Red Bull Illume winner interviews: Miguel Lopez

Interview with Miguel Lopez

After winning the SanDisk Sequence award at Red Bull Illume, Miguel Angel Lopez had three words to say – “Viva la Mexico!” Even his t-shirt said the same. Although Miguel didn’t say much else that night in English and had fellow South American Orlando Duque translate from Spanish for him on stage, it reminded everyone how international Red Bull Illume is. But a Mexican winner was an awesome surprise nonetheless.

Just look at the map on the Red Bull Illume gallery. The west coast of the US, northern Europe and South Western Australia dominates the action sports world. Rightly, they have some amazing mountain or coastal locations for high-risk outdoor sports or massive metropolitan cities with every scene imaginable – skate, BMX, B-Boying etc. But there are many other undiscovered and less photographed places elsewhere. Look at the winning photo from Chris Burkard, who remembers the last surf photo they saw from Chile?

Likewise, Miguel’s win was a breath of fresh air. Even more so for the SanDisk sequence category, which was supremely technical and competitive. However, the winning photo was an elegantly simple shot, even the trick wasn’t complicated. The photo captured the moment, while the sequence of shadows in the background showed how the move was done which is why sequence shots became so popular in the first place. By being selective and not including too much detail in the photo, which some sequence shots are guilty of, Miguel’s photo elevated the sequence shot into art territory. Ever heard the advice “Keep it simple, stupid”? Well Miguel kept it simple and beautiful at the same time and managed to get an iconic skate image.
(Have a look at the 'Making Of' video in our last feature to see how the shot was taken.)

Working as a photographer for eight years and a director of Urbeskate.com, as well as a Red Bull Illume semi-finalist in 2007, Miguel didn’t come from nowhere however. Read on to find out more about the man behind the lens.

What reception have you received since winning your category in Red Bull Illume?
Well in Mexico, the reaction from my friends, family and people in general has been amazing. Until I came back with the trophy, the book, the magazines that I brought from Dublin, no one knew the magnitude of the event. My parents are very proud that I won. Before, they never really understood my work as a skate photographer and why I was putting so much effort and passion into it. But after seeing everything that’s happened since, they are really happy with me. And everyone is proud that my photo was able to represent Mexico. The Red Bull team in Mexico were really happy for me too. I have worked with them over the years helping to make skateboarding events in Mexico.

In January 2011, together with other photographers, I was present at a gallery in the city of Puebla, Mexico. They showed the pictures I submitted to Red Bull Illume. It was a pleasure to be exhibited. I was treated really well, people took pictures of me, kids asked me for autographs, and some new photographers approached me to say that I am an inspiration for them. Overall, I was so proud to represent Mexico in the contest.

What difference has winning made to your photography career?
Personally I'm still the same photographer with the same idea to keep doing things in action sports photography and more in skateboarding because it’s what I enjoy doing. Professionally, it’s helping my career because Red Bull Illume is the only major event dedicated to action sports photography.

A friend jokingly said to me, “Finally your skateboard photography leaves something in your life” because many people know me for other things within the Mexico skateboarding scene. Apart from being a photographer, I’m the director of Urbeskate and an event organizer. I try to help this sport grow in my country as good as possible and winning Red Bull Illume has helped me to open some more doors.

What’s inspiring you right now as a photographer?
Inspiration! Or as I said in an interview in Dublin, I realize that everything is possible and this event gave me the opportunity to show my work. I'm inspired to improve my photography so winning Red Bull Illume gave me the opportunity for further improvement. I want to do my best during these years and then, if all goes well, retire with a smile of accomplishment.

The funny thing is that I was in the first Red Bull Illume in 2007 and I was in the semi-finals with a photo but I didn’t get any further. I entered the second contest with more enthusiasm and was more optimistic about doing better. Then I won the SanDisk sequence category. Were my photos better or did I just have more enthusiasm for making things happen? What I know is that if you work every day with heart and energy, you will get good results and new opportunities or second chance can always happen. Red Bull Illume has inspired me to believe and keep doing what I like, no matter what happens.


What new photography equipment and techniques are you using or want to use more of?
You can use any equipment really. Your eyes and your mind is what makes the difference. I have not changed my equipment much. I want to buy a new digital camera, but I will shoot on 35mm until I due. I like the Holga and am starting to work on more video shoots, like this one.

My techniques have also been improving. I always want to improve how I use light, colors and need time to experiment. But it’s hard as my work as a photo editor and director for Urbe Skate consumes me but I have to keep up with new developments. It was amazing to see other professional skateboard photographers that I admire so much in the Red Bull Illume photobook. It made me realize that myself and others are doing a good job in the Mexican skateboarding scene.

What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
I want to make an exhibition next year with friends. I wish we could bring the Red Bull Illume exhibit to Mexico in 2011 but who knows! Still it was cool that there was the tour in Houston, Texas, which was just across the border.

In January, we had the urbeskate.com and we had our own awards, including a best skateboard photographer award. Otherwise I have so much to organize, so 2011 will be a busy year! I’m also hoping to finally have my own website, so I can show eight years of work as a photographer!

What must a photographer keep in mind while shooting an action scene?

The location, angle and equipment. The location is important because to photograph a trick, you have to show the difficulty of the trick and beauty of the place, so anyone will just see the photo and say “wow!” and be amazed.

The angle is an important factor because not all tricks require the same angle. Every trick has its aesthetic.

As for the equipment, you need to know what options your equipment gives you and you need to maximize the technical possibilities using your imagination.

How important is location in sports photography?
Location is as important as in the trick, so it’s 50:50. I sometimes I don’t take photos of some tricks for a particular location, as it just doesn’t fit. Of course there are also occasions that the trick is so difficult that you have the challenge of showing the difficulty and the beauty of the place.

Every day we seek new places to photograph which is so important. The street offers unimaginable places. Definitely the place you will provide the other 50% to your picture.

What are some of the challenges you face while doing action photography? How do you overcome them?
Well in my case there are many. The very common one is that the picture is not taken at the exact moment of the trick and you’ve missed it. Sometimes the trick is so hard you can’t expect the person to retry it. Or they re-do the trick over and over without any luck, then the light changes while you’re waiting. Sometimes you have to just cancel a shoot or forget an idea. You have to know your and the athlete’s capabilities.

Technical issues are normal - empty batteries, your camera fails, your fisheye won’t stay on properly. Stuff happens!

How do you define the 'perfect frame' in sports photography?
Good photos have three critical aspects: difficulty, place and the person being photographed. Obviously, a perfect frame has to amaze you in all three. But I think the perfect frame is the one which shows how exciting that sport is. It’s a moment when you know that as soon as you press the shutter, you feel you have to see that picture.

How do you prepare for action photography, physically and mentally?
Well I have nothing in particular. I just check my equipment is ready and in my mind I just think I have to try to do my best. If you’re shooting a well-known athlete, you have to think that you deserve to shoot someone that good. But I try to enjoy the moment, especially when I’m working with friends.

If you had just 5 pieces of your most important advice for a young action photographer, what would they be?

I have only one:
When taking a picture
Feel the photo. Live the photograph.

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! 

rbil photobook 2021 01

Harness the Energy!

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

2007

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

2013

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

2019

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

2010

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

2016

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

2021

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

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

Red Bull Illume is coming to Slovenia

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 SES Tour Citycenter Celje 2

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

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

EUROPARK in Maribor – June 23 to July 3

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

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

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tour Stop Europark Maribor 2
© Bojan Mihalič

ALEJA in Ljubljana – July 5 to July 16

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

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 SES Tour Aleja Lubljana 1
© ALEJA

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

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

Welcome to the Kingdom of Ice

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Thomas Monsorno 4

© Thomas Monsorno

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Thomas Monsorno 1
© Thomas Monsorno

Which equipment did you take with you?

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Thomas Monsorno 10
This is one of the images Thomas shot with his Leica Q2. © Thomas Monsorno

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

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

Walk us through the creative process

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Thomas Monsorno 3
© Thomas Monsorno

Why ice climbing?

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

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Thomas Monsorno 6
© Thomas Monsorno

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

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

Anything else coming up?

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

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

The Best Underwater Photography

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Gallery Underwater 1

© Matt Power / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume Exhibition lights up Padua, Italy

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

inn21 0713163031619 3941 web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting Whitewater

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

ene21 0729193703968 1272 web

© Daniel Stewart / Red Bull Illume

Are you photographer or kayaker?

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

What is the most difficult thing about shooting whitewater?

Having wet hands all the time in a wet environment.

 

Red Bull Illume 2021 Benny Marr 2
© Benny Marr

Talk us through your prep?

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

pla21 0730040737801 25589 web
© Benny Marr

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

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Benny Marr 6
© Benny Marr

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

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Benny Marr 9
© Benny Marr

Steve Fisher is a big inspiration right?

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

Scott Lindgren was also an influence?

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

When are the perfect conditions for shooting the Zambezi?

It is always good, rain or shine.

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

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

Three different shoots, one camera

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tino Scherer 1

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tino Scherer 2

Heading into the mountains

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tino Scherer 3

Out on the water with a Swiss Wakeboard Champion  

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tino Scherer 6
© Tino Scherer

Europe’s oldest cheeses

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Tino Scherer 9
© Tino Scherer

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

Shooting from a Wheelchair

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Ydwer van der Heide 4

© Ydwer van der Heide

What happened with the accident?

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Ydwer van der Heide 5
© Ydwer van der Heide

How has it changed your life?

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

SI202105090456 news c Jarno Schurgers Red Bull Content Pool
© Jarno Schurgers / Red Bull Content Pool

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

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

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

How do you manage to stay optimistic?

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Ydwer van der Heide 7
© Ydwer van der Heide

Do you still take photographs?

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

Has your relationship with photography changed?

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

Run for those who can't!

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

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

 

SI201905050791 news c Lukasz Nazdraczew for Wings for Life World Run
© Lukas Nazdraczew / Red Bull Content Pool

Bringing a Red Bull Illume Exhibition to Life

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Exhibition Hangar 7

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Manoukian's most passionate project

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Jordan Manoukian 1

© Jordan Manoukian

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to make the movie?

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Jordan Manoukian 4
"I define myself more as a filmmaker." © Jordan Manoukian

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

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

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

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

Red Bull Illume 2021 Jordan Manoukian 12
Sharing and catching the perfect moments is what it's all about. © Jordan Manoukian

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

 

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

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

What are your favorite locations for your photo projects?

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

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

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