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.

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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!

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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! 

Adventure and automobiles: how Marcin Kin combines two very different kinds of photography

I've yet to get hit by a car, but I was once hit by a motorcycle in front of over 1,000 spectators. I pretended it didn't hurt; it did, but no broken bones or significant injuries. Skiers and snowboarders? More times than I can count.

© Marcin Kin

Polish photographer Marcin Kin is the first tell you: he isn’t an artist, he’s a craftsman. What’s impressive to us is the breadth of what his photography covers – from Moto GP to high alpine climbing in the Himalayas. Read on to find out why he doesn’t have a niche… and doesn’t want one. 

Tell us about your very first camera. 

My first camera was Fuji Finepix 4800 when I was about 14 or 15 years old – it was one of the first digital cameras. My father is quite a tech geek, and he bought this really, really expensive camera. It was only available in Germany and I think he had to drive 100km to get it. When I was trying to shoot sport, such as halfpipe skiing, it was so slow, that I would press the button when the guy went into the halfpipe in order to catch the guy in the air. I think it took about three seconds to take a picture! But I have a few nice pictures from that. It was just so crazy that I could take a picture then go home and deliver it to people that night. Later, in photography school, I learned to work with film. 

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

One favorite image? There’s a lot of them… but one that I am really proud of is this shot from my first big expedition to Shishapangma. I really had a certain shot in mind and it took a lot of effort to get to the spot, but then when I did, everything lined up perfectly. This is near Chinese Base Camp, about 30km from the regular base camp of Shishipangma at about 5000m altitude. It’s a long way from any real city. It was me, Andrzej Bargiel, his brother Gregor and Darek Zaluski; a filmmaker who is renowned as a Himalayan climber in Poland. For me, it’s the ultimate journey picture; big mountains in the background, lots of room on top to breathe, and the yaks which are not such well-known animals - and of course Andrew, who simply looks like he is on a real adventure. 

You shoot a lot of different subjects – how do you make it work? 

You have to know the subject you’re shooting. Even shooting skiers and snowboarders is different. The hardest part is making a real emotional contact with the people you’re shooting. Often the athletes or drivers are thinking in the context of their sport, not photography – so it’s a big battle between my ideas and their ideas. But sometimes it’s good to listen to them! 

What’s your everyday carry set up? 

I usually have two Canon 1DX bodies with a 24 - 70 f2.8 and the 70 - 200 f2.8. With that combination, I can usually do a whole job with no problem. Then I keep a couple of fixed focal length lenses in my backpack. I try and avoid super wide angles. At the beginning, I did a lot of skating and snowboarding, and it was really popular to go super wide and get super close. The more experience I have, the more I try and avoid shooting wide – it’s not like what the human eye sees. It’s unnatural. But I do really like to go close to the action! 

How close? 

Close. I’ve yet to get hit by a car, but I was once hit by a motorcycle in front of over 1,000 spectators. I pretended it didn’t hurt; it did, but no broken bones or significant injuries. Skiers and snowboarders? More times than I can count. 

How do you bring variety to your photography? 

I try to clear my mind and try not to imitate someone else’s work. Last year, I did MotoGP for the first time. So I go to Google to see how it looks and what works, but I’m never looking for the work of the best photographer in each sport because I want to leave myself room to be creative. I don’t necessarily want to be influenced by their work. 

Are you an artist, or a technician? 

I’m not an artist. For me an artist is a person who creates something totally new, from nothing. I am a craftsman of photography. If you want me to shoot a wedding, I do a wedding! If you want me to shoot an expedition, I’ll do it. I’m well prepared with my cameras and lenses for anything - and I keep myself in shape to go almost anywhere. 

What do you shoot most often? 

It’s seasonal. During one part of the year it’s cross-country rallies and motorcycle stuff. In the other part of the year it’s free ride skiing and mountain climbing. Then, it’s expeditions. 

What life lessons have you learned from photography? 

Wait. Wait it out to the end. So many times I’ve watched other photographers give up and go home too early. Don’t do that.

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Images © Marcin Kin

Gallery: 7 Spring Inspired Images

While spring may not have sprung on us quite yet, the warmer weather is just around the corner. The change in season brings a change in sports, and provides adventure and action sports photographers with a new focus. To celebrate this, we present 7 images from Red Bull Illume that remind us of spring.

© Roman Niemann / Red Bull Illume

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Shooting snowboarders and filming web series with Erin Hogue

People are always going to tell you that things are impossible or too gnarly, but in reality, other people don’t know sh*t. Those are their limitations.

© Erin Hogue / Red Bull Illume

So Erin, how's life? 

Things are good. I am currently in a small abandoned mining town north of Whistler with some of the best terrain in BC. I am working on a sweet environmentally conscious film with Marie France Roy for Transworld snowboarding. We have a rad crew and it’s dumping so yeah - things are good…really good.

You started an online video series right? How did that come about?

I wanted to show the average person what it takes to get the photos that they see in the mags. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto far away from the mountains, so people back home have no frame of reference for what I do. As a result, when they see my work there is a disconnect and they don’t relate to the images in the same way. The goal of the series is to provide context in order to fill this disconnect so that everyone can value and appreciate my photos.

Any favorite moments from creating seasons 1 and 2?

Alaska was a highlight for sure. Over the years I had had 8 different offers to shoot heli-boarding and all of them fell through for a variety of reasons. Alaska ended up being my first time in a helicopter and it was with a crew that pioneered filming in the area with some of the best snowboarders of today; legend Nicolas Muller, Kimmy Fasani and Manuel Diaz. It was a dream trip that I never thought would actually happen but it did. It is the focus of episodes 5 and 6.

What are the most challenging aspects of creating the series?

The editing and music rights, for sure. I mean, some shoot days can be a lot because I am shooting photos, building a story and making sure I get enough footage to make the storyline work, all while actually doing what it takes to get to the locations. But for me editing everything together has definitely been the biggest hurdle.

How does presenting a video series help a photographer?

I don’t know that it does. It is just something I have always wanted to do and now with the accessibility of filming and how much video content is being consumed it seemed like the perfect time to start doing it. Ultimately though, my goal is to inspire people to get out there and experience epic adventures and mind-blowing locations for themselves. They say that when people have a connection and passion for something, they are more likely to protect it. For me if the series can inspire even just one person to get out there and really experience and document nature for themselves, then it will be a success.

Action sports photography is a largely male-dominated industry... has this had any impact on how you approach your career?

That’s a tough question because I have no idea what it would be like if I was one of the boys. I just always make sure I do everything I can to produce the best photos possible, that the people I work with are beyond stoked on them and that we have fun doing it. Other than that, I have just accepted that my skills will always be second-guessed and I will always have to prove myself - but whether that is different to anyone else I have no idea.

Any female action sports photographers you admire?

There are definitely not enough female action sports photographers but Robin O’Neill is a ski and mountain bike photographer out of Whistler and she’s so sick. Her photos are insane, the color she brings into them and her use of light is amazing.

What have you learned from shooting action sports?

Wow, I’ve learnt so much. By shooting backcountry snowboarding I have learnt how to be in the mountains and how much respect you have to have for them and ‘mother nature’ in general. I have also learnt how to overcome challenges on a daily basis. But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that other people are always going to tell you that things are impossible or too gnarly, but in reality other people don’t know sh*t. Those are their limitations; you can decide what’s possible for you.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring photographers in the action sports world?

Just do and keep doing it. If you love it, no matter what happens every shoot is worth it.

Want to see more from Erin? Head over to her website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or check out her web series.

Touching down in Tokyo: the next stop of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour

The world’s greatest adventure and action sports photographs make an appearance in one of Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods.

It’s true that thanks to social media, an image can travel around the world instantly – but an exhibit like Red Bull Illume takes a little bit more time. That said, we’d like to think it has a little bit more impact. It’s Tokyo’s turn up next when the 55 finalist images of the Image Quest 2016 make their way to the Akasaka Sacas commercial complex for April 18 – 27*. The venue is in one of the city’s most illustrious neighborhoods, adorned with cherry blossom trees and right on the doorstep of the TBS Broadcasting Center, the ACT Theater, and the famous Akasaka Blitz music venue. The exhibition will be open between the hours of 18:00 and 22:00.

It’s here that citizens and visitors will be able to revel in the breathtaking imagery that Red Bull Illume brings to every tour stop, displayed on 2x2m light boxes.

Alongside these incredible images will be five more – with a special story behind them: prior to the Tokyo tour stop, there’s the national mobile contest – an anyone-can-enter, anyone-can-win photography battle. The catch? Every image must be taken only with a phone. The national mobile contest will be judged by Yodobashi vice president Kazunori Fujisawa, two-time Red Bull Illume winner Lorenz Holder and Red Bull snowboard athlete Miyabi Onitsuka . The contest runs from March 1st to March 25th – and winners won’t just have their images displayed, they’ll be rewarded from a prize purse totaling $2000 USD.

*Opening night on April 18 is by invitation only

Shooting skaters in the streets of Brazil with Fabiano Rodrigues

I look for natural light and where possible, I prefer to photograph simpler tricks with beautiful aesthetics to create a sense of minimalism.

© Fabiano Rodrigues / Red Bull Illume

What are your basic stats and how did you get into photography?

My name is Fabiano Rodrigues, I come from Brazil and I was born and raised in Santos; a city 1 hour from São Paulo. I’m based in São Paulo at the moment. I was interested in photography because of skateboarding, and as a former professional skater, I began photographing a lot at the time. I was fascinated by the equipment and loved the theme of photography in skateboard magazines.

How did you get into skating?

My mother gave me a skateboard when I was 12 years old and I have not stopped since. At this time I was surfing and skateboarding in Santos.

How was it being a Red Bull Illume finalist for the ‘enhance’ category back in 2016?

I was very happy with this; Red Bull Illume has the best photographers on the planet and being among the finalists is great motivation. It is not a matter of competition or being the winner, but an indication of your trajectory and the recognition you get from it.

What have you been up to since?

I now have ten years of photography experience. During this time I had the great opportunity to be a photographer for Volcom Brazil and shoot their skate team which has taught me a lot. Parallel to this, I worked hard on my personal projects which are influenced by contemporary art. My photography work has also been exhibited at many great galleries in Brazil and Europe.

How would you describe your photographic style when it comes to skating?

I try to shoot non-standard photos without following any rules. I look for natural light and where possible, I prefer to photograph simpler tricks with beautiful aesthetics to create a sense of minimalism. I also love black and white!

What inspires you to shoot skating differently to how we see it in the magazines?

Architecture and unconventional places!

You’ve also been shooting self-portrait skate photos right? Where did you get the idea and how did you do it?

I started this project back in 2011 as an experiment. I just wanted to shoot some skateboarding with my own look. It’s a project where architecture comes first. To my surprise, I was invited to art exhibitions, I won many awards and it opened a lot of doors for me. I was invited to galleries and institutions both in Brazil and in other countries like Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, France, Morocco, Jamaica and Japan. The equipment I used was a Hasselblad H4D with an 80mm lens, a 30mm fish eye and a wireless remote control.

Usually skaters go to a spot with a photographer – why the different approach?

This project is not about tricks but rather about a moving body versus architecture, so it was something I needed to do alone. It takes a great deal of research and I do not know other photographers who would understand what I had in mind.

What are the biggest challenges you face when shooting these self-portraits? 

The remote is a little delayed when I click, so I needed to think a few thousandths-of-a-second ahead to take the shot at the right time. This was a big headache!

What sort of photography do you shoot outside of skating?

I love shooting portraits and street photography. I also have another project called ’Autocollage’, where I transform myself into a collage using only photography. You can watch a short film about it here.

You’re involved in video work too… tell us about your latest film VPS #1?

This is a personal and independent project focused on skateboarding. It’s a series of portrait videos featuring skaters I identify with. The video is simple and there are no interviews. It’s produced in just one day with one camera, one lens and focuses only on lifestyle and behavior. The idea is to produce 12 films, one each month. You can watch the first episode here

What are your plans for the future?

I'm developing collages with my film photography negatives but it's still early stages and just an experiment. I want to make more movies and I enjoy doing commercial work as well. There’s also a book in the works.

Any advice for aspiring photographers, artists or skaters?

Just do what moves your heart and what you truly believe in. Find inspiration, but go your own way!

Want see more work from Fabiano? Check out his website.

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