Surf @ Night

Surf @ Night

Surf photography has always been innovative regarding making the most of a location. It’s notoriously hard to find a fresh location or a new angle. Since flash rigs have become powerful and portable enough to be brought to the beach a few years ago, a whole new genre of surf photography emerged – night shoots. Just look at Jimmy Wilson’s category winning shot from Red Bull Illume 2007, which really caught the imagination of surf photographers everywhere.

As more night-time events have emerged – just take the Red Bull Night Riders and Red Bull Night Shift events at Bali in June, Cape Town in January and Florida last November as recent examples – photographers have faced new challenges, especially regarding flashing the action. New styles and techniques have developed.

Some photographers focused more on capturing the moodiness of the ocean setting as opposed to the extreme action shots.  Between the ranging styles and the different lighting of the locations, photographers approach night-time photography very differently to overcome the limitations of being too far from the action or lighting issues.

An interesting innovation also came from Dom Daher for example who used a heli-cam to flash a surfer in order to shoot from the beach at dusk.

An altogether different approach was the use of artificial wave pools that allowed photographers to shoot good waves and tricks at close distances.

Just look at Jimmy Wilson’s “Grabs” story for Stab Magazine (Issue 47) shot at Siam Park in Tenerife featuring photography by Sergio Villalba and Richard Freeman. Silhouette shots against a white screen backdrop were used to give beautiful text-book examples of grab-techniques.

To find out more about nighttime surf photographer and the choice of artificial wave parks, Red Bull Illume spoke to action sports photographer Robert Snow about his spectacular shoot at Typhoon Lagoon which made a big impression on surf photography over the last year.

The results were stunning. Unlike the ocean setting, the artificial waves are illuminated in an azure glow, with the white spray contrasting strongly against a dark background. The color of the waves is responsible for completely transforming the ambience of the shot and the setting produces a studio-like result, as if the shot was meticulously planned and frozen and not just a second of freeze-framed action.

Read on to find out about his shoot with Red Bull's top emerging surfers Evan Geiselman, Kolohe Andino and Cristobal De Col.


Q: Tell us about the location at Typhoon Lagoon.
Typhoon Lagoon is a Disney water park in Orlando, FL. The wave pool is located in the middle of the water park and can be rented out for surf parties. Typhoon Lagoon’s surf pool provided an environment that was relatively controlled. I thought of it as a studio to photograph surfing.

Q: It might not be real sea-water or real waves, but the photos have a great aesthetic. What was your vision for the shoot? Who was the shoot for?
In 2007 I did a test shoot at the wave pool using strobes at night with amateur surfers. In 2008 I shot with professional surfers Jesse and Markus Heilman at the wave pool with a crew and battery powered strobe packs. The production was smaller and the lights used on those shoots only allowed for one frame per wave. My vision for this shoot was to keep the lighting similar but have the ability to shoot sequences. I pitched the idea to Red Bull earlier in 2010 and they gave me opportunity to photograph their arsenal of emerging surfers.

Q: What instructions did you give to the surfers? Just do your thing or any special requests to get those shots you had in mind?
The best advice I could give the surfers was to go out there and have fun. Evan Geiselman, Kolohe Andino and Cristobal De Col are arguably some of the best young surfers in the world. They were training with surf coach Sean Hayes all week prior to the shoot. Sean was helping the surfers with aerial awareness. This was the final leg of the training camp and the wave pool gave the surfers an equal opportunity to display what they had learned during the camp.

Q: Were most of the final shots from the nighttime shoot? How much post-production was involved in getting the final ‘look’ of the pictures.
Most of the final images were from the first part of the shoot. It’s hard to tell in the stills/video but we had a nasty thunderstorm which rained out three quarters of the shoot. It rained 4 inches that night! Once we saw the rain coming, we had to quickly pack up all of the strobes and get them undercover. There was a bit of stress on set but the crew and I managed to get all of the lighting gear undercover before it got too wet. Luckily all of the gear still works and we nailed a few images before the rain. Not much was done in postproduction. A little color correcting, burning/dodging and sharpening was needed to polish the images.

Q: There seems like a serious amount of lighting involved in the production. Did you set everything up yourself or was there a crew? Explain the lighting set-up and the positioning.
I hired three photo assistants to come in and help setup the strobes. Without their help this type of production would not be possible in the amount of time we had at the pool. We used the Broncolor A4s packs, which ran off Honda 7k Generators. The lighting setup was two backlights two sidelights and one front fill. Five lights total, firing at 8 frames per second.

Q: What’s the advantage of shooting at an “artificial” location rather than on the beach?
Both the surfer and myself benefit from working at the wave pool. The waves are consistent and that helps determine the distance and placement of where our lights need to be. After the lights are positioned and the air section is established we can meter out a ratio.  It also gives us the opportunity to setup lighting from behind the wave. The wave pool offers an advantage for the surfers because they can work on airs knowing that every wave is going to produce an air section.

Q: What lens settings and camera equipment did you use? Did you use any waterhousing and spend much time in the water at all?
I shot with the Canon 7d using 70-200mm f/2.8 and the Canon Mark III 1ds with the 300mm f/2.8.  I was able to hyper sync by using the Pocket Wizard TT5 Flex to drop the ambient out. We planned on shooting with the water housing but never got the opportunity due to the rain. Next time.

Q: I’ve read that you’ve been shooting surfing for a long time and you now describe yourself as an “advertising photographer” after assisting for a long time. It seems like you’ve definitely found your feet. How are you trying to stand out as a photographer?
While in college I started surfing and photographing surfing. I really love the sport and enjoy the challenges that come with photographing it. After a while I started to realize that I really loved the sport but didn’t want to be pigeon holed as a “surf photographer”.

I decided that I would shoot what I know and have a passion for. I determined over time sports/action, all things in and around the water and working with people would be my focus. Over time these niches in my work translated into advertising work.


Q: Tell us a little about your projects “Project X” and “Southern Mud”.
It’s really important for a photographer to be able to do whatever the hell they want. That’s why personal projects are so important. Project X started years ago while playing around with Kino Flos for the first time in studio. I remember being inspired by an illustration where the character was dead or drunk and the illustrator translated that by drawing X’s for eyes. This lead to Project X, which is a series of portraits of action, sports athletes.

Southern Mud was inspired by a unique sub culture found primarily in the southern states of the US. It features a group of motor sports enthusiasts that like to build and drive big trucks in the mud. I spent a couple of years documenting the culture and sport of mud bogging.

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Record broken with a phenomenal 59,551 submissions!

The Image Quest 2019 submission phase is officially over and a new record for submissions has been set. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone that helped make this happen!

© Markus Rohrbacher / Red Bull Illume

Another milestone in the fifth edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 has been reached, and we’re stoked to announce that a new record for submissions has been set! Yes, that’s right, a total of 59,551 photos and moving images were submitted to the 11 categories that made up this year`s edition.

To put that into perspective, that’s an increase of 72% on submissions from 2016. We want to say thank you to our amazing partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Red Bull Photography and EyeEm for helping to make this happen.

Even more importantly we want to say thank you to YOU – everyone that took the time to submit! So, you’re probably wondering what happens next? So, let us explain!

Judging Phase

You can just sit back and relax now, as the judges will select the 264 semi-finalists, 64 finalists, eleven category winners and one overall winner! You can get to know the judges right here, and more will be added each week! The judging format in full can be found on our rules page!

264, 64, eleven, one

You will hear these numbers a lot in the coming months, so here’s a brief intro to why they are important. The 264 semi-finalist images will be on display in a gallery on our website, and also be published in the limited-edition coffee table book!

Should you be selected as one of the 64 finalists, you will be invited to the Winner Award Ceremony that takes place from November 18-20, and your images will be on display in the Global Exhibit Tour that begins immediately afterwards.

On November 20, the eleven category winners and one overall winner will be crowned during the ceremony at the Lumen – Museum of Mountain Photography on top of Kronplatz. They will take home an incredible set of prizes that you can see here.

Special Announcements

We have some big news to share with you in the lead up to the Winner Award Ceremony, so don’t forget to check your inbox regularly and to stay tuned to our social channels so you don’t miss a thing.

If you are selected as one of the 264 semi-finalists, you will be notified within the next few weeks!

So, once again a huge thank you to everyone that participated, and good luck!

Breaking news: you have 24 additional hours to enter!

You now have until August 1, 2019 and entries close at midnight (CEST). Submissions are quick, easy, and free; don´t wait any longer and submit your best adventure and action sports images now!

Red Bull Illume 2010: Maiko Mou, Close Up category finalist

© Maiko Mou / Red Bull Illume

Hundreds of photographers have reached out to us, to say that they need a bit more time to edit those last-minute shots and make those final image selections before submitting. Due to the huge amount of traffic and submissions on redbullillume.com currently coming in, the servers are also a little bit slower than usual. That is why we’ve extended the final deadline by 24 hours so you still have time to make sure you’re a part of this edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

So it really is your last chance to take your chance! There is still time to search through your folders, dig through your desktop files and submit that winning shot. Imagine attending the Winner Award Ceremony on top of a mountain, getting your work featured in a Global Exhibit and the Coffee Table Book, winning prizes to the value of €100,000. Choose the categories you want to enter and go do it already! You have an additional 12 hours, so now is the time for action.

This is your final call – Submit Now!

How to create stunning photos with a smartphone and drone!

Red Bull Illume finalist and SanDisk Extreme Team member Marcel Lämmerhirt teams up with Fabio Studer and Thomas Feurstein to show you how to create and take epic adventure and action sport photos with your smartphone or drone.

© Marcel Lämmerhirt

Whether shooting action, portraits or at night you don't need heavy camera equipment at all times, all that is required is your phone or drone, some apps and imagination. Let SanDisk Extreme Team Member Marcel Lämmerhirt guide you!

Submit your smartphone and drone photos to the Image Quest 2019: redbullillume.com/submission.

About the shot: 5 epic images from the Masterpiece Category

The Masterpiece by EyeEm Category blurs the line between adventure and action sports and fine art photography. One of the great things about Red Bull Illume is that it allows photographers total freedom of style and method and express themselves to a global audience – this category is the pinnacle!

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

With 5 days left to submit to the Image Quest 2019, we take a look at 5 phenomenal images from 2016 and hear the story of each shot, as told by the photographer.

1. Jeremiah Watt

Andrew Burr has a photo of thick ice, in deep desert sandstone. I’ve wanted both that shot and that experience ever since seeing it. Scott Adamson is an alpine climber who long suspected that Zion National Park held wild ice flows in deep, sandstone slots.

We drove out late in the evening, bivied on a shop floor and hoped for the best. This shot tells of the ice. It was huge, one the coolest spaces I’ve ever encountered – crisp desert air, sweeping pines and solid sandstone with flowing ice for hundreds of feet.

2. Elliott Bernhagen

This was the most unique moment of mountain light I have ever witnessed. It was a winter filled with struggle and scary conditions, but there were some glorious moments for those who put in the time.

We were very lucky to have this surreal light gracing the exact area we hoped to ski. By the time Tatum Monod got into position I was ecstatic – I knew we had the potential to create something special. Snow crystals were cascading from the sky and being backlit as they fell in front of my lens and onto the spines. 

3. Ben Thouard

I decided straight away to only shoot underwater photos that morning, because the waves were perfect – completely glassy as there was no wind at all. Also, it had not rained the last few days so the water clarity was just a dream. These were the conditions I was waiting for!

I spent four hours just shooting below the surface and the show was unreal! That wave came in, I dove under as the surfer was paddling for it, just early enough to be under and get the right position. Everything lined up perfectly and I was really happy with the result!

4. Alex Buisse

Mich Kemeter had already rehearsed the last pitch of Marches du Temps, which even though it only gets 6a, is quite tricky and technical. The biggest problem, though, is the exposure, as it’s a 300m straight drop to the canyon floor. 

By luck, a highline had been set up right above the route, so I was able to use a pulley to suspend myself over thin air and get a really unique angle, looking straight down on Mich while still being nicely separated from the wall.

Mich was lowered by his girlfriend Karine, got to the next belay and slipped out of his harness which was promptly pulled up. He was committed to climbing out, ropeless. I held my breath and kept on shooting as he climbed smoothly and efficiently, taking no more than two or three minutes for the entire pitch.

5. Roman Neimann

Joosep came straight from a competition he competed in the day before, bringing a friend with him to help with the shot. But these guys came straight from the party so they were pretty tired!

For this shot I knew we needed morning sun with some haze or smoke, and those tired friends were responsible for the bonfire and the smoke we needed. It took a long time to get the correct shot and the angle I wanted, and the guardians of the bonfire fell asleep!

At the end though, we managed to pull it off. Not with the first sunlight of the day, not with the perfect smoke but still enough to make it look good.

There are just five days remaining to stamp your style on the Masterpiece by EyeEm Category, submit now!

For those that love the thrill, here comes the final rush!

We know that adventure and action sports imagery photography is full of thrills and the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 is no different. We have reached the final week to enter your images, so, it’s time to take the opportunity to get your work shown to the world.

© Markus Berger / Red Bull Illume

That's right, there is just 1 week left to submit your images to the Image Quest 2019. Still not sure if you’ve got the winning images? Take a look at the 10 categories you can enter. We talk about the categories a lot, but with good reason - you could have the greatest image of all time, but if it doesn't match the category description it won't be selected by the judges!

Take a look at the 10 categories you can enter, and submit your images by July 31,2019!

  • Creative by Skylum: The only category that allows image manipulation and total creative freedom in your postprocessing endeavours. This is an open category so anything goes! 
  • Emerging by Red Bull Photography: The up-and-coming category is for rising talents to compete on similar footing – submissions accepted only from photographers 25 years old or less.
  • Energy: Images that demonstrate the force that powers an athlete to perform
  • Innovation by Sony: Images that reveal a unique angle, something that’s never been seen before! It’s the purely creative image.
  • Lifestyle: Images that visually capture the creativity of the lifestyle and culture that surrounds action and freesports, before and after the action.
  • Masterpiece by EyeEm: This category speaks for itself, submit your best shot! Show us your artistic skill, your personal best, your unique style.
  • Moving Image: This category is an open playing field for video sequences between 5 and 30 seconds. Ready… set… action!
  • Playground: Dedicated to epic images showcasing not only the athlete, but the landscapes, locations, platforms, and environments in which they play.
  • RAW: Uncropped, untouched, unfiltered. Images must be straight out of the camera!
  • Wings: Images that capture the point in a performance in which the athlete jumps, catches air, free falls, soars.

There so many opportunities to show off your creativity to the judges, and the world. It could be your chance to not only win prizes to the value of €100.000 but also get invited to the global Winner Award Ceremony and be featured in the Global Exhibit Tour as well as the limited Coffee Table Book.

So, make sure you submit your images into their best suited categories now!

Creating magic - with Dan Vojtěch!

As the old cliché goes: you don’t take a photograph you make a photograph – and this is certainly true of Dan’s method. So, in this short interview, and with the Image Quest 2019 in mind, we asked Dan to take us with him through his creative process.

© Daniel Vojtěch / Red Bull Illume

When you think of Dan Vojtěch you think of creative photography. Three of the 11 finalist images in the New Creativity category in 2016 were his, and he won the same category back in 2013.

As the old cliché goes: you don’t take a photograph you make a photograph – and this is certainly true of Dan’s method. So, in this short interview, and with the Creative by Skylum category of the Image Quest 2019 in mind, we asked Dan to take us with him through his creative process.

You started shooting analog, then moved into digital photography. How would say that’s influenced the way you create shots?

I think so. With an analog camera you are limited so you need to think about the final photo in advance. You need to know what film stock you are going to use, if you need any filters – there are many variables. Now I mostly shoot digital, but still love to shoot film when I can.

Let us in on your creative process. Do you already have the final image planned when you shoot the parts, or do you take the parts and then think of an image?

I usually have a clear vision of how the final image should look. Usually, the result is quite similar and I am happy. But sometimes I get another idea during photoshoot so I change it little bit or improvise. When you have a good group of people and a strong idea improvisation is made easier, and I like to do it. But the most difficult yet rewarding part of the creative process is to take the concept on paper and turn it into the real thing.

In your opinion, how can you submit an image that stands out to the judges in a such an open-ended category?

You never know what judges will like, so I don’t think about this too much. Maybe the best way is to aim for something you’ve never seen before, chances are that the judges won’t have seen it either! :)

Has Red Bull Illume motivated you to get more creative with your photography?

Red Bull Illume is a big motivation for sure. My first impulse is always to create something new and interesting, then I check gallery of winning images on the website. There are so many awesome photos which are always a real inspiration.

How do you select the final images that you enter?

I put my all good images to the one folder and then sort them to each category. My selections are quite tough so there are not too many photos in that folder. Next, I am trying to match each category to a good photo.

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

Working on selections right now so I hope I will find some winning images for this year as well!

Not long left to submit your images, and take your chance at winning some great prizes. Submit Now!

The clock is ticking - just two weeks to go!

Here is your chance to stand amongst the past winners of this amazing imagery contest and claim your own fame. There are just 2 weeks left of the submission phase for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. Submit now for the opportunity to win great prizes, fantastic experiences and worldwide exposure.

© Desré Pickers / Red Bull Illume

Here is your chance to stand amongst the past winners of this amazing imagery contest and claim your own fame. There are just 2 weeks left of the submission phase for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. You have until July 31 to enter your best adventure and action sports images to the different categories.

Submissions are free, plus you can enter up to 10 images per category. So, don’t waste time and submit your incredible shots now!

But don't just take it from us, here are what some past finalists had to say about the effect Red Bull Illume had for them:

Christian Pondella:

“It’s definitely a great thing to be a finalist. Personally, I’ve been a pro almost 20 years now. If you’re a young photographer it will open up a lot of doors. If you win the whole thing it will help tremendously.”

Morgan Maassen:

“Overnight it really transformed my whole operation, my career, my artwork!”

Jimmy Wilson:

“It’s a good experience. It’s awesome that Red Bull supports photographers and gives them this platform. Usually it’s the athletes who always get the credit. They deserve it but it’s cool to see photographers get the recognition too.” 

Jody MacDonald:

“The great thing about Red Bull Illume is that it validates you as a professional photographer to the outside world. People definitely perceive you more as a professional and because of that you’re simply more inclined to get more work.”

Zak Noyle:

“Red Bull Illume is a huge platform and it was great exposure for me. But the best part of it was having my image displayed on those lightboxes over any prize. Having it displayed in these great cities; to me that was the great part. It was crazy…” 

This is the utimate way to gain worldwide exposure and recognition for your photography, emulating these guys and also previous winners Fred Mortagne, Chris Burkard and Lorenz Holder.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’ve just got amazing images just waiting to be seen; you have two weeks left - Submit Now!

Global Winner Award Ceremony to take place at 2275m!

Red Bull Illume is thrilled to announce that we will honor the winners of the Image Quest 2019 at the breathtaking LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography in South Tyrol, Italy. This stunning location on Kronplatz will host a celebration of Adventure and Action Sports Imagery at a three-day event from November 18-20, 2019. You don't want to miss this!

© Manuel Kottersteger

After cities like Chicago, Dublin and Hong Kong – now the Winner Award Ceremony is heading for the mountains, the place where the magic of these breathtaking photos happens! We are delighted to announce that the location for the announcement of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 Winners is on top of the mountain Kronplatz in the stunning Dolomites of South Tyrol, Italy: The LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography.

This jaw-dropping venue will host the three-day-event from November 18 to 20 – in addition to the ceremony there are workshops, seminars, and more, in an inspiring environment for the 100 most influential photography minds of this scene including the finalists and judges. On November 20, the 64 finalist images, 11 category and the overall winner will be unveiled and they will pick up an incredible set of prizes valued at €100,000. Check out the video for more!

Kronplatz has granted the Red Bull Illume guests exclusive access to the LUMEN on top of the mountain a week before its official season opening. Throughout the year and regardless of the weather, the mountain can be explored because of its unsurpassed variety of hike and bike trails exuding a unique, magical appeal. The backdrop of the Dolomites surrounding Kronplatz provides the perfect place for the Winner Award Ceremony.

At this three-day-event a variety of workshops will be held by the global partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum and COOPH with plenty of shooting opportunities. All of this will be reserved exclusively for finalists, so don’t miss your chance to become one and earn your invitation for the gathering of the 110 most influential people in adventure and action sports imagery!

At this time, we’re also happy to officially welcome Salewa, the Dolomites based company, to the Red Bull Illume Partner family for the Winner Award Ceremony. They will bring all their knowledge of the region, as well as tradition and innovation to engineer equipment intended to change the game of mountain sports equipment, making them the perfect fit as Local Partner for this event.

Do you want to be part of the Winner Award Ceremony? Submit your best shots to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest now!

Red Bull Illume Grand Prizes: Even More Reason to Enter

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 prize packages include some serious camera equipment and accessories for each category winner and the overall winner.

© Morgan Maassen / Red Bull Illume

This year, the grand prizes get even grander. With the introduction of new categories and sponsors, the 11 category winners and 1 overall winner will pick up an incredible set of prizes valued at €100,000, to help them take even more incredible adventure and action shots.

Each category winner will pick up this unbelievable set of prizes:

  • The phenomenal Sony Alpha a7 III camera kitted out with the 24-105mm F4 G Master lens.
  • A bundle of memory cards & mobile workflow solutions from storage specialist SanDisk.
  • The award-winning company, Skylum, will provide photo-editing software including Luminar 3 and their Signature Presets. Skylum will also present a special prize for the winner of the ‘Creative by Skylum’ category, welcoming the winner as part of the Global Skylum Ambassador Team.
  • Red Bull Photography will award the winner of the ‘Emerging by Red Bull Photography’ category a spot at the Red Bull Rising Talent photography workshop in 2020. This includes travel, accommodation, and board expenses.
  • To top it all off, COOPH will provide high quality photography apparel and accessories to keep them equipped and protected for upcoming shoots.

In addition to this, the overall winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 will win a shooting experience with the SanDisk Extreme Team and take home the Sony Alpha a9 camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens from the G-Master range. The perfect camera for capturing high-speed action and adventure moments. It’s the perfect prize for the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019.

The 64 finalists will earn a place at the November 18-20, 2019 at the Lumen - Museum of Mountain Photography on top of Kornplatz at 2275m! This will be a gathering of the most influential photography people in the world. They’ll also gain immense exposure as their images tour around the world in the Global Exhibit Tour and be featured in the limited-edition Coffee Table Book. Stay tuned for further announcements on this, coming soon!

So, what are you waiting for? Submit your photos here!

Go on an adventure with the new Moving Image Category

If you are a storyteller, making short video sequences capturing the essence of adventure and action sports with a single take, it’s time to enter the new Moving Image category.

Whether you are a stop motion superstar, a big production filmmaker, or just making cool clips with nothing but your smartphone in hand – you have a great chance of winning this category. Images are no longer standing still, and you shouldn’t either! 

Don't wait, submit now!