Action Woman: Interview with Desré Pickers

Action Woman: Interview with Desré Pickers

Photographer Desré Pickers won the lifestyle category of Red Bull Illume 2007, plus the athletes' choice and peoples' choice awards. We asked her what it takes to be successful in action and adventure sports photography.

Desré, you won the lifestyle category of Red Bull Illume 2007. What was it like to be part of this contest and winning a category?

D: It was an absolute privilege to be part of a project that not only recognizes the top action sport photographers in the world, but brings them together in such an awe-inspiring way. To walk away with one of the category's top spots was surreal: there I was standing in a crowd with people who I’ve drawn inspiration from and admired for years, to receive top honors for my catagory.

You also won the athletes’ choice and the peoples’ choice award. What did it mean to you to have your image chosen by the athletes and the general public?

D: To me the two greatest honors are the athletes’ choice and the peoples’ choice, after all that’s essentially who you are taking the photos for. It isn’t always easy to capture the essence of what athletes experience in a still photo but when you do and you get to share those moments with the public, it makes all the grueling work of getting it so worth while. But the most rewarding achievement is getting the nod of approval from the very people who have trained so hard, who put their lives on the line for that single shot. To have their approval is one of the highlights of my life.

Why do you think there are very few women in action and adventure sports photography?

D: I think because of what it takes to be involved in the industry and what you have to do to get the shot. You’ve got to get to places that not many people can get to and do things that most people wouldn’t dream of doing. Not only do you need to "suck it up" and get out there and do it, but you have to have the respect of the athletes you are dealing with.

What are your experiences? Do you face a lot of prejudices or obstacles?

If an athlete has to choose between a photographer who they have to help carry all the gear and help set them up and assist getting them to the shooting vantage points, and someone who can get there on their own, its obvious who they are going to choose. And an unfortunate fact about shooting action sports and adventure is that it is outdoors in some pretty hostile environments and the camera gear is heavy. It’s tough, no doubt about it. However saying this, I’ve been fortunate enough to be dealing with a sport where there are very few photographers in general so am granted a little leniency. I don’t pull the "I’m a girl" card, but I always accept any help that is offered.

Was it special for you, as a female photographer, to win those awards ?

As for being female and winning a category, in general I’m not about "girl power" so I didn’t really notice the huge difference in gender until it was pointed out to me. But somewhere deep down I do think I did the "yeah baby – show ´em how its done" air punch!

What have you been up to since the last Red Bull Illume? Did the competition and your success in it change your work?

D: It definitely gave me more confidence in my ability and when times were tough made me pull it together a lot faster than before. My style of photography hasn’t changed, or my attitude towards it. However being mentally and physically very challenging, I actually took a year off shooting to recoup. I’m just about ready to get back in the saddle and shoot again – can’t wait to get my new gear.

What are your expectations for Red Bull illume 2010?

D: I’m hoping that it will become more of an international event. Although the photographers were from around the world, I would like to see the actual exhibition get out of the USA. I think that the power and full impact of a competition like this is harder hitting when shown to a culturally diverse audience.

Are you planning to submit? If yes: Do you already have some pictures in mind or will you work on a special concept for a winning shot?

D: I’m not sure yet. At present I don’t think I have a photograph that I think 'has what it takes', but I’m working on it and if I do, I’ll definitely submit.

What do you believe is the value of such a contest for the whole adventure and freesports photography scene?

D: I believe a contest like this that brings together such diverse categories in sport and photography style, creates creative competitiveness that can result in the photographers pushing limits in their own creative styles and push them to experiment in areas outside of their comfort zone. Not just for self-satisfaction but for the recognition an event like this can bring.
Personally I found this competition opened up portals that normally would have been closed to an action sports photo. Using the name 'Red Bull Illume Photography Competition' as a guise, kayaking, mountain biking, base jumping, climbing and other fringe-sports found themselves published in magazines and newspapers they normally would never have been given the recognition for. And the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Traditionally there isn’t a lot of money in action or adventure sports, maybe getting it out there and more in demand will change that, and that in turn will attract more photographers and increase the creative pool.

You and your partner in life, Red Bull athlete and kayaking professional Steve Fisher seem to be the perfect couple: An extreme sports photographer and an extreme sports athlete. Do you work together a lot? Do you inspire each other?

D: Ah yes, the "power couple" as we have been dubbed. I don’t think it would be possible to be in a relationship with each other if we didn’t do what we do. Unlike golfers, kayakers don’t make absurd amounts of cash and in order for us to both travel on the budget that we are on, we both have to be on the same page and working towards the same goals. It’s no accident that we do what we do as a couple. It was an active decision to focus my photography on kayaking, to help Steve achieve his goals, and to allow me to be with him on his travels. Steve has been tenacious in getting me to the best shooting places (I don’t paddle) and running and re-running waterfalls and rapids in order for me to get the perfect shot. In return, he has a selection of photos second to none that he can promote himself with. The epitome of a symbiotic relationship.

If witnessing some of the worlds best athletes do what they love most, doesn’t inspire you, then nothing will, which is what I give credit for helping me go from never holding a camera in 2001 to winning two categories in 2007.

What equipment are you currently working with?

D: I’d probably surprise most people with the equipment I use. With kayaking as my main focus most of my gear gets smashed around and wet constantly. I have to be prepared to send my camera down rivers, tie them onto boats and stand in very wet environments. Because of this, I use a Canon 30D because its cheap enough to not break the bank when it breaks.... and they do, often. My next camera is going to be a Canon 7D as I’d like to start moving into the filming side of things and this is the perfect tool to do just this.
I have a range of canon lenses from the 10mm range to the 400mm range. However, my favorite piece of equipment is a canon timer remote control which I shoot time lapses with.

Visit www.photosbydes.com for more information and images from Desré.

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Red Bull Illume Limited Edition Photobook 2019

Adventure and actions sports may be on hold for a little while but that just means it’s the perfect time to gather inspiration for your next sesh! The Red Bull Illume Photobook 2019 is the perfect way to spend your time at home, looking at 260 of the best adventure and action sports images from the Image Quest 2019.

 

Every image in the Photobook has been selected from a record-breaking 59,551 submitted by thousands of photographers from all over the world. It’s our mission to give honor the hard work and dedication of the artists who pour their passion into creating the world’s best adventure and action sports imagery by giving them the credit that they deserve. It’s the reason these limited edition photobooks are individually numbered and stamped – with only 4,000 available!

If that isn’t enough, every Photobook includes a SanDisk Ultra SD Memory Card (16GB) with the Moving Image Category Videos and a full version of Luminar Photo 4 Editor. That means you or your loved one don’t have to wait for the next adventure to start getting creative. It’s the perfect gift for every adventure and action sports lover.

There are also a handful of Photobooks from previous editions that have been uncovered and are now on sale for a limited time. Perhaps you weren’t able to get one last time, or you’re just looking to experience the full collection? Head on over to COOPH Store and check out all the available bundles up for grabs!

Be sure to get your hands on a limited edition Red Bull Illume Photobook today!
 

Podcast Series 4/4 - Overall Winner Ben Thouard

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for the fourth and last episode next Tuesday!

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

© Ben Thouard :

This week Red Bull Illume Image Ques 2019 overall winner (and winner of the Energy category) Ben Thouard talks about his journey towards a spending more time under water than above and what taking away the grand prize meant for him personally.

Listen to the Podcast below or head over to Pitched Industries

If you haven't yet done so - make sure to check out the previous episodes:

Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms 

Episode 2 with RAW category winner Noah Wetzel

Episode 3 with two times category winner and former overall winner Lorenz Holder
 

More work by Ben Thouard at benthouard.com or on his Instagram @benthouard.

Podcast Series 3/4 - Two times category winner Lorenz Holder

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for the fourth and last episode next Tuesday!

This week Playground and Masterpiece by EyeEm category winner and two-times overall winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest Lorenz Holder talks about his winning formula and what inspires him to create masterpieces day in day out.

Listen to the podcast BELOW or head over to Pitched Industries​​​​​​​!

If you haven't yet done so, make sure to check out Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms and Episode 2 with RAW category winner Noah Wetzel!


More work by Lorenz Holder at lorenzholder.com or on his Instagram @lorenzholder.

Dive in! Underwater Photography with Kohei Ueno

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Kohei Ueno doesn't like shooting underwater - he lives for it! His black and white image of freedivers at the Freediving Championships in Indonesia is astonishing and daunting at the same time. We wanted to know what it's like to shoot 100m beneath the surface with no air, no light but a lot of water.

Why have you chosen to submit your image to the Image Quest 2019?

I was so impressed and inspired by the submissions of the Red Bull Image Quest competitions in the past that I knew I wanted to be a part of it someday. This is by far the greatest adventure sports photography competition in the world, where photographers capture the spirit of adventure and exploration, where minds and bodies are pushed to the very edge of human limits. To me the sport of freediving fits right into this world, not only as a sport but also as a lifestyle, so I am extremely glad to be selected amongst the very best and represented in this category [Lifestyle].

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with Red Bull Illume 2019?

The Red Bull Illume 2019 Winner Award Ceremony on top of the Kronplatz Mountain at 7000ft was out of this world, capturing the essence of Red Bull's spirit in style. It was one of the most spectacular photography competition that I've ever been a part of with so many amazing talents and like-minded individuals from across the globe, who all shared the same love and passion for photography and creating stunning images of their sports.

 

"I experienced a very powerful moment, something so good that I had never felt before."

 

Your image made it to the final stage, congrats! How did the shot came about?

This shot is an image of a freediver coming up from a competition dive at the AAS Freediving Depth Championships. A rather intense moment where the athlete is awakened from the dark, quiet, lonely depth of space, to the bright, loud, and hectic environment of the surface above. To me, what makes this image even more special is that I've watched this athlete grow over the years, overcoming her own fears one step at a time, from when she could barely dive to a few meters down, to now where she's diving to depth of over 50 meters on one breath of air.

What’s the story behind your love for free diving?

My relationship with the ocean started at 13 years old when I got my first open water scuba certificate, but it was not until the age of 30 when I discovered freediving that transformed the way I saw the ocean. I realised that there was a lot more to freediving than just holding your breath, or the thrill of adrenaline, or to show off or anything like that. When I completed my 16m depth requirement during my first freedive course, I experienced a very powerful moment, something so good that I had never felt before. I was immediately hooked to this new sensation, and I knew right away that this is a sport that I would continue for the rest of my life.

What came first for you: free diving or photography?

I picked up my first 'non-point and shoot' camera when I quit my job at Google to travel the world, self learning on the go with just a basic understanding of aperture, shutter speed and iso. A year later after returning home, I won a grand prize at a major photography competition, and that was when photography became a little more than just a hobby. That same year, I discovered freediving and fell in love with it straight away. Naturally, I took the camera underwater and that's how it all began. So in a way photography came first, but freediving is what got me interested in underwater photography, and I am happy to have found a way to combine the two together.

What fascinates you about underwater photography?

What I find fascinating about shooting underwater on a breath hold is that it has the ability to reset my mind to really focus on the present, washing away everything and anything that goes on above the surface. Everything works differently underwater than it does on land, both physically for our bodies and technically inside the camera, and I find it very interesting to balance these two together. We know so little about the ocean, like we know so little about freediving, and while we can spend all day studying about it from the surface, admiring the weird creatures and science within it, it's quite hard to grasp the true wonders of it all until you dive down and experience it yourself. I hope my images will inspire more people to take that plunge to look closer into our oceans and into ourselves.

 

"... all while holding your breath and worrying about your own safety as you go deeper and deeper."

 

One of the biggest challenges when shooting underwater?

When you’re dealing with shooting freedivers who are diving at speeds of one metre a second, things can get really complicated. Not only do you have to adapt to the loss of light at different depths, but also the change in pressure while diving head down with a camera in your hand. Trying to keep steady while fighting against things like current, waves, thermocline and varying visibility, all while holding your breath and worrying about your own safety as you go deeper and deeper. All of this happens at the same time, and that is the most difficult thing about freedive photography.

What do you always have with you equipment-wise?

You absolutely need a good set of underwater housing, and a good pair of fins! To me Nauticam housing is the ultimate when it comes to housing my Sony gears and Molchanovs short fins does wonders for freedive photogaphers like myself. As I shoot mostly wide, my choice of lens is usually the 16-35mm fisheye and a decently sized dome port for above under shots. Also, as I'm near the ocean a lot, one thing I find essential is having a good backup solution. Personally I use a QNAP NAS to backup my files over the network and this really helps with my workflow and a peace of mind knowing that my data is safe even when I'm overseas. I also like to bring a solar panel charger to take advantage of the sun whenever possible as well as Litra lights for occasional night shoots.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can find my work at www.koheiueno.com and Instagram @kuenok. I am also working on some collaborations with art galleries in Singapore and Australia, once I have more details, the information can be found on my website.

Podcast Series 2/4 - RAW Category Winner Noah Wetzel

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for a new episode every Tuesday over the next four weeks!

This week RAW category winner Noah Wetzel talks about how exactly he was able to pull off a shot that many thought was not possible to produce without the help of post-production!  

Listen to the podcast BELOW or head over to Pitched Industries!

If you haven't yet done so, make sure to check out Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms


More work by Noah Wetzel at noahdavidwetzel.com or on his Instagram @noahwetzel.

Podcast Series 1/4 - Innovation by Sony Category Winner Laurence Crossman-Emms

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for a new episode every Tuesday over the next four weeks!

This week Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms explains, amongst other things, what makes him feel attracted to puddles and take photos everytime he spots one. 

Listen to the Podcast below or head over to Pitched Industries

Find more of Laurence Crossman-Emms work at laurence-ce.com and follow him on Instagram @laurence_ce.

Behind the finalist shot by Robin Pearson

With his stunning image of a BMX rider in an underground tunnel in Portugal, that plays with light and shadow in a very unique way, Robin Pearson made it to the Top 60 of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. Check out this exclusive behind the scenes video which shows how he nailed this insane shot!

Born in the UK, Robin Pearson's drive to capture the finest moments of BMX riding on the most interesting terrain he can find brought him all the way to Portugal where he now lives. It was his move to the westernmost country of Europe that made the image possible in the first place: "Soon after I moved to Portugal, my friend Anthony Pearson (no relation) hit me up about coming to visit. He is a fellow spot enthusiast - as in, he loves finding and riding the most interesting spots possible - and had wanted to make the trip to this full pipe spot for years. With me living fairly close by, he finally had a good excuse to make it happen."

When you look at Robin's image one of the first questions that will pop into your head will be about the location. So what's this spot? "It's a drainage channel that leads from a reservoir down into the earth, under the hill and out into the next valley. It does baffle me how civil engineering projects often produce huge rideable transitions like this, but I'm not complaining. To get in there, you head down a dirt track, cut through some trees and then face a steep drop down into the valley. Many of the metal rungs of the old ladder had eroded away long before we arrived, but thanks to the locals João and Bruno Soares, who helped us find the place, we were prepared with ropes to handle the descent. The feeling you get when you see a spot like this can't be overstated. It's genuinely electrifying - standing at the entrance of the pipe, Anthony and I could not believe the scale of it."

No one had the final picture in mind at all, they all just wanted to ride the spot and have a good time: "Our goal for the day was actually to ride the far end, which is more like a half-pipe, but pitched down a steep slope into the pipe. And that's what we did! All four of us cleaned the place up a bit, felt it out on our bikes, rode it the best we could, shooting photos and filming clips. At the end of the session, as you'll see in the video, Anthony even sent a flair on the vert wall."

The image that made it to the final stage of Red Bull Illume has not been shot up until this point: "As we were on our way out, we saw the full pipe in a new light - quite literally. The sun had come down and was now beaming along the valley, illuminating the vast concrete pipe with a beautiful warm glow. I told Anthony we had to shoot a few carves! I knew he was knackered from riding all afternoon but I didn't know how long the light would last and wanted to capture the sheer scale of the pipe in that glow. It's just a simple carve in a big pipe. No tricks just pure BMX."

But how was the exprience for the BMX rider Anthony Pearson? "As we climbed down the sketchy ladder and arrived at the mouth of the full pipe all sorts of thoughts were running through my head. What if someone sees us and calls the police? What if someone gets hurt? What if the water suddenly started flowing through this thing? But all these doubts were suddenly replaced with pure excitement to start riding."

Since the light changed quite late, Anthony was already pretty worn out. To get the final shot he pushed himself to his limits: "As I started to pedal down the pipe I quickly realised the gearing on my bike was far too light for such a big and full pipe. I knew we would only have a few shots at this before my legs gave up on me. Pedalling as fast as I could, pulling a small wheelie through the puddle of water at the bottom I carved up into a spot where I hoped Robin would be happy with. Luckily for me he is a true professional and nailed the shot at the first try. It was a fantastic end to an amazing day riding one of the best spots in Europe."

See more of Robin Pearson's awesome work on his Instagram or check out his website!

Interview: Free Solo Speed Climbing with Christian Gisi

Born and grown up in Switzerland Christian Gisi is a true expert when it comes to extraordinary vertical adventures. In this interview the RAW Category finalist talks us through what it means to document the most thrilling projects mountaineers and climbers can encounter - speed climbing and especially free solo speed climbing ascents of some of the wildest peaks in the Alps.

What fascinates you about photography and why have you chosen to take part in the Image Quest 2019? 

Anyone who is active in the outdoor and action sports scene can hardly get past Red Bull Illume. I was thrilled by the pictures of the past editions. The level is incredibly high - all the more I feel honored to be a small part of it in the 2019 edition. 
The combination of aesthetics and athletics is what makes it special for me. We see athletes at great performances in beautifully composed images. This is also part of the answer to what fascinates me about photography in general. Despite an epochal overload of images in the digital age, photography has lost nothing of its magic for me. However, with the incredible quantity of pictures, it has become more of an art not to press the shutter button or to take a picture only when I am convinced that I have something as unseen and valuable as possible in front of my lens. 
Ideally you then make the difference between a good and a very good picture... 

Your image of the athletes Caro North and Steph Davis on the famous Mittellegi ridge on the Eiger in the Swiss Alps made it to the final stage of the Image Quest 2019. Can you tell us a little bit about the shot? How did it come about? 

As a mountain, the Eiger is simply an absolute knockout. The visual and historical dominance of its world-famous north face makes you shudder every time you approach it. 
The impressive east ridge that is visible in the photo is probably one of the most beautiful ridge tours of the Alps. With regards to the ambiance, the shot is actually quite a "no brainer". 
The photo was taken during a shooting for a Swiss mountaineering equipment supplier. We installed two camera teams to accompany Caro and Steph - one with the photographer Thomas Senf directly on the mountain, a filmmaker and myself for the aerial shots. On this second day of shooting everything was just right: We waited until late afternoon to get the perfect lighting conditions. That the fog in the south wall added to the drama was the icing on the cake. Such impressions stay with you - not only in the camera. 

You worked with exceptionally talented athletes over the years. Have you learned something from them that also comes in handy for your work as a photographer? 

To be in the terrain with such athletes is of course impressive at first: Their way of understanding what is going on in the mountains, their way of assessing the dangers but most of all their incredible athletic abilities to move on rock and ice leaves me speechless even after many years. Although it may sound trite, the respect they show towards the mountain is impressive. 
In addition, professionals like Dani Arnold, Steph Davis or Jérémie Heitz know exactly what is important when it comes to illustrating their sport. It is therefore worthwhile to listen. 
But what really impresses me is the modesty of these athletes: Someone who pursues a sport at the highest possible level in the world, gives everything for his passion and still never gives his environment the feeling of being too good for anything. 
These are perhaps less the central skills that influenced me as a photographer, but as a human being I have really taken a lot of such personalities with me on my way. 

What’s the biggest challenge when shooting free solo and speed climbing records? 

You have to make a difference: Usually such pictures are re-enacted after a record. This applies to most of the famous records on the Eiger, Matterhorn, El Cap etc. For example, we also did it this way with Dani Arnold on the Matterhorn.
However, during his speed ascent of the Cassin Route on Piz Badile in 2016, we went a new way and made a documentation of Dani live during his record. This changes the situation for both, the athlete and the photographer, completely. 
There is an aesthetic-planning dimension: What does the shooting process look like? In which passages do you absolutely want to have pictures? What possibilities for spectacular angles do we have, how quickly can we change from one position to another, etc.? 
Then there's a technical one: Basically you have exactly one shot. During a speed ascent, the athlete cannot just turn around and climb a passage again. So you better make sure that you have the camera under control. 
Finally, there is a personal level: Someone close to you is climbing and risks his life. If he makes even a small mistake, you will be watching him fall to certain death. I don't think that this can be answered conclusively, but you must ask yourself if and how you could live with it. 
So it takes an enormous amount of trust on both sides. The athlete has to know that we do not put additional pressure on him in any way. He has to be able to rely on it, that everything works out and that we capture his exploit as professionally as possible.
I, on the other hand, must be able to rely 100% on him not taking the slightest unnecessary risk because of the camera.
That's where the dilemma comes from: Do you shoot during the ascent and risk putting the athlete under additional pressure - or do you shoot afterwards and expose the athlete again to an extremely risky situation, just to have nice pictures? 

Can you explain how a shoot like this usually works? Do you climb next to the athlete(s) or do you use drones?

Without (massive) technical aids, it is usually not possible, because climbing along is definitely not an option. You can recreate scenes in the wall from fixed positions, but this is not really possible when shooting live. For this you would need a very large crew with many different teams in the wall. At best, you can do this in Yosemite in stable weather, but in an exposed wall in the Alps at 4000m above sea level, it's a logistical nightmare. As a lay person you can hardly imagine the enormous climbing speed - but in many places it is actually more of a running than a climbing. The whole thing advances so fast that you always have to be fully concentrated. 

Drones are ingenious - of course I use them too. But with large walls there are still limits. For really good pictures, I'm afraid the helicopter is (still) irreplaceable in such terrain. The interaction with the pilot is then crucial, he must know the site very well, understand where the most important passages are and from which positions the view of the route is best. During the record attempt itself, communication with the athlete is not possible - so good planning is essential. 

What equipment do you use when you shoot free solo or speed climbers? One would imagine it has to be rather light?
 
No, lightness is not the most important thing. Of course, I only take to the mountain what fits in a backpack and I can carry around with me without any problems. But absolute reliability, speed (like a fast, precise focus) and a certain redundancy are the most important things. Basically, I always work with two cameras with different lenses more or less parallel in such projects. It would really be most unfortunate if an athlete would make a phenomenal exploit and I would mess it up... 

What are your goals as a photographer? Anything specific for 2020? 

Photography is only one of my activities and passions - I fear that 2020 will be more about other tasks. Nevertheless: Some projects are definitely on the agenda this summer in the mountains.
And of course: Slowly I will start to develop first ideas for the next Red Bull Illume Image Quest... 

Where can we find more of your work? 

Best is to visit my website atlense.com I'm afraid I'm a little too lazy to maintain social media channels - but sure, you can find me on Instagram @atlense_photography. Ok, with the latter, a few more followers would probably be nice...

Gallery: It's more fun together!

No matter if it's the pleasure, the suffering or the glory, emotions around adventure and action sports can easily go beyond the boundaries and no matter if you're an athlete or a photographer, you want to make sure you can share them. Here are 8 images from the 2019 Image Quest that instantly make you want to text your adventure buddies!

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

Interview: Lachie Carracher on his perfect shot at the end of the rainbow!

Lachie Carracher's spectacular shot of kayaker Bren Orton dropping down Alexandra Falls perfectly captures the thrill and joy of kayaking! With us the finalist of the Wings Category in the Image Quest 2019 chats about his happy place, challenges along the way and the ultimate location he wants to shoot at.

Now you're a Red Bull Illume finalist, describe what the Wings Category means to you?

The Wings Category to me is the moment of flight, the still moment where things go completely quiet. As a photographer, it is the moment my breath stops and I just hear the shutter.

What came first for you - whitewater kayaking or photography?

Whitewater kayaking came to me first, I had just started travelling for whitewater kayaking when I purchased my first camera. After that first big trip abroad my photography passion grew exponentially.

What is it that draws you into the water and whitewater especially?

The flow of being on the river is addictive, once you peel out into the current you are in a different world. Moving downstream with a group of friends in a stunning environment is my happy place for sure! Every river has a different character and spirit, that's what makes travelling around the world and being drawn to new and foreign rivers so appealing.

What are your biggest influences in adventure and action sports photography?

Somehow, I surround myself with crazy people unintentionally all the time, it's the norm now really. Now and again I take a step back and realize that my friends are some of the craziest whitewater kayakers, BASE jumpers and surfers in the world and we are all so privileged to spend our time on this planet checking out wild places and new experiences. Long story short - my influences are my friends, wild places and my drive to be best at what I do.

How did the idea for your finalist shot come about?

Alexandra Falls has fascinated me since I first saw an image of it in 2003. Drone photography has allowed so many more creative angles and perspectives to shoot waterfalls. I thought about the perfect shot for a long time, one that combines both the scale of the waterfall and the perspective of the paddler staring down one hundred feet. When the paddler decides to run down such a steep waterfall, he doesn't think about the perfect light, like I ususally do. As a photographer you have to work with what you have. But I coudn't be happier with the way the image turned out, incorporating the rainbow at the bottom of the falls.

How did you discover the location and meet the athlete?

The location is known in the whitewater scene since its first descent in 2003, it only has been paddled by a few people. Although I knew the rough location, it wasn't until I got there that I fully understood that I was almost in the arctic circle. I traveled there with two friends from home and I met Bren (Orton, ed. note), the athlete, at the Falls as he arrived with another group of some of the world's leading paddlers.

Did the final image turn out exactly as planned?

More or less, yes, even better in some ways. I love that you can see the deep water channel so clear. I had not expected this until I first flew the drone over it to do a test shoot.

What was the biggest challenge in capturing this photo?

Managing multiple cameras and getting the timing right. That's always a challenge when you are shooting aerial and handheld at the same time. Also, the athlete usually takes a couple of minutes to get in the right mindset for the drop. The drone battery has a very short lifetime so the timing was key here.

A kayak doesn't have enough space for suitcases full of gear. What do you carry on a regular adventure?

Safety gear, my camera, something to snack on and a lighter and knife are always with me on a day trip in my kayak.

Your ultimate location/athlete/sport to shoot?

Such a hard question! Any wild and remote place with my friends on a river is a dream I will have forever. Whitewater will always be close to my heart but I am shooting a lot more BASE jumping these days. If we are talking dreams though, Dean Potter somewhere in the Yosemite Valley.

How did you discover Red Bull Illume?

I first learned about it when I saw Eric Parker's entry in the last contest. It's a fantastic event and I feel honoured to be a part of it.

Plans vs. dreams for 2020?

My plans this year take me to the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, followed by the West Coast of North America. Then to Kyrgystan and Ethiopia in the fall and maybe to Madagascar. I'm excited to visit some new locations. My dream shot this year would be a humpback whale while Freediving in Madagascar.

Where can we find more of your work?

On Instagram @follow_the_river and on my website LachieC.com!