Lucas Gilman: What's in the bag?

Red Bull Illume’s exploration into the bags of action and adventure sports photographers continue, as we take a look at what Lucas Gilman has stashed away. Turns out, there's a lot.

red bull illume lucas gilman gear full

© Lucas Gilman

Impressive collection you have there! How long has it taken to build it up?

“I’ve been shooting professionally for almost 18 years. My first camera was a Nikon FM2 with a NIKKOR 50mm lens back in the film days and I’ve continued with Nikon through my journey as a photographer and now filmmaker. There’s something about being comfortable with your gear. It becomes an extension of you. When that happens you can really focus on being creative and not on the technology. There’s a camera and lens for every job. I use the Nikon D5, D500, D810 & D4s along with a grocery list of NIKKOR lenses. The Nikon D5 is so fast. It seems like you can never fill the buffer. The only bummer is I come back with like 16,000 images from an afternoon of shooting at 12 frames-per-second.”

What’s your go-to body and lens combo?

“My go-to camera and lens has to be the Nikon D810 and the Nikkor 24-70mm VR f/2.8 lens. I’m always looking to squeeze as much quality out of each frame as possible and the 36+ MP and super fast 24-70mm allows me to do that. If I’m going to take one lens the 24-70mm is it. It’s wide enough to shoot landscapes and at 70mm it’s a great short telephoto. Recently I’ve been using the Nikon D500 more for shooting surfing as it shoots 10 fps and the autofocus points cover almost the entire frame. Plus the D500 is a crop sensor so I get an apparent 1.5 crop from my full-frame lenses. So my 300mm f/2.8 becomes a 450mm f/2.8, which is rad.”

What’s up with the machete?

“I’ve been shooting kayaking for years in some of the deepest darkest jungles in the world. It pays to have a solid machete when bushwhacking your way through snakes, spiders and God knows what.”

Got anything else no one else has?

“A Gerber tactical pen. It could help you out of a sticky situation if you get cornered by a mugger/kidnapper or break a car window if you are trapped inside. I’ve almost been kidnapped by Zapatista’s in Mexico and held up by knifepoint in the past. I also carry a first aid kit decked out like it could be in a war zone. You can never be too prepared.”

Any items you wish you could add to your bag? 

“The kitchen sink! Jokes aside, I travel with a lot of gear. This gear list doesn’t even take into account the video production gear. The last thing I want to have happen is to get to a location and be like, “Man if I only had X, Y and Z.” My dream piece of gear would be a 100+ MP camera with a global shutter that would sync at any flash speed. That would be epic. Oh and it would shoot 6K, 8K, 10K or whatever the video K is on the horizon.”

What keeps you excited and fresh?

“When you shoot professionally it’s easy to get into a creative rut. I like to do things that I don’t get paid for and try out new techniques and technology. Recently I’ve started shooting motion control time lapses with the Kessler Second Shooter Plus and the Elysia Visuals RamperPro. I’ve been working on the Holy Grail: day-to-night and night-to-day time lapses. The RamperPro allows for auto bulb ramping, which is a huge advancement. On the stills side, I’m working on using more battery powered portable strobes in the field like the Profoto B1’s or now the new broncolor Siros L’s to make my images more dynamic and visually impactful. I like to try out new techniques and then implement them into the paid gigs once I’ve got them down.”

Any tips for aspiring photographers?
"Yeah for sure. I do as much research as possible on the location I'm heading to. The important things to me are:

What time is sunrise/sunset and where does the sun rise and set (I use an iPhone app called Sun Surveyor on location for this as well)

Create a daily shoot plan to maximize your shooting and focus on being at the prime locations at the golden hours.

What's the projected weather - You want to be warm and dry and also keep your gear safe. So you can focus on being creative.

Are there any interesting landmarks I should put on my shoot list? Google Earth has millions of images geotagged with different locations use it to your advantage.

Figure out how much memory you’ll need for the project. I shoot with the D810 which is 36+ megapixels so I bring plenty of SanDisk CF & SD cards. Remember, you will probably shoot more than you think and the last thing you want to be doing as the light is getting perfect is deleting images. Also, plan on backing up your images onto multiple drives. The G-Technology G-DRIVE ev ATC is my go-to in the field because it’s waterproof and shockproof. The reason I backup in the field is you never know when your gear will get nabbed so keeping backup copies geographically separated is key. For instance I’ll have one of the athletes on the expedition hold on to a drive in case my gear is stolen. There is no second chance to make a Red Bull Illume winning image. You’d hate to lose it."


The Full Gear List:

Top Left Tile:Nikon D5Nikon D4sNikon D810Nikon D500Nikon 1 AW1 + NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 AWAF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2 VRAF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8AF-S NIKKOR 800-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VRAF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VRIIAF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4 PF VRAF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 VRAF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 Micro VRMF NIKKOR 500mm Reflex f/8 (mirror)AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4 VRAF NIKKOR 105mm F/2 DCAF-S NIKKOR 60mm f2.8 Micro AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4AF NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 FisheyeNikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight SystemTC-14e III TeleconverterTC-20e III TeleconverterNikon Extension Bellow PB-6eNikon SB5000 SpeedlightsFenix 1000 Lumen FlashlightGiottos Rocket Air BlasterWR-R10 Wireless Remote Controller WR-A10 Wireless Remote Adapter MINDSHIFT Hive Mini Filter Case x 2Formatt-Hitech 3 Stops Firecrest ND or ProStop IRNDFormatt-Hitech 6 Stops Firecrest ND or ProStop IRNDFormatt-Hitech 10 Stops Firecrest ND or ProStop IRNDFirecrest ND 1.8Formatt-Hitech ND Soft Edge Grad 0.6Formatt-Hitech  ND Reverse Grad 0.6Formatt-Hitech  Aluminum Filter Holder Pelican CF Card WalletPelican SD Card WalletSanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB & 256GB CF CardsSanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB SD CardsHonl Photo Black/White Speed GoboHonl Photo Black/Zebra Speed GoboHonl Photo 1/8 Speed GridEneloop Rechargeable Batteries

Top Right Tile:

Pelican 1535 Air Case + TrekPak inserts
TetherTools USB3 Tether Cable + TetherTools Jerkstopper
TetherTools USB3 TetherBoost
Profoto standard Reflector
Profoto Zoom2 Reflector
Profoto Magnum Reflector
Profoto TeleZoom Reflector
Profoto RFi 1,3x2 Softbox
Leatherman Skeletal CX Multitool
Benchmade Griptilian Drop-point AXIS Knife
Profoto Air Remote
Profoto Air TTL Remote N
Profoto B1 500W/s AirTTL Battery Powered Flash x 3
Avenger Turtle Base C-Stand Grip Arm Kit
Quick-Grip 58300 Spring Clamps 

Middle Left Tile:

Fiber Optic Light Painting Brush + Coast HP7 Flashlight
F-Stop Gear Tilopa Backpack
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad
Orca Tactical MOLLE Rip-Away EMT Medical First Aid Kit
FUGOO Tough Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Nikon Aculon 10 x 50 Binoculars
Climbing Harness + Petzl Slings + Petzl Locking Carabiners
Black Diamond ATC
Petzl Climbing Helmet
Gerber Gator Machete
Supernova Halo 180 Extreme Rechargeable LED Lamp
Arc’teryx Theta Gore-Tex Jacket
Persol Di Siena Wayfarer Sunglasses Polarised Lenses
Arc’teryx ACRUX² FL Approach Shoes
Light My Fire Original BPA-Free Tritan Spork
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Sterling Ultraline Water Rescue Rope
Manfrotto Mini Tripod
Snake Bite Kit
Sea To Summit Talus TS I 23 degree Sleeping Bag
Lucas Gilman Productions Custom Team Hat
Nemo OBI LS 2 Person Tent
Sterling 200FT SuperStatic2 Rope
Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Platypus Softbottle Water Bottle

Middle Right Tile:

Avenger Turtle Base C-Stand Grip Arm Kit
Pelican 1535 Air Case + TrekPak inserts
G-Technology G-DRIVE ev ATC with Thunderbolt + 1TB SSD
G-Technology  G-DRIVE ev RaW 1TB SSD
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
Jetboil Flash Cooking System
SPL A-SERIES D810 Waterhousing + Port
Churchill Makapuu Swimfins

Bottom Left Tile: 

Elysia Visuals Ramper Pro v3 Kit
Kessler Crane Stealth Pro Slider
Kessler Crane Second Shooter Plus
Petzl TIKKINA Headlamp
Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly Motor Mount
Kessler Crane DC0 Camera Cable Nikon
Kessler Crane Kwik SHORT Camera Plate
Manfrotto Midi-36 Hybrid LED Panel
ROR Optical Lens Cleaning Solution
Kessler Crane MagPak Battery x 3
Write in the Rain Field Notebook
Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen
Nikon Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth
Kessler Crane DC0 Camera Cable Nikon
Kessler Crane Pocket Jib Traveler
Kessler Crane Kwik Release Receiver x 3
Kessler Crane Kwik MINI Plate
Gitzo Series 2 6X Systematic Tripod
GOALZERO Sherpa 100 Power Pack Battery
Kessler Crane Stealth Crank Handle
Motorola Waterproof Walkabout Radios
Apple iPad Mini + TetherTools Wallee Mountable Case
Sandisk iXpand 128BG Lightning/USB Flash Drive
Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro Laptop
SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable SSD 480GB 

Bottom Right Tile:

Manfrotto Spectra 1 x 1' Bi-Color LED Light (Flood) x2
Really Right Stuff Fluid Gimbal
Arca-Swiss C1 Cube Geared Head
Really Right Stuff Macro Focusing Rail
Avenger Triple Header Bar
Light and Motion Stella Pro Video Light
Gitzo Systematic Ball Head Series 5
Gitzo Series 2 6X Systematic 4S Tripod
Gitzo Series 5 6X Systematic 4S Tripod
Gitzo Series 2 6X Systematic 4S G-L Tripod
Manfrotto NanoPole Light Stand x 3
Manfrotto Super Clamp X 3

For more of Lucas’s work, visit his website, Facebook or Instagram.

While waiting for the unveiling of the winners on September 28, 2016, visit the Red Bull Illume social channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a sneak peek of this edition’s entries. These randomly selected shots showcase just-how impressive the 2016 Red Bull Illume submissions really were.

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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Backcountry ski photography with Bruno Long

Canadian Red Bull Illume photographer Bruno Long is as experienced as they come in the backcountry. Now he’s taking his knowledge and perspective to shoot more people accessing deep powder snow.

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© Bruno Long

Shooting with Trevor Kennison

His photo shoot with sit-ski athlete Trevor Kennison presented unique challenges, but nothing Long couldn’t handle. “To be honest, I was fairly excited but also comfortable before shooting with Trevor. Having had some experience in the past with sit-skiers, my only concern was how we would be able to help him get in and out of the helicopter.” Working as a team with the guide and other skiers made it easier, “we calmly and efficiently got his gear into place to make the transition for Trevor as easy as possible.”

Shooting Trevor Kennison was special in itself, “I would guess that everyone on the team would say that the highlight was watching Trevor absolutely charge off of every feature in sight. Stomp or crash, Trevor goes for it every time. The best part was trying to set him up for cliffs or pillows, discussing the speed or landing zones. But when it came time to hit them, it was full gas, no brakes.”

Such a gung-ho attitude to the backcountry needed special preparation, “What we needed to prepare for most with Trevor was keeping him warm and dry during the shoot. He was dry and warm the entire trip, despite getting more snow in his face and taking more bails that all of our crew combined.”

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© Bruno Long

Backcountry skiing from the photographer’s perspective

Bruno Long mainly shoots backcountry skiing and snowboarding. To shoot such high-performance athletes, you need to be a good, experienced skier too. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have skied in the backcountry for almost 20 years now.” For such pursuits, you don’t just need up-to-date camera equipment but also skiing equipment. “Keep up with the latest technology and make sure you realize when your old gear becomes obsolete.” Finally, there is the avalanche safety aspect of the backcountry “Take a course from a certified instructor. Be a good partner when out skiing and ask the same of your partners too.”

To other skiers and photographers wanting to get into the backcountry, “The biggest tip I would say, if you are new to the backcountry, is seek out some good partners or mentors to get out with.

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© Bruno Long

Locations for backcountry ski photography

Thankfully locations for great skiing and photography are often one and the same. “In terms of locations for skiing in the backcountry, it is hard to argue that there is anywhere better than the mountains surrounding Revelstoke.” In Europe, one mountain area stands out for Long, “there is only one place on my wish list: Engelberg, Switzerland. Every time I see a photo from that place, usually from my favorite ski photographer Oskar Enander.”

Fleeting moments

Bruno Long’s approach is a little more laid back than some, “Unlike many other photographers, I don’t really go out with a specific image in mind. I usually let the light and terrain dictate what I shoot. Often, I will have ideas from past shoots or other images I have seen in the back of my head but rarely do I seek out something ultra-specific. Anticipating when the light is going to change or when shadows are going to have into just the right place, that is the type of imagery I like to shoot. Those fleeting moments that rarely last more than a few minutes.”

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© Bruno Long

Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2023

Bruno Long will be entering Red Bull Illume 2023, “I’m sure that I will be entering the next contest, but I have no idea what will happen. I never expected to win a category in the last one and don’t ever expect to win another one. I always tell people when they ask about contests, that they should really think about if they enjoy their own work before submitting to a contest. If you like what you have created, that is the most important thing.”

Tips for Up & Comers

The Canadian’s tips come from his heart, “My biggest tip for other photographers trying to make it, whether that be action sports or something else, is to just shoot the things that you are passionate about. Then, start experimenting with that passion and push the boundaries of it. Shoot what you love and love what you shoot.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Find out more about Bruno's work on his website and on Instagram.

Shooting the wave, inside and out

Surf photography with British photographer Matt Power.

Red Bull Illume 2023 Matt Power 3

© Matt Power

British photographer Matt Power is a familiar face in the surf and travel scene. He has shot surfing all over the world and worked for prestigious clients like, Air Asia, ROARK, Lulu Lemon and the World Surf League. Here, Power takes us through his journey from the UK to global recognition and what it takes to be successful in Red Bull Illume.

How did you get into surf photography?

When I started photography, I was already extremely passionate about the ocean. I always had a strong draw to the ocean and surfing was already a part of my life before I picked up the camera. A few months after I starting taking photos it seemed like a natural thing to combine my love for the ocean with my new found interest in photography. I ordered my first housing and spent a summer in Cornwall, UK, shooting photos of my friends in the surf. At first it was all just for fun and for the pure joy of going out for a swim and capturing a few moments. It still is very much for that reason that I shoot, but I guess things have evolved a lot more now and I have managed to forge a life revolving around surf/ocean photography.

Red Bull Illume 2023 Matt Power 1
© Matt Power

What are the biggest challenges?

Over the years as a surf photographer, there have been many highs and equally many lows. My work has evolved to be more focused on artistic ocean/surf shots as opposed to client based surfing action shots. This alone is quite a big challenge as I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to create consistently unique and artistic photos in the water. I have had long spells of feeling like I don’t have the ‘spark’ anymore, but I always come back to the desire within to get out there and shoot. As I am always looking for unique shots, this often means relying on very specific surf conditions and lighting to align, which means I spend a lot of time planning shots before I actually go and shoot them, but this is a challenge that I enjoy. Over the years making decent money from surf photography has been a challenge, it took a while to make a name for myself and consistently get clients, but dedication and perseverance pay off in the end.

What equipment do you trust when shooting?

I have shot with a few different camera brands over the years but now I am using Sony gear pretty exclusively. My trusty A7Riii has been a solid companion over the years, and is my main workhorse. I wouldn’t take it in the water without my incredibly good quality surf housing from Liquideye, I have used their housings since the begin and for me they are the best in the business.

Red Bull Illume 2023 Matt Power 5
© Matt Power

Describe your perfect day shooting surfing

That’s a tough one as the shot I am chasing is always changing! However, a typically perfect day would be waking up at sunrise and shooting some empty waves at a favorite spot of mine in Indonesia, with clean offshore conditions and nice soft morning light. I always find shooting empty waves very meditative and puts my mind in a really good state for the day ahead. I tend not to shoot too much in the middle of the day as I prefer softer light, however I might opt to shoot some underwater shots of waves breaking from below, which is a fascinating subject. The day would end with a sunset session with some mates in the water, shooting some action shots and speed blurs at last light.

Where’s your favorite place to shoot surfing action?

I love shooting different spots around Indonesia. There are some heavier waves in Sumbawa that I always keep going back to and then some beautiful spots in Southern Sumatra. There are also a few spots close to me in Bali that I can always count on to keep me getting out there, but I will keep them on the down low for obvious reasons.

What’s the dream shot you want to nail?

I have a few shots in mind that I would love to nail, and they keep me inspired to keep at it. Location wise I would love to get to Tahiti and Ireland in the near future.

Red Bull Illume 2023 Matt Power 2
© Matt Power

What makes a great action sports shot?

I think a shot that evokes emotion and makes the viewer feel like they are right there in the moment. It is an instant feeling when you see a shot like that, a sort of ‘wow’ that comes up and you can’t stop looking at it. Usually a clear subject/action to focus on and a strong composition with plenty of depth in the image. Telling the story of the action in one frame is demanding and requires you to really get up close to the action. That’s why I often like to shoot wide and close for surfing action as you can fill the frame with the core action whilst still getting plenty of surrounding details.

What are your top three tips for anyone who wants to submit content to this year’s Image Quest?

Red Bull Illume is extremely prestigious and so requires contestants to really think outside the box to get a unique shot that stands out from the rest. I would say make sure to shoot what you are truly passionate about and not what you think will be a good subject, this way your passion is more likely to shine through in your images. Secondly, make that extra effort to go and create that dream shot of yours. It is in your head and waiting to manifest into reality, so get up and get out there and push that extra mile to make it happen! It might require long travel, sleepless nights and harsh conditions, but that’s what it’s all about. Thirdly I would say don’t get caught up in thinking you need the latest, most expensive camera gear. It can be easy to start thinking you can’t achieve a shot without a certain camera or lens. My Red Bull Illume shot was taken with a very cheap manual focus fisheye lens which I had almost decided to sell!

Are you planning on submitting in 2023? Do you already have ideas in mind?

I would like to enter, yes. There are definitely some shots I have in mind that I haven’t taken yet, so I guess I should get out there and crack on!

Find out more about Matt’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram @mattpowerphoto

Moving behind the lens with Bartek Woliński

Bartek Woliński is a regular face in the mountain bike world of photography. He frequently shoots UCI events around Europe and does campaigns worldwide. He is also a frequent face at Red Bull Illume, having been a finalist in the Image Quest 2016 twice and a semi-finalist in 2021. He breaks down his passionate and unique approach to bike photography and how he approaches a competition like Red Bull Illume.

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© Bartek Woliński / Red Bull Illume

How did you get into bike photography?
It’s my lifelong passion, I have been riding bikes since childhood. At some point photographing others turned out to be more fun, than doing crazy tricks myself. Now 15 years later, it’s my job, and I’m still having fun on my bike.

What are the biggest challenges?
Bad weather on a shooting day, when you wait for the sunset on the top of the mountain and it never comes (happened to me too many times!).

Red Bull Illume 2023 Bartek Wolinski 2
© Bartek Woliński

What equipment do you trust when shooting?
I have been shooting Nikon since forever, it’s the first camera I chose, and I’m still with this brand. I usually shoot with zoom lenses during the events, and primes during the photoshoots when I have more time to switch between them. Since last year I also switched to a mirrorless body and lenses, and I must say I'm hooked on it.

Describe your perfect shooting day
I don’t think it exists, I mean it’s still coming. Seriously I have no idea, but dirt jumps with bunch of good friends at sunset in an epic place, sounds pretty good to me

Red Bull Illume 2023 Bartek Wolinski 1
© Bartek Woliński

Where’s your favorite place to shoot?
Most of my photo shoots take place in the mountains due to the fact I shoot a lot of bikes, but I really enjoy it, and I think I’m a bit of a mountain guy. Weather can always change very quickly which only makes the shoots more interesting to me. On the other hand I really like shooting in Utah at Red Bull Rampage because of the beautiful light, and very long sunsets in the desert. But to answer your question, I don’t think I have any favorite place to shoot, I really like all the places I can travel to take photos, and every new place is always a challenge and fun to photograph.

What do you do in the winter months?
Winter is always off-season for me, but I also have quite a lot of preparations before the next season, so this time goes by very quickly. I always try to go on vacation, as well as photograph other sports like skiing or snowboarding, but to be honest I usually end up in a warm place shooting bikes or just skiing at home.

What makes a great action sport shot?
I think the composition, lights and shadows, and certainly the moment of the image. I always pay attention to catch the rider at the perfect moment, with the best light possible.


Red Bull Illume 2023 Bartek Wolinski 3
© Bartek Woliński

What are your top three tips for anyone who wants to submit content to this year’s Image Quest?
I think it’s worth trying, and if you have any idea for a photo, just go out and shoot it, and submit it to Red Bull Illume. There is nothing more rewarding than being amongst so many good photographers with your favorite shot being up alongside theirs.
Think wisely when choosing an image for each category, make sure the judges will see it as a good choice. You can also check the finalists from previous years, sometimes it helps with the selection.
Try to have a nice selection of photos for each category, and also submit everything you can, and have your own style.

Are you planning on submitting for Red Bull Illume? Do you already have ideas in mind?
Yes, I definitely plan to send in my entries for the contest, and I hope I will find some time to shoot something special for it as well, I have some ideas in my head for a long time.

To see more of Barteks's work check out his Instagram.

No color - no problem, monochrome photography

There is a skill to just shooting black and white photography. Far from being restrictive monochrome allows photographers to shoot a completely different perspective to what you would usually expect. Here is a collection of the most striking Red Bull Illume images, all in black and white which display the versatility of monochrome.

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© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

Getting creative with Luis Arriaga

The Red Bull Illume finalist gives us the lowdown on his mind-bending shot.

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© Luis Alejandro Arriaga Osorio / Red Bull Illume

What if your eye sees what the camera can’t? What if you look up into the skies and your imagination sees incredible lines and endless possibilities if only the rules of gravity (and trespassing) could be ignored? That’s where the Creative category comes in. It’s for images that have been digitally enhanced. It’s an open category, so anything goes. If you enter the creative category, you are free to create an image that matches what you want to see. And that is what finalist Luis Arriaga did when he wandered past Mexico City’s iconic Museo Soumaya. He explains more below.

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© Luis Alejandro Arriaga Osorio

Tell us how your winning image came about?
A skater always looks for where they can skate – a flight of stairs or a rail go from being a tool, to a perfect place to challenge yourself. The image was born while I was walking around in Mexico City. The building in the image is a museum but its shape is quite peculiar, which made me imagine what it would be like to experience skating on a structure with those characteristics. All you have to do is turn your head to give it a new dimension. It immediately became a colossal bowl with the architecture in-between. It's the dream of any skater, in my mind I visualized it immediately and decided to turn it into an image.

How did you do that?
I remembered that some time ago I had photographed Diego skating some quarterpipes and had the perfect image to achieve my idea. After achieving the ideal composition and applying some adjustments to integrate the athlete in the original image, this was the final result.

Was it part of the plan to submit the image into Red Bull Illume from the beginning?
I had planned to submit it to Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 since the idea of the photograph was born. When I started my career as a photographer, Red Bull Illume became one of my biggest inspirations and being part of the 56 finalists is a dream come true.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Luis Arriaga 3
© Luis Alejandro Arriaga Osorio

What was the biggest challenge of the shot?
One of the most complicated things was getting the images that would make up the final one and to have the light in the same direction so that the post-production process was as simple as possible, trying to respect the essence of the idea. I was very careful with the shooting angle of the athlete's photograph and when working with natural light the conditions change quite quickly.

How long did it take you to get the final image?
Considering the time it took to do both shots, it was about a week of the whole process.Having a clear idea in my mind and taking care of details such as the direction of the light, as well as the proportions from the shot helped a lot in the post-production process, which took approximately two days, being very careful with every detail.

Would you do anything differently if you were to take the image again?
Not really, the colors of the sky, the athlete's trick, each of the conditions created a synergy that made it a unique image.

Do you have any tips on adventure and action sports photography in general?
It is very important to know the lines of movement of each of the action sports to capture the exact moment of the action. Having a technical knowledge of how light behaves helps to have better control of the situation and to be able to create new atmospheres. Try different angles, perspectives, lose the fear of getting dirty, and lastly, bring enough batteries and memory cards for the session.

Follow Luis on Instagram to see more of his stunning work!

Sub-zero photography

In many parts of the globe the temperatures are dropping and snow is falling, for some that’s a reason to stay inside. Not for these Red Bull Illume photographers who braved the elements and literally scaled mountains to get the perfect shot. We've collected the most impressive winter sports photography from the previous edition for you. Browse through from the comfort (and warmth) of home and get inspired for your next day out!

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© Markus Berger / Red Bull Illume

Let's talk business - Philipp Klein Herrero's tips for making it

His lockdown story of a stop-motion skier went viral during the pandemic and won the Photo Story category in the Image Quest 2021 for its brilliance and originality. Below, the outdoor adventure photographer gives his advice for aspiring photographers.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Philipp Klein Herrero 1

Shoot, shoot and shoot
What I’ve learnt is that creativity is a muscle, and you have to train it. Also, to get good at anything, you need to practice a lot – not even the great masters of photography were born knowing how to shoot iconic images. This will also help you to find your own style and know your strengths and weaknesses.

Shoot what you love
From the beginning I focused on creating a portfolio that reflected the stuff I wanted to shoot – remote adventures, action sports and outdoor lifestyle. I wanted potential clients to hire me to further develop in that direction, instead of being hired for more real estate or social events. As you’re starting out, it’s better if clients hire you for what you like, rather than getting work sooner but for gigs that are not pushing you where you want to go.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Philipp Klein Herrero 2
© Philipp Klein Herrero

Learn the basics
If you want to convince someone to pay for your work, make sure that you can meet their expectations. We’ve all taken on jobs that were awe-inspiring, scary and out of our comfort zone, but you have to know inside you that you are able to deliver and have a plan of how to achieve it. By the time I knew I wanted to combine my passion for adventures and storytelling, I already had a sound understanding of the basic principles of photography and videography, meaning that when I went out to shoot, I could focus on being creative, not on learning how to use my camera.

Don’t stress about having the latest gear
People will have you believe that you need the latest and greatest camera because of special features, but the truth is that you can get an older generation model second hand and shoot with it until it’s not working anymore. Think of it this way: other photographers created amazing images with that model when it was new and didn’t miss the new features, so you can use it too!

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© Phillip Klein Herrero

Be part of the community of creators and athletes
They might be in a similar phase of their career and will want to collaborate and help out on projects or be a great source of knowledge. Over time, they will help you along the way.

Be yourself
Like all relationships in life, if you’re not yourself, it doesn’t work out in the long run. Be sincere, honest, and always try to go above and beyond expectations. That also means sometimes saying “No” or recommending someone else if the expectations are beyond your current ability.

Be part of the adventure
Being part of the adventure means being able to feel what is happening and transmit it in a more real and intimate way. It also changes the results because I’m restricted by the amount of gear I can take with me.  At first, I used to be scared bringing only one or two lenses as I feared missing out, but what I’ve found over time is that it actually makes me more creative, having to find the shot working around the restrictions.

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© Philipp Klein Herrero

Write it down
I normally have a notebook with me (or the notes app on my phone) and write down new ideas and concepts that inspire me.

Don’t be scared of using your camera
It’s a tool. I know camera gear is expensive, but it’s designed to withstand harsher environments than we are, and if you keep it buried in the backpack, you might miss that once in a lifetime shot.

Seek inspiration from the best
Study their work and think about how you could recreate those images (or give them a personal twist). I thought I knew photography but I saw that I got a much deeper understanding when I asked myself how the photos of my inspirations were taken. I keep learning every day!

Don’t focus too much on Instagram trends
They might help you grow an audience and provide inspiration, but it won’t define your own style and creativity. Ideally, you will push your own work and it will find its audience over time.

To see more of Philipp's work check out his website and Instagram! He also made a behind-the-scenes video of his winning Red Bull Illume video which you can watch here.

Mountain Bike Photography with Moritz Ablinger

We head into the woods with the Emerging by Black Diamond category semi-finalist Moritz Ablinger to see how he shoots pro riders.

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© Moritz Ablinger

Flat light is usually the photographer’s worst enemy and photographers spend hours looking at weather forecasts to find those moments when the light is at its best to bring color and contrast to a shot. But when you’re shooting mountain bikers in a forest, the opposite is true. 

“For shooting in the woods it’s usually better when it’s cloudy,” says Moritz Ablinger, whose aerial shot of freeskier Tao Kreibich was one of the top 256 images of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021. For that reason, he cancelled the shoot on a day when nine hours of sunshine was forecast, instead, opting for a day when it would be overcast. The reason? Flat light ensures your athlete is evenly lit, making sure they stand out more, without the need for artificial filler lighting. To compensate for the low light, he explains that he uses a wide 2.8 aperture lens to get the sharpness.

This is one of the advice Moritz gives as he takes us behind the scenes on a mountain bike shoot with pro athletes Vali Höll and Peter Kaiser in two locations in the Austrian mountains – Nature Trail Rossbrand and Bikepark Schladming.

“One of the reasons I enjoy shooting with Peter so much is he’s a videographer and photographer himself so he knows what it’s about,” adds Moritz.

As an athlete and Downhill World Champion, Vali also appreciates good photography. “It’s super important because it captures the most amazing moments of my career,” she says. “I’ve known Moritz for quite a few years – he saw me growing up, which is cool.”

Together the athletes and photographer were able to work on the images they had in mind, then analyze the results using the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 (14”) flagship convertible laptop. Thanks to its up to 4K OLED touchscreen display, colors come out more vivid and the blacks are more inky for a life-like resemblance.

“I’m super happy with the pictures,” adds Moritz. “Those guys really know what they’re doing when it comes to big jumps and it was so much fun just watching them.”

Because of its curved comfort design the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 is easier to carry and use for longer periods. Its 360-degree multi-mode hinge also makes it super versatile for people who are on the road, whether tapping away on their lap or using it like a tablet.

For great deals on the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 laptop, head over here.

If you haven’t seen Moritz’s Red Bull Illume shot and the story behind it, check it out here and get more inspiration for your photography.

The perfect moon shot

The action sports photographer Yhabril spent seven years chasing the moon to get his winning shot. He explains why teamwork was key.

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© Yhabril / Red Bull Illume

What was the inspiration behind your winning image?
My own dreams were my inspiration for this shoot, I’ve been dreaming of moon shots and epic action sports shots since I started in photography and those dreams have been getting bigger and bigger, resulting in this image.

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© Yhabril

How did the idea come to life?
I guess it’s all about the natural evolution of my photography and the constant need of improving and getting to the next level. It’s also about the concept of the brotherhood between skiers and snowboarders, we always shred together and we never understood that rivalry that some people have, we are all into this because we love the sports, the mountains, the snow, and this lifestyle, and I wanted to create an image that represented this brotherhood. Two weeks before, I got together with the boys and we talked about the shot we wanted and how we could achieve it, drawing some sketches that resulted in the final shot.
Also, since I first heard of Red Bull Illume I set it as a goal and personal challenge in my photography and if you really want to have your work recognized in this awesome contest you need to explore and innovate as much as you can, that also helped me to come up with the idea for the photo.

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© Yhabril

How important was the relationship with the athlete?
I’d say it is essential but not only for this image, but for my whole portfolio. It’s mandatory to have an intense rapport with the athlete, when that feeling exists, difficult things seem to be easier, you feel safer, we both have confidence in each other. The relationship with the athlete has a tremendous effect. But also their attitude, for me to go on a shooting with someone, there are some things I need beyond friendship and that person’s quality as an athlete, such as patience and passion.

Good athletes are good photographers, even without realizing it, we often study the locations together and we dream together about the perfect conditions. That is when I realize that they also have a photographic eye, they help a lot in terms of framing, composition, interpretation of light.

Great photos are rarely a coincidence, they are the result of teamwork and I have the privilege that my friends are very good at the sports we practice and they are always willing to get the shot.

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© Yhabril

Did the shooting process go smoothly? Were there any difficulties?
Getting to take this type of photo demands a lot of previous experience. I put a huge amount of hours into it, I’d say that this is the most difficult shot I’ve ever planned. It’s also a challenge to get both the riders and the moon decently in focus. I wanted to have them creating that precise composition inside the moon and calculating that took a lot of time. There´s nothing random in this shot.
We worked for a week preparing the terrain, we had to carry a lot of photographic gear and the specific mountain gear we needed to work on the features and to be safe up there.

Once we got to the place we had to build two kickers and two starters since the location was a high mountain ridge with limited room to get the speed we needed, and this is maybe the hardest part of the planning, if you fail in the exact location of the kickers you miss the shot. Once you have the scenery ready you just have to wait for the moment and pray for a bluebird sky that day, along with being confident in the riders to synchronize the jump and the handplant. That’s the real challenge.

On the day, we went for an epic sunset session, testing the kickers and training for the moon shot. When the moon was rising I went to my place 300m away, communicating via walkie talkies. Once in position I had trouble finding the exact point where I was supposed to be and I became very nervous, I wandered around for 10 minutes with the snow almost around my waist and thinking that we would miss the photo but at last I found the place I was looking for.

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© Yhabril

How did you find the location for this image?
The shot was taken on our home mountain, the Malacara Peak in the Spanish Pyrenees next to Villanúa, the village where I live. I know this terrain very well, I’ve always seen the moon rising behind that mountain. This shot is the result of chasing the moon for seven years. I first planned a Moon Shot in 2015 and after that I’ve been working to keep on improving and innovating and always trying to include action sports in the final image.

Check out the behind-the-scenes video from Yhabril below!

Red Bull Illume Category Winner heads to India

The main prize for the category, Energy by Red Bull Photography, was a dream shoot. Rod Hill made the most of his victory with a trip to India.

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© Rod Hill

The Energy category came with the prize of a trip sponsored by Red Bull Photography, and was won by the New Zealand photographer Rod Hill for his shot of a whitewater kayaker. In October he got the chance to claim the main prize – an all-expensed trip to northeast India to shoot the Megha Kayak Festival, a four-day international event on the Umtrew river.

Rod said it was an incredible experience and opportunity – made possible by Red Bull Illume. “India is a one-stop shop for light, colour, sound, festivals, food and total chaos,” he said. “It’s definitely a bucket list country for anyone with a camera. It's not a relaxing holiday though – it's a total body experience!” But he added it was real fun. “You've got 100 kayakers there – it was some really picturesque stuff.”

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© Rod Hill

Amazingly, Rod is not a professional photographer but a chemistry teacher in Rotorua, New Zealand. But he has had a passion for photography for many years, in particular, whitewater kayaking photography.

Rod didn’t just win the sponsored trip. He also took home a Leica Q2 camera which he absolutely loves, a Yoga 9i PC from Lenovo, a Workflow Bundle from SanDisk Professional, and his winning shot printed and framed by WhiteWall and outdoor gear from Black Diamond.

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© Rod Hill

But the best part was the trip to India. As well as the festival, he also spent a week travelling around Kolkata, visiting a mangrove forest which he says was amazing. “I've been photographing for a really long time. I like to get that one shot that explains everything,” he told his local paper, the New Zealand Herald. “It's like hunting and trying to chase to get that one photo where everything lines up.” Check out the images Rod’s captured in India below!

If you haven’t seen Rod’s Red Bull Illume winning shot and the story behind it, check it out here!