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