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.

Read the latest stories

Gallery: 7 Awe-Inspiring Climbing Shots

Climber or non-climber, there are certain perspectives that just make you stop and wonder. First, for the athletes that seem to blur the lines between dedication and daredevilry. Second, for the nature that these athletes are exposed to and third, for the photographers that accomplish astonishing feats of bringing these perspectives to life.

To get you out and on the wall, we present 7 images from Red Bull Illume that make our palms sweat

© Ken Etzel / Red Bull Illume

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

Shooting BMX in Morocco with Jason Colledge

The one crazy moment we did have on the trip was running away from the police I guess. That was a weird situation that didn't need to be like that.

© Jason Colledge

What are your basic stats?

My name is Jason Colledge, some people know me as Fooman. I am 29 years old from Torquay, England. I ride BMX and spend most of my time taking photos of BMX too.

How did you start shooting BMX?

Well I finished school not knowing what to do. I was doing carpentry with my Dad and had decided this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life. I was told I needed further education so I decided to do something fun. Art and design was my choice. The first year covered every aspect of art and the second year we were able to specialise what we studied. I chose photography. Taking photos of BMX was natural for me, as I had always ridden my BMX growing up.

You recently went to Morocco?

So I’m actually working for UnitedBikeCo as the brand/team manager and of course shooting photographs for them. We were out in Morocco to film the second instalment of a video series called “No Foreign Lands”. We are just a crew of friends doing what we love and documenting it as we go.

The crew consisted of Sebastian Anton, Fernando laczko, Ben Gordon, Harry Mills Wakley, Justin Care, Tom Deville and Filmer Peter Adam.

What were your impressions of Morocco and how was it shooting there?

This was my first time there and I really didn’t know what to expect. It was apparent that there isn’t a lot of money here but everyone seemed to be happy and very closely knit; just like one big community. The hospitality was incredible too. I’ve never felt so welcome before in my life. We had it pretty easy in all honesty; we stayed at a great hostel and were spoilt big time. We had a van and a spot guide to show us around all the spots so we couldn’t complain. As for taking photos, Morocco is probably every photographers dream. Everywhere you look posed as a photographic moment.

Morocco isn’t usually associated with action sports… how did the locals react?

To be honest this worked in our favour. We had one run in with security that resulted in the police being called out, but most of the time the locals or security would have no idea what we were up to and when we explained, they would encourage us to ride. I think they liked to see this as it was new to them.

What challenges did you face on the trip?

I think the most obvious challenge for everyone was the heat. Morocco is known for its 300 days of sun and we had picked a week that was forecasted to rain every day. We ended up with one day of rain and the rest was scorching hot sun, so I think finding shade was the biggest challenge. The only challenge I had whilst shooting photos would be carrying my heavy bag about in such heat. I managed to get a nose bleed whilst shooting a photo on one of the days due to the dry heat, it was so weird.

Does Morocco have its own BMX scene?

Morocco does have its own BMX scene, it was quite a small scene but the riders were super friendly and weren’t shy of killing it whilst we were there.

Any favourite from the trip?

I think a favourite moment for everyone, (apart from Justin), was trying all the local food on offer.

Another favourite would be riding the mopeds there. These things were everywhere and the locals were more than happy to let us jump on them and blast about which was super fun to do. The one crazy moment we did have on the trip was running away from the police I guess. That was a weird situation that didn’t need to be like that.

Where else have you shot BMX and what have been some of your favourite trips?

I am fortunate to have travelled quite a bit all from riding my bike and taking photos. I have travelled all over Europe, been to the States, Australia and now Africa. Every trip has its own quality so it is hard to choose a favourite. I get to hang out with friends and do what I love so it really is hard to pick one. Alicante on a “Young Bloods” trip is definitely up there though. This trip was pretty much perfect; four of my best friends, Harry Mills Wakley, Sam Jones, Jordan Godwin and Callum Earnshaw, plus beautiful weather with an endless amount of spots to ride. The party life was on point too.

What else do you shoot outside of BMX?

Well I do like to shoot pet portraits, sucker for that. Automotive photography is an aspect of photography I have always been fond of. I just like to shoot subjects that I have an interest in really.

Any tips or advice for aspiring action sport photographers?

Don’t be shy to try something different; if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work. It’s all trial and error. Learn from your mistakes. Oh and be prepared to carry a heavy bag full of camera equipment haha.

For a free zine about Jason’s trip to Morocco, ask your local Unitedbikeco dealer.

The video from the trip can be viewed here.

To see more of Jason’s work, check out his website and Instagram.

Shooting break dancers in the canals of Amsterdam with Broncolor

Add Dramatic Light with a Silver Beauty Dish

Bboy Shane and Bboy Menno dancing on a canal in Amsterdam

By Rutger Pauw

When I found out Red Bull Netherlands hosted the world finals of their BC One breakdance competition, I pitched an idea to them of having break dancers spinning and jumping on the water of an Amsterdam canal with out the use of post production.

They liked the idea, and we ended up building a wooden platform just under the water surface that supported the weight of the dancers, it was connected to a wooden jetty that was big enough to have our lights and crew on. With the photo taken from low down, the under water platform wasn’t noticeable, and it made for a very dynamic image.

I used a fisheye to get really close to the dancers, and get water splashes near the lens.

Two Siros L 400’s were used to light the dancers, with one of the lights holding a silver beauty dish on a boom stand, so the light could ‘hover’ above the water to get more dramatic light. The HS function made sure all those drops in the air were nicely frozen, although I ended up lowering the shutter speed just a little to get a tiny bit of movement in there, adding a feeling of movement.

Since this was a collaboration with Samsung, they were keen to also get some slow mo footage with their own Galaxy phone, which ended up being quite fun to experiment with. The modelling light on the Siros is flicker free,  and still very bright during the day, so I used them in the same position as in the still images to fill in the dancers, which gave us a nice light balance with the sun coming from the back.

About Rutger Pauw

The thing I like most about photography is that it’s like riding bikes. It allows me to come up with ideas and tricks I haven’t seen before. Somehow that’s what has always intrigued me most. It’s a little personal victory, maybe unnoticed by others but the feeling of having created something you haven’t seen before is why I take photos.

See the original story from Broncolor here.

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Jaanus Ree shoots action sports… and his cat!

Very few action sports photographers will tell you their favorite photo is of their cat, but, here we are. Jaanus Ree, based out of Estonia, travels 300 days a year, and shoots almost everything under the sun.

© Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Illume

Your first ‘pro’ job wasn’t pro at all!  

I injured myself during a windsurfing competition. Since all the action was out in the sea, the only option to get close was in the media boat. So I borrowed a camera from a friend, and said that I am shooting for an Estonian newspaper. Not really true. The first day it was more about enjoying action on the water, but in the end it was all about getting some stunning photos. I started to love it and decided to get deeper into it. I enrolled in art school and shot everything from politics to plants! 

What’s your favorite image you’ve ever taken?

I love to answer this: it's a photo of my cat. People don’t know what to say! But seriously, it is one of my favourites… and it was even good enough to make it to the Red Bull Illume Finals. But besides that there are a lot of others: The Northern Lights project with golfers in Norway was stunning. A figure skater on a frozen bog, Jason Paul jumping into the airplane comes into the mind every time I board for a flight, and many more.  

What’s different and what’s similar in your work? 

All the sports I shoot involve athletes and nature or scenery. But every sport needs to have a different aproach. Although my main sports are rally and rally cross I try to do all sorts of other shoots as much as possible. They give me inspiration and new ideas to try in rally – or the other way around. I love playing around with lights... sometimes too much. 

You do not travel light.  

If I go to a rally event then I have around three bodies, 24-70, 20mm, 70-200, 24 tilt-shift, 85 tilt-shift, 85mm 1.4 for portraits, 16mm fisheye, Elinchrom ELD 500 and 1200, loads of PW transmitters. Depending on a specific event also 400mm. I have loads of selfmade gear from laser triggers to special tripods what I might carry around. I always have proper rain clothing and plastic bags as well as duct tape to protect the equipment when the weather turns bad. 

Most gear ever? 

If I go to a rally cross (rally on a circuit) then I pack some more lenses and cameras, and a few extra remotes. The maximum so far has been 7 cameras, 12 lenses , 15 transmitters.  It took 3 hours to prepare 10 minutes of shooting but then all the best locations were covered and I could only press a few buttons while watching the action! 

Are you an artist, or a technician? 

I’m a technician. I studied 2 years together with artists. It’s a bit different to the job I am doing today. Sure, some of my pictures can be displayed in galleries and exhibitions but I still call myself a photographer rather than an artist.

What’s more important: subject, lighting, or composition? 

The story of the picture – then composition and lighting. During my school year, I saw some photos that were out of focus with bad lighting, but super composition and story. The most interesting photos are the ones where something has been done differently to how you’d expect. 

What life lessons have you learned from photography? 

Maybe the most important is how to work with people you dont know. During my school years, we had to pick a random stranger from the street and follow him for a week to make a photo story about him. The hardest part was approaching the person to begin with. It still is, but somehow I have learned that a camera and a smile can melt all the tension. 

What’s the last thing you photographed? 

It was today in Buenos Aires airport - two security guys holding my flash batteries with confused looks on their faces as they decided whether to allow me to pass or not. The photo was great but they forced me to delete it.

Your favorite sport to shoot is… 

Rally! This sport covers so much terrain, from snowy Swedish forests to dusty Australian roads. Although the locations are almost the same every year, something always changes – the road itself, the weather, the time of the day. I have been to the same ‘water splash’ spot in Mexico three years in a row, and had totally different looking photos every time.

And is it dangerous? 

To shoot rally we use remote cameras to minimize the risk and stay safe. That said – I have climbed cell phone towers, dangled off cliffs and hung out from a helicopter. Although many shoots I do look dangerous, I minimize the risk all the time.

Discover More! Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Photos © Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Illume.

Choose now! The public vote closes June 15th!

The winning images have gone global on the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour, but only you can decide the Public Choice Award!

© Fred Pompermayer / Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 once again raised the level of action and adventure sports photography. German photographer Lorenz Holder took the crown with his BMX shot on a beautiful bridge in autumnal Germany, but there’s still one more award to give away…

The winner of the Public Choice Award will, fittingly, be chosen by you! The top 275 images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 can be found in our gallery, with a vote button beneath each one. Simply pick your favorite and the photographer whose image gets the most votes will take both the title and an awesome prize package.

Here’s how it works:

1. Go to the gallery

2. Look through the photographs

3. Choose your favorite

4. Press the 'vote' button!

Be quick though! Voting closes June 15th so don’t miss out. The winner will be announced just before the start of the next Red Bull Illume Image Quest. We’ll see you there!

Japan’s National Mobile Contest winners have been announced!

Here’s who took the top 5 spots in the smartphone only photo contest!

© Takehito Takahashi / Red Bull Illume

The 55 finalist images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016 are currently being displayed in downtown Tokyo as part of an international, outdoor exhibition tour. Also on show alongside the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography is the contest’s new category; the National Mobile Contest. Open only to residents of Japan, the National Mobile Contest gave aspiring photographers a chance to submit their best adventure and action sports photographs with only one twist; it must be shot on a smartphone.

The top five images stood to win their very own spot at the exhibition and a series of awesome prizes including Yodobashi gift vouchers, a G-Technology hard drive, Broncolor lighting equipment, a Red Bull Illume photo book and a souvenir courtesy of TBS; whose Japan offices stand tall above the exhibition. In total, 105 photographers submitted 131 images to the contest, with the top five selected by Yodobashi Vice President Kazunori Fujisawa, Lorenz Holder and Red Bull snowboarder Miyabi Onitsuka.

At the grand opening of the Tokyo tour stop, two-time Red Bull Illume winner Lorenz Holder announced and unveiled the top five winning images from the National Mobile Contest:

In 5th place was Kiyomasa Kawasaki with his playful shot of a BMX crew crammed into an elevator. The positive atmosphere perfectly sums up what Red Bull Illume is about; authentic connections made through a common love of action sports and photography.

Next up in 4th place was Naoki Gaman, the only female winner of Japan's National Mobile Contest. Her dramatic black and white shot of a skier at the local Mt. Fuji ski resort will get your adrenaline going just by looking at it!

Taking the 3rd place spot was Jason Halayko. His geometric composition depicts a skateboarder frozen mid-push between two Japanese symbols painted on the floor. It doesn’t get any more authentic than that!

Not entirely satisfied with 3rd place, Jason Halayko took home the number two spot as well. Using a clip-on fisheye lens on his phone, he captured a skater perfectly isolated below a bridge, with some natural sun flare to top it off.

Last but certainly not least is Takehito Takahashi, who took the top spot for Japan’s National Mobile Contest. His incredible shot didn’t just capture a sky-high BMX rider reflected in a cafe window, but also the awe-inspired reaction of his spectators who watched from inside.

Check out Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

The Tokyo exhibition opens in style

The world's greatest adventure and action sports photography goes on show at a stunning, outdoor exhibition venue in the Japanese capital.

Enthusiasts of adventure and action sports photography gathered from far and wide in Tokyo at the Akasaka Sacas commercial complex to see the opening and illumination of the contest’s 55 finalist images. Following the results of Japan’s National Mobile Contest and an entire evening of wild festivities, the public’s passion for the exhibition shone as brightly as the images themselves.

In attendance was Red Bull Illume founder Ulrich Grill, who offered some unique insights into how Red Bull Illume became the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography contest. Joining him to hand out the awards and prizes for the National Mobile Contest was Lorenz Holder; the two-time overall winner of Red Bull Illume.

Local hero DJ Rina provided an unforgettable audio experience on the turntables, whilst Red Bull’s breakdance athlete Issei and freestyle soccer player Tokura showed off their incredible moves to the amazement of a hyped-up crowd.

Judged by Yodobashi Vice President Kazunori Fujisawa, Lorenz Holder and Red Bull snowboarder Miyabi Onitsuka, the Grand Prize for the National Mobile Contest went to Takehito Takashi. The prize purse itself included an awesome selection of photography gear, such as Yodobashi gift vouchers, a G-Technology hard drive, Broncolor lighting equipment, a Red Bull Illume photo book and of course a souvenir courtesy of TBS; whose Japan offices stand tall above the exhibition.

Making their first ever appearance in Tokyo, the breathtaking photos are exhibited outdoors on stunning 2x2 meter lightboxes which are best viewed after dark. The images, including the five winning shots from the Japanese National Mobile Contest will be illuminated daily at Akasaka Sacas between 18:00 and 22:00 from April 19 until April 27, 2018. Best of all, entry is free to the public, so don’t miss out if you’re in the area!

Discover More! Follow Red Bull Illume on Facebook and Instagram.

Photos © Suguru Saito.

Red Bull Illume Finalist Max Lowe on skiing in Japan

As the Red Bull Illume exhibit tour prepares to open in Japan, we thought it’d be fun to take a closer look at the country – through the eyes of one of the Red Bull Illume finalist photographers. Max Lowe’s shot of skier Laura Hale on the hunt for pow around Hokkaido was a nominee in the ‘Spirit’ category – but it’s not the only incredible shot from his trip. We asked him to share a little bit more about himself – and his trip.

Your upbringing was… unorthodox. 

I was raised in the wild places of the world, traveling with my family from a young age. I was exposed to the amazing power of perspective and its impact on how we see the world around us. I started shooting photos in high school when my mom gave me her old Nikon 35mm for a family trip to Peru. I studied dark room photography in high school, which really drew me into the magic of making an image in the physical and the metaphysical sense, while my work on the high school newspaper sparked an interest in storytelling. I got my first digital camera, a Nikon D80, as a graduation present, and throughout college I just started shooting as much as I could. Taking photos became one of my favorite pastimes, mostly exploring the deserts and mountains of Utah where I was in school.

Your first big photo project? 

In 2012 I received the Young Explorers Grant from National Geographic to work on a project in Nepal for 3 months, and when I returned home from that project, it was the first time I really focused my intent on trying to take this passion I had cultivated for so long and turn it into something that could take me deeper into the realm of visual and narrative storytelling. It all seems like a blur since that decision, and I still love shooting as much as ever, and it continues to be an amazing privilege to do something I love so truly and call it my work.

What’s your style? 

I like to think that I take my analytical narrative eye to every shoot I do – even action sports, which might be a bit different than some photographers who might just be looking for singular incredible moments.

What’s your inspiration?

Using my storytelling platforms to tell stories that impact some change beyond just inspiration is also quickly becoming one of my big motivators to keep creating.

Tell us about your trip to Japan. 

My first trip to Japan came about through a friend of mine and film maker Nick Wagoner, one of the founders of Sweetgrass Productions. He wrangled a three week trip with eight of us friends to tour around Hokkaido, on the North Island, in a van, skiing as much powder as we could manage. It was one of most amazing trips of my life for sure, and a hell of way to be introduced to the country. I have since been back several times, and definitely hope to head back this next winter.

Did you research heavily and have specific shooting plans, or just go wherever the snow took you?

Both times I have traveled to Japan to ski I went with friends who knew amazing spots already and took me under their wings in a sense which was an amazing gift. I am sure I would have had a blast without a local inside hookup, but it was amazing getting led straight to the secret stashes.

Tell us about your favorite spots (and favorite shots) from Japan.

Favorite shots were probably taken during our time staying at the base of Mt Yotei and skiing its massive flanks – sunrise on that epic volcano is still breathtaking in memory. But really, anywhere in the backcountry – it's just such a magical environment there with the birch trees and bamboo shoots poking up through the snow. I also got to shoot some in Tokyo and Kyoto which was a treat and contrast to the snowier parts of our trip.

What makes Japan a unique place to photograph?

For me Japan is an amazing place to shoot just because it is so unique across the board. You could take ski pictures or travel photos in a lot of different places, and it would be harder to differentiate your images from one place to the next, but Japan's culture and landscapes are so wonderfully unique, that as a foreigner and someone who loves to capture the whole picture of a place, it was really an amazing treat.

Japan is known for both its attention to detail and aesthetic beauty – did you find this easy to take advantage of?

Japan is all about the detail, and it is apparent almost everywhere you look. It’s not especially easy to capture well, but it is very prevalent and very inspiring as an artist.

Was it crowded?

Did that present a photographic challenge? Some of the resorts were crowded, and most certainly the cities – but the backcountry was usually empty.

See the full gallery on Max's website.

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Images © Max Lowe / Red Bull Illume

Talking technique and concept with Jan Pirnat

The feeling a photograph gives you is much more important to me than being technically "perfect" - but most important is that the concept and story works well together.

© Jan Pirnat / Red Bull Illume

The Slovenian photographer Jan Pirnat made it into the top 55 of the Image Quest 2016 with his cleverly-framed image of biker Gaspar Dolinar super-manning off a ramp. Young, eager and willing to break the rules of conventional photography, we got the behind-the-scenes on his budding photography career - and one challenge that few other humans face; dealing with the lung disease cystic fibrosis. Read on to find out what he carries in his camera bag, and why he finds the story more important than shutter speed.

What was your first camera? 

It was actually my brother’s! An Olympus C-4040 Zoom helped me take my first steps into photography. Then we went on a vacation to the sea, and on the way to the destination I lost it. I don’t know how or precisely when. He wasn’t very happy about it, but it was too late... so I started looking for some cheap alternatives to buy him a replacement. I found another Olympus compact camera, but soon I realized that my passion for photography had just grown so much that at the end of elementary school, I took all my savings and with a little help from my parents, I got a Nikon D40X. 

Got a favorite shot? 

I don’t have one. I think that there is always something that I could do differently and better. Over time, my style and approach changes; and hopefully becomes more representative of who I am. There are some photographs that have special value for me, but more because of the story behind them, how it was done and what I needed to do to get it. 

What are you shooting? 

I’m trying to follow my interests at the moment, but with some long-term plans. Over time, I am getting to know what story I would like to tell with my photography. It’s a long process which will develop throughout my life, with a lot of failures and mistakes. But I’m learning from every photo that I take, and from every concept that comes into my mind. Currently, I’m working on a new website with fresh and unpublished projects. 

Your entire life is affected by cystic fibrosis. Does it affect you more these days, or less? Have you learned how to manage it better? 

Honestly, I just try to let it affect me as little as possible. It definitely gave me the motivation for photography when I was growing up; to set my focus on that and not on my disease. I don’t feel that it hinders me. I see it more as an opportunity to do and explore what I like, and to not waste my time too much. I’ve become better at listening to my body. I try to do things that have benefits for my health, especially for my lungs. But all this evolved so subconsciously that I didn’t even realize it. It became part of my way of life, even though it sounds very much cliché. 

What gear do you carry? 

35mm and 50mm lenses, plus a full-frame camera. Digital or analog. I like both. Analog is great because it slows you down, and analog photographs carry great emotions. 

How do you bring variety to your photography? 

Just by following my interests. I’m mostly inspired by forms of art and music - and by everyday life. But I found that photography is the medium where I can best express myself. I also feel the same about cinematography and filmmaking.  

Are you an artist, or a technician? 

I have a technician’s knowledge and experience. In school, we were doing a lot of technique-related projects, but I’m trying to be more expressive and creative. The feeling a photograph gives you is much more important to me than being technically “perfect” - but most important is that the concept and story works well together with the technical side of photography. This doesn’t mean that everything always needs to be in perfect focus or ‘properly’ composed etc. You have different technical needs for different projects. 

You have a history of bringing some extra elements to your photos - like fire. Any dream projects in mind? 

Over the years I’ve tried a few different things, and a lot of them were quite a challenge – especially from the technical side. It’s good to have those experiences because you learn how to react and improvise when everything goes wrong and the shoot falls apart. I have plans for new projects and I will start to work on them in the future. 

What’s more important: subject, lighting, or composition? 

I think that the most important thing to me is that all those components work well together with the story and concept. This is the most challenging part of photography. 

What life lessons have you learned from photography? 

That there is always something about the unknown that is interesting to us.

 

Check out more from Jan on his website.

Ditch the camera and join the Wings for Life World Run 2018

And help to find a cure for spinal cord injury. OK, you can take your phone!

The world's most unique charity race is happening on May 6 2018 - 11 a.m. UTC – and Red Bull Illume is proud to support it. 100% of all entry fees and donations go to spinal cord injury research!

To show your support in the most effective and active way possible, we encourage you to join either an event or the worldwide app run. See – we told you that you can take your smartphone – but in the interest of comfortable running, we suggest leaving the DSLR behind!

With no fixed finish line, competitors must attempt to outrun the Catcher Car for as long as possible. Talk about inspiration for the finishing kick! Learn more about the race at the Wings for Life World Run website. To contribute to a great cause and run for those who can't, head over to www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com and sign up today.

See you on the starting line!