Ben Thouard is crowned overall winner of the Image Quest 2019!

Taking home the grand title as overall winner of the fifth edition of Red Bull Illume is Ben Thouard with his mind-bending underwater image of athlete Ace Buchan surfing in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, in French Polynesia!

© Ben Thouard :

Overall Winner, Image Quest 2019 © Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

The Red Bull Illume Image Quest has a new name in the overall winner circle: Ben Thouard! His underwater epic shot in the glassy clear waters of Tahiti was chosen by a panel of 50 esteemed judges as the winner. If perspective were ever needed at a time like this, Ben’s image is number 1 out of a phenomenal 59,551 submissions.

We are delighted to add Ben’s name to the list of overall winners of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. A list that includes iconic photographers Lorenz Holder, Chris Burkard and Fred Mortagne. His progression from edition to edition has seen him rise from semi-finalist in 2013, to finalist in 2016 and now overall winner in 2019!

Every image tells a story, and here’s Ben’s story behind the shot:

“I‘ve dedicated the last few years to shooting underwater, looking for new angles and a new way to shoot surfing and waves. Shooting surfing from underwater is a whole new world and I love it! 

“Tahiti has some of the clearest water in the world so it was easy for me to take advantage of it and explore it as much as I could. 

“This photo was shot during a freesurf session right before the WCT event in Teahupo‘o. This is Ace Buchan kicking out from the barrel through the wave, a technique to escape a close-out wave. 

“Luckily I was right below, breathless with my waterhousing waiting for this moment and I was able to capture the whole sequence of it; this frame from the beginning of the sequence is the most powerful one because of the water around his face and body.”

As overall winner, Ben was selected from the 11 category winners, meaning he will take home the category winning prizes from Red Bull Illume Partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum and COOPH - PLUS a Sony a9 camera with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens from the G-Master range. SanDisk will also take him on a shooting experience the SanDisk Extreme Team!

That’s not all, his image, along with the other of the 60 finalist images, will now be illuminated on 2x2m lightboxes at the Red Bull Illume Global Outdoor Exhibit Tour which begins tonight at LUMEN

All of the finalists, as well as the rest of the Top 260 images, are also published in the Red Bull Illume 2019 Limited Edition Photobook, which is available to order right now!

Once again, a huge thank you goes out to our partners Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH, Salewa, Petzl and Sunnybag for a memorable event and an amazing Image Quest!

But, most of all thanks to every photographer and content creator out there that submitted to the contest!

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Why every photographer should enter Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Nicolás Pina explains why shooting ice and surf feels like a dream, and why the adventure and action sports imagery contest is such a great opportunity.

© Nicolas Pina / Red Bull Illume

Why should photographers enter Red Bull Illume?
I think every adventure sports photographer should take the time to submit their work. It’s such a great opportunity, and you never know what could happen!

Any advice?
Just look for a good location nearby and think of what sport would fit that location. Then find an athlete and start shooting!

What are you entering?
I have a couple of images that I’m very proud of, unfortunately, due to the restrictions this year I haven’t been able to travel as much, and I had to set aside a couple of sick projects until we go back to normal. Those are coming for the next one!

What makes an image good enough?
It’s a matter of many different factors. Things like composition, light, colors, action and location are important, but for me it’s more about the overall feeling I get from the image and if it’s inspiring.

What came first for you, surfing or photography?
Photography. Since I was a kid I’ve always been interested in surfing as a sport but never had the chance to try it. Time passed, and once I started photography, I found surfing very visually attractive and I really enjoyed shooting it. Not long after that I finally started surfing myself and nowadays those two are my main passions.

How did you get into photography?
When I was younger I was really into filmmaking and video editing, somehow I thought photography wasn't as interesting. I bought my first camera with the intention of just shooting video, but slowly and through a photographer friend of mine I started shooting stills around the city and in no time I was hooked with photography!

What’s been your most rad shoot?
With no doubt the time I shot ice climbing under the Northern Lights. It was freezing cold (-25°C), I waited, hanging from the ice wall for hours and when the show started I thought it was a dream. I will never forget that.

What comes first, location or idea?
It’s both actually. Sometimes an idea comes to my mind and I spend hours researching and looking for a location that fits that idea, and other times it’s the location that inspires me and makes me imagine what would be the craziest shot I can get there.

The hardest thing about surfing photography?
Not being in control of what’s going to happen. When shooting surfing you not only depend on your photography skills but also on the swell conditions, the wind, tides, currents and athlete. There are many different factors to take in consideration, but that’s the beauty of it. When everything aligns and you get the shot it’s one of the best feelings ever.

What’s the number 1 equipment you always take with you?
Food! And a wide-angle lens.

You can find more of Nicolas’s work on his website and @nicopinacalvin.

 

See yourself as a Red Bull Illume photographer? Enter your best adventure and action sports images over here. As Nicolás says, you never know…

7 tips for a winning image

There’s still time to plan, shoot and nail the perfect shot for this year’s Red Bull Illume. Grab your gear, get shooting – and submit your work to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest.

© Laurence Crossman-Emms / Red Bull Illume

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.

Red Bull Illume could be your dream career break. Enter here.

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.

The submission phase is open until July 31, 2021. More details on how to enter can be found here.

Why now is the time to nail the perfect shot

2019 category winner Noah Wetzel shares his plans and top tips for a winning image and why Red Bull Illume gave him an amazing platform.

© Noah Wetzel / Red Bull Illume

Your plans for Red Bull Illume this year?

I haven’t yet completed my submission for 2021, however I’m excited to go through some new imagery that I’ve captured the past two years! I’m also planning a trip to the Pacific northwest in pursuit of a crazy image I’ve had stuck in my head for a few years now, and the submission deadline is the perfect motivation.

What tips do you have for a winning image?

Surround yourself with passionate and hard-working individuals. Most importantly, just have fun, that’s why we’re all creating, right? Finally, have persistence, laugh at the negative circumstances, and keep stepping up to the plate with a positive attitude.

Tell us more!

Incredible moments are constantly occurring around the world, sometimes in the most obscure and unpredictable locations. Capturing something special comes down to putting yourself in the right position. As a photographer, there are times when I happen to be in the right spot at the right time, and there are also instances where I have a very specific vision of what I want to create. Regardless, those incredible moments are fleeting and very difficult to capture. With experience it’s easier to recognize opportunity, however regardless of skill level you still have to capitalize on the opportunity. With that said, it’s important to pursue YOUR vision, not allowing outside opinion and or common methods to dictate YOUR imagery outcome.

What impact did Red Bull Illume have on your career?

Red Bull Illume has provided me with an amazing platform to showcase my imagery and also gather inspiration from around the world. Simply put, Red Bull Illume has given me an opportunity to connect with a larger audience of adventure seeking individuals, talented photographers and cinematographers to help inspire future imagery, and industry professionals to collaborate with on future projects.

What’s the best part about being an action and outdoor photographer?

My favorite aspect of my career is interacting with talented, creative, passionate, and hard-working individuals, while sharing special experiences with them in memorable places. It’s truly amazing how interconnected the outdoor community is, and each individual within has such a unique skill set of tools and experiences, which creates an endless resource to tap into and learn from. I love watching those relationships develop and grow overtime, linking up with an athlete or a client for shooting purposes, and overtime they become your friends and family.

How and when did photography first come into your life?

At 12 years old, I saved money from mowing lawns, cleaning vehicles, and my birthdays to purchase a Pentax ZX-M film camera. I don’t remember a specific reason for purchasing the camera, however my older brother Sam purchased one at the same time which was a huge motivator. Looking back at my childhood, I recently realized that my Grandpa loved photography, and after he passed, my Dad acquired his camera…therefore it was always around while growing up, my Dad often shooting us playing sports.
 
When did you know that photography was going to be your career?

For many years leading up to self-employment, I questioned my path often. I almost went in a different direction many times. After years of staying productive, trying new things, working hard and having fun, I began to pick up more and more photography jobs and publication. With that said, in the summer of 2015 (a year before I went self-employed), I vividly remember shooting mountain-biking one evening and capturing some incredible images. That evening I immediately knew where to focus my energy for the future. I was a photographer.

If you look back now, what are some stand out memories in your career?

The images themselves stand out as the most important accomplishments. But my first published full page in 2008, and my first cover in 2015 will always carry weight. Finally, most importantly, the Red Bull Illume RAW Category win in 2019.  

Inspired to enter? Submit your images here!

You can find more of Noah’s work on his website and on Instagram @noahwetzel and Facebook  @NoahWetzelPhoto.

Run for those who can't at the Wings for Life World Run 2021

Enter to raise funds for spinal research on May 9, 2021.

Participants perform during the Wings for Life World Run in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 6, 2018. // Marcelo Maragni for Wings for Life World Run // SI201805060826 // Usage for editorial use only //

© Marcelo Maragni

On May 09, 2021, the Wings for Life World Run will see more than 120,000 people from all over the globe running to raise funds for spinal cord injury research. To inspire you to take part, we’re sharing some of the best images of the Wings for Life World Run taken by Red Bull Illume photographers, Dean Treml, Denis Klero, Marcel Maragni, Mirja Geh, Predrag Vuckovic and Samo Vidic.

Everybody can be a part of the Wings for Life World Run, and this year’s race will be another colorful mix, with the field including everyone from novice runners to ultra distance specialists. The unique race format makes it possible for runners and wheelchair users with completely different levels of training, fitness and goals to take to the course together with elite distance runners.

Participants from all around the world start at exactly the same time at 11 am UTC. Then, 30 minutes after the start, the virtual Catcher Car, a rolling finish line, starts moving and will gradually pick up speed as it catches and then passes participants one at time until the winners are determined. The name of the game is to stay ahead of the car for as long as possible.

During the virtual run, which for the top runners could last up to four and a half hours, participants will be kept informed, motivated and entertained by the so-called Audio Experience. Well-known personalities from the world of sports and entertainment have lent their voices to the latest feature of the Wings for Life World Run App and will help push the participants forward by serving as drivers of the virtual Catcher Cars or designated motivators during the race. Enjoy and see you on the start line.

Registration is open until one hour before the official start time of 11:00am UTC, on May 09, 2021. For more information go to wingsforlifeworldrun.com.

SanDisk to partner with Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021

Prizes worth thousands to be offered to winners as SanDisk renews its long-standing partnership with the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest.

Markus Stoeckl performs during VMax 200 at the Atacama Desert, Chile on December 10, 2016
Editors Note: Pictures is stitched from multiple photos!

© Philip Platzer / Red Bull Illume

They are the unsung heroes in every photographer’s camera bag – the SanDisk memory cards that capture great adventure and action sports moments. Without them, digital photography would not be possible, and the quality of images would not be the same. It’s the ability to shoot practically unlimited images with no concern for the cost of film that helped revolutionize the adventure and action sports genre.  

So we’re super stoked to have the iconic brand on board once again as an official partner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021. They are to support this year’s contest by giving away innovative storage solutions for use in both the studio and in the field with an overall value of €30,000. Enter now to ensure you don’t miss this opportunity to win.

“It’s really great to welcome on board the world’s leader in storage solutions for content creators,” says Red Bull Illume founder Ulrich Grill. “I have used them throughout my career as a photographer and believe this partnership offers a great incentive for photographers thinking of submitting images.”

SanDisk’s partnership with Red Bull Illume goes back many years. For the 2010 edition they supported the People’s Choice award, which was won by Sterling Lorence. He took home a bumper pack from SanDisk.

In 2019 SanDisk also supported Red Bull Illume by giving prizes such as memory cards and portable SSDs to category and overall winners. They also gave the SanDisk Extreme Award to Philip Platzer for his amazing sequence of a record-breaking mountain bike speed descent in the Atacama desert.

“Every day, millions of people count on the performance, quality and reliability of SanDisk products,” says SanDisk. “Whenever and wherever inspiration strikes, we’re there to help you shoot, store, and share every experience. So we’re pleased once again to be supporting a contest that shines the light on photographers who need 100% confidence in their equipment in some of the world’s harshest locations.”

The submissions for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 are open until the end of July. Head over here for details on how to enter and put yourself in with a chance of winning stunning SanDisk prizes!

Working with my brother is good for my photography, says Mikko Laitinen

Check out the story with Mikko Laitinen, category finalist in the Image Quest 2016, and find out why working with his brothers brings out his creative edge.

© Mikko Laitinen

We talked to Mikko about snowkiting, Finland and working with his brothers. Mikko and his brother Antti created the Toisnemi project where they specialize in backcountry photography in Scandinavia. The Finnish brothers are passionate about the outdoors and what they love to shoot most is snowkiting. With their photography they try to mirror the stoke, thrills and emotions they feel when they step outside.

What came first, snowkiting or photography?

Out of the two, photography. But skiing is where it all started. I’ve been on skis since I can remember and skiing and outdoor life has always been a big thing in my family. So, when I got into photography as a teenager, it was natural to take my camera with me in the backcountry. I had already been shooting skiing for a few years when snowkiting came along.

How did you get into snowkiting?

My two brothers had moved to Norway at the time and every chance I got, I traveled up there to go backcountry skiing in the mountains with them. Snowkiting started getting popular, and the idea of just cruising up the mountain, pulled by a kite instead of skiing up felt irresistible. We got our first kites and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your favorite snowkiting image?

It’s always the latest one I’ve taken! Until I go out the next time.

Where is your favorite location?

Anything with no other people or signs of human life. Our work has always been as much about the location and surroundings as about the snowkiting or skiing. Luckily the wilderness in Finnish Lapland and Northern Norway provides ample opportunities for that.

How would you describe yourself as a photographer?

I feel most comfortable shooting documentary work and pictures that tell a story. Especially with my outdoor and travel work, my goal is to capture the feeling of being outside on that day, in that particular place. I get a big kick out of photos that balance action and landscape just right. Sometimes it feels more like I’m shooting landscape photos that just happen to include people and action in it.

You and your brothers shoot together. How does that work?

Working with Antti brings a competitive element to both of our photography. You always want to be the one to get the best shot of the day, and that pushes you to do better.
Also, the fact that you’re always out snowkiting with the same people helps with communication. My brothers know what I mean with each hand wave and gesture while we’re out on the mountain. Antti being a photographer, and my other brother Jukka shooting video, means that they also understand what works visually and what doesn’t. That makes getting the photos I want a lot easier.

How does the Finnish landscape influence your photography?

I shoot a lot in both Finnish Lapland and northern Norway. They’re both big areas with lots of places to roam around, free of other people. That remoteness and sense of exploration has had a big effect on how I approach photography. Also, being out and taking pictures so far up north where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon in December, but shines 24/7 in June really teaches you about light and how it transforms images.

Talk us through the process of your shoots - do you usually find the location first and then have the idea? Or is it the other way around?

It’s always location first. We always set out to explore a specific area: It can be the local spot where you can spend an afternoon or a week-long expedition deep in the wilderness. That experience and the surroundings is what defines the feeling I want the photos to have.
Once we’re on location, then it’s a very free-flowing process that’s always different. With snowkiting, it can be difficult to get everything right: You have to think about the rider, the background, light, composition, etc. but also wind direction and how to frame the kite perfectly in the shot as well. You can’t top the feeling when all the pieces fall into place!

What do you always have with you, equipment-wise?

I almost exclusively shoot wide angle, like 99% of the time. So, a good ultra-wide angle lens goes with me wherever I go.

Are you planning to submit to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021?

For sure! I still have a few non-snowkiting ideas that I want to try out, so I’ll probably wait closer to the deadline before I submit anything.

Follow the brothers’ work on their website and via @toisniemi.

Chris Burkard: Timeless landscapes and untamed nature

The Californian photographer, Chris Burkard, was the overall winner of the second ever Red Bull Illume Image Quest back in 2010. Since then, Chris has become one of the most famous photographers in the adventure and action sports scene. We (virtually) sat down with him and talked about stand out moments of his career and how the current situation has affected it.

© Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume

Chris Burkard is a world-renowned photographer, filmmaker and storyteller. In his images, he captures nature and its many wonders in a spectacular and truly authentic way, which could be due to the fact that he approaches his subjects with caution and humility. Chris is very committed to his work and it seems like nothing can stop him from getting that perfect shot.

Thanks for taking the time Chris! How are you and what’s been going on lately?

I am good! Most of all I am thankful to be healthy and busy through these crazy times we are living in. COVID-19 and the travel restrictions it caused changed my life greatly over the past year, but in some ways it was actually really nice for me to have some time away from traveling to spend quality time at home with my family. Right now I am back in Iceland, I just finished up a surf trip and happened to get extremely lucky and be here for a volcanic eruption. I documented this both personally and for Nat Geo which was a huge honor. And right now I am prepping for another bike trip, this is a fat bike expedition in which I will traverse Iceland from North to South. Long story short, there’s a lot going on but life is good!

How has it affected your work?

The past year certainly brought its challenges and changed the way I work and run my business. Most of all it was a challenge to continue running my studio and making sure I could employ my team, but I am grateful to have adapted and been able to keep everything running as usual. The projects and work I took on certainly changed but I believe that is all part of being a photographer these days.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I would say overall, I have distinguished myself by shooting untamed, powerful landscapes that are layered with outdoor, travel, adventure, surf, and lifestyle subjects. One of the defining elements of my style of photography is instilling a sense of scale and timelessness within a landscape. That is done many times by including a person within the image but I’ve also used planes, boats, etc. By adding this human element it immediately gives a viewer a context to latch onto of how large a landscape or scene is while making it much more relatable. By seeing a human form within a scene it makes it much easier to imagine that person is you. I also utilize a lot of silhouette lighting in order to make my images more timeless. I try and avoid including details like a big branded shirt or anything that will allow you to tell when an image was taken.

How do you get your final images to look so consistent?

I think in some ways this happens naturally, by following the stylistic elements I mentioned above. I tend to stick to these because they’re what I instinctively like and have always gravitated towards which helps keep my portfolio cohesive. I also try not to rely heavily on editing which helps keep things consistent as well.

How did your relationship with action and adventure sports photography develop?

I started shooting photos when I was 19 years old after experimenting with drawing and art in high school. I realized that it enabled me to do art in a mobile state, to explore and adventure, and show people the beauty in the world around me. As a kid growing up on the Central Coast, I was always really into surfing and bodyboarding. As I began shooting photos, I gravitated towards these and was always out shooting photos with my friends doing these things. I would go and shoot surfers at the local beach and try to sell them pictures on DVDs. I shot weddings and senior pictures and interiors store photos. That obviously wasn't my end goal, but I had to start somewhere. I wanted to learn more about action sports and landscapes photography which is what I was excited about but didn't know where to turn so I started applying for internships. I finally got an opportunity to intern with Michael Fatali, a large format landscape photographer, and I got an internship at Transworld Surf magazine which was an incredibly valuable experience and pushed me further into the action sports world.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

It’s pretty simple, I guess. I find my inspiration in nature. Heading out and spending days off the grid and away from the civilization is where I feel most relaxed and can really see things in a different light. I used to draw a ton of inspiration from magazines and photo books but now it’s more in music, architecture, paintings, poetry, and really anything that opens up my senses in new and interesting ways. I have always tried to approach subjects with caution and humility. I never want to be running around taking photos without a clear purpose. So, I try to really take in the places I go and make sure that I am feeling some connection with them before I get to work. It’s an important part of my photographic process.

You often work under difficult and extraordinary conditions. What motivates you to go the extra mile for your work?

I always like to say the best image is the image people haven’t seen before. To be honest, it’s really hard to take a picture of a place or activity people have seen a bunch of times before. But, if you go the extra mile and take a photo of something people have never seen before, all the sudden that image stands out. I think about this a lot and it always pushes me to go further and work harder than most, because the result is always worth it.

Can you share stand out moments/memories of your career (positive and negative) with us?

There have definitely been lots of ups and downs over the years. Getting my first internship at Transworld Surf was a stand out moment for real because it was something I wanted so bad. Scoring waves under the Northern Lights was definitely an all-time positive moment for me, sitting in a jail cell in Russia was definitely an all-time negative stand out for me! There are almost too many ups and downs to list them, I’m just grateful for all the moments I’ve gotten to experience whether good or bad. Winning the Red Bull Illume Contest in 2010 was definitely a stand out moment for my career as well.

You’ve travelled to a lot of awesome spots all over the world. Do you have favorite places/locations to shoot in and why?

By far my favorite place in the world is Iceland. It holds so much opportunity for adventure and surf. Everytime I shoot here it is like walking on another planet. The geography along with the people of Iceland keep you coming back. Breanne (my wife) and I joke about living in Iceland when our boys get a little older for six-months at a time. I’ve been 40+ times and have no intentions of stopping.

What are the three most important things aspiring photographers should keep in mind?

The best thing that you can do as an aspiring photographer is to identify a style that represents you well, develop within that style, and keep shooting to perfect it. It’s super important to have your images be recognizable by editors and others who are looking at your work. With the large number of photographers that are out there now you must find ways to stand out. The best compliment I can ever receive is when people know my photography work instantly when they see it. I would also say persistence and willingness to learn.

What’s important when taking images for Red Bull Illume? Any tips?

I think similar to what I answered before, it’s really important and helpful to develop your own style and take images that are unique. There are so many amazing photographers out there today it’s absolutely mind-blowing, you need to do something that makes your photos stand out in a consistent way.

What’s the most valuable thing you learnt from taking part in Red Bull Illume?

Mostly the value of community within the creative industry and the opportunities there are to connect with people. Illume really fostered some amazing relationships with other photographers that I still value and hold dearly today. That is honestly the most important part of the whole thing.

What do you try to capture for the Image Quest 2021? Have you already shot something?

To be honest I have been really enjoying mentoring photographers and focusing on my own expeditions as an athlete. It’s been challenging to give as much focus as it takes to create an image for Illume so if something happens I’ll be excited to share it.. but it’s not as much of a focus for me now as it was years ago.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can find more of my work on my website or on my Instagram.

The art of MTB with JB Liautard

Red Bull Illume 2019 category winner JB Liautard shared his latest photo project with us. He told us what's behind the project and where he found inspiration for it.

© Jb Liautard

We talked to Jb Liautard about his project with his mate and Red Bull athlete Thomas Genon. Jb is a 25-year-old professional photographer based out of Lyon, France. He’s fond of all things outdoors, but his real passion lies with mountain biking which he started doing at 14, since then he has been infatuated by the sport. He started shooting once he turned 18 and bought his first DSLR. His pictures really show the relation between humans and their environment.

 

 

Why did you choose to become an action sports photographer? What made you specialize in mountain biking?

I didn’t really choose this path, it happened quite naturally as my two biggest passions are photography and action sports. Being a mountain bike rider myself definitely oriented my specialization in bike photography. I believe that sharing the passion and knowing all the codes of the sport are essential when it comes to taking pictures in this field.

What came first for you – mountain biking or photography?

Mountain biking came first when I was around 14 years old, and I really got into photography a few years later when I turned 18 and bought my first DSLR.

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

It’s hard to give just a few names here but I don’t necessarily get inspired by action sports photographers only. I really enjoy looking at landscape and portrait photography too. Here are a few photographers whose work I have always appreciated: Joey Lawrence, Reuben Wu, Fred Mortagne, Ben Thouard, Toby Cowley, Sterling Lorence, Lorenz Holder…

 

What is the name of this project you have been working on?

The name of this project is: The Art of Mtb. It has been produced by the brand “Shimano”. We wanted to show what’s happening behind the scenes of some artistic photos we had in mind, both with the photography and the riding.

Which picture is your favorite from this project? Did it turn out exactly as planned? 

My favorite picture from this project is the water droplet picture. It did turn out as we planned, we took some time to find the clothes matching the best with the bike and I’m glad Thomas’ bike had those bright colors, which makes the whole subject more visible.

How long did it take you to get the shot? What was the biggest challenge when capturing it?

I think it took us about an hour and a half, from the moment we arrived on the parking lot until the final attempt. Actually, we did this image in the middle of the photo session, but I wanted to keep doing a few more tries just in case we could get another framing. I tried some shots closer to the water droplets, and some a bit further. In the end, this photo was showing the action the best and the subject was not too big or too small.

 

 

How did you come up with the ideas for this project?

I spend days looking for inspiration so it’s kind of a long and sometimes unconscious process. Every time I come up with an idea, I write it down somewhere. So, for this project, I just picked a few ideas I had and tried to make them work with Thomas. Some of them didn’t work and we didn’t show them in the video but failing is part of the process. For the droplet picture, I tried this idea a few months earlier with another rider but it didn’t get quite close to this result, so I did a lot of improvements and it worked on the first try with Thomas.

Do you have these ideas ready before the shoot or is it something you come up with spontaneously?

I kind of answered this question in my previous answer I guess, but sometimes inspiration also comes from what I’m seeing on the location and from some discussions with the riders. But I would say all the photos I did in this project were staged, so it was a bit different from an adventure trip where you discover the landscape and the possibilities every day.

How did you meet the athlete?

I met Thomas a while ago now, he’s the first professional athlete I shot with back in 2014 while I was on an assignment for a French web magazine. We had a common group of friends so we were seeing each other quite often but we never really planned a shooting together until this project last year.

How did you discover the location?

The location is mainly Thomas’ backyard, so it wasn’t too hard to find! I came to his place a few weeks before the shoot to scout the area, that’s when I first discovered the possibilities we had. The only thing we added was a new jump, built for the picture with the dusty background.

 

Where is your favorite location to shoot mountain bike photos?

Shooting mountain bike photos is tricky because most of the time you can’t just add an action to a landscape or architecture shot. You have to create or find a jump, or a trail, where the action can be as important and beautiful as the surroundings. That’s why shooting in Utah’s desert-like landscapes or in Canada’s rain forest is probably my favorite. Real trails and a lot of building possibilities in the middle of an amazing landscape.

Do you plan on submitting for the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021? If so, do you have any tips for fellow content creators?

Yes I do, I’m not sure which shots I’m going to submit yet and I’ll probably wait until the last month to upload my images. I would suggest other photographers give it a try and to fill all 10 spots of the categories. Also, no matter how great an image is, if it’s in the wrong category, it has way less chance to get selected, so be sure to choose the categories wisely.

Where can we find more of your work?
You can find more of my work on my website or on Instagram @jbliautard.

 

Gallery: Reaching new heights

If you are scared of heights, don’t scroll any further!

This gallery features some of the most jaw-dropping action that's happening way up in the air. The Red Bull Illume photographers not only captioned the moments in which athletes show their strength, but also their passion.

Check out these gripping and powerful images that will make you stop and stare!

Photographer: Jeremiah Watt Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Patrick Kingsbury Location: Indian Creek, Utah, USA

© Jeremiah Watt / Red Bull Illume

Submit now for the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021

Submissions for the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest are now open!

© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume Image Quest is back for even more of the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery. We’re ready to shine a light on all of your hard work and creativity in capturing the passion, lifestyle, and culture within the sports scene. The contest returns for its sixth edition after a record-breaking 2019 one with 59,551 entries. The Image Quest is here again and has 10 categories for you to enter on redbullillume.com and on Instagram from March 1 to July 31, 2021. We can guarantee that this edition is going to be full of breath-taking imagery and fresh perspectives.

There are 9 categories returning for the 2021 edition, which are: Masterpiece by SanDisk, Emerging, Energy by Red Bull Photography, Creative, Innovation by EyeEm, Playground, Lifestyle by COOPH, and RAW by Leica. Best of Instagram, which is now sponsored by Lenovo, is also back and has a few updates. The first is that content creators can submit still or moving image, which will be judged separately resulting in 2 Category Winners. One thing stays the same, and that’s that the people get the final say through community voting on our website.

This edition also introduces a brand-new category for people to enter called Photo Story. Sometimes there’s more to a scene than a single image can convey, so Red Bull Illume is giving creators the opportunity share their stories using a slideshow format, from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes. We’re excited to see the submissions, because this category opens up the contest to a whole new level of creativity.

There’s a category for every kind of adventure and action sports imagery creator and a bunch of reasons to take a shot at it and enter your work. The category winners and overall winner will each receive a beautiful trophy, as well as incredible prize packages from our partners worth more than €100,000! Some of the prizes include the latest products from global computing leader Lenovo, to empower even more creative self-expression; storage solutions from SanDisk to ensure you never lose a shot; as well as high-quality cameras from Leica and stylish photography apparel and accessories from COOPH.

Every finalist earns their spot at the Winner Award Ceremony, taking place in November 2021. It’s the event that everyone gets excited about because they gain immense exposure and their work is shared with the world. It is also the release of the esteemed Red Bull Illume Limited Edition Photobook, a prize possession even during the digital age.

For more information on the submission process click here!

Want to know more about the categories for the Image Quest 2021? Head this way!