Discovering killer locations in local newspapers!

Is there a big future for BMX in ice caves? That remains to be seen. One thing is for sure; Vegard Aasen had the vision to make it happen and his ingenuity landed him a spot as one of the semi-finalists of the Image Quest 2019 in the Playground category!

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© Vegard Byrkjeland Aasen / Red Bull Illume

Every once in a while, Vegard Aasen grabs his best friend Knut-Hendrik Lajord Snitjer, his Sony a7rii and heads out on a ‘jobby’. The combination of ‘job’ and ‘hobby’ is a platform on which Vegard can create serious images while having fun in newly discovered locations. This is what the Playground category is all about! And that’s what made him a semi-finalist of the category this year.

Check out our interview with Vegard below to find out more…

Now you’re a semi-finalist, describe what the ‘Playground’ Category means to you…

Playgrounds means a lot to me. I love to show the landscapes surrounding the action, and not just the action. My personal favorites are always photos that show both, so I´m really glad I made it to the semi-finals in this category!

How did you discover the location for your semi-finalist shot?

I found this one in the local newspaper! Not the place I usually find locations. The entrance to the cave became visible for the first time this spring. The glaciers in this area are retreating, but some of the ice was hidden inside a moraine, and was protected from further melting. A group of skiers found it, and sent some photos to the local news. I knew that this was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to see an ice cave like this in our region, so me and some friends went to check it out. The cave was insane! 

You described this day as a ‘jobby’ – do you carry much gear on such a day? What’s in the bag?

It is a remote location, so yeah, it was a lot of gear. We brought two cameras with different lenses (did a bit of filming in there as well), a few flashes, gear for a day in the mountains, safety equipment (not always safe inside a cave like that), and a BMX... It was about 4.5km from to road to the cave, so we tried to minimize the weight of what we carried, but we always end up with more than we planned for. 

Do you see a big future for BMX in ice caves?

Yes, absolutely! I think we will see X-games inside ice caves in the future. It is so nice to just ride around in there! Not.

What motivates you to get out there and find new playgrounds?

I´m always searching for something unique. I want to create something that no one has seen before. I want people to say ‘WOW’ when they see my photos for the first time. For me, the playground is the biggest ‘wow-factor’ in a photo like this. I love to put action sports into spectacular landscapes, like the ice cave. I need those spectacular playgrounds to create unique photos. I also love to search for new playgrounds. Location scouting is one of the best parts in a project like this! I went to the ice cave twice. The first time we went we spent more than two hours in there, just wandering around exploring the cave.

The race is on to find unique locations, what advice would you give to anyone that is out there searching for new places to shoot?

Because of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, it is easier than ever to find new locations. You don´t even have to search, they just pop up in the newsfeed on Instagram... Many of the locations I´ve found are on there, but most of my photos starts with an idea, and then I start searching for the perfect location. I´m spending a lot of time studying maps, searching for photos online, and going to those places to see if they will work. The light has to work as well. Finding the right time to shoot is essential. If possible, you should always go to the location in advance to figure out how you want to shoot it.

Your ultimate location to shoot?

I think it has to be somewhere north in winter. I want to build a big kicker, and shoot someone doing a huge trick with the fjord/ocean and alpine peaks in the background, while the Northern Lights are dancing above us.

Where can we find you in the coming months?

In November you´ll find me in the office, drinking coffee and editing videos. From December until May, hopefully in the mountains skiing powder! Maybe you´ll find me in a sick location far north, with alpine peaks, the ocean, and Northern Lights everywhere!

Follow Vegard on Instagram!

Get some RAW by Leica inspiration

Wondering which category to enter?

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Raw 1

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

We pulled together some of the most inspiring shots from previous editions of Red Bull Illume to give you a better idea of where your winning shot should go. Scroll through the RAW by Leica gallery to get into the category’s vibe, then head over to the submit page and start uploading.


Leica offers several prizes for the overall as well as the category winners, including an SL2 camera with three premium lenses or the Q2 camera.

When you have to descend a mine shaft to get the shot

We talk to Red Bull Illume photographer Christian Pondella about shooting extreme athletes, and why less is more when it comes to equipment, and why lens caps should be left at home.

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© Christian Pondella

How did you get into photography?

I have been a professional photographer for over 25 years now. I got hooked on photography in my freshman year in college and fell in love with the process of developing and printing my black and white film. This went alongside with my passion for the mountains, skiing, climbing, mountain biking and naturally these passions merged together.

What motivates you to keep creating?

My number one motivation to keep creating is getting outdoors into the mountains and firsthand experiencing the beauty of Mother Nature. Then of course combining some type of sport or activity in this beautiful environment.

Are you planning to submit to the Image Quest 2021?

Of course! I am always hoping to get an image displayed in one of those magical cubes!

Could you tell us why other photographers should enter Red Bull Illume? Was entering a good move for you?

It’s an amazing opportunity for any adventure photographer with the chance that your image might make it to the final round. It’s the ultimate showcase to have your image displayed and exhibited around the world.

How did you decide on what image(s) to submit in the end?

As far as images to submit I try to find one that are unique and hopefully have some ethereal mood to them. For me, this is generally something where the forces of nature and human activity merge together.

Any tips for aspiring photographers who also want to submit this year?

Red Bull Illume has so many amazing images submitted, I think your best odds is to have something pretty unique.

What equipment do you trust in when shooting?

Honestly, the top camera manufactures all make amazing equipment, but the one constant that I always use are SanDisk memory cards and an F-Stop pack.

What features are particularly important for your equipment?

I try to keep things simple, less is more especially when it comes to adventure sports. Lens hoods and lens caps usually stay in my closet and I try to stay away from miscellaneous gadgets. When it comes to camera equipment for me it is important to buy the flagship cameras and lenses as they have the best weather sealing which is important for the environments I shoot in.

What are some stand out memories or moments from your career?

Certainly, some of the most unique images I have captured have been with Will Gadd particularly where we have descended into glaciers, moulins, and mine shafts to capture ice climbing. Also, some of my ski mountaineering adventures with Chris Davenport are particularly memorable.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I think I have a hard time describing my style of photography as I feel it changes and evolves. But I guess I have a certain style as I often have people tell me when they see a picture they know I took it before they see the photo credit. I guess the one constant is a small person in a unique environment which gives the viewer something to contemplate when looking at an image.

What makes your images unique?

I think a big part of it is the unique environments I have been fortunate to photograph. Not many people have descended two hundred feet into a glacier to capture photos so these types of images will resonate with people.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I find a lot of inspiration by following my peers on Instagram, but the biggest inspiration for me is Mother Nature and the spectacular beauty the outdoors has to offer.

Check out more of Christian's work on his website and Instagram @christianpondella.

 

Get some Innovation by EyeEm inspiration

Wondering which category to enter?

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Innovation 1

© Vegard Breie / Red Bull Illume

We pulled together some of the most inspiring shots from previous editions of Red Bull Illume to give you a better idea of where your winning shot should go. Scroll through the Innovation by EyeEm gallery to get into the category’s vibe, then head over to the submit page and start uploading!

What are judges looking for?

Red Bull Illume's founder Ulrich Grill and judges explain what makes a great shot and how the judging process works.

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Are there certain characteristics that define a winning shot? In this video Red Bull Illume's founder Ulrich Grill talks about some of the defining qualities that make an Overall Winner. 

He discusses why technical brilliance isn't enough and how composition, creativitiy and artistic flair all help to make an amazing shot. 

“If we look at some of the winning images of the past editions, one thing connects them all and that’s true excellence,” he says, as he flicks through previous winning shots on Lenovo's Yoga 9i 2-in-1 laptop.

Grill explains how the judging process works, how thousands of images are whittled down to 276 semi-finalist images and how a strong judging panel of 50 international and renowned photo editors and photo experts then choose the finalists, category winners and the overall winner. 

The video also contains some top tips from some of this year’s judges, including Laura Stanley, Pexels editor, Ray Bisschop, publisher of Surfing Life and Theo Acworth, an editor at Method Mag. 

Adds Grill: “Red Bull Illume is all about the unsung heroes of adventure and action sports, the photographers behind the lens. It’s about you.”

Get some Playground inspiration

Wondering which category to enter?

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Playground 1

© Rein Rijke / Red Bull Illume

We pulled together some of the most inspiring shots from previous editions of Red Bull Illume to give you a better idea of where your winning shot should go. Scroll through the Playground gallery to get into the category’s vibe, then head over to the submit page and start uploading.

Get some Lifestyle by COOPH inspiration

Wondering which category to enter?

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Lifestyle 1

© Corey Rich / Red Bull Illume

We pulled together some of the most inspiring shots from previous editions of Red Bull Illume to give you a better idea of where your winning shot should go. Scroll through the Lifestyle by COOPH gallery to get into the category’s vibe, then head over to the submit page and start uploading.

Improve your chances with the Photo Story category

Explore the category where you can submit multiple images!

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Entering images into one of the new categories like Photo Story is a good way to boost your odds as it is not as well known as other categories. It takes a bit of effort but the good part is that you don’t necessarily need to go out and shoot something fresh. You can use multiple images that you didn´t previously use to tell the full story behind the action. With only a few days to go, this could be an option worth looking at. To get you inspired, watch the video below, then check your own files and see if you’ve got a story worth sharing.

Who's got the best Mountain Photo

There is an additional prize this year for the Best Mountain Photo.

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© Alexander Wick / Red Bull Illume

Here are some great shots from the Red Bull Illume archives to get you inspired for the Best Mountain Photo. Black Diamond is going to select the winner, and the prize is a generous product deal worth up to $5,000. Shots can belong to any category – it’s just a bonus prize for the best mountain image. So while there’s still time, head to the hills and nail that shot. 

10 days to go!

Only 10 days left to enter the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest – and achieve your break-out moment.

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© Simone di Mondino / Red Bull Illume

When it comes to planning and executing the perfect Red Bull Illume-winning shot, there are still quite a few things you can do in ten days; you can go on a roadtrip; head backcountry with some athlete friends or organize a last-minute shoot on your doorstep.

You could also create a reportage collection of images for the newest Red Bull Illume category – Photo Story. As one of the lesser known of Red Bull Illume’s ten categories, any entries stand a higher chance of going through to the next round.

Struggling for reasons on why you should submit? We say two words – prestige and prizes. Get an image selected into Red Bull Illume and you’ll receive lots of kudos. It’s a badge of honor that marks you out as a photographer that can open doors for your photography career.

Prizes include computers and tablets from Lenovo, workflow bundles from SanDisk Professional, a Leica SL2 for the winner and a paid photoshoot with Black Diamond for the winner of the Emerging category.  

Says Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume: “Red Bull Illume is really the most prestigious photo contest in adventure and action sports and has been the spark that ignited many photographers’ careers. It’s also totally unbiased. If you have one great shot you could win. What unites previous winners Fred Mortagne, Chris Burkard, Lorenz Holder and Ben Thouard is photographic excellence. We look forward to seeing your images in the contest. Just think, this year it could be you!”

For your chance to enter and win great prizes and the prestige of being a Red Bull Illume winner, get shooting and submit your work here – there’s still time, but only just!

Get some Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional inspiration

Wondering which category to enter?

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Masterpiece 1

© Ydwer van der Heide / Red Bull Illume

We pulled together some of the most inspiring shots from previous editions of Red Bull Illume to give you a better idea of where your winning shot should go. Scroll through the Masterpiece gallery to get into the category’s vibe, then head over to the submit page and start uploading.