The Jury Up Close: J. Grant Brittain

The Jury Up Close: J. Grant Brittain

Red Bull Illume relies on the expertise of 53 judges from 30 countries to pick out their favourite images. But just who are they? We spoke to judges from different continents, beginning with North American representative J. Grant Brittain, co-owner and photo director of The Skateboard Mag in the USA.

Hailing from California, Grant is one of the skateboard scene’s true legends. His photography has helped to define the seminal moments in the skate scene for three decades. As a photo editor, his magazines have always been revered for the quality of writing, photography and graphic design. However, it all developed from a simple love of skateboarding and getting his first decent camera at the age of 25.

"My brother and I both received clay-wheeled boards for Christmas around 1965. We just skated down hills and rode on our butts and had fun. My friends and I would just cruise around like we were surfing. We rode ditches and rezys [reservoirs / concrete ponds] and a few pools. I was always into art as well and thought I would be a cartoonist or artist. It was when I started shooting skate photos that the light bulb went off."

After taking a photography course at college and receiving zero encouragement from his professor, Grant learned his trade by just hanging out at skateparks such as the legendary Del Mar Skate Ranch. As skateboarding experienced its first real low-point at the start of the 80s when skateboarders deserted the sport, it was Brittain's photos of the Bones Brigade era from 1979 to 1983 that helped to communicate the revival.

Grant photographed skateboarders such as Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk as they invented new downhill slides, pioneered the use of vert-ramps and shredded pools in ways thought not possible up to then. However, it was sense of fun and adventure in his photography which captured the imagination of kids everywhere. "I had a steady stream of talent coming through to photograph. I just learned by doing. I had no one to ask back then, there were three photographers and no one shared info."

After helping to start Transworld Skateboarding Magazine in 1983, he spent 20 years there as its photo editor and photographer. Famed for the quality of its art direction during the magazine's golden period in the 80s, Brittain's photography was published alongside creative contributions from film maker Spike Jonze and skateboard legends such as Mark Gonzales and Steve Berra. "I just wanted to do a mag that made great skateboarding look even better. I was surrounded by talented skaters, writers, photographers, artists and art directors. The photo editors at non-skate mags don’t usually shoot photos. I am a photographer first and foremost, I am all about quality."

In 2004, Grant co-founded The Skateboard Mag in skateboard-mecca California in order to work on a magazine with complete editorial control which could truly represent skateboarding’s independent spirit. What is a typical day like? "I am the Production Manager and Director of Photography and a co-owner, so I have my fingers in everything in terms of running a business. It's just great to be involved in every little detail of doing a magazine. It’s a small crew and not too much stress – it’s like coming to play, not to work."

How has the industry changed since he started? "The photos are basically the same. Back then, you could shoot just about anything and it could get in the mag. Now, it’s the Trick of the Week that's important and whether that trick is still acceptable. Stuff gets old fast. It's a one up contest and now a video part can pretty much out date a sequence of photos in a mag. Timing is everything, you've got to get it in the mag before it’s on video, TV or the Internet. Magazines are up against those other media sources now."

What is his idea of a great photograph? "It's when a photographer is able to bring their personal vision across by way of a photograph or series of photographs. For me, it's also a photo that makes me want to go take photos or go skateboarding."

Returning to the jury for the second time, what are his hopes for Red Bull Illume in 2010? "I saw some really great photography in 2007. I like the jury process, I think photographers being judged by their peers is cool. I think we’re again going to see some really astonishing photographs."

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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!

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!

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 110 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!

Let your photography fly with the Wings category!

To become a finalist in the Wings Category, your image must capture the point in a performance in which the athlete jumps, catches air, free falls, soars. Check out this gallery of past finalists from the previous editions, and note the household names - it could be your career that takes off just like theirs did!


Photographer: Micky Wiswedel Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Wings Athlete: Jamie Smith Location: Cape Town, South Africa

© Micky Wiswedel / Red Bull Illume

Want to become a finalist of the Image Quest 2019 and see your photography career rise? Submit Now!

One month to go - submit now and become a finalist!

There are 5 out of 64 finalists now confirmed in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019! There is still one month remaining to submit and take your chance at winning this year’s edition. The submission phase will end on July 31, 2019!

Photographer: Tom Hawkins Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Lifestyle Athlete: Forrest Minchinton Location: Tabanan, Indonesia

© Tom Hawkins / Red Bull Illume

You have one month remaining to submit to the Image Quest 2019. This is your chance to tell your visual story, that could lead to some epic experiences and also winning some great prizes. So, submit your best images now - and stay tuned for the big announcement of the amazing Winner Award Ceremony location - on!

What’s in store for those that make it to the Winner Award Ceremony alongside 100 of the most influential people from the photography world? The 11 category winners, and 1 overall winner be announced – and will pick up an incredible set of prizes valued at €100,000 from our global partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH and Red Bull Photography. The 64 finalist images will gain immense exposure on the Global Exhibit Tour and be featured in the limited-edition Coffee Table Book.

Following a hugely successful first running of the new Best of Instagram by SanDisk category, there are 5 finalists now confirmed, see them here! There are still 10 categories remaining to submit images to and it is possible to enter up to 10 images per category – that’s 100 chances of becoming a finalist!

If your preference is making short video sequences, capturing the action that is at the essence of the genre, no problem! You can enter the new Moving Image category. Whether you’re a stop motion superstar, the next big thing in Hollywood, or if you just make cool Boomerangs with nothing but your smartphone in hand – you have the chance to win. Images are no longer standing still, and you shouldn’t either!

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest provides global recognition to adventure and action sports photographers - just ask Fred Mortagne, Chris Burkard, and two-time winner Lorenz Holder. Their styles are unique but they share one thing in common; they submitted their photos to the Red Bull Illume, and the rest as they say is history!

Feeling inspired to follow in their footsteps, and be the next overall winner of the Red Bull Illume? Submit Now!

Just 1 vote decided the June Best of Instagram by SanDisk Winner!

Five finalists are now confirmed in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019! There is still one month remaining to submit and take your chance at winning this year’s edition.

© Hamish Frost / Red Bull Illume

Incredibly, the June Best of Instagram by SanDisk category was won by the smallest margin possible – just 1 vote separated first and second place! The winner is Hamish Frost, with his amazing picture of Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell climbing a new winter route on Bidean nam Bian, Scotland. Shot on his Sony a7III with a 70-200mm f4 lens.

He explains:

“Photos from the 2016 edition of Red Bull Illume were a big inspiration in starting to take my photography more seriously, so to have a photo in the final of this year’s competition means so much. It’s also awesome for Scottish winter climbing to get some more exposure on a worldwide stage.

“The weather that day had been generally terrible for photos, however I knew that if the clouds were to clear just slightly, then the west face of Stob Coire nan Lochan might come into view in the background. I waited in my position and sure enough, just as Guy was making good progress on the third pitch, the clouds broke momentarily and I was able to get the shot I’d hoped for.”

Hamish joins the previous monthly winners Jeremy Bernard, Fabien Maierhofer, Baptiste Fauchille and Dasha Nosova as finalists of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019!

There are still 50 finalist places to be won from the remaining 10 categories of the Image Quest 2019 that are still open for submission, with another 9 finalists to come from ‘The Great Outdoors by Red Bull Illume’ category of the EyeEm awards, making the magic number of 64. Submit now, and join us in November for the event of the year!

This caps a successful start to this new category, which has seen thousands of submissions on Instagram and our first ever public vote over the space of five months. These great photographers have earned their invitations to the Winner Award Ceremony in November at a soon to be announced (epic) location, and you still have the chance to join them!

The way for you to become a finalist is simple - submit your best adventure and action sports image before the July 31 deadline on!

See a selection of some of the best images from the June Top 25 below…

How to stay fit as an adventure and action sports photographer

In adventure and action sports photography, the position of the photographer is just as important as that of the athlete. How do they get the angle? They have to be fit! Craig Kolesky talked to Red Bull Photography about his training routine.

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Photography

As a photographer, you have to be almost as fit as the athletes you are shooting in order to follow them in their playgrounds. Craig Kolesky is challenging himself every year with extensive training and recently competed at the Cape-Epic, one of the toughest mountain bike races on the planet. We've interviewed the South African photographer about staying fit and how this helped him in his photography career.

Does the extensive training for Cape-Epic help you to stay fit as a photographer when chasing world class athletes out in the field?

While I doubt I will ever have the fitness of the athletes I shoot, I think having enough fitness to somewhat keep up with them has helped me tremendously.

Riding and training for Cape-Epic has certainly allowed me to gain a level of fitness that helps with the kind of photography I do. Whatever sport you take part in will also give you a better understanding of what you are shooting. Being fit is just the first part of getting good images in remote outdoor locations. Shooting when you unfit, tired and under pressure is not fun and before I started cycling and training I suffered a lot on shoots.

Does the experience as an athlete competing for Cape-Epic help you to shoot better images during such events? Does that help you to get deeper into the sport as well?

Yes definitely, as a rider in the Cape-Epic you get to see the other side of the event. When you go back to shoot it, you have a good understanding of what is needed and how the system works.

How do you manage to train hard and manage your photography business at the same time?

The first two times I struggled to fit in all the training and shooting for clients, add a newborn to the mix and you can imagine how crazy life was. But I have always believed that if you really want to achieve something you give it all and make it happen, whether it is my photography or my cycling. You pretty much eat, sleep and breath. Cape-Epic training lasts for almost 6 months of the year.

I think now, after a good few solid years, the training does become a bit easier and you also get a better system in place. It has been a big learning curve for me as a rider and a photographer. But also having great support from my family is a big help.

Any other tips to stay fit as a photographer?

Take the stairs, not the lifts… ha ha ha.
No, I suggest to just always keep moving and try to get involved in what you love to shoot, the athletes will also respect that you do what they do. Understanding the sport is also key to getting a good shot, and if you are fit you can get to those locations a lot easier if no other transport is available.

Are you fit to join the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019? Submit Now!

Super stoker Sterling Lorence’s images will energize you!

In Red Bull Illume history, has there been another photographer that captures action in a way that Sterling can? So, what’s the trick? We asked Sterling himself…

Photographer: Sterling Lorence Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Brandon Semenuk Location: Kamloops, Canada

© Sterling Lorence / Red Bull Illume

Sterling Lorence has collected Image Quest finalist honors on multiple occasions. Born, raised and living with his wife and two children in Vancouver, BC - Sterling has been shooting mountain biking and cycling sports for more than 20 years and loves to ride bikes himself.

In Red Bull Illume history, has there been another photographer that captures action in a way that Sterling can? You immediately feel the energy between rider, athlete and photographer with just one glance. So, what’s the trick? We asked Sterling himself…

For a category like Energy you need to be a quick-shooter, how do you ensure you never miss the shot?

Know the sport, understand and relate to what the riders are doing and try to envision what is going to happen. This will help you to visualize what you want to happen in your image before it the shutter button is pressed.  React quickly to what you see in the moments and adjust what you are doing till you and your subjects are stoked.

What tricks do you have to truly capture the energy of the moment?

I simply rely on watching and observing the action closely and decide on where that moment is most likely to happen. This would involve moving around lots too and deciding how focal lengths might affect expressing the action even more.  The positions of the athlete and the bike or object can often make this process easier too.

How do you select the final images that you enter?

I will pool my favorite shots from the past 2-3 years and see what I feel are the most compelling for this particular contest.  It does take something quite special to move into the finalist positions.

So, you’ve been taking pictures all over the world. Where to next?

This season I have been lucky in that lots of my clients want the backdrop of British Columbia, so I have managed to work here a lot. For the filming of Anthill’s ‘Return to Earth’ we worked on an amazing ranch on Oahu and a really cool landscape in Utah and both those shoots have created content I will be entering into the Image Quest 2019.

Would you say your photography style has evolved since the last edition of Red Bull Illume? If so, how?

The pursuit of capturing the most dynamic action in rad compositions in firing light has always been there… but yes, we all try to evolve our game to try express in ways that are seen less often.  This can be through the progressions that the riders make, or through locations and also camera technology advances. Strobe use has been part of my heritage with my work and seems to grab attention with Red Bull Illume, so this time around I have tried some new techniques with drones and strobes to try creating some new looks.

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

Yes, stoked to be entering images again this year and ever grateful to Red Bull Illume for hosting such a cool action sports photo contest…I am always so impressed and inspired by the work that comes through this contest.

Feeling invigorated by these images? Don’t sit still! Submit your images to the Energy Category.