Look for new angles
Don’t let your height determine your angle. Watch any photographer at work and they’re crawling on the floor, climbing ladders and trees, contorting themselves into crazy positions. Think of Laurence Crossman-Emms’ category-winning ground-level shot of a mountain biker parting a puddle of water. Or some of the overhead shots of Lorenz Holder or overall winner Ben Thouard’s shot of a surfer shot from underneath the wave. They all called for a unique angle.
Plan but also be spontaneous
Some Red Bull Illume winners are the result of months of dedicated planning, bringing numerous complicated elements together – the perfect stunt, the perfect light, the perfect angle. Yet sometimes it’s the spontaneous shots that do well. In the 2016 Red Bull Illume Quest, photographer Reuben Krabbe had a couple of images entered. One was his shot of a skier framed by an eclipse in Svarbard. It was the result of months of planning and a huge logistical feat to pull off. The other was a cellphone shot he grabbed in a moment while boot-packing up a slope. It was the cellphone shot that became a category finalist.
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Work with your athlete friends
Time and time again we hear from previous winners that their work is the result of a collaboration with athletes. Think of them as equal partners in the creative process. Share your vision, get them on-side and work together to create magic.
It’s ALWAYS about the light
It’s something that all great photographers are obsessed about – the light. What’s it’s doing and when. Quite often photographers are as in tune with sunrise and sunset times and positions as a 19th century sailboat captain. It’s all about the contrast, sometimes subtle, sometimes bold – explore the gallery page and see what we mean.
Research your location
Finding the perfect spot for your winning shot can be the result of months of research, poring over maps, Google Earth and other apps. But equally, it can be the result of wandering around your hood with a camera slung over your shoulder and your eyes open to possibilities. That’s what Kevin Molano did. He strolled around Bogata with the b-boy Dawinson Murillo and got him to perform in front of the San Francisco church. The result was a category finalist. For more tips on finding the perfect spot, check out our series here.
Focus on your fitness
If you’re shooting in extreme locations, it goes without saying that you need to be able to look after yourself. That means working on your outdoor skills – and fitness. As a photographer, you’re probably carrying 10kg more than anyone else and you need to be able to run around, grabbing shots, without slowing anyone else down. That means you need to be fitter than everyone else to keep up. When Red Bull Illume Kelvin Trautman covered the Red Bull X-Alps, he hiked almost as much distance and vertical altitude as the athletes themselves.
Shoot when you don’t want to
Sometimes you just don’t want to get your camera out. It might be cold, it might be raining, it might be hard going or even insensitive – but these are also the times when you capture authentic moments of emotion; like Tal Roberts’s shot of pro skier Karl Fostvedt getting stitched up or Hamish Frost’s shots of climbers in Scotland, which required pre-dawn starts, cold hands and much suffering. No pain no gain, is also true for photography.