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.

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© 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.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Photobook - Limited Edition

This limited-edition photobook features the top 256 images of the Image Quest 2021.
Be the first to see those inspiring images printed and order your exclusive copy now! 

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Harness the Energy!

The Energy category is one of our favorites. It's all about capturing the energy, speed and strength of an athlete in action. The category always attracts an incredibly high standard of entries and the winners consistently take our breath away – which is why we're sharing them below. These are the six Energy winners from the Image Quests 2007 to 2021. As you can see, they've lost none of their power to inspire and awe.


Professional snowboarding photographer Thomas Stöckli became the first ever Energy category winner in 2007 with this shot of Reto Kestenholz in St. Christoph, Austria. He was subsequently a finalist in the 2010 edition.


This epic shot of cliff diver Todor Spasov was taken by Swiss photographer Romina Amato, who got this unique angle from a boat. “I like pictures where it leaves the viewer asking, where is he coming from? Will he survive this? Does that guy seriously think he can fly?”


Ben Thouard didn't just win the Energy category with this shot of Ace Buchan in Tahiti. It went on to be crowned Red Bull Illume Overall Winner. “Shooting surfing from underwater is a whole new world and I love it,” he said at the time.


An image just as powerful today as it was 12 years ago. Taken by legendary Aussie lensman Stuart Gibson, it shows Ryan Hipwood big wave surfing in Tasmania. “The day I got that photo was a really special day in my career,” Gibson recalled.


“A salute to the power and randomness of the ocean, or a mocking attempt at some kind of manipulated sorcery, showing man’s unending quest to control nature.” That was photographer Luke Shadbolt’s take on this 2016 winning shot. Inside info? He didn’t spot surfer Renan Faccini was in the shot until afterwards.


“This shot was not supposed to happen,” recalls Rod Hill, an unassuming chemistry teacher from New Zealand. Kayaker River Mutton was about to go home but decided on one last run. Then the sun suddenly came out. “Straight away I knew this was going to work," Rod said.

Looking for more inspiration or want to see the incredible images other photographers submitted? Then check out our gallery here which features the top images of each edition!

Red Bull Illume is coming to Slovenia

The next SES Exhibit Tour Stops will light up Maribor and Ljubljana!

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The finalist image by Kevin Molano is on display in the exhibition. © Mediaspeed / Citycenter Celje

The next Red Bull Illume Exhibitions will be in EUROPARK, Maribor and ALEJA, Ljubljana in Slovenia. Both tour stops are part of our partnership with SES Spar European Shopping Centers which displays the 56 finalist images inside their premium shopping destinations across Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy. All exhibitions are completely free to visit and can be combined with a shopping trip.

EUROPARK in Maribor – June 23 to July 3

Nestled between the Drava River and the green embrace of the Pohorje forests lies Maribor, the starting point for all kinds of adventures – from skiing to hiking and climbing. It’s the perfect location to host the next Red Bull Illume Tour Stop. The top 56 images will go on display at Maribor’s EUROPARK, from June 23 to July 3, 2022.

For more than 22 years the 2-level and light-flooded EUROPARK with around 120 different stores offers a variety of international and national brands and now, for the first time ever, the Red Bull Illume Exhibition.

Since the shopping mall is located right in the center of Maribor, it can be easily reached by any means of transport and it is the perfect place to meet with family and friends to discover the illuminated images. The exhibition is totally free to view during the centers’ regular hours from 9am to 9pm weekdays and 8am to 9pm on Saturdays.

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© Bojan Mihalič

ALEJA in Ljubljana – July 5 to July 16

The exhibition will then move to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, gateway to the Julian Alps. Once again, the images will be displayed on 2x2 meter lightboxes and showcased from July 5 to July 16 at ALEJA in the heart of Šiška, just to the north of downtown Ljubljana.

The modern shopping mall is located in one of the most popular districts of Ljubljana and has been constructed from 2017 to 2020. It impresses with its mixed-use structure and combines shopping, culinary delights as well as leisure facilities. With 80 different brands, a fitness park, a running track and several relaxing areas ALEJA offers a great variety for every interest and age and goes far beyond the usual shopping trip. It is open Mondays to Saturdays 8am to 9pm.

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Both venues are ideal places to check out the incredible winning images of Red Bull Illume and be awe inspired by the world’s greatest adventure and action sports photography. If you happen to be in either of the two cities be sure to explore the exhibits.

Here are the upcoming tour stops throughout the SES Spar European Shopping Centers if you can't make it to Slovenia.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Ice

Red Bull Illume Category Winner Thomas Monsorno captivated the judges with his shot of a climber on Lake Baikal. He’s been back on ice for his latest shoot and explains why.

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© Thomas Monsorno

Tell us about Iceland
After our Baikal project, we planned a new one for the following year, which unfortunately we had to cancel due to the pandemic. We had already defined some new locations, but these were not feasible due to travel restrictions. It was supposed to be the follow-up project to Baikal, a mixture of road movie and climbing story. In autumn 2021 we decided to fly to Iceland to look for new ice climbing spots. The team consisted of Dani Arnold, Martin Echser, Lukas Kusstatscher and Davide Guzzardi. The aim was to produce photos and video. As is well known, the landscape in Iceland is spectacular, but the constantly changing, sometimes extreme weather conditions in winter made the project even more special.

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© Thomas Monsorno

Which equipment did you take with you?

In addition to my camera equipment and my drone, I also had my new Leica Q2 (category winner prize) with me, which I had received from Red Bull Illume a few days before starting the trip. The Iceland project was of course the perfect playground to test this 47mp camera. I always had it with me at every location because it is very light and compact. The low weight was a great advantage on the sometimes long ascents. I also didn’t have to worry about the constantly changing weather conditions (snow, wind, rain, cold) due to the robustness of the camera. The 28mm lens was a great focal length for me, although there is also a 35mm, 50mm and 75mm crops mode. For me it is a perfect allround camera, which I will always have with me for future projects!

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This is one of the images Thomas shot with his Leica Q2. © Thomas Monsorno

What’s important to consider when shooting in such extremes?

When shooting in such extreme conditions, planning and equipment is of course very important. This certainly begins in advance, when you study the weather forecast through to choosing the right clothing and equipment. Some of the climbs are long, and the weight of the equipment means you have to be in good physical shape to keep up with the pro athletes. In most cases, the equipment is reduced to the essentials, so you can save a few kilos in weight. I always carry the batteries directly on my body to protect them from the cold.

Walk us through the creative process

The first step is always the selection of the location. If I find an inspiring location, then I think about what activity could be combined with a shoot here. The next step is then to contact an athlete to discuss the feasibility of the project. Then a team is put together (usually with a filmmaker, etc.) and the project is put on paper. At the end, the partners/brands will be contacted. The process of planning is always teamwork. It has happened that a global campaign has emerged from an initially free project when the brands have recognized the potential.

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© Thomas Monsorno

Why ice climbing?

There is something very fascinating about watching Dani Arnold ice climbing. Every movement is very considered, you have to be very strong mentally and physically to climb at this high level. In addition, there is always the cold, which certainly doesn't make it any easier to call up the full performance. Compared to other sports, the movements are relatively slow, which is often an advantage when taking photos, as the photographer has time to move and can shoot a route from many different angles and perspectives. I also find the element of ice very fascinating, as it is constantly changing. There are beautiful ice structures, the nature is just fantastic!

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I usually find the inspiration for my work in nature and when researching on the internet. There are also numerous artists who I find very inspiring.

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© Thomas Monsorno

What was the reaction to being a Red Bull Illume category winner?

The feedback was really overwhelming. So many people have congratulated me, written to me and sometimes simply approached me, even if I thought they wouldn’t be that interested in photography. Personally, it was a very nice experience and in some way a confirmation that the path I had taken was the right one and that the work of the last few years had paid off. I noticed that Red Bull Illume has a very high status in the scene, which is noticeable on a professional level.

Anything else coming up?

After Iceland we flew almost immediately afterwards for a five-week project to the Maldives. At the moment I am at home in South Tyrol, where I will also spend the summer. A few local projects are planned here. We don't have any concrete plans for next winter, but in all probability there will be a new project with Dani Arnold and co.

Check out Thomas' website and follow him on Instagram for more fascinating imagery!

The Best Underwater Photography

Take a dive below the waterline and prepare to be amazed by these incredible underwater photos. We've pulled together some of the most impressive Red Bull Illume images taken below the surface – of surfers, kayakers, freedivers, even an underwater skateboarder and a biker. We think these photos are amazing and the photographers who captured them incredible. We hope you do too. 

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© Matt Power / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume Exhibition lights up Padua, Italy

Be the first to experience the Red Bull Illume Exhibition jointly hosted between the IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE shopping malls in Padua, Italy, from May 11 to 29, 2022.

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This image by the Italian category winner Thomas Monsorno is exhibited in the shopping mall IPERCITY. © Thomas Monsorno / Red Bull Illume

From May 11 to 29, 2022, the 56 finalist images from the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 will be exhibited in Padua, Italy, at the modern and fashionable shopping malls of IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE. Both shopping malls are characterized by their bright ambiance and open architecture, and are well known for attracting locals and tourists alike thanks to the variety of Italian and international brands on offer. These exhibit tour stops in IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE are part of our partnership with SES Spar European Shopping Centers which displays the winning images inside their premium shopping destinations across Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy.

The images are displayed on innovative 2x2 meter lightboxes provided by the German based manufacturer CCS Fabric Frame. This allows the outstanding quality of the images to be appreciated in a new way by audiences more used to seeing the images on a smartphone or computer screen. It also celebrates and honors the hard work and dedication of the photographers.

For your chance to view and appreciate the very best in adventure and action sports photography, head to IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE shopping malls in Padua. The 56 images are shared across the two venues meaning you need to go to both to see every shot. The exhibitions are free to view and everyone is welcome during the centers’ regular opening hours. IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE are easy to reach and are located off main roads, accessible by all means of transport.

  • Mondays to Saturdays 8:30AM – 9PM
  • Sundays 9AM – 9PM

So grab a gelato and enjoy a stroll through the impressive display of talent at the Red Bull Illume Exhibition while also taking in the great shopping to be had at that IPERCITY and LE BRENTELLE in Padua, Italy. The exhibition runs until May 29, 2022.

Here are the upcoming tour stops throughout the SES Spar European Shopping Centers if you can't make it to Padua.

Shooting Whitewater

Red Bull Illume photographer Benny Marr gives the lowdown on kayaking with crocs, big rivers and why he’d rather be athlete than photographer.

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© Daniel Stewart / Red Bull Illume

Are you photographer or kayaker?

I am not a technically skilled photographer. I’m a kayaker completely focused on kayaking and I accept that I will make mistakes and miss a lot of shots and opportunities. There is a lot I don't understand about the craft. I research and buy equipment and ultimately I am around a combination of skilled athletes and incredible whitewater fairly often which makes things a little easier for me. When I want to shoot, I try to make as few mistakes as possible. Find a frame, try to get everything in focus...

What is the most difficult thing about shooting whitewater?

Having wet hands all the time in a wet environment.


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© Benny Marr

Talk us through your prep?

I bring my camera with me when I go to the river. I try to make sure my shit is charged and the cards are formatted but I am usually forgetting something. Kayakers are often bringing cameras down the river with them in waterproof bags which provide a bit of protection for the gear. Sometimes we are running waterfalls and the cameras take the same hits that our bodies do so we need to protect them. I love a great photo and I try to observe and learn from the elements of how other people work so I will be motivated to move around on the river more to capture something that I and the kayaker will be happy to have to post, share, or sell – or have a memory of a cool moment.

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© Benny Marr

Do you prefer being behind the lens or in front of it?

I am way better at whitewater kayaking than I am at whitewater photography! It is better for me, career-wise, to be in the photo than to take the photo. We can make some extra cash selling photos but I am more stoked to be in a photo in the Red Bull Illume book than to have taken a photo which made it into the book. Nice for the ego either way!

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© Benny Marr

You’ve kayaked the Zambezi. Why’s it special?

The Zambezi river is a live winding border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The river falls around 100 metres over Victoria Falls and into the Batoka Gorge. As kayakers we have all known about and planned trips to the Zambezi for years. Just to be able to travel to Africa is an incredible privilege and experience. Too often taken for granted. Sitting underneath Victoria Falls every day for a month and running some of the baddest rapids on the planet, I understand that privilege differently because I've worked hard on the skillsets required specifically to spend time beneath the falls. It is unique to paddle through a canyon or gorge like the Batoka with such easy access.  River Right and River Left provide ample opportunities for a kayaker with a camera to hop out to shoot photos or film something. While there are no hippos in the classic whitewater section because they don't survive falling off Victoria Falls, there are many crocodiles who have done just that. Small baby crocs survive the plunge and grow up in the gorge adding elements of curiosity and danger to the kayaker's journey every day.

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© Benny Marr

Steve Fisher is a big inspiration right?

Steve Fisher was the best all-around kayaker on the planet when I was growing up. His career is still very relevant and impressive. When he was in his late teens or early twenties he went to the Zambezi River to work as a guide and video/photo kayaker. He and a group of kayakers living on the Zambezi started making videos and as a kid I devoured them. It influenced how I kayak, how I navigate rivers and how I see high volume whitewater and big lines.

Scott Lindgren was also an influence?

Years after the Wicked Liquid movies by Steve Fisher and Alex Nicks were out, Steve started shooting with Scott Lindgren. Scott brought together footage from around the world for the Burning Time movies and created some really beautiful work on the Zambezi River. It was a lot higher quality than anything we had seen from the area so we could understand the river better. Steve was peaking in his skill and sendinees in the big water as well. Excellent combination.  Steve’s big water style affected me for sure and Scott being willing to invest time and money into quality equipment and kayaking movies was great for the sport.

When are the perfect conditions for shooting the Zambezi?

It is always good, rain or shine.

Check out the incredible behind-the-scenes video here!

Follow Benny on Instagram and check out his website to see more of his work.

Three different shoots, one camera

Red Bull Illume photographer Tino Scherer takes on three projects, each with their own unique requirements.

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The Swiss photographer and Red Bull Illume semi-finalist, Tino Scherer, takes us through his experience of shooting three projects with the Leica SL2. Tino’s known for his sports and lifestyle photography and he gives us an insight into what it takes to capture incredible images in different situations.

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Heading into the mountains

The Schilthorn is a well-known, much visited mountain in the Bernese Alps, which rises 2,970 meters above sea level. Located at its peak is the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, which Tino Scherer photographed at sunset from a helicopter. This picture was taken during a photo shoot for the Schilthornbahn AG train. Taking photographs from a helicopter demands concentration, precise planning and a steady hand – fortunately the Leica SL2’s image stabilizer helped counter the considerable shaking. It can also be cold but Tino was able to work the SL2 while wearing gloves, thanks to its design.

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Out on the water with a Swiss Wakeboard Champion  

In September 2019, Tino shot the Swiss wakeboard champion, Sam Lutz on Zurich’s Obersee. Perfect preparation is key for shooting action, but Tino also studied all the details for this project with great care: optimal lighting conditions at sunset, a Super Air Nautique G23, a boat that forms the perfect kind of wakeboard wave, and, of course, a boarder who can produce a spectacular trick at the perfect time. You need a lot of patience before everything comes together like it does in these pictures and a camera that does exactly what you have in mind helps a lot too. Tino is a photographer who, on principle, focuses manually, so the challenges in this case were great. He was taking pictures using a Summilux-SL 50 f/1.4 ASPH. The individual function buttons of the Leica SL2 proved very useful. With one of the two function buttons on the front side, which Tino used with the detail magnification to focus manually, it was possible to focus very precisely – even with a virtually fully open aperture and a very low level of sharpness.

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© Tino Scherer

Europe’s oldest cheeses

Tino Scherer then found himself in his home-country, Switzerland, where he photographed every one of Sbrinz’s 26 cheese types. The traditional Sbrinz hard cheese (AOP) is among the oldest cheeses in Europe. It is made by hand using traditional methods, primarily in the cantons of Obwalden, Nidwalden and Lucerne. The number of locations, the diversity of the landscapes, the different light conditions, the moods and even the motifs, were enormous. He took on these specific challenges using the universal Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. He was also able to capture razor-sharp, low-noise images with the Leica SL2’s high light sensitivity of 800-1600 ISO and was even able to produce cropped, different format images in post because of the camera’s sensor. In contrast to high-speed action, this shoot was all about capturing the slowness of cheese production and the individuals who dedicate their lives to it.

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© Tino Scherer

Whether you’re shooting portraits or action, on the move or indoors, the Leica SL2 is the perfect tool for the job. It’s one of the most advanced professional photography systems on the market and helps photographers them to capture award winning and incredible action shots.

Shooting from a Wheelchair

Ydwer van der Heide was a celebrated Dutch kiteboarding photographer and Red Bull Illume finalist before a devastating surf accident in 2021 left him partially paralysed. He tells us about the accident, how he’s back taking photos, why he’s doing Wings for Life and how YOU can support spinal cord research on May 8, 2022!

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© Ydwer van der Heide

What happened with the accident?

I went foil surfing with two good friends in my hometown. It was a nice and slightly warm day during the winter with small waves and I was pretty relaxed and chilled. I took off on a wave and after a couple meters I fell and hit the bottom with my head. I could feel all my energy flow out of my body and for a second I thought I’d lose consciousness but I saw the light through the surface. I could only think, ‘keep your breath’. I stayed calm and heard my friends yelling my name. I couldn’t move my arms or legs and wasn’t able to turn around. At least I knew they spotted me.
I fractured my C6 and C7 vertebrae. In the hospital they repaired it and put screws in my neck from top to bottom to fix it. Because of the swelling I lost function and feeling up to C3 but after testing, the injury turned out to be incomplete. Paralyzed from the chest down, I had a long road of recovery ahead.

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© Ydwer van der Heide

How has it changed your life?

Obviously it changed my life a lot. From an all year round traveling photographer and adventure enthusiast my life was suddenly back to basics. I was in bed, only allowed to sit in a wheelchair for a certain amount of time a day. I couldn’t feed myself and felt so many strange sensations in my body. In the beginning I couldn’t find the right way to lie in bed comfortably and I couldn’t explain to the nurses where to put my legs. Nothing felt right and it didn’t feel like my body. I completely lost my independence and freedom, something that was extremely important to me.
But slowly everything got easier. I was able to eat with a fork fixed to my hand, the time I spent in a wheelchair became longer. My life slowed down and it sounds a cliché but you start to appreciate different and smaller things. Suddenly that bit of sunshine on my face, that usually was so obvious meant a lot to me. I could really enjoy those little moments.

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© Jarno Schurgers / Red Bull Content Pool

When did your girlfriend persuade you to do Wings for Life?

After being in a wheelchair for four months. I knew the event and was involved as a photographer several times. I instantly said yes and wanted to roll 1km in my wheelchair. I impressed myself on that day by doubling this distance. Because my Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is incomplete I’ve been lucky to gain some function in my legs, making it possible to walk a little bit with a walker. As I like to push myself I set a new goal for this year’s run. It’s a ballsy one but I think it’s possible. I want to cover a distance of 100 meters by foot and I know it won’t be easy. I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to join me on the 8th of May. It’s very important to raise money for the research of SCI. Because it is such a complex system and even 1% improvement can make a huge difference in our case. I think it’s also important to create awareness that you shouldn’t take life for granted and let people realize that with the right mindset and will you can reach incredible goals.

Check out this video to see Ydwer talking about his goal in this year's Wings for Life World Run.

How do you manage to stay optimistic?

I’m very positive minded and although some days are tough I try to explore a whole new way of life. I appreciate other things and focus on what I’m still able to do and not so much on what I can’t.
In order to stay away from negative feelings, I started doing a lot of meditation. It taught me that those feelings have a place and that I’m allowed to feel bad sometimes. But it also taught me to turn those feelings into something positive. If I have a bad day it usually is because a couple of things are not working out. Talking about it or doing something helps me a lot. Accepting that it is like this at the moment but tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities works for me. I always like pushing myself and setting goals, that definitely didn’t change. I just have to find my new margins to keep those goals realistic.

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© Ydwer van der Heide

Do you still take photographs?

I can’t handle the camera as before so I went back to the basics and realized why I actually liked taking photos. It wasn’t about that photo in the end but it was more about the whole process. It was about being out there and letting go. It became some sort of meditation to me. I started taking photos with my tablet resting on my lap and I just took photos of the people around me. At some point I started using an old Leica M9. For me it really helped to have a camera with minimal functions. I did a pre focus on my subject and set the timer. I pressed the button and had 12 seconds to take a deep breath and get the camera in front of me and get the shot. Sometimes I just fell forward, I was totally out of focus or didn’t have the right settings. But funny enough these are my best photos so far. They were interesting in movement, color or composition and actually told my story. Obviously I’m striving to get better but if you put those photos in a timeline they tell a great story on its own. I’m very fortunate with what my body can do and I think I will never forget why I actually love photography.

Has your relationship with photography changed?

I look differently at photography and photographers. Where I always tried to get that perfect shot in the past it’s more about the moment now. I think my photography is better now than it was before. If I could have the same knowledge without this experience it would be insane, but that’s just not how it works. I’m also working on my first coffee table photo book. It’s been a beautiful process so far and I love to give something to people that they can touch, feel and smell in this fast and digital world. I started digging through all my hard drives and realized how incredible my journey has been so far, the amount of adventures I’ve been on traveling around the world with friends.

Run for those who can't!

On May 8, 2022, the start signal will sound for the 9th annual edition of the Wings for Life World Run. You run, walk or roll with thousands of people around the world at the exact same time. The unique race has a moving finish line in the form of a Catcher Car, which begins its pursuit 30 minutes after the start, passing runners and wheelchair users one after the other until the race is over. And you'll be doing all that running not only for yourself but for a good cause. 100% of your entry fee goes into spinal cord research and will help to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Participants have the option of running together in large groups at one of the seven Flagship Runs or anywhere they want with the help of the Wings for Life World Run App. Due to its unique Audio Experience, virtual participation has become a veritable live experience. Personalities inform, motivate and entertain participants throughout their run and thus make the Wings for Life World Run unique and engaging. All information and how to register at

Want to support the good cause? Sign up now and run for those who can't at the Wings for Life World Run 2022!


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© Lukas Nazdraczew / Red Bull Content Pool

Bringing a Red Bull Illume Exhibition to Life

The Red Bull Illume Global Exhibit Tour brings the incredible finalist images to the world. Find out how we do it!

Red Bull Illume 2021 Exhibition Hangar 7

The goal of Red Bull Illume is to shine a light on the unsung heroes behind the lens, and the Global Exhibit Tour is one of the ways we bring these incredible images to the world. It’s an exhibition where everyone gets to see the winning images lit up in full grandeur. Seriously, it just feels different when you see the shots illuminated on 2x2 meter light-boxes. But what does it take to bring an exhibition like this together?

Well, we made a video showing you the entire process, from setting up the lightboxes inside the extraordinary Hangar-7 to running and capturing the exhibition’s grand open-ing night. Luckily, we had the Lenovo Yoga 9i PC, because it can switch between PC, tablet, and tent mode, we could check the layouts wherever and whenever we needed.

With all the images lit up and ready to inspire, it was time for our guests (and the event photographer) to arrive! Every event photographer can tell you that the most important thing to have when capturing a live event is a powerful set up that lets you upload and edit on-the-go. The Lenovo Yoga 9i PC has got improved color accuracy and ultra-vivid visuals, so our event photographer could edit and share as the action unfolds.

Partnering up with a brand that believes in empowering creatives, like Lenovo, is important. This isn’t just because their computers are amazing, but truly because they’re innovating computing technology that enables a more inclusive and inspired world.

Find out what it looks like to set up a Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour in our latest video and definitely make sure you find a tour stop closest to you! The exhibition in Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria will be on display until May 8, 2022.

Jordan Manoukian's most passionate project

Jordan Manoukian’s first movie shows the world what it really takes to be an adventure and action sports photographer today. Learn all about his personal project "Out of Frame", a film about the daily life of athlete Mathis Dumas and a high-line shoot that’s never been attempted before.

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© Jordan Manoukian

Jordan Manoukian is an adventure sports film maker based in Chamonix, France. He follows mountain athletes all over the world, shooting commercials, running, paragliding, and getting involved in all things alpine. ‘Out of Frame’ is his first movie, aimed at showing what it takes to get one shot, following Mathis Dumas and the athletes on their journey to the heart of the Mont Blanc massif. Want to know what you need to be an adventure and action sports photographer that stands out? Jordan Manoukian’s got a pretty damn good idea.

Why did you create your film “Out of Frame”?

The purpose of this movie is to show the process of taking one photo in the high mountains. It shows the behind the scenes of an extreme photographer and daily life of Mathis Dumas, an athlete, high mountain guide and outdoor photographer.

"Through social media, we’ve seen a lot of outstanding photos around the world, but we have also lost the ability of really looking at them."

What inspired you to make the movie?

I’ve always been inspired by people who take photos in the mountains. That’s maybe why I’m doing this job today. Managing the shoot, getting in position in tricky places and following athletes into the action. I really wanted to show a behind the scenes of mountain photography and dedicated this movie to the shadow people of our industry that push outdoors, showing the beauty of our mountains with a camera in hand, photographers, athletes, filmmakers, and contents creators. Mathis and me had this idea of opening a new high-line in Mont Blanc massif and capturing a unique photo to show the whole process, from organization/logistics to getting the shot. Through social media, we’ve seen a lot of outstanding photos around the world, but we have also lost the ability of really looking at them, searching for details and appreciating their value. I guess this film shows how hard it is to only take one shot.

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"I define myself more as a filmmaker." © Jordan Manoukian

What do you enjoy most about taking pictures high in the air and, in general, about outdoor photography?

Photography is about sharing and catching perfect moments. Taking pictures in high mountains is thrilling, you have this whole technical aspect of being up there and checking the itinerary. Then, you need to direct athletes and focus on the subject you want to shoot.

What is it like to produce your own movie? How is it different from action sports photography?

I define myself more as a filmmaker, I feel like you can share more emotions through the medium of film. I come from commercial productions and action sports photography, I usually receive a brief from a client and go and shoot that. You can’t really do 100% what you want when clients are involved and that’s normal because you need to respect their needs. Producing your own movie is totally the opposite because it’s a personal project, you start from scratch, creating the whole story, everything is possible.

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Sharing and catching the perfect moments is what it's all about. © Jordan Manoukian

"Doing personal projects you are passionate about is a great way to develop your own identity."


What does a photographer need nowadays to stand out from the crowd?

When it comes to mountain photography, the new generation needs to be versatile and creative to be able to stand out from the crowd. They need to be able to move as fast as the athletes in several sports and be able to master new technologies. Photographers always need to be on the run, capable of creating quality content in a short time period without disturbing the athlete.

What are your favorite locations for your photo projects?

I live in Chamonix, France, so my backyard is already pretty awesome to explore and take photos in. Nature at my home is astonishing, the whole valley is vertical with the best viewpoints for mountaineers and photographers. You can find pretty much all types of landscapes and playgrounds. I usually love going to South America, like Chile, Peru or Bolivia. You can find a real energy that is difficult to recreate elsewhere, meeting locals and taking the time to appreciate the moment.

You can watch the official "Out of Frame" trailer here!

Follow Jordan @jordan_manoukian for more mind blowing images and visit his website to see his other projects!