Shooting the Seven Seas Expedition

Shooting the Seven Seas Expedition

Last year photographer Kelvin Trautman joined swimmer and ocean advocate Lewis Pugh as he attempted to become the first person to do a long-distance swim in each of the Seven Seas: the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North Sea. This aim of the Seven Seas Expedition was to highlight the need for and importance of Marine Protected Areas. We caught up with Kelvin to discuss how the shoots went…


How did you prepare?
For this expedition, I spent a couple months doing long ocean swims to build up endurance and breath hold exercises so as to improve the time I could spend shooting underwater - in terms of the latter I had decided going into the expedition that, when shooting underwater I wanted to free dive rather than use any scuba equipment because of the flexibility it would give me.


What are some of the challenges you faced on this project?
As with most expeditions, a lack of time was our biggest challenge. Our travel schedule was really tight, leaving only two or three days in each location. This meant our shoot days were jam-packed but which also meant we had no contingency weather or logistic days to play with - we all needed a holiday after three weeks of this back-to-back schedule!


Any close shaves?
Capturing Lewis swimming between big oil tankers in the Bosphorus - the narrow stretch of water that runs through Istanbul and which joins the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara -  was a little hair-raising. On this particular shoot day we had gale force winds, cold water temps, strong currents and irate shipping owners to deal with!


How important was your participatory approach to telling the story?
Very important. I looked to swim with Lewis, my underwater housing in tow, for as long as possible during each of the 7 swims for two reasons. One, if any of you have swum before you'll know how lonely and detached this form of exercise is and so I wanted to try get the layman at home to relate to this swimmer perspective. And two, coupled with the obvious fact that the world beneath the surface looks and feels vastly different to that above, the purpose of the expedition was to raise awareness to as much beauty as well as destruction in each of the 7 Seas marine environs.   


What gear did you use?
In the water I mostly shot with Nikon D800 and a 16mm fisheye in an SPL housing.
Any tips on how to shoot with a waterproof housing?
Two things. One, remember saliva and saltwater are your two best ingredients in making a solution that prevents water droplets from sticking to your lens port. And two, remember your underwater housing is very buoyant and so if you plan on shooting below the surface then you likely to need a weight belt to keep you down.


What’s next?

Let's just say I have started to do some cold swim water training!

Check out Kelvin Trautman's Website and Instagram account!

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Gallery: 7 Glorious Mountain Biking Images From Fall

Summer is almost over in the northern hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean the adventure and action stops there. Far from it... fall brings new challenges and new opportunities, especially for those that like having fun on two wheels. As the leaves change color and drop to the ground, we bring you seven of the best fall-inspired mountain biking images from Red Bull Illume history.

© Joey Schusler / Red Bull Illume

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

Red Bull Illume is back for more in 2019

After 10 years of continued success, the world’s largest adventure and action sports photography contest will light up for its fifth edition with some exciting new changes.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume

Because the ever-growing world of image creation is a very different place to what it was three years ago, Red Bull Illume 2019 will be updating the format and scale of the competition. This commitment to innovation has led to the contest’s exponential growth over the years, with 2016 accumulating as many as 34,624 submissions from over 120 countries. 

The first big change is the frequency of the event. For the past four editions, Red Bull Illume has taken place every three years. In light of the globally growing interest in photography, as well as the sheer number of talented photographers and stunning images that have emerged from the contest, the decision has been made to host the event every two years - starting with its fifth edition. These developments will bring about a new timeline for both the upcoming Image Quest in January 2019 and the resulting global exhibit tour. The first stages of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 will kick off early next year with a few surprises and a wider range of categories, such as new technologies and digital trends. 

As the changes are announced in the coming weeks, photographers and fans will get to learn more about the exciting new possibilities of the next contest. However, when it comes to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography, two things will stay the same; the beautiful images and the thrilling feats of human athleticism! Think you’ve got what it takes to be crowned the overall winner? Get out there, be creative and take your shot at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019.

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Gallery: 7 Diving Images From Another World

Spending hours beneath the waves, dive photographers explore and document the stunning depths of the world's oceans. We have selected 7 of the most incredible diving images from Red Bull Illume. These photos show the gorgeous aesthetics of the underwater world that most will never see with their own eyes. Significantly, they also highlight the importance of interacting with marine life responsibly. This selection takes you from San Salvador Island in the Bahamas to the White Sea in the Arctic Circle, with many stops in between!

© Liz Rogers / Red Bull Illume

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Talking surf photography in Sweden with Sophie Zander

"The surf is best during the fall and winter, but it’s the worst for photographers. When it rains, it rains horizontally into the lens because of the wind!"

© Sophie Zander / Red Bull Illume

What are your basic stats?

I’m Sophie Zander, born in 1993 and raised in the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden. I work full time in a warehouse but photography is one of my biggest interests, so sometimes I get photography work too.

How did you first get into photography?

I was pretty much born into photography. When I was a kid, my father and his best friend had a small studio and dark room just for fun. As I got older, my dad and I would go on trips each year, stopping every time he saw a photo opportunity. Instead of complaining and being a pain in the ass, I thought I would try take some photos too. My parents got me a small compact camera as a summer gift and later I got my dad’s old Canon 10D. I went from hanging around in the studio, to studying media in high school with a focus on photography. That’s how I got to where I am now.

What’s in your camera bag?

In my camera bag you’ll find two camera bodies and a bunch of lenses; 24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8 and sometimes I’ll steal my dad’s 16-35mm 2.8. I take batteries, memory cards, rain covers for the cameras, reusable hand warmers for both me, the surfers and other photographers. You might find some candy in there too.

Why surf photography?

It all started 10 years ago with what I thought was a lie. My dad told me it was possible to surf in Sweden and I said; “No you can’t, liar!”. However, he kept telling me it was true so I told him we had to go shoot some surfing the next time the forecast looked good. Turned out he wasn’t lying! I fell deeply in love with it and became obsessed with the weather forecasts so I wouldn’t miss the next session. 

I honestly don’t know what the appeal is! If I lived somewhere warmer and more tropical I would understand, but I live in Sweden and it’s the complete opposite!

What are the challenges of shooting surfers in Sweden?   

The surf is best during the fall and winter, but it’s the worst for photographers. When it rains, it rains horizontally into the lens because of the wind! It’s snowing, it’s windy, it’s stormy and it’s so cold that your fingers and toes hurt. You wear so many layers of clothing that you look like you’re going to hunt polar bears! I’ve often questioned myself why we do this to ourselves over and over again. Why do we go outside when there are storm warnings on the news? 

I guess it’s a mix of things I love about it - and it gets better and better each time I go. The first time I went to the surf spot, I didn’t know a single person. Now I have an extra family which means a lot to me in so many ways; I’m forever thankful for everything they’ve done for me. 

How did it feel to be a Red Bull Illume semi finalist? 

It felt so surreal! I’ve been following Red Bull Illume since it all started and I’ve been amazed by every photo. Many of my favorite photographers have done really well in the competition; I never thought I’d stand a chance, but I guess I was wrong.  

Talk us through your semi final photo…

My semi final photo was taken in Unstad, Lofoten Islands, Norway! I went there for the yearly father-daughter trip, my dad is more of a landscape photographer and I’m obviously into extreme sports. Norway has a great mix of both and it’s not too far away from where we live. Unfortunately, the sea decided to be flat the whole week and the day the photo was taken was the only day with some kind of waves, more like surf school kind of waves. I was slightly disappointed in both the weather and the waves. Parts of the mountains were covered by fog, then these three random surfers showed up. It looked really cool so I had to take a photo. When I saw the shot on the camera I was like; “this will be one of my Red Bull Illume photos”.

Are there any other adventure and action sports you like to shoot?

I’ve shot motocross and fmx a few times, once in a while I’ll end up in a skatepark. Last summer a few friends went wake surfing, me and my camera joined them and it was so much fun. If I had to choose one sport to shoot for the rest of my life it would be surfing for sure, but it’s fun to add variety.

What other things do you shoot?

Since I’m a music nerd I love to shoot concerts as well. I’ve also found out how fun it is to shoot portraits, simple portraits, nothing too fancy. When there’s no action sports or concerts there’s always different landscapes to explore, Mother Nature sure knows how to blow our minds.

What lessons has photography taught you?

Photography made me more confident, maybe not in life general, but it’s easier for me to make contact with strangers than it was before. If I have my camera with me and I see someone who will be a perfect model for my kind of portraits I will walk up to them and ask if I can take a photo. It’s almost as if I can hide behind my camera and skills.

Photography has also taught me that there’s no “next time”, the light, the composition, nothing will be the same next time. If you want that specific photo, you have pick up the camera and press the shutter button NOW! Not tomorrow or next month. One thing I know for sure is that it sucks to regret things like that. I guess it’s the same in real life too. I’m still kind of bad at it but I’m always trying to learn by mistakes and regrets!

Any upcoming photography projects?

There are a lot of things I’d like to shoot but I’m trying to focus on photos for Red Bull Illume 2019, it’s getting closer! 

What are your plans for the future?

I try to not have too big plans because life never turns out the way you plan it. I’m just going to see what life has to offer and take it from there! 

But I’d love to travel, both to new places and to revisit some old places. 

Thanks to Sophie for this amazing interview! Check out more of her work on her website and on Instagram.

Gallery: 8 Surf Shots to Stoke Your Summer Sessions

The summer season has got the surfers amongst us dreaming of big swells, so here’s a tribute to some of the great surf photographers from the 2016 Image Quest. The nature of the sport means that surf photographers can wait for hours, days, even weeks for the perfect shot. Here we present 8 times that determination, skill and timing have come together before the lens to create epic moments that will last forever.

© Zakary Noyle / Red Bull Illume

Feel inspired? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more adventure and action sports! 

Behind the lens with Anthony Favennec

As the Winner of Red Bull Illume's 2016 Public Choice Award Anthony Favennec is already a well-known name in the world of adventure and action sports photography, especially for two-wheel sports. We decided to catch up with Anthony and find out a little more about the man behind the lens.

© Anthony Favennec / Red Bull Illume

"I taped my camera on the rear pegs of my bike with a lot of gaffer tape and a radio trigger mounted on it. To operate my camera remotely, I took the trigger in my left hand to shoot at the right time."

As the Winner of Red Bull Illume's 2016 Public Choice Award Anthony Favennec is already a well-known name in the world of adventure and action sports photography, especially for two-wheel sports. We decided to catch up with Anthony and find out a little more about the man behind the lens.

Please tell us a bit about your background and how you got into photography?

My interest in photography started with my family, my father especially, and grew when I started riding BMX at 14. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time riding and traveling with my friends to find riding spots along the Atlantic coast of France. I was lucky enough to share both of these passions with my friends, and as they became better at riding BMX, my photography evolved as well. This lead to my work being published in a magazine for the first time when I was 16. At 21, I graduated from photography school, and after working in a few studios, I decided to pursue filmmaking and photography as an independent.

What kind of photography do you like and what is your particular style/ preferences in shooting?

I really appreciate pictures of car advertising, it’s a really technical style of "action" photography. But I also like fashion communications, there are fabulous photographers like David Lachapelle, Gregory Crewdson…

I’m not sure if I have a particular style. I like to shoot whatever I feel like shooting but as natural as possible. I'm in my element when I shoot sports, especially biking and motorsports. I try to remain close to my BMX origins, partly because it offers endless opportunities to be creative, but also because this sport is the starting point of my passion for capturing life on film.

What was it like to win Red Bull Illume's Public Choice Award?

It’s a really great to win the Red Bull Illume’s Public Choice Award. I have to admit I thought I had no chance. Some pictures are just so fabulous in the contest that my picture is almost "flat" compared to them in my opinion, but obviously not to the public. I have to thank everyone who voted for me.

How did you produce this shot?

Haha I'm not sure if I should reveal the way I took this picture, it was so rock&roll. I taped my camera on the rear pegs of my bike with a lot of gaffer tape and a radio trigger mounted on it. To operate my camera remotely, I took the trigger in my left hand to shoot at the right time. I had set up my camera, a Canon EOS 40D with a Sigma 10mm f2,8 on 1/20 to get that nice curved motion blur of the street. I’m really in love with that kind of light – the springtime evenings have the best warm lights.

Was this a planned shot or more of a "nice surprise"?

I was looking to improve a black and white photo I took few years ago with the same setup. That was during the only sunny day of winter 2015 in Brittany; the kind of day that allows you to ride your BMX without the need for an indoor skatepark. But I have to admit than I looked at all the pictures of the last Red Bull Illume Image Quests to see what works and what doesn't, so I decided to use the same color, light, and the same way to work with the sunset.

Why BMX? Is it a particular passion?

This is for me a big part of my life, I have been taking bmx pictures since I was 14 and I have been riding for 14 years now, so I try to capture the identity of what bmx looks like for me because this is where everything started.

What other sports do you shoot?

I'm shooting a lot of Motorsports now, since I'm working in the car industry I have the chance to be in a totally different environment. I really enjoy shooting fmx too, one of my best friends is a really good fmx rider so we can meet and try to organize shoots. I really would like to shoot more water sport like surfing.

What other projects are you working on now?

In extreme sports I have many ideas of images, some easy, others really hard to create in organization/place/light but I’ll try to do all I can to make it happen. And I already have pictures to share with you for the next Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

Feel inspired? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more adventure and action sports! 

Gallery: 7 Wild Shots from the Urban Jungle

Urban areas are built to contain people; from private spaces to their rules and regulations. In this gallery, we salute those who push their limits out on the streets. For many of the world’s best adventure and action sports photographers, it’s here on the public stage that they find their playground. Let’s explore!

© Ale Di Lullo / Red Bull Illume

Feel inspired? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more adventure and action sports! 

The Votes are in…

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 saw thousands of adventure and action sports photos submitted to the contest. A judging panel of renowned photo editors from all over the world chose 55 finalists with one overall winner. Since 2016, the images have traveled to major cities and cultural hubs around the world as part of a global Exhibit Tour - but the contest didn't end there!

© Anthony Favennec / Red Bull Illume

The top 275 photos competed once again. The difference? The fans decided who won. The Public Choice Award was a great chance for followers of Red Bull Illume to pick their favorite shots from the top 275 images.

It’s with great excitement that we can announce the official winner of the Public Choice Award for the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016. A huge congratulations goes out to Anthony Favennec! There was fierce competition for the number one spot and some stunning images in the running. However, as the polls came to a close last Friday on June 15, it was Anthony’s photo that came out on top.

The photo is an exceptional play on a natural, backlit composition and was captured, as the photographer describes, “on the only sunny day of winter 2015 in Brittany; the kind of day that allows you to ride your BMX without the need for an indoor skatepark. I taped my camera on the rear pegs of my bike with a lot of gaffer tape”. (Read the full story here)

Want to win the world`s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest? For a chance to take part and claim victory, stay tuned at redbullillume.com for the next edition in 2019.

Be sure to head over to our Gallery if you want to see the Top 275 images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 and learn more about how the shots were created.

Shooting wide with adventure and action sports photographer Jason Halayko

Jason explains why and how to shoot with wide-angle lenses - so you don't get kicked in the head by a break dancer. Experience is wisdom!

© Jason Halayko

1. Why shoot wide for adventure and action sports photography?

I find there are several reasons I use a wide-angle lens while shooting adventure and action sports photography. By using a wide lens, you can get really close in on the action and capture dynamic angles that put the viewer in a position they would almost never be able to achieve on their own. Also, a lot of times I will want to put both the take off and the landing (along with the sick action of course) all in one photo. By using a wide-angle lens I can do this while also being closer to the action myself, which is often more practical when thinking about having to move around quickly at a busy event. Another advantage of using wide-angle (especially fisheye) lenses is that it can make your subject seem to be jumping quite a bit higher than they actually are. I will use this when shooting smaller jumps to make them more exciting for the viewer and more epic for the athlete as well.

2. Which wide-angle lenses are in your bag?

I currently have a Nikon 16mm fisheye, Nikon 24mm 1.4 prime, and a Nikon 24-70mm 2.8.

3. What’s the biggest challenge with wide-angle lenses?

I would say one of the biggest challenges I have had shooting wide-angle lenses would be safety. With these lenses (again, especially the fisheye) you end up getting much closer than you realize at times. I have been millimeters away from a snowboarder, been almost hit by motorbikes, and even got kicked in the head by a breakdancer once at a Red Bull BC One event. It hurt, but everyone was fine, hahaha.

Also, when shooting with wide-angle lenses you get so much more in your image than you would with a 200mm lens, so you really need to be aware of what you are capturing other than just the action. Is your camera bag in the shot? Are people you don’t want there in the shot?

4. A 200mm lens is usually recommended for shooting football. Why is this different when it comes to adventure and action sports?

Compared to shooting football, practicality wise, it would be impossible to have even one photographer on the pitch shooting up close with a wide-angle lens. They would get in the way and be a danger to themselves and the players they are trying to capture. However, during most adventure or action sports events, take skateboarding for example, it is possible to have a few photographers inside the park shooting right up close to the action. I have shot like this in the past and it can be quite intense, but very fun for sure. You just have to be aware of what’s going on.

Also, I think when shooting a sport like football you want more close up shots of just the player(s) with the ball so a 200mm plus lens is best for cutting out unwanted information and getting a nice dynamic action shot, but for adventure and action sports it can be very important to get the whole environment of the action in the shot. I find the best images give the viewer a real sense of where the action is taking place.

5. Any crucial tips for shooting fisheye?

Have courage to get close to the action, but safety should be your first concern. I find the best fisheye images are ones taken super up close to the action, literally having the camera several centimeters from the subject. However, by getting so close with your body you can be putting yourself and the athlete in unwanted danger, so I often hold the camera with one hand and hold out my arm while keeping my body back and ready to dive out of the way if needed (and I have done this in the snow a couple times).  When shooting in this way it can be difficult to properly frame, time, and focus your images though so shooting at a high frame rate while using a continuous focus mode can help you get more usable images as well. 

6. You’ve been trying out 360º cameras right?

I have recently picked up a 360 camera and have been enjoying playing with it for the last month or so. So far I have been mainly using it for my InstaStories and things like this, but as I learn better how to use it I think it would be fun to add a few 360 images here and there to my shots taken with my normal camera. With the current apps out there it is actually really easy to edit your images on the fly so I think adding a few 360 images to a stack of event shots is not all that impossible these days. I am excited to see what I can get with my 360 camera in the near future.

See more of Jason's work on his Website and Instagram.

Why Markus Berger went the extra mile to make these incredible images

Getting shots of athletes leading up to the Olympics is never easy – the Olympics likes it that way. Try to connect your visual material with anything vaguely Games-related, and you’re risking a lawsuit.

© Markus Berger

That’s just one reason why, when photographer Markus Berger was commissioned by Red Bull to produce a photo series with some of the participating athletes, he had to get creative. The other reason why? To make incredible photos, of course. The goal? Make the athletes look awesome – with a nod to a authentic Korean culture.

Markus explains. “We had athletes from different countries, performing different winter sports, and  wanted to come up with a concept that would tell the complete story in one striking visual,” says Markus. Not easy to imagine, and not easy to execute. “At first we were looking into manga art and other modern comic styles but had to accept that manga is 100% Japanese and that there is no specific comic style attributed to Korea. Our research then led us to traditional Korean painting, sketching and calligraphy. Teaming up with Korean artist Chan Jun Jung, we were able to create a harmonious mix of these art forms. We also created a story behind the images by adding creatures that either live in Korea, or are deeply bound to Korean mythology.”

What he created was a mix of the reality and fantasy – combining striking original art with striking poses. It’s an impressive feat – while the athletes (and art) were still, the final images were anything but.

More impressive: they did this in the brief moments between the athlete’s pre-Games training. Markus and his assistant custom-built a set that they could easily take apart and reassemble. This allowed them to bring the shoot to the athletes by transporting all their gear in two small trucks. 

"We ended up building and shooting at parking lots, school gyms and photo studios, often travelling more than 300km each day between the locations and shoots. Eventually, the whole project ended up being one big road trip that was really fun and brought the whole team together. By the end of it, the set-up just became automatic.”

To see more work from Markus, head over to his website, Facebook, Instagram and 500px.