speed at f4.5 and ISO 400.

In all seriousness, I had the easy part hanging out of that minivan, as it was only a few miles after this photo was shot that one of the crew ended up over-cooking a turn and crashing. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and although the bike did need some repairs, we eventually continued south to Florida until we hit the Keys."

For more epic photos, head over to our Instagram and follow us on Facebook.

Behind the Shot: Neon Wakeskate

Daniel Vojtech is known for pushing his photography to the limit, and he's come up with some mindbending imagery. For this shot, he combined 3D printing with wakeskating. Not only that, he also used a contraption made up of over 130 DSLR's. Check the story behind the shot below!

© Daniel Vojtech / Red Bull Illume

"3D printing is new and a very popular industry so I wanted to see if it was possible to combine it with sports photography. My concept was to scan an athlete with a 3D scanner, print it and then reshoot this final 3D print in a real environment Wakeskating was a real challenge and also interesting to me so for this project I invited the best wakeskate female athlete Zuzana Vrablova.

For the final image Zuzana and I decided together to shoot a slide on the rail. The first part of the photoshoot was in the 3D scanner which was in a room with more than 130 DSLRs photographing Zuzana from all different angles. Because I wanted a more interesting and complex project I decided to shoot nine different positions instead of one, to show the entire sequence.

So we simulated the same positions as during the trick in the real environment. Rendering 3D models and creating final 3D prints took more than one month. When I had all the figures I started to think about an environment for them. Wakeskate is a water sport so water is must. After some time I created a night skyline with more than 300 liters of water in my studio. This took more than the next month.

The final photoshoot wasn’t so complicated because everything was built and ready. The only problem were the splashes. For this I had two assistants with small water pumps to create splashes from the board."

To see more epic shots, head over to our Instagram and make sure to give us a follow!

Climb through the Red Bull Illume years

Ever since Red Bull Illume started in 2007, it has been witness to some spectacular climbing imagery. Not only that, climbing photos have also consistently impressed the judges every single edition.

Red Bull Illume 2010: Adam Kokot, Spirit category winner

© Adam Kokot / Red Bull Illume

So let's take a look at some of the coolest climbing photos that have made it into the final rounds throughout Red Bull Illume history!

Make sure to follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram for more amazing adventure and action shots!

Own a piece of Red Bull Illume history!

Can't get enough of the amazing imagery of the world's best adventure and action sports photos? We've got you covered with our Limited Edition Coffee Table Book. Want to own one? Read on below!

Showcasing the finalists of the 2016 Red Bull Illume competition, there are only 5,000 copies of this limited edition collectable book, each individually numbered. It displays all 275 semi-finalist images, highlighting the top 55 images by including photographer biographies, their stories about their shot and the technical details.

And this time around, we're sweetening the deal - each book comes with a Fine Art Print of the Overall Winner, a photo shot by Lorenz Holder.

The Red Bull Illume Coffee Table Book is a true collector's item and can be purchased here.

A part of the profit resulting from the sale of this book will be donated to Wings for Life and used solely for the purpose of spinal cord research.

 

 

InstaBangers: Red Bull Illume

We're kicking off a new series in which we'll be taking a look at the Instagram accounts of the Red Bull Illume photographers. Let's start by showing you some of the biggest InstaBangers from Red Bull Illume history...

We hope you're sitting down for these...

Dave Lehl

David Carlier

Garth Milan

@robbiemaddison keeps it cool for this #RedBullIllume #SneakPeek shot by @garthmilan

A post shared by Red Bull Illume (@redbullillume) on

Jens Staudt

Flip into the weekend! #SneakPeek © Jens Staudt #redbullillume #bike

A post shared by Red Bull Illume (@redbullillume) on

Nate Hughes

Jeremiah Watt

A climbers' hands tell a story. Photo: @miahwatt #SneakPeek #redbullillume #climbing

A post shared by Red Bull Illume (@redbullillume) on

Check out the Red Bull Illume Instagram for some more gems and make sure to give the guys listed above a follow: Dave Lehl, David Carlier, Garth Milan, Jens Staudt, Nate Hughes and Jeremiah Watt.

From the Windy City to the Aurora Borealis: Catching up with Emil Sollie

Emil Sollie shot into the Top 55 of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 with his amazing nighttime shot of Mons Røisland in Folgefonna, Norway! Following his week in the Windy City, he flew straight to Norway's Lofoten for an epic photo mission with Mick Fanning, and we caught up with him to see what he's been up to.

© Emil Sollie

What’s been going on with you since the Winner Award Ceremony?

There's been a lot going on! I went straight from the Winner Award Ceremony in Chicago to Lofoten, up north in Norway with surfer Mick Fanning and a full-on Red Bull crew. The mission was to shoot Mick surfing under the Aurora Borealis. That turned out pretty well! (Check out the shots below). Otherwise I've been shooting a lot of snowboarding, been exploring Iceland for a week and just work a lot in general.

Has anything changed for you since making it to the Top 55? We saw you were in a few TV shows…

A lot changed after making it to the Red Bull Illume Top 55. Been working with Red Bull on a lot of bigger projects, as they put budgets to missions I pitch for them! The TV shows were actually because of the mission in Lofoten. That went 'hella' viral. Discovery came to my apartment to make a short documentary about the shoot and I happened to be live at the National Morning show. Pretty stoked about that!  

Any cool projects you’re working on?

There are. First up, there's a shoot with the national team of snowboarding at Folgefonna, one of the most epic locations for snowboarding on this planet! Folgefonna is the glacier where I happened to capture the picture that ended up in the Top 55 in 2016.

After that I'm going to follow a skydiving team for a couple of weeks.

What do you think the secret is to an image doing well in Red Bull Illume?

As I watched Lorenz win almost every category last year, I think it is the «perfect picture» photo contest.

Of course, there has to be some kind of action in the frame, but I think composition is the key to doing well. To be honest, I missed some proper action in the 2016 winner pics, but no hate, there were a lot of amazing pictures!

Working together with any other Red Bull Illume finalists?

Nope, not at the moment! But I am still in contact with a lot of them. I definitely met a lot of talented people over there!

And what’s your personal favorite from Red Bull Illume?

Overall it might be Burkard's photo from 2010. Really liked Lorenz`s from last year as well.

What's one crazy photo assignment you've been on?

The mission up north in Norway with Mick Fanning has to be the most crazy photo mission I've been a part of. We planned this photo for so long and there was a lot of elements to happen at the same time to get this photo. But I didn’t do it alone, the picture is both mine and Mats Grimseth's photo. Mats was the guy in the water with the flash!

Last question: will we see you again in 2019?

Yes, of course!

Looking to get inspired? Make sure to follow Red Bull Illume on Instagram!

Red Bull Illume teams up with Memento Smart Frame™

Since it began in 2007, Red Bull Illume has been widely recognized as the greatest action sports photography contest of its kind. For over 10 years, it has exhibited hundreds of pictures from the image quest, displaying them on unique lightboxes in stunning locations around the world. Such an innovative concept however requires a forward-thinking approach. It’s for this reason that Red Bull Illume is proud to announce their recent partnership with Memento Electronics.

The Canadian company specializes in the design and manufacturing of intelligent and highly innovative electronic devices for the rapidly growing home technology market. Its flagship product, the Memento Smart Frame, is the world´s most advanced 4K digital picture frame that allows to showcase photography with depth, sharpness and colours which was not possible until today.

Its Ultra High Definition technology and impressive display interface made them the perfect fit for Red Bull Illume. The Memento Smart Frames are set to enhance the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour by bringing the images to indoor locations as well. 

Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume says; “Having Memento Smart Frame on board is an exciting development for the Exhibit Tour. True to our theme of illumination, the high definition displays will make it a unique experience for all who visit. We can’t wait to see the new technology in action and we are looking forward to a series of unforgettable exhibitions."

The outdoor exhibition is currently touring the globe and is soon to be followed by the indoor version; both of which may be visiting a city near you.

To learn more about Red Bull Illume and to keep up to date with the indoor and outdoor tour stops, head over to the Exhibit Tour page now. For more information about Memento Smart Frame click here

Nick Webster: What's in the Bag?

A master at combining natural and artificial lights, it's easy to spot a photo shot by Nick Webster. We caught up with him to talk about gear and take a look into his bag!

© Nick Webster

Talk us through your gear. What are your go-to items? 

I have swapped from the traditional DSLR to smaller mirrorless models now and my favourite camera to use is my Sony A7ii. It is a 24 Megapixel full frame camera which is fast enough to shoot sports. The handling is close to perfect and results are gorgeous. In terms of lenses, I shoot as much as possible with wide angles, as it gives so much more impact, so have zoom lenses in my bag covering everything from 16mm to 200mm. I also love Bowen’s new GenerationX studio lights. They are powered by in-built batteries so I can take them anywhere without the need for a plug socket. 

Is there anything special you carry with you on shoots? 

I always carry two-way radios when shooting. It makes a shoot so much easier. If working with an individual, such as a snowboarder, I can communicate with them without the need for mobile phones and the hassle of removing gloves or patchy reception. When shooting a sport like cycling, I can retune the radio to listen into the commissaire's car which broadcasts time gaps and incidents etc, so I can keep abreast of the action even when it is miles away.

When shooting in the snow, I now always carry a set of crampons with me. It gets very icy at the side of ski slopes and it’s never dignified to fall and end-up 100 metres down the mountain. I learnt this the hard way.

How do you choose gear for different projects? 

Size and weight is the main factor. I have to think how much I can carry with me. Cycling is a great example where my switch to mirrorless cameras has benefitted. I ride in the passenger seat of the team car and everything has to sit in the foot well, together with spare drinking bottles, energy bars and anything else the riders may need, like rain jackets and arm warmers. I also have to consider weight when shooting in the show, as I often have to snowboard to the park from the lift and the lighter my bag, the easier it is to ride.

Which piece of gear would you never leave at home? 

I never leave home without my Sony Cybershot RX100v. It may only be a compact, but it is packed with high-end features and the quality of photo is superb. I can shoot 4K video and super slow motion too. I never leave home without it.

Does your gear sometimes take a pounding to get the shots you’re known for? 

I have never been very precious with my gear. I put screen protector on the back, but apart from that it gets no special treatment. It’s never let me down. Half the time it is banging around as I run to get in position for a photo. In my career I have been run-over, had it hit by wayward footballs and been clamped to the roof of cars as it’s been driven through a storm. It all survived.

Any items you wish you could add to your bag?

I really wish Sony made a 300mm f/4 for it’s mirrorless range. I don’t need the big white f/2.8 lenses sports photographers traditionally use any longer. In the days when we all shot on film and the early days of shooting digital SLRs, you could only shoot up to ISO 400 before the quality was really compromised. As a result, I needed lenses which would suck in as much light as possible in order to allow me to shoot at lower sensitivities. The latest generations of sensors are so good it’s easy to shoot up to ISO6400 before seeing a significant drop-off, so swapping my big, cumbersome 300mm f/2.8 for a compact 300mm f/4 lens would be amazing.

Any tips for aspiring photographers? 

Don’t worry about your gear. You don’t need the fastest or best and latest model to take great shots. You just have to remember that before the late 1980s nobody had autofocus and it was that long ago that there were no motorwinds or in-built metering and the professionals were still producing outstanding results, because they were often anticipating the picture and with this skill and a little luck producing jaw-dropping pictures. Slow down and practice your technique. In my opinion, it’s a common mistake to hold your finger down on the shutter and hope you get one picture from the hundreds being captured. I often find it’s the shots I plan and know I want to take are the ones I like best.

Nick's Gear: 

  • Sony a7 Mark ii
  • Sony a6500
  • Sony 16-35mm f/4 Zeiss
  • Sony 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss
  • Sony 70-200mm f/4 G
  • Sony 55m f/1.8 Zeiss
  • Sony HVL-F60M Flash (x2)
  • Cactus V6iiS Remote triggers 
  • Memory Cards
  • Batteries
  • Business Cards
  • Sony Xperia XZ
  • Two Way Radio
  • Sensor Blower
  • Lens Cloth

See more of Nick's work on his website and by following him on Instagram. While you're there, make sure to give us a follow as well!