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©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net

Putting a shot together with Vitek Ludvik

Vitek Ludvik is always looking for innovative new ways to find a new angle. The 2007 Red Bull Illume photographer recently got busy with some DIY tripod construction to capture an image that had been growing in his mind for a year.

It was a plan to capture some breathtaking white water images with Honza Lasko, the extreme kayak champion, kayak designer and manufacturer.
“I only knew him from the pages of white water magazines," says Vitek.
"But when we finally met, we made a plan to work together as soon as possible.The pair agreed that conditions were best in Norway and began planning a trip.

“I did not want to destroy my camera because of a poor mount and Honza refused to have an Eiffel Tower on his kayak,” says Vitek. “We tried with an old tripod, but it buckled after a few minutes of testing. We knew we needed a more solid camera mount and drew up a new layout. My neighbour, a craftsman hobbyist, helped construct the mount just two days before the trip began. It was light, solid and reliable.”

Vitek also tried to find the right camera with the size and weight of a compact but with DSLR performance. “Olympus had just released a model called the OM-D. When I pulled the camera out of the box, I was rather skeptical as it was like a toy. However after a successful test shoot with the Flying Bulls in Jaroměř, Czech Republic, where I hung the OM-D with a Pocketwizard under my paraglider, I knew it could do the job.”

Overall, the photoshoot was a success. “The project was exciting," he says. "Best off all was meeting the crew and making new friends, Honza Lasko, Honza Muska Musil, Honza Kolar and Eva Filova!”

And the final image itself?
“The photoshoot went fine and the image looks great. My idea was slightly different as I was looking for a higher waterfall with a sharper edge, but the rest of the image looks the way I wanted. I’m happy!”

Vitek is no stranger to kayak photography, watch his shoot with London 2012 silver medallist Vavra Hradilek on a Prague slalom course. www.sharp-pictures.net.   

©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net
©Vitek Ludvik/sharp-pictures.net

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© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool

How to survive a freezing snowkiting shoot

Photographer Dale Tidy recently shot Red Bull Kite Farm, a ski and snowboard kiting endurance race, and the first of it's kind to be held in North America. We caught up with Dale to find out how it was to shoot the event in super harsh conditions…

How was it?

On the first day we had 70km/h winds and minus 39 degree temperatures including the wind-chill. Great conditions for the riders but not so joyful for the photographers! At those temps your camera starts to do funny things, auto-focus motors freeze in your lens, the mirror can seize up, my ISO was randomly switching from 200 to 1600 and back again without any notification, and accidentally breathing on the LCD screen would ice it over.

Having a second body stuffed down your jacket allows you to alternate between a frozen camera and slightly less frozen camera.Batteries at those temperatures drain rapidly too, I would keep one battery in my camera body and two in my pants pockets that had hand warmers stuffed in them. Once the body battery cooled down and died I would switch it out with a warm one that would be back up at full power.

A blizzard came through and started dumping snow creating “white-out” conditions that forced the event to be postponed until the next day. This made my frozen fingertips very happy! The second day was a relatively balmy minus 6 degrees and the winds had dropped significantly, making it an absolute pleasure to work in. 

How did you shoot your aerial shots?

When I decided that my key shots would need the advantage of height I looked around at various options. Helicopters, cranes, boom lifts, planes and of course, drones. I didn’t go with a drone for 3 reasons. 1) Drones, much like cameras, don’t like extremely cold conditions and they can freeze up. 2) There would be a good chance that it would be impossible to fly a drone in the high speed wind conditions required for the sport of Snowkiting. And 3) I am not a drone expert and the last thing you want to be doing when working in extreme conditions is using gear that you are not completely 100% comfortable with!

The two options I chose instead was one safe option, and one riskier option. The risky option was to rent a 4 seater Cessna airplane typically used for aerial photography, this would allow me to get the exact images I had conceptualized and proposed to the client. The rental price was reasonable but once again the cost of this option was putting yourself at the mercy of the weather. If the clouds were too low there would be no possibility of the plane being allowed to leave the tarmac let alone capture any usable photos, but the chance of this was smaller than that of relying on a drone. The safe option incase that failed was to get creative and strap a GoPro to one of the competitors kites, I used a specific mount which I had purchased online before the event. No matter what the conditions were this option would not fail. 

What's the hardest part about shooting an event like this?

Basically being prepared for anything. When you are out in the field you cannot ask for help, because there is no help available. You are the expert, it’s what you have been paid to do. Like our green friend Yoda says "Do... or do not. There is no try”. Pressing the shutter and “nailing the shot” is the easy part. The hard part is everything before and after that, all the planning that goes into it, and all the work you have to do after to make sure the image makes it out on time for the press release later that day. 

Check out Dale’s site and be sure to follow him on Facebook


© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool
© Dale Tidy / Red Bull Content Pool

The Art of Shooting Underwater Portraits

Photographer Jean Luis De Heeckeren visits Austria and tries something new – an underwater photo shoot with Red Bull kayaker Viktoria Wolffhardt.  Supported by Red Bull photographers, De Heeckeren steps outside his photographic comfort zone and tests out some new concepts.  Watch the BTS from the shoot and see how he handles it! 

© Jean Luis De Heeckeren
© Jean Luis De Heeckeren
© Jean Luis De Heeckeren
© Jean Luis De Heeckeren
© Jean Luis De Heeckeren

Shooting the Seven Seas Expedition

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


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


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


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


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


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


What’s next?

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

Check out Kelvin Trautman's Website and Instagram account!

Shooting sports events with Jesper Grønnemark

Thinking of becoming an event photographer? Join Jesper Grønnemark as he heads off to shoot a sports event – from location-scouting to gear, to positioning and final selection, find out what it takes to shoot an event and get a good idea of what you can expect! 

Visit Jesper's website or find him on Facebook.

Black and white photography in skateboarding

In this video, Red Bull Illume photographer Fred Mortagne talks us through his passion for shooting black and white film and why he prefers to capture images that are not perfect replicas of reality. Despite his passion for analog, the Leica M Monochrom has tempted him to convert to shooting black and white digital as well. 

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