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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Gallery: 12 Mountain Sports Images That Will Light Up LUMEN!

To celebrate the opening of an exhibition of the world’s greatest mountain sports photography from the four previous editions of Red Bull Illume at the brand-new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography, we wanted to give you a little teaser of what visitors will see.

© Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume

So here we present a selection of 12 of the images that will be lighting up the ‘Adrenaline Room’ for the next three years! The museum opens on December 20, 2018, so get your adventure gear out and meet us at the peak to see the rest of the exhibition set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps!

Red Bull Illume enlightens the new LUMEN - Museum of Mountain Photography with a permanent exhibition

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world´s greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

Mountain life is something deeply ingrained in human history. For hundreds of years, men and women have tried to tell the story of this ever-changing landscape by capturing light through photography; a story in which adventure and action sports photography has played a large part. Now this story has a home; LUMEN – the Museum of Mountain Photography which opens its doors on December 20, 2018. On this note, Red Bull Illume, the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest is delighted to announce its new partnership with the LUMEN Museum.

Located on the top of Mount Kronplatz-Plan de Corones at an altitude of 2,275m, the Lumen Museum lies in the heart of the South Tyrolean Alps and the Italian Dolomites. The legendary Kronplatz offers 119 kilometers of ski slopes, attracting thousands of visitors every day during the winter season. In summer, the resort transforms into a colorful paradise for mountain bikers and hiking enthusiasts. Best of all, LUMEN is perfectly located next to the Messner Mountain Museum, just a few hundred meters away on a neighboring peak.

The museum will showcase a range of stunning mountain photography from different perspectives such as alpinism, tourism, politics, spirituality and history. Visitors of the museum will be treated to a captivating exhibition space which spans the past, present and future of mountain photography. All of this is set against the incredible backdrop of the Alps and the museum’s stunning architecture.

The new partnership of Red Bull Illume and LUMEN will include the opening of a permanent exhibition to display the world's greatest mountain sports photography from all four previous editions of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest. This unique exhibit will be found in the museum’s mind blowing ‘Adrenaline Room’. In total, around 50 images and videos will be displayed on lightboxes and screens, providing an interactive digital experience that is both visual and audible. The exhibition will run for an initial three years and guarantees an unforgettable visit to a truly innovative exhibition space.

The LUMEN Museum at an enormous 1,800m2 in size will also act as an event venue perfect for conferences, product launch events, seminars or workshops. Additionally, visitors can dine in the AlpiNN Mountain Restaurant with mouth-watering cuisine by Three-Michelin-Star legend Norbert Niederkofler. Sound good? Then get your adventure gear out and join Red Bull Illume at the LUMEN Museum of Mountain Photography! We’ll see you at the peak for true enlightenment! 

More information on the LUMEN Museum can be found on their website.

Gallery: 10 Photos Capturing The Emotions Of Adventure And Action Sports

Emotion is something that belongs to both photography and action sports. Attempting a stunt can be as emotional as it is physical. There’s fear, frustration, pain and glory. One trick can have it all and it’s the photographer’s job to capture it. Here are 10 photos to celebrate those feelings that you won’t find anywhere else.

© Syo van Vliet / Red Bull Illume

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

Red Bull Illume Image Quest: Timeline Revised for 2019 Edition

Red Bull Illume, the world`s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest returns in 2019 for its fifth edition. But what’s new? The sheer volume and quality of the submissions has grown exponentially since it started, so the decision has been made to hold the event every two years, rather than the original three-year interval. With this comes a new timeline, so here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to take part.

In May 2019, the submission phase for the contest will officially kick off. This gives photographers a chance to enter their most spectacular adventure and action sports images before the closing deadline in July. Keep an eye out though; a special announcement in January is set to revolutionize the contest and may well inspire an entirely new approach from those who wish to participate!  

After the submission phase comes the judging stage. Between August and October 2019, a panel of widely renowned photo experts will vote to determine the top five images from each of the contest’s categories. This is no easy task when you consider the record-breaking 34,624 photos that were submitted to the contest in 2016 – and 2019 looks set to be bigger than ever! As the judging gets under way, preparation for the Winner Award Ceremony will begin.

The ceremony itself is widely regarded as the most prestigious event in the world of adventure and action sports photography. It’s here that the finalists, category winners and the overall contest winner will be announced. With each edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest comes a new and exciting venue in the heart of a vibrant cultural hub. Although the location for the next ceremony is still to be announced, it promises to be an unforgettable night for the world of adventure and action sports photography. Just wait and see! 

Once concluded, the year 2020 will be devoted to a series of international exhibitions. The winning images will be displayed in major cities around the world, giving the photographers an unprecedented level of exposure. There will also be a few innovative changes to the tour that will revolutionize the contest as we know it, but all will be revealed soon! Sound appealing? Then get shooting and submit your images for a chance to make history at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

For upcoming announcements and more information, keep an eye on our website and social channels.

Gallery: Czeching out the top Czech images from Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Indoor Exhibition Tour is heading to Prague this October. In honor of this momentous occasion, we have put together a gallery showcasing some of the best adventure and action sports photographers that the Czech Republic has to offer.

© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

In the 2016 Image Quest alone, no less than five Czech photographers got their images in the Top 275. The country is a breeding ground for up and coming street sports athletes, with Prague’s famous marble plazas serving as a meeting point for hundreds of skateboarders, BMX riders and the photographers who come to document them. Here we bring you 7 of the best images by Czech photographers from Red Bull Illume history.

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

Riding Thrones: The journey behind Lorenz Holder’s latest shoot

Inspired by the fictional world of Game of Thrones, two-time Red Bull Illume-winning photographer Lorenz Holder teamed up with BMX legend Senad Grosic on a stunning fantasy project in Northern Ireland.

© Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Content Pool

The project, fittingly named ‘Riding Thrones’, is the culmination of an entire year of location research to find backdrops reminiscent of the show's fictional location of Westeros. The popularity of the world-renowned series and the incredible untouched beauty of the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland made 4.30am starts an essential part of this ten-day shoot.

Speaking about his original Game of Thrones idea, Lorenz explains: “I was immediately inspired and knew I wanted to shoot there as well. When we arrived in Northern Ireland, I was blown away by how beautiful and untouched everything was. You get the weather of a whole year in one day.”

See all the photos below!

For more inspiration ahead of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019, head over to our gallery to see all the top images from the previous editions of Red Bull Illume.

Images © Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Content Pool

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.