Looking back: Emerging by Black Diamond

We wanted to kickstart Emerging by Black Diamond week the right way, by taking a look back and reminiscing on some of the semi-finalists from 2019. We’ve selected eight of the most noteworthy images, shot by up-and-coming talents, so check them out while you get ready for the big semi-finalist announcement coming on Thursday!

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© Brodie Hood / Red Bull Illume

The next generation is here - Introducing the Emerging by Black Diamond semi-finalists!

This round of semi-finalists is bursting with new talent in the category reserved for photographers 25 years and younger.

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© Kristiyan Dimitrov Markov / Red Bull Illume

The Emerging by Black Diamond category is specifically created to shine a light on the youngsters, the newbies, the fresh talent, and essentially the next generation of adventure and action sports photographers. This is a category that levels the playing field, giving everyone 25 years and younger an opportunity to compete at the same level as the pros and they did not disappoint!

We are super stoked to finally share the unbelievable creativity coming out of these photographers who made it to the semi-final stage:

Moritz Ablinger
Chris Anderson
Keiron Berndt
Andrew Dixon
Nick Green
Ian Harland
Nick James
Peter Kaiser
Manuel Kokseder
Pablo León
Jb Liautard
Kristiyan Dimitrov Markov
Thomas Meurot
Marco Müller
Aarón Sio Pretel
Patricio José Díaz Rios
Scott Robb
Gonzalo Robert
Anna Rossini
Mathieu Ruffray

Our partner and sponsor of this category, Black Diamond, is all about climbing and skiing and is known for engineering the best gear possible. Everyone was super stoked to have them on board, especially the young photographers. Why? Well, because the category winner of Emerging by Black Diamond wins a three-day photoshoot with the equipment and apparel manufacturer. On top of that, they’re rewarding a prize for the Best Mountain Photo with a product deal worth up to $5,000 which will be shared with the public at the winner’s unveiling at the end of the year.

A new collection of semi-finalists will be announced every week, so make sure you follow us on social media and visit our website to stay up to date.

Light up your imagination with the Creative by Skylum semi-finalists!

Starting today, we are sharing the semi-finalists from this year's Red Bull Illume Image Quest on a weekly basis. You can expect a great new collection of mind-blowing images each Thursday, so get ready for your dose of inspiring content coming in 3...2...1!

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© Jason Colledge / Red Bull Illume

This is the moment we have all been waiting for! Here are the first semi-finalists of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021, which were selected by our official jury. Let's start with Creative by Skylum, the category where anything goes because images can be enhanced digitally or altered in the darkroom to bring an idea to life. It’s the category with the most freedom, giving photographers the opportunity to let their imagination run wild.

Of course, we’d like to say a huge round of congratulations to everyone who brought their ideas to life and pushed the boundaries of creativity in adventure and action sports photography. These photos will be printed in the limited-edition Red Bull Illume Photobook, to be released towards the end of the year with the unveiling of the final Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 winners.

Creative by Skylum semi-finalists:

Didier Barontini
Jan Burkert
Jason Colledge
Marco Dullnig
Oskar Enander
Nejc Ferjan
Ryan Fernette
Enric Adrian Gener
Denis Klero
Kuba Konwent
Marcelo Maragni
Yuya Matsui
Kevin Molano
Andrew Soria
Daniel Stewart
Mikołaj Walczewski
Mitch Winton

It’s no wonder that Skylum is the perfect partner for this category with their award-winning image enhancement software, especially in a category that encourages editing and changing the original photo. You can see the photographers took full advantage this edition bringing across crazy scenes in all of these unbelievable images.

This is just the first category of semi-finalists to be announced, so make sure you stay up to date on our website and our social media channels for even more semi-finalists next week!

The picture is the reward

We talked with surf photographer Fred Pompermayer about what sparked his love for big waves, where he finds inspiration, and which equipment he relies on.

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© Fred Pompermayer

Where does your passion for photography come from? 
I think my passion for photography was cultivated within my artistic family. My father had a picture frame shop and a lot of artistic friends. My sister is an amazing artist. I have always felt confident behind the lens.

You left Brazil to pursue photography - what are some of your favorite locations to see big waves? 
What drove me to pursue big waves was Mavericks. I remember one day in 1993, at my friend’s house, I saw a photo of Jay Moriarity on the cover of a magazine. He was on a giant wave at Mavericks - it did not look real! That image embedded in my mind and was when my pursuit for big waves actually started. Finally, in 2001, I got to see Mavericks with my own eyes, luckily for me, it was the biggest and baddest day ever.  

In what way do you think growing up in Brazil has influenced you? Do you find yourself returning there frequently? 
Growing up in Brazil was challenging, you have to constantly adapt to new situations. There was not a lot of support and information about becoming a photographer. After moving to California, I continued to visit Brazil every year.  

Where do you spend most of your time these days? What made you choose that country? Does it inspire you? 
California is the mecca of the surfing industry. In Los Angeles, you can find a flight to anywhere in the world. For big wave surfing I am always flying last minute because it's hard to anticipate the conditions, so I have to wait until the very last minute to make my final decision.

You’re well-known for surf photography, but also shoot extreme action sports like base jumping or mountain climbing. What makes extreme action sports interesting for you? 
Outdoor adventure has always been my passion. Extreme sports are interesting to me because of the amount of dedication athletes put into challenging themselves, it’s not only physical, but also mental and spiritual. I also love the community. Plus, to capture these sports you have to be exposed to the elements and this challenge drives me. The picture is the reward.  

What's important regarding equipment?
Throughout my career I’ve always believed it's important to experiment with a variety of cameras and lenses so that you can understand the possibilities and perspectives. For some of my ideas I’ve had to adapt. I’ve had to create my own water housing for big waves and flash photography because I didn't find what I wanted on the market at that time. Doing that expanded my horizons. The important thing about shooting extreme sports is trusting your equipment. Most moments can never be recreated, so you have to capture the shot in the moment. I chose SanDisk for all my memory cards after a really bad experience with another company, I lost all of my data and after that, I only use SanDisk. 

Did Red Bull Illume have an impact on your professional career? 
By far, Red Bull Illume is the best adventure and action sports photography contest in the world and it has inspired me a lot. Seeing all of these talented photographers pushing themselves to capture incredible moments is very motivating to me.

Do you have any projects planned for the coming months? 
I have just finished an incredible climbing documentary in Yosemite. I am still working on that.

You can find more of Fred’s work on Instagram, @fred_pompermayer, or on his website.

Looking back: Creative by Skylum

We wanted to kickstart Creative by Skylum week the right way, by taking a look back and reminiscing on some of those from the previous editions. We’ve selected eight of the most noteworthy images, shot by the semi-finalists of recent years, so check them out while you get ready for the big semi-finalist announcement coming later this week!

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© Leo Francis / Red Bull Illume

WhiteWall joins the team for Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021

The Playground category is officially brought to you by WhiteWall, the photo lab for everyone who loves photography.

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© WhiteWall

Every photographer knows the importance of teamwork, especially when your subject matter is adventure and action sports. Red Bull Illume is all about working together, which is why we’re super excited to have WhiteWall on our team for the Image Quest 2021 and as an official partner of the Playground category: for images that showcase the landscapes, locations, platforms, and environments in which athletes play.

WhiteWall is a leading photo lab in Germany with fourteen years of experience, run by a team of passionate experts. They have a global presence with stores in thirteen countries which ship to the professional photography industry all around the world. Their award-winning photo printing uses high-quality prints under acrylic glass, premium backing materials, and handcrafted frames. The trick is their combination of traditional development methods with state-of-the-art technology, and you want to know what’s really awesome? WhiteWall is giving all category winners of the Image Quest 2021 their very own winning image, printed and framed!

When you think about it, the partnership with WhiteWall is a natural fit in the Red Bull Illume journey; from discovering the world’s greatest adventure and action sports images to honoring the art with premium printing. We just can’t wait to find out whose images are going to win! Stay tuned to our website and social media to find out all the latest news.

Gallery: In the spotlight

We’re shining a light on all the women who are out there shooting adventure and action sports, a male-dominated field, even to this day. Here’s a collection filled with some of the amazing shots that were shared with us over the years. Check it out and get your daily fix of inspiration!

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© Claudia Ziegler / Red Bull Illume

The one-man army whose playground is the French Alps

French photographer, Tristan Lebeschu, tells us about his favorite adventure sports, finding inspiration in the Alps, and how his love of photography began.

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© Tristan Lebeschu

What sparked your passion for photography?
When I did my first winter snowboarding season in 1999 in Tignes, French Alps, I felt the need to keep memories of all the good times with my friends up the hills - so I started with disposable cameras.
Digital photography started growing rapidly and I loved it straight away. The very first digital camera I was using was a Kodak 2MP camera. At the time, I was passionate about panoramas and I was always capturing and stitching together photos.

What impact does living in the French Alps have on your work?
I chose that place for the winter sports and have completely fallen in love with it, all year long. I love to shoot outdoor sports, so I got the perfect playground and backdrops right by my doorstep.

Your work is quite diverse, from real estate to landscape to adventure. Is there something specific you like about photographing adventure sports?
I really don’t like routine, and I love photography as it always provides renewed intellectual challenges - it’s never the same. Especially with outdoor sports, with the variety of sports, the everchanging light and weather conditions you can never shoot the same thing twice.

Which adventure sport is your favorite to shoot and why?
A hard question! I love to shoot all of them, I especially love to shoot activities I’ve never shot before because you’re outside your comfort zone which means your mind is running at 120%. But, if I had to choose only one, it probably would be paragliding / paramotoring or air activities in general because there is so much that hasn’t been done yet, due to complexity of shooting in the air.
The most difficult sport I’ve had to capture is Wingsuit / BASE jumping. Hands down! The action is happening so fast and you can’t repeat it every 5 minutes.

How did you develop your signature style?
I’ve always loved photography with impact, stuff that you stop and look at when you’re scrolling through your social media feed, for instance. So, I’ve always been on the lookout for contrast, color, light, and impactful composition. I also like to use ambient light, flash, or even a mix of both.
My recipe for years has been very simple: Give the best possible justice to the athlete’s performance with the most impactful composition, light and background / backdrop.

Has Red Bull Illume had an impact on your career?
For sure, I love the extra motivation to shoot more personal projects, and I love meeting other photographers and talking with them about our craft and our common issues / ideas.

Did you submit a picture to the Image Quest 2021?
Of course, just like every edition since I first entered 3 editions ago.

You mentioned you were on a photoshoot in Iceland, can you tell us more about it?
Well, yes and no. We often shoot for commercial projects like this one that won’t be released for several months or a year. However, I can tell you about Iceland and how much I love that place. It was my second time there and I fell in love with this incredibly beautiful place all over again. It has one of the most stunning and varied landscapes on the planet with outstanding and welcoming people that keep it clean and protected. I’m a huge fan of New Zealand, I’ve been there 10 times in my life. For me, Iceland is like the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere, or the closest thing I’ve found to it!

Are there any other countries you would like to travel to for photography?
Of course, so many of them, even though local travel is what I’ve got my eyes on at the moment. I think I’m going to explore Europe and the Alps more.

Do you have any tips for aspiring/fellow photographers?
Be passionate and ready to work very hard. Talent is not enough, you are going to need to be a skilled one-man army; marketing yourself, negotiating, doing your accounting, and always improving your skills in areas where you not necessarily at the most ease. But if you’re motivated enough, no mountain is too big for you to climb and it’ll be a beautiful journey to embark on.


You can find more of Tristan's work on his website and on Instagram @tristanshu.

The perfect office is the ocean

Russell Ord, "Energy" category finalist of 2016, talks about the moment his perception of photography shifted, as well as his connection to the ocean.

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© Russell Ord / Red Bull Illume

What made you fall in love with surf photography?
I injured my knee surfing (1999), and instead of just sitting in the lounge, I picked up a camera and started taking photos of my mates surfing. My passion for taking photos grew from there. The learning curve was steep at the start, being self-taught and using film, but I gradually progressed the camera skills. I was also lucky enough to have 20 years of ocean experience to call upon, which is the most complex skill to learn regarding surf photography. 

What’s your favorite thing about photographing surfers and the sea?
I love the ocean's connection with people from all walks of life; it's a real sense of community and coming from a surfing background and working in that type of environment feels surreal. The most complex decisions I have made have been effortless when surrounded by saltwater; it's the perfect office.

What are some challenges you face when photographing surfers?
The ocean itself is the biggest challenge when it comes to taking photos from within the water. The ocean forces me to question my fears and limitations; is it too big for my skill level, am I mentally/physically prepared, what are the risks? All the work/experience required to take these types of images happen many years prior.

Can you share a memory about your career that really stands out for you?
The way I look at my photography completely changed ten years ago, all from an accident. Taking my eyes off the sea resulted in a broken leg in two places, a dislocated knee and a seven-hour drive back to my local hospital. 

While waiting for the surgeon I picked up a leading photography magazine, "Top ten wildlife images of the year". Each photographer was interviewed on the backstory behind their images and how they went about capturing their award-winning photos. 

The number one image, according to the judges, was a photo of a Bengal Tiger dispersing water as it majestically left the pond. The photographer had captured it with a slow shutter, creating a perfect ring of water around the tiger while keeping the big cat in focus. Like many of the other photos, it was breathtaking.

Interested in finding out more, I began to read the backstory of the image and instantly felt disappointed, and somewhat offended, for every other photographer in that competition. How do you award first place to a wildlife photo that was captured in a zoo? 

That article changed the way I look at and contemplate my photography – in reality, 99% of my work is purely just moments in time. Right place at the right time, so to speak, they lacked a story behind the image, no other adversity or skills beyond the camera and pressing the trigger. 

What’s your goal as a surf photographer?
I want to experience all the elements of the ocean and start to push my boundaries. "How did you do that" and "what position are you in to take the image" are essential questions and factors far more critical than the image itself.

What impact did Red Bull Illume have on your career?
Red Bull Illume is pure inspiration for me. I look at the images and imagine the photographer's journey to capture each image; the more adversity I imagine, the greater the image becomes in my mind. 

Is there something photography related you’d like to try for the first time? 
I have been injured for close to 18 months now, but before that, I was training and focusing on a couple of surf spots around the world that I wanted to shoot up close and personal with different angles, which has now been put on hold. Those types of images require peak performance, and I am far from that. I will have a good look within throughout the rest of the year, set goals, and come back better than ever when the time is right.

Is there a location you would like to visit for a shooting one day?
I would love to hang out in Ireland for an extended period of time. The country looks impressive and knowing quite a few Irish people; it would be a great time.

Do you have any tips for aspiring/fellow photographers?
I love this quote: Life is about the journey, not the destination.
Be patient, learn your craft and don't get caught up in the perception of the photography world; it's not all bells and whistles, it can be a challenging journey but certainly, one worth travelling.


You can find more of Russell’s work on his website and on Instagram @russellordphoto.

EyeEm Awards Winner becomes Red Bull Illume Finalist

The next official Red Bull Illume finalist is revealed as the winners of EyeEm Awards 2021 are announced!

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© Song Gang / EyeEm

EyeEm is the global marketplace for premium stock photography and the creators of the EyeEm Awards, a photography contest intended to recognize and honor those who push creative visual boundaries. The winners of this years' contest were recently announced at the Berlin Photoweek on August 29, which also means that we can share one more official Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 finalist!

The contest is comprised of six categories, one of which is ‘Great Outdoors by Red Bull Illume’, which celebrates the unique beauty found in adventures- a philosophy we connect with on many levels. It made sense for us to partner up with EyeEm and give photographers even more opportunity to be honored, which is why this year, the best adventure and action sports image of this category automatically became a Red Bull Illume finalist.

A huge congratulations to Song Gang, winner of the Great Outdoors by Red Bull Illume category, for their mesmerizing image of the gigantic manta ray and diver dancing the ocean. Song Gang said he was surprised and thrilled about winning and describes how lucky he was to capture this magical moment; particularly because when you’re underwater, it’s difficult to talk to the free diver and you can’t really communicate with fish either.

 “We came across the ocean to see the giant oceanic manta rays, the largest type of ray in the world. They can grow up to 7 meters, with a weight of about 3000 kg. However, they are always graceful, like an elegant dancer in the water. Sometimes they liked to dance with each other, and sometimes came to the divers to play with the bubbles. This time, the giant swam to free diver, Aolin, dancing with him and I captured this magical moment.” – Song Gang
 
A host of great prizes awaits Song Gang, as well as all the global exposure and prestige earned by being part of the Red Bull Illume Exhibition Tour and Limited Edition Photobook. All of this, on top being an EyeEm Awards winner too.

We are super excited to share our next official finalist of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 and would also like to say well done to all the winners of the EyeEm Awards for their absolutely jaw-dropping photography. Discover the world of EyeEm and check out Song Gang’s Red Bull Illume finalist photo here. Remember to stay up to date with all the latest news about Red Bull Illume on our website and our social channels!

The camera is a golden ticket

2016 category finalist Corey Rich talks extreme conditions, being an adventurer at heart and challenging yourself.

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© Corey Rich

How did you get into photography? 
One of my teachers on campus invited me to go rock climbing for the first time and I was hooked. I loved everything about it. The sport, the art, the culture of climbing. And I quickly realized I needed to bring the camera along to document my weekend adventures so that when I got back to the playground my stories were more believable. And that was when I was 13 years old, and I am now 45 and those are still my two passions. It’s being outside, adventuring and photography, telling stories, actually, visual stories.

What motivates you to keep creating? 
You know, I think what motivates me to keep creating is I have this wanderlust for life and experience. The camera is that golden ticket, it is the excuse to have adventures and to open doors and see parts of life that otherwise I don’t think I would get exposed to. 

Do you have any tips? 
It’s not about what other people are doing, it’s not about what won the contest last year, it’s “put forward the images that you’re most proud of”. And they will speak for themselves. 
 
What equipment do you trust in when shooting? 
 I’m just always looking for reliable equipment. The best photographs of my career are fleeting moments. They only happen once. And if the equipment fails in that moment, be it the memory in your camera, be it the camera lens, the aperture shutter, the battery – that moment never happened. 

 

“When my heart beats at 160 and sweat is dripping in my eyes, it’s when I enter that creative flow state.”

 

What features are particularly important for your equipment?
 I’m looking for durability. I’m looking for something that’s going to last longer than I do. I’m weak compared to the equipment that I use. I usually buckle because it’s too cold or too windy or I’m too tired before the equipment. I always tell the story of going to the arctic to do a shoot.  We did a ski expedition. We skied in to a deep, deep remote portion of the arctic circle in Alaska and I kept on wanting the batteries to die because it was so miserable working there at -20º to -30º. But the batteries never failed, it was me.  And so that’s the equipment that pushes me to the limit, that allows me to push harder than I’ve ever pushed to make pictures that surprise people. 

What do you always have with you, equipment wise?
My philosophy is to just keep it simple. Less is more. The less you’re doing baggage handling the more you’re focused on actually being creative and that’s where I want my energy to go. 
 
What are some stand out memories or moments of your career?
The highlight is the people that I’ve met and who have become some of my best friends. I talked about the golden ticket, the camera has allowed me to meet some incredible people, elite performers, both in sport and science and music. I’ve learned a lot from those people and I’m a better person because of the folks that I have spent time with during my career. 

How would you describe your style of photography? What makes your images unique?
I consider myself an adventure journalist. I have deep roots in the adventure world and I have also deep roots in the journalism world. And my favorite form of is documenting adventures where I’m truly as much as possible a fly on the wall and along for the adventure. I tend to do very little photoshop work on my pictures. Some of that stems from having grown up shooting slide-film and I still kind of stay true to those ethics as much as I possibly can when not doing an advertising job. 
 
 Where do you find inspiration for your work?
 I think I’m inspired most by being outside. I find when my heart beats at 160 and sweat is dripping in my eyes, it’s when I enter that creative flow state and that’s when I’m more inspired to make pictures and push myself harder.

Stories Behind the Images by Corey Rich, a book filled with 56 chapters of the best moments of his career, is available on Amazon. 
You can find more of his work on coreyrich.com and on Instagram: @coreyrichproductions