Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Eric Berger

Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Eric Berger

Eric Berger’s winning photo in Red Bull Illume’s New Creativity category is a reminder for any photographer who thinks they need complex lighting techniques or a 'big photo concept' to produce a truly creative photo. The photo combined all the classic elements of a ski shoot – a powder trail, a sense of acceleration, bluebird skies – with a really interesting twist. Eric literally got down 'in the hole' to shoot the action from below while capturing some beautiful ice formations.

As Eric also noted in his description of the photo, "it resembles a closing wave shot from within". The photo has depth, that says it all.  It was also Eric’s 'lucky photo', winning him 'Photo of the Year' at Powder Magazine in 2010

With over twenty five years experience as a freelance photographer, including ten years at Transworld Snowboarding in the 1990s, Red Bull Illume caught up with Eric to find out more about his life as an action sports photographer and what advice he would give to photographers working their way up in action sports photography.

Q: What reception have you received since winning your category in Red Bull Illume?
I was surprised to see how many people were aware of the victory and I’ve had a great reaction from friends and peers.
 
Q: What difference has winning made to your photography career?
I wouldn't say it has made a difference in my career other than being further motivated to create exhilarating images and experiment with creative techniques.

Q: What’s inspiring you right now as a photographer?
I am getting much pleasure out of furthering my digital processing abilities and experimenting with creative manipulations.

Q: What must a photographer keep in mind while shooting an action scene?
When I get ready to shoot and action image, my first thought is composition. How can I best capture the moment and convey the excitement. I also think of exposure. Do I want to freeze the action or create the illusion of motion through a blur? What sort of depth of field will work best and so on.

Once I have established these points, I move towards communicating my expectations to the athlete so that we are on the same page as to what is going to happen and where. Planning and communication are everything in the type of photography I capture. I also think of safety and make sure that both the athlete and myself are out of harms way and if necessary, we have a safety plan in place.

Q: How important is location to you?
It depends on what you are trying to capture. Often in sports photography, the action is what you are after, regardless of the location. However, when shooting sports, I always try to capture the image in a setting that enhances the action. So for me, location is very important.

Q: In the field, what kind of challenges do you get and how do you overcome them?
I shoot ski and snowboard photography mainly so the obvious challenges are working in cold temperatures and being exposed to the elements. Other challenges include accessing the locations which in my case, are often in the backcountry. This brings other concerns such as avalanche hazards and exit strategies.

I overcome all these challenges through experience. First I choose to work with gear that is designed to withstand the elements. I dress accordingly and have years of experience working in the mountains. Sometimes I shoot in resorts, which is relatively safe and easy to get around. Other times we use helicopters, which requires patience around the machine and awareness of the surrounding dangers. I also occasionally use a snowmobile to access backcountry locations. This requires a whole different set of skills that can only be overcome through experience.

Q: How do you physically and mentally prepare for your shoots?
It really depends on the assignment. For basic, day to day shooting at the resort, I check the weather forecast, call up athletes and plan a meeting time. Once we are on the hill, I let my gut take over and look for inspiration around me as we move through the mountains. I don’t like to 'force' a shot if I don’t feel it creatively.

For more complicated shoots such as location travel, I inform myself of the details of the location and how best to prepare for it. For dangerous locations I draw upon my experience and try to use good judgment.

Q: What is the best equipment for practicing sports photography?
You need to adapt to whatever it is you are shooting. In my case, I work in mountainous winter conditions so I choose to work with the best gear available to me whether it be clothing, camera gear, skis, etc.

Regarding camera equipment specifically, I choose to work with a digital SLR body and fast lenses. My body is a Nikon D3s, which is incredibly rugged and versatile. I have a number of lenses ranging from a fisheye to 300mm f2.8. I prefer to work with zoom lenses for the most part to minimize the gear I have to carry.

Q: What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
I’ve been working on putting together a vintage collection of images for a British Cycling magazine that is re-publishing a story I was involved with 13 years ago in Bike Magazine. Beyond that I am beginning to put together ideas for trips for this coming winter season. They include heli-skiing in British Columbia and hopefully a trip to Europe.

Q: What words of wisdom would you share to anyone wanting to become an action sports photographer?
1. Learn the fundamentals of photography and understand how your equipment works. Do not rely on automatic settings.
2. Understand the sports you are going to shoot so that you know what moments to capture and how best to create exciting images of them.
3. Prepare yourself so that you can overcome complications such as bad weather and logistics.
4. Learn to communicate with your athletes and gain their trust. Never force anyone to do something they are not comfortable with.
5. Have your act together and always be professional in your approach.

www.ericbergerphotography.com

Read the latest stories

I know a spot: Vegard Aasen

In this new series we focus on something that defines an image like nothing else; the location. Whether it's the center of attention or literally just a backdrop - a unique scenery and a stunning environment are fundamental parts of adventure and action sports photography.

In each episode we are talking to a different Red Bull Illume photographer and get behind their strategy on location scouting. What equipment do they take to remote locations, how do they find new spots and how far would they go to get that perfect shot?

 

© Vegard Aasen / Red Bull Illume

First up: Red Bull Illume 2019 semi-finalist Vegard Aasen. He told us what angles are important to capture moments of action in unique places, which app you should download and why good old maps (not the Google ones!) sometimes are your best friend.

How would you describe your style of photography?

Oh, this one's though! Ambitious maybe? My images are clean with only a few elements in them.

 

What makes a "perfect" image to you?

I don't think the perfect image exists. At least I haven't seen one yet! For me, a really good image gives me a feeling of some sort. This can be achieved in many different ways and also depends on the style of photography. With action sports photography, sometimes the images without the element of action are the ones that speak to me the most.

 

Where's your favorite spot to take images?

Preferably on a really remote location, with no one else around except me and the people involved in the photoshoot. As a wildlife photographer I prefer to be all by myself, however, as an action sports photographer I prefer to do shoots with close friends. Hurrungane [Norway] is my favorite spot that's close by; it's an alpine mountain range that's an hour drive away from my house. Google it and you will understand why.

 

How do you find new, undiscovered and stunning locations?

It is hard to find totally new locations, unless you go to really remote places (this might be one of the reasons I like it so much). If you don't want to do that my tip would be to do unique things in already discovered locations. I use Instagram, Facebook and Google a lot to look for new places that might work and I do lots of location scouting. But the only way to know if a location will work is to go there.

 

What are you looking for when you are location scouting?

Not for anything specific, actually, unless I have a certain image in my mind. I usually look for something that stands out in some way and works in a photo. That could be a cool-looking mountain, a cave, a building, a tree or just structures.

 

How do you present well-known places in a new and interesting way?

I don't go to those places often, but when I do, I try to find a new angle, interesting light conditions or put in an element that never has been there before. For example, a BMX in an ice cave...

 

If a place is very crowded, e.g. with tourists, how do you keep people out of your image?

The easiest way to do that is to go there when no one else is. You will also get the best light conditions then. I really have not had a problem with crowded places before.

 

How far would you go to get the perfect shot in the perfect location?

I think if the image is worth it I'll invest a lot of energy to make it happen. I have dragged around studio flashes in waist-deep snow in the middle of the night more than once. There are always images that end up being a 2-year-project, because they require perfect conditions. Unique photos often demand a good amount of time, planning and equipment. It's a real bummer, if everything is almost perfect, but the flash you would have really needed was too heavy to bring with you.

 

Do you have some tips on how to find new spots and locations?

Use maps, save images on Instagram so you remember them and buy running shoes to go on location scouts in remote places! I would also recommend downloading an app that shows the position of the sun at all times.

Where can we find more of your work?

On my website and on my Instagram!

Justin Coomber: Seeking adventures in South Africa

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Justin Coomber cycled 2,400 kilometers through South Africa, where he currently lives, to gain more awareness for a cause that has a very personal meaning to him. He did this incredible trip all by himself and had to overcome more than one obstacle. He told us about his adventure and shows us some of his favorite photographs from private as well as assigned projects.

 

© Justin Coomber / Red Bull Illume

Tell us a little bit more about your journey, what was the goal?

Last year I completed my 37-day solo cycle through the whole of South Africa. Starting in Limpopo and ending in Cape Town, I covered 2,400km in total in order to raise funds and awareness for the Warrior on Wheels Foundation.
When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause inflammation on your spinal cord. Not only could I not physically handle the everyday-life activities, I also wasn't able to do what the rest of the kids could do, like participate in sports and be active outdoors.
That's why I try to support the Warrior on Wheels Foundation. They aim to empower children with disabilities, enabling them with opportunities to be adventurous in nature. By completing this cycle - even with minor lasting nerve damage in certain parts of my body - I hope to inspire those children.

 

So how did the journey go? Were you nervous beforehand?

It was quite a challenge, I'm not a cyclist and I naively only trained for 1 day and a total of 32km the week prior. It definitely took me a few days to get into the swing of things and to become friends with my saddle. Unfortunately, after a week the tendons and ligaments in my right knee became very inflamed. That set me back a few days which I thankfully made up in due time. I would say the mental strength is just as vital. I had to learn how to stay motivated and positive when I had long days ahead of me. Having South Africa's landscapes around me and getting to capture it along the way definitely helped. That and the kind people I met on the journey. All in all, there is nothing as rewarding as coming out the other side of such a demanding expedition.

How did you feel when you finally crossed the finish line?

When I saw Table Mountain for the first time in over a month I might have shouted with joy. Those final 100 meters, seeing my friends at the finish line, along with a few kids from the Warrior on Wheels Foundation, were truly special. It concluded the end of a 2-year dream which felt amazing and sad all at once.

 

This trip and your story are super interesting, do you always try to take on photo projects with a meaning behind them?

Yeah, I think you add more value to a project if it has some sort of deeper background to it. The projects I like to do have some kind of story or narrative to back up the images, it adds layers to the complete story, making it more compelling and interesting, in my opinion.

 

What is one thing you learned from this once-in-a-lifetime trip?

So much, aside from the physical aspect and seeing that you are able to push so much more than you thought you were capable of. These mental and emotional obstacles that I had to overcome are what I really hold on to.

 

What equipment did you take with you?

Photographic equipment was the last thing on the list when it came to preparing for this trip. Once I had covered all my bases with the equipment I needed on the road, I looked at what space I had left and managed to fit in my camera and a lens or two (24-70mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and my 70-200 f2.8). In retrospect I could have left the 70-200mm one behind as I only used it once or twice and it added a lot of unnecessary weight. I also took a small tripod and a set of polarizing filters for some long exposures. A small solar charging panel and a power bank are a definite must as well!

Experience more of Justin's journey across South Africa on his blog!

 

How did your relationship with (adventure) photography begin?

I have always had a keen interest in photography but never thought it was something you could pursue as a career. Then, after taking a gap year as an outdoor adventure guide, I was looking at my passions and tried to find out how to make them into a possible career. That's when I discovered you could merge adventure/sports and photography in one thing and make a living out of it. I haven't looked back since.

 

What makes the "perfect" image to you?

When someone looks at an image and their first reaction is pure awe and they want to know more about the image. How, where, why or any questions like that, that's what I aim for. Ultimately, it should stir them and provoke some sort of emotion or thought.

Where do you find inspiration for your images?

As cliché as it sounds, but I find it everywhere. It can be from music, art, nature, sports or absolutely anything that I find intriguing.

Any dream projects you wish to accomplish in the future?

Absolutely, I have got a few in my mind and I'm sure there will be many more in the years to come. I am acutally working on my next expedition that I will hopefully reveal within the next few months.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can take a look at my work on my website or follow me on my Instagram.

 

Gallery: 10 simple but strong images

No color, no elaborate scenery, no overwhelming action - these images show that sometimes a simple composition can be enough. The following gallery that features pictures from the past Red Bull Illume Image Quests shows how catching an image can be that is reduced to its simplest parts. Because a plain image can tell a great and gripping story as well!

Photographer: Dean Treml / Red Bull Illume 2010
Athlete: Steve Black
Location: Hamburg, Germany

Photographer: Dean Treml / Red Bull Illume 2010 Athlete: Steve Black Location: Hamburg, Germany

Images that will make you yearn for water

The images from Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Mahallia Budds are the best evidence that her favorite element has to be the water. She immerses herself in wakeskating, the sport she lives, breathes and captures. With us, she shared the beginning of her relationship with wakeskating, why the sport means so much to her and those defining moments of her career.

© Mahallia Budds / Athlete: Felix Georgii

How did the relationship between you and wakeskating begin?

On the California Delta - Discovery Bay to be exact. It was my second summer at wakeboard camp and my wakeboard coach - Josh Smith - encouraged me to try wakeskating. I loved the freedom of being able to move my feet around the board and was instantly hooked. It’s all I could think about from that point forward. Shortly after, I purchased my first wakeskate. It was Nick Taylor’s Anna Maria Island 38.5 Integrity. I still have this board and take it out for a spin every now and then.

What came first: Wakeskating or photography?

I started playing around with my dad’s film cameras when I was about seven years old. However, wakeskating came before I began photographing professionally. It’s wild how a few planks of wood can rule over a decade of your life. Watching wakeskate films like Aquafrolics was proof that traveling the world with a wakeskate in hand was quite doable. And ever since that film I had dreams of doing just that. I purchased my first DSLR with the intention of documenting my wakeskate travels.

 

 

 

Where do you find inspiration for your images and how important is your personal environment for your creativity?

Inspiration for my images comes from the amazing, talented athletes that I have had the privilege of working with. We all tend to love big backdrop landscapes, pushing our limits, trying new things, and traveling to the far corners of this planet to scope out those magical, euphoric places.

I am so fortunate to be able to travel the world doing what I love, but California will always be my home. Most of my time is split between Lake Tahoe and Santa Cruz, where I spend my days wakeskating, surfing, free-diving, splitboarding, fishing, bird watching, and mountain biking. Being able to fully immerse myself in these activities inspires me to capture those moments that define our outdoor pursuits.

 

 

What’s one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when shooting wakeskating?

Timing - the detailed technical aspects, against large landscape backdrops. Currently, flying out of the country due to the travel ban, and flying in general due to the COVID risk.

How long does it take you to capture the ‘perfect’ moment that you are also happy with?

It varies. There was one photo that took about two years to capture, other moments happen naturally with ease.

 

 

Any stand-out memories or moments in your career?

I am lucky enough to look back and say that my career is filled with these moments. When the first cable park was built in California (Wake Island Waterpark), Noel, the owner, traded me a season pass for my photos - it was the coolest feeling. Also, when Jennifer (GilanFarr) Mitchell invited me on her ladies’ only wakeskate adventure touring alpine lakes amongst the Eastern Sierra Mountain range. I shot my first magazine cover on that trip and I now call those women my close friends. The pictorial I shot with Cole Kraiss in the Philippines; if a “perfect” shot did exist, that spread contains a few.

In the Top 260 images from the Image Quest 2019 were only 4 female photographers, you included. How do you feel about the male dominated action sports photography scene? What’s your personal experience here?

My mentors and biggest supporters have been male figures (editors / photographers / athletes) within the action sports industry. I wouldn’t have accomplished the milestones if it weren’t for the guidance and trust that I received from them. Having said that - being the minority - I definitely grew a thicker skin. If you are an aspiring female photographer or female athlete working towards personal goals in action sports - stay true to yourself and know your worth - dignity goes a long way.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can follow me on my Instagram or visit my website.

 

Eat, drink, shop and find inspiration along the way

The chance to get a glimpse of the greatest adventure and action sports imagery isn't over yet. We're bringing the Red Bull Illume European Exhibit Tour to a city near you, adding five more tour stops at various SES Spar European Shopping Centers.

The Exhibit Tour will move to each shopping center and aims to bring the public closer to the world of adventure and action sports. You can be sure to catch tons of inspiration from the finalists of the Image Quest 2019 and the winners of the Red Bull Illume Special Image Quest 2020. Each exhibit will display these mind-blowing images on 2x2m lightboxes, an experience we're sure you’ve never seen before!

The next stop will be in EUROPARK, Salzburg, Austria, from August 17 to August 31, 2020

    •    SILLPARK, Innsbruck (AT) September 02 - September 25
    •    MURPARK, Graz (AT) October 02 - October 15
    •    HUMA ELEVEN, Vienna (AT) October 17 - October 31
    •    ZIMBAPARK, Bürs (AT) November 03 - November 18


It doesn’t matter if you're an aspiring photographer, a lover of nature, or just a shopaholic open to inspiration, these images will take your breath away.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss it!

Want to showcase this unparalleled exhibition in your venue or at your event? Contact us here today!

How does a Swedish snowboard photographer survive summer?

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Daniel Bernstål and his epic snowboarding shots made it to the covers of leading magazines in the industry. We wanted to know what other sports he's shooting (especially in Summer!), why his images are so unique and if he already has plans for the Image Quest 2021. Get the answers to these questions and more in our interview!

Johan Nordhag with a Bs Handplant with swedens biggest waterfall, Tännforsen as backdrop.

Johan Nordhag with a Bs Handplant with swedens biggest waterfall, Tännforsen as backdrop. © Daniel Bernstål

Can you give us some background about yourself? How did you become a professioal photographer?

I grew up in a small village called Rengsjö located in the Swedish countryside. My love for action sports started when I watched my older brother take his first turns on his snowboard. From that day on I was hooked. In 2010 I suffered a nasty knee injury that required multiple surgeries and years of physio. Somehow that made me get into photography. It felt good to still be in the sports that I loved but with a camera instead. Since then I've had covers on some of the biggest snowboard/skateboard mags out there and traveled the globe to shoot. A couple of years ago photography was my hobby. Today I'm stoked to say it's my profession.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Everywhere! From following other photographers to just scouting cool locations.

In your opinion: What makes your images unique?

I've always worked a lot with flashes and I think that adds quite a unique touch to my images.

What are your plans for the future?

I've got some cool photo projects on my to-do list that I'm going to make a reality. Who knows, maybe you'll see them in the next edition of Red Bull Illume!

 

You are specialized in snowboard photography, but seeing as we are in the peak of summer you must have a LOT of free time right now. Seriously though, how does your work change in the warmer months?

I shoot a lot of skateboarding and other action sports instead. And to make money I shoot commercial stuff. It's really hard to live out of just shooting snowboarding so I have to do other stuff as well, mostly commercial.

When you are shooting in summer are there certain factors you need to be more aware of and vice versa? For example, light conditions?

Yes, especially when it comes to shooting during the summertime here in Sweden. The days are much longer then and we get 14 hours of hard light. During the winter we have that soft morning and evening light, like all the time, which I prefer to shoot in.

What's easier to shoot: Summer or winter sports?

Summer sports for sure! No water/snow that can mess up your equipment and you don't freeze your a** off all the time, haha!

 

 

How does your equipment change from winter to summer?

It doesn't really change at all. But if I'm up on the mountain I try to bring as little equipment as possible. Flashes and stuff can weigh a ton and don't make you mobile.

Do you have a set schedule for shooting? E.g. from November to April you exclusively shoot snowboarding or do you need to be more flexible?

I'm really flexible on this point. I used to shoot snowboarding exclusively during the wintertime but nowadays I shoot it when I have time between commercial jobs.

In current times travelling is not really an option, how does that affect you as a professional photographer?

It doesn't affect me that much as most if my jobs are based here in Sweden. I only do a handful of jobs abroad every season.

Where can we find more of your work?

Check out my Instagram where I post frequently, or my website.

 

Interview: What's close to your heart Robin O'Neill?

We played catch up with Red Bull Illume finalist Robin O'Neill. Based in Whistler, Canada Robin works as a freelance outdoor lifestyle and action sports photographer. We chatted about how the current situation affects her job, what projects are closest to her heart and the unconventional start of her career as a professional photographer.

© Robin O'Neill / Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019: Energy Category

If you take a look at Robin O'Neill's portfolio all you want to do is get outside and hop on your bike, put on your skis or simply go for a long run. Her images don't just capture moments outside, they are truly honoring them! But the Image Quest 2019 Finalist (Category: Energy) not only captures unique outdoor adventures, she's also focusing on the human perspective behind every image. Read our interview to find out more about Robin's projects, her inspiration and her advice!

 

Could you tell us a little bit about your the beginngs of your carreer as an outdoor photographer? How did it all start?

During the summer of my third year at university, I decided to do some international non-profit work to mix things up. I spent my time on a project in South America, documenting the world around me on my dad’s 35mm film camera that I taught myself to use en route. There was no turning back from there - I was hooked on both travel and documentary photography.

How do you choose what projects you like to shoot?

I am drawn to projects that involve self-propelled access by ski, bike, or foot; assignments that involve collaboration with like-minded impassioned people, and that contribute positively to the world. Sometimes I select these projects and sometimes I’m fortunate enough that they select me. I have built a body of work that shows my style and what I am passionate about, which has helped build momentum in attracting projects that I’m passionate about.

Any projects that you would describe as "close to your heart"?

There are the projects that are simply meant to create an advertising campaign, which I do enjoy, but the projects that are closest to my heart involve a philanthropic aspect. These are the ones that develop meaningful connections, cultural exchanges, and a good challenging adventure.

Most recently, I was approached by an Arc’teryx sponsored ultra runner wanting to do a story in Nepal. So I began to dig deeper into how we could plan an adventure that would also make a contribution to the area we would explore. I landed on an NGO called the Mira Rai Initiative. This is a group that sponsors five young Nepalese girls every year to train as trail runners, teach them English, and give them training to become guides. This is something I could get behind and incorporate into our project. Not only do I get to trek and trail run while shooting for a company I love, I could also give a young female guide​ ​the opportunity for leadership ​training​ and exposure.

Why did you choose to submit your image to Red Bull Illume?

To be honest, I had never considered entering an image to the Red Bull Illume contest - an intimidating competition, packed with testosterone, and talent. But luckily and to my surprise I was messaged directly by Red Bull Illume saying that they liked my work, and would I consider entering the competition this year. This invitation stripped away the intimidation of entering, and I submitted to the esteemed event with no thoughts I would ever make it past the first round.

 

Mountainbiking, Trailrunning, Skiing .. you are shooting quite a lot of different sports, what’s the one you enjoy the most?

Oh, that’s a tough question! Probably the most rewarding is ski photography. It’s the most elusive, as so many conditions have to come together to create a great shot. There is no track to follow, so you have to read the terrain for where the athlete is going to go. And there are no do-overs in ski photography, because once there are tracks visible in the shot, it’s done. When you nail it, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Any stand-out memories or moments in your career?

With absolutely no prior experience photographing skiing, I created an award-winning show in Deep Winter, a Whistler ski photography competition against leaders in the ski industry. News travelled fast and the following week, I received a call from Dave Reddick, the photo editor of POWDER magazine, asking if I would be interested in going winter camping with an A-list crew to shoot ski film. Knowing I would be completely out of my league, I agreed (of course), and was catapulted into my first real ski shoot. Before I knew it, not only was I having my first experience in a helicopter, I was roped in with the doors off, legs dangling, and shooting the biggest line of Eric Hjorleifson’s career. No pressure. I remember that moment well!

Do you have any tips for up and coming photographers?

Always be shooting; it’s a muscle that you have to keep strengthening. Try to stay away from comparing your work to others. It’s inevitable, but always gets in the way of your creativity. Lastly, learn about business. It’s a lot of hard work to ensure making a living as a photographer, and business is something that I have to embrace. It’s all worth it though.

 

How do you cope with the current COVID-19 crisis? What’s your experience as a professional photographer?

What a weird time! All of the shoots that I had lined up previously were cancelled, of course, so I’ve been forced to think about how to deal with the loss of income while keeping my creativity and presence alive.
My first thought was ‘what I could do to show my support?’ That is when I began taking photos of the “unsung heroes” -- front-line workers who were still on the job while our province was in a state of emergency. These are the people who never receive, nor ask for any recognition, but are the ones who really keep our day-to-day lives moving forward. This included bus drivers, grocers, waste removal workers, and janitors, to name a few. Although this personal project was meant only to find a way of showing thanks and keeping creativity flowing during a time of upheaval, it led to a collaboration with a brand that I work with and a paycheck!
I also have dug deep into my non-urgent folder, and have spent more time connecting personally with work colleagues. This way when restrictions and budgets open up again, I’ll be ready.

What’s next for you?

COVID has certainly made ‘what’s next’ a little unpredictable. I do have some specific places in the world and people in mind that I’d like to document in the year ahead, but those ideas will have to stay secret for now until they are nailed down. I will definitely continue to create projects and partner up with brands to put together winter and summer adventures that inspire and motivate people to get outdoors, push their
limits, and live their lives to the fullest. I also really hope to continue working with NGOs to document and bring more support to world health issues and humanitarian efforts.

Where can we find more of your work?

If you want to see what I’ve been working on, my project from Nepal just got released by Arc’teryx and can be found here. Also, POWDER recently profiled my ski work.

My profile is continuously being updated on Instagram. For a wider body of work, please check out my website.

How to tell great stories - with Red Bull Illume finalist Maxime Moulin

You can film some cool tricks and get a few likes, or you can captivate people’s minds with a compelling story. Maxime Moulin, Image Quest 2019 finalists in the all-new Moving Image category and three times Special Image Quest 20 pre-selection creator, shares some of his secrets to great storytelling in adventure and action sports videography. Find out what inspires him to go out and create his totally unique content.

What makes a great story?

Aah! Such a hard question to start with.
To me, there are several ways to make a story a great story, but for now I will only speak about actions sports filmmaking, because it’s a big big big topic.

Firstly, the action tells the story. At some point, you don’t need to say more because all the action that you show in the video actually makes the story, telling you something about the athlete. It can be fun, original, crazy, unbelievable or totally new… or just well executed. No rules here, it’s the athlete’s mind and skills that speak for itself.

Secondly, you have the documentary side of action sports. 
To me, the great story also comes from the characters and the subject. 
The film is there to make you understand and feel something about them and what they are doing. At the end, if you feel something this means it is good, and the more you feel the more great the story.

It really is a personal point of view. I mean, I really loved some movies that other people didn’t like.

Lastly, a great story comes along with the cinematography.
The story in filmmaking is not only about the words, it’s about the cinematography, the music, the sound design, the colorgrading, the concept, and the set design.
As a filmmaker, you have the biggest toolbox of all the storytellers, because you can use everything to tell your story.

So yeah, a good story in action sports is about the sport first, and on the other side comes the people and the background story. And last but not least, the package. Great filmmaking is about making the story even more great.


How do you find great stories?

Maybe I’m lucky on that, because most of the time stories come to me, from a friend, an athlete or a brand I’m working with.
Stories are all around us, sometimes you just have to open your eyes and your mind to find them.

As we speak, I think I have more than 10 personal film ideas on paper. It’s too much, haha. 
Some of them are in my head for years now. Year after year the time eventually comes and I get to make one of them.  

For me, the most important part is to work on writing the ideas of the story you have to tell. I mean, this is a long process, you have to understand the subject, the people, the sport. You have to find the way you want to tell the story, with your personality. 
And you have to find the way you want to film it.
I feel that the stories I’m the most proud of, are the ones where I was truly capable of making it personal. Like, I was using these stories about people for sharing something that I am really concerned about. It’s the feeling of connecting with the people in the story, when you recognize something in yourself, something you care about- that’s when great things happen.
 

 

How did you become interested in videography?

I will not say that I grew up with my dad’s camera in my hands, wanting to make videos since I was a child, but I’m pretty sure it does come from my parents.
As far as I can remember, when I was young I was a really big fan of music videos. My parents introduced me to the rock, punk and metal culture, and I mean really deeply. At the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s I was watching MTV2, a dedicated MTV channel to Rock and Metal music. I was blown away by a lot of the music videos. I also watched a lot of movies with my parents, but the important part was that after watching the films, we always spoke a lot about them.

When I was at university (15 years ago), I started to film snowboard and ski stuff with my friends. Nothing too crazy. It became more and more important to me until I was only thinking about that. 

I think that I was more interested by the whole process of creating something, not specifically the filming or editing. I was not interested (and I’m still not) by doing just an image without knowing what to do with it. 


Who is your biggest influence/ inspiration for what you do professionally?

I think the biggest influence/inspiration comes from the music bands I love.
Maybe a band like Nine Inch Nails (because there’s more than just music- there are strong ideas, visuals and of course, the concept art) and because of Trent Reznor who is a pure genius (not to mention he got an Academy Award for the score of The Social Network movie). 
The thing I learned from his art, is to follow my own path of creation. 
I want to take a project and make it the way I feel is the best. 
The more it becomes personal, the more I like the project.

What can a video express that a photo can’t?

To me, video is really different than photo. 

Photo is a freeze frame of a moment. Time is stopped.
On the other hand, video is a way to say something about that time. Using different media.

In video, you have a bigger toolbox for creating something.
The cinematography is really important, and I love framing, using high quality gear such as a Red Camera, drones and beautiful lenses. 
But as a filmmaker, you have to think bigger than just the picture. You have to think about every shot you want to do, and all the other things you will work with like music, sound design, colorgrading, concept art, set design, etc.

 

What’s the biggest challenge when working with action sports athletes?

To me, the one biggest challenge is to go to places where you don’t feel comfortable. And the second one is the risk athletes can take for the shot.

But most of the time it’s more about living great things, sharing our passion, and building something together, as a team. Everyone using their best skills to create something that people will see later. It’s team work.

And for the crew, you’ve got the memories forever.


What role does Social Media play for your work and your self-promotion? 

I have to say I’m late on that.
Because at first I was just using it with friends, and sharing a bit of what I was doing, not really in a professional way.
I really started to take advantage of it 2 years ago. 
I will not say that social media gets me paid jobs, but I can definitely say that social media is a really cool place to share special content. The things you do, who you are and how you do those things. 
And to me, this is the goal of social media. 
People get to know you more than just liking (or not liking) your hero content.
For me, this is a way to show your global content and to focus on specific points about it, it can be a frame, a process, a mood… this is endless.

 

If you had the chance to tell any story in the world with your work, which one would it be?

I really need to go further into the stories of the athletes. I want to go deeper to understand what are the things that make them so different from other people.
I think this is the story about the human strength. 


What’s your favorite piece of work of yourself? Where can people find it?

Action sport video:

Ice Call : vimeo.com/195433452

Good Morning : vimeo.com/305915054

Frozen Mind : youtu.be/axNnKy-jfWw


Athlete portrait / commercial work:

Geraldine Fasnacht : vimeo.com/276178331

Caroline Gleich : vimeo.com/374529101

Sam Anthamatten : vimeo.com/313110288

The First Second Web Series : www.youtube.com/playlist


That’s all. Thanks.

 

 

 

How to create 'Unseen' imagery with stop motion artist Victor Haegelin

You think you've seen everything, but then this one piece of content shows up and leaves you with nothing but 'How did the artist do it?'. French stop motion artist Victor Haegelin aka. 'Patagraph' is one of those artists that amazes us with his masterpieces. Soak in his perfect examples for the Special Image Quest category 'Unseen'!

Category Unseen submission by Victor Haegelin

In a world where it seems everything has been done already, what does “unseen” mean for you?
Wow! … This is where you can mix something technical and simple with some cool ideas.

Sometimes it’s really the simplest ideas that are actually unseen. Like this very, very simple water silhouette animation made by Kevin Parry few days ago. It is SO simple!! The idea, the technique, the realisation, all is simple, but all together it has definitely never been seen before.

How would you describe yourself as a creative?
I like to find unexpected simple ideas. Usually it comes from the everyday life surrounding us. I love to give life to still stuff. I think of imagination as a muscle, if you train it, ideas will come naturally. Even if they are not always the best. 

How did you become a stop motion artist?
By doing stop motion! Stop motion is a good way to start telling stories. It’s easy to set up on a corner of a table. You can start to make cool stuff with almost nothing. It’s easier than building up a full cinema crew with actors, DOP and stuff. So that’s what I did, what I liked and that’s why I kept doing it.

Talk us through the process of creating your short clips – where does your inspiration come from?
When I have a new idea, I really have to go for it. I can’t stop thinking about it, until I get to shoot it. And sometimes - the moment I’m facing the project - it becomes harder than expected…

 

Are you operating alone?
I usually have my creative process alone. But I also work with Coco Di Bongo, a model maker. When I have a new assignment, I would talk to her and involve her in the creative process.

How long does one project usually take from beginning to end?
It really, really depends on the complexity of the project. I like to work on fire, keeping the idea in mind till I do it, otherwise the idea loses its fascination… in case I wrote it down, it sometimes comes back! Usually we say that 1 second of stop motion takes about an hour to shoot. This is approximately true.

Who/ what are your biggest influences?
I really learned a lot by watching the Czech Masters of Animation, like Jiri Trnka or Jan Svankmajer.

 

Any real-life situation/ person you would love to shoot with?
Oh… I don’t know, I would have to think about it for longer...

When not creating stop motions, what type of photography/ videography are you most into?
Those last months I discovered drone aerial photography, I’m really enjoying it!

What’s your favorite piece of work of your own - where can our readers find it?
I think it’s “Professor Kliq – Wire and Flashing Light”. It’s a music video I made alone over the course of 3 months with free to use electro music. I was a moment where I was thinking I needed to renew myself, so I decided to push further and finally had the idea of seeing sound.
As it was finished, I sent it to the author who didn’t know I was working on it. He was so surprised that he decided to remaster his 6-year-old piece of music to match the animation better. And as the video had some success, he decided to quit his job to only do music! You can see the video here.

Find more of Victor's work here or follow him on Instagram: @patagraph

More than just a snowboard photographer

It's not just about epic snowboard images for talented and well-known photographer Dasha Nosova. Although the sport plays a big part in her life, the Red Bull Illume finalist is constantly evolving. We caught up with her to find out what's going on in her life, what impact the current situation has had on her work and what it's like being a woman in a male-dominated profession.

Snowboarder Seamus O'Connor © Dasha Nosova

What were the three most significant things that happened to you since the Winner Award Ceremony back in November?

The first one got to be the trip to Atlanta, GA, for the Big Air World Cup back in December where I was offered a job to follow Jamie Anderson for the rest of her contest season. We’ve been on some trips before, so I was extremely excited to join the journey. It was a great few months of traveling together, shooting at every top event and doing some fun stuff in-between.

Second must be the two weeks that I spent just snowboarding in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, over the Christmas holidays. This doesn't happen too often when I can simply go up and do some turns or shred in the park, so that was awesome, aIso because I was riding with my boyfriend Vlad and his friends. By the end of our time there I was able to hit the middle jump line which is pretty crazy for me! We also got a really cool sunset session going one day. I was pretty hyped to shoot at a new location and see a 9-year-old talented shredder, Nico Bondi, in person.

Last, I would say our experience volunteering during the outbreaks of COVID-19. A random circumstance brought Vlad and me to Novosibirsk in March (right when all the international snowboard events got cancelled), and none of us expected getting stuck there. So, we joined the organisation in early April after we watched the newscast covering some students who were helping elderly people in the city. It’s been an amazing and fulfilling experience being able to give back to seniors. It is something that has always been on our minds and that we would periodically bring up in conversations with each other. I’m happy we did it. If you have the opportunity, research some local organisations and try it yourself.

How did Red Bull Illume affect your professional (and personal) life?

In 2016, Red Bull Illume gave me a lot of motivation and showed me that people value my work. My submission 2019 kind of woke me up and reminded me that it’s not about the event photography, it’s about those meaningful journeys and a love for the sport and nature. Plus, the ceremony was such a good vibe, Red Bull knows how to throw a good event and bring so many talented people together. I got to see many friends I had not seen in a long time and meet new people. It was fun! Many of us kept in touch and we still support each other.

Where do you usually find inspiration/motivation for your images?

Back in the days it was the good old snowboard and skateboard magazines and movies that fueled my inspiration. Now it’s more about new destinations, people and other sports, or even something that doesn’t have anything to do with sports. New equipment also helps me to go out there and play more.

Have you ever thought about shooting other action sports or do you stick to snowboarding?

Before snowboarding, I was taking photos of BMX and skateboarding, because it was more realistic to make these happen in my hometown of Moscow which is a concrete jungle. Nowadays, I get to shoot other action sports in summer when I have time. I think it’s so much fun to explore and shoot other sports and it’s definitely something that I would look more into. Maybe even more music, urban or fashion maybe. Hit me up!

What makes your images unique in your opinion?

The colors, I would assume. This is just the most common thing that people ask me about. Also, minimalism. I can’t say all of my photos follow this style, but I’m certainly a big fan of keeping it simple.

You already talked about your personal experience during the last few months. What impact has the global situation had on your work? Is it still possible for you to shoot?

It has had a big impact. Almost all my jobs are outside Russia and my job as an action sports photographer literally depends on being able to travel. I haven’t really picked up my camera for work since February 29th. That was the last day of the Burton US Open in Vail, CO. Given the situation in Russia at the moment it’s not really possible to shoot the way I used to. It forces me to be creative and find new opportunities. While we wait it’s a good time to learn new skills and maybe explore different sports and different industries even. Though, the most important thing now is that my family and friends are staying safe and healthy.

Under "normal" circumstances: What would your plans for this year be? Any projects along the way?

Snowboard-wise, I would try to go to one of my favorite places - Folgefonna in Norway, we usually go there in late May - early June. A mandatory surf trip would’ve happened, of course. My idea was to go to California and maybe finally Hawaii, but at this point I would be glad to go to any country that reopens its borders to tourists and that has waves. There are some non-snowboard projects scheduled that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some of them will take place later in the year.

In the Top 260 images from the Image Quest 2019 were only 4 female photographers, you included. How do you feel about the male dominated action sports photography scene?

It always depends on the people and the setting. Some days it would not even cross my mind that I’m pretty much the only girl, but other days it can be frustrating, and guys throw comments that are not ok. Some guys can be sceptical at first, having this image in their head that all girls are just drama and having a girl in the crew would ruin the “dude-vibe”.  If you really mess it up, guys will be like, "Oh, girls…" and that can definitely add some pressure. Earlier this year, I was shooting at one of snowboarding’s most prestigious events, and one guy came to me and said something like “I’ve always been curious - how do you travel so much? I see you everywhere. Like, do you get paid for your photos?”. I don’t think this guy would walk up to another guy and ask the same question. I would say it’s a bit more challenging and uncomfortable, however it keeps me on my toes. It’s so cool to see that there are far more people and companies who are stoked to invite and work with girls now than it was even five years ago. Hopefully, we will see more girls in the industry in the near future!

Find more of Dasha's work on her Instagram!