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 put me on the map

Adventure photographer Rein Rijke explains why being selected as a Red Bull Illume finalist was 'a gift from heaven' and shares his tips for shooting action sports.

Photographer: Rein Rijke Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Playground Athlete: Elvis Nunes Location: Pedra de Lume, Cape Verde

© Rein Rijke / Red Bull Illume

How do you find interesting locations?

Talk to locals if you're new to a place, but it’s even better to do your homework before. I try to scout locations online. I spent hours and hours on Google Earth, Google Maps and scan social media, searching for places that are different. And there are some amazing photographers out there that are such an inspiration to me. I follow a lot of previous Red Bull Illume photographers that create amazing content.

Have you already submitted to Red Bull Illume?

Oh yes! I already did! Due to COVID travelling was limited but I think I created some very cool shots here in the Netherlands. I made somebody surf in half frozen icy water and the results are pretty stunning. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the great images from the Image Quest 2021.

What’s important to consider when submitting?

Believe in your own work. To be honest, the image I submitted for the Image Quest 2016 was not my best one. It was taken during a sandstorm and I was at the start of my photography career. I should have gone back when conditions were better, but that's just the way it is. To me, the location and story behind an image is what makes it interesting. I think locations are very important and need to stand out.

What impact did Red Bull Illume have on your career?

For me the nomination was a little gift from heaven. It put my work on the map and somehow it was a recognition that my work as a photographer was of a good quality. It really helped me to grow as a photographer and till this day it makes me realise to keep pushing to come up with crazy projects.

What’s the story of your 2019 image?

The photo of the two kitesurfers was taken inside a volcano on one of the islands of Cape Verde. I was there for a shoot for a kitesurf brand and was talking to Elvis Nunes. He was a local team rider of the kite brand and I asked him what his dream was if he could choose the destination. To my surprise he joked that he wanted to go and surf “there”, while pointing his finger to the volcano in the background. He was not really serious, but I straightaway knew that it was going to be special. That same day I ran up the volcano and the moment I looked over the edge, I knew this is what I wanted to do; make a series of kitesurfers surfing in strange and bizarre lakes, rivers and oceans.

It took about four days to negotiate with the owners of the saltmine inside the volcano to get permission to kite inside the volcano crater. The wind inside the crater was obviously very challenging and every time one of the guys crashed, I could hear them scream. The water was very shallow and under the surface were these sharp salt crystals. They only wore shorts and you can imagine how painful it is to scratch your legs open in highly concentrated saltwater. But it was totally worth it.

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

I live in the Netherlands and it's a pretty small place and hardly has any undiscovered places so I challenged myself to take photos of the Netherlands that people may not have seen before. I tried to combine extreme sports with a natural surrounding and it made me realize that you don't need to travel far to find little gems.


You can find more of Rein’s work on his website and on Instagram @rein_zoutfotografie.

Submissions FAQ

How many times can you submit the same image, which category is best for your image? We answer these and many more questions below.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Submissions FAQs 1

© Andrew Miller / Red Bull Illume

Can I submit to more than one category?

Yes, you can submit to as many categories as you like. Just make sure you choose the best category for your image, because the categories are quite important in the judges’ decision. It’s also important to know that you can only enter the same photo into two categories, which brings us to the next question…

How many photos can I enter?

You can enter 10 photos per category on redbullillume.com and 10 images per month on Instagram for the Best of Instagram by Lenovo category.

Can I edit my images?

Basic editing and color correction are allowed, such as adjusting the brightness, contrast, sharpness, or mood. If you want to try some crazier editing, you need to check out the Creative by Skylum category.

Can I submit images from my smartphone?

All adventure and action sports images that are 12 megapixels and larger can be entered, as long as you stick to the category’s requirements. Think you’ve got a gram-worthy, scroll-stopping image? Check out the Best of Instagram by Lenovo category and submit your work.

When do the images need to be taken?

All images taken after July 31, 2019, are accepted for the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021.

Can I enter images of fishing / golf / horse riding?

Red Bull Illume celebrates images that capture the adventure and action sports lifestyle and culture that happens in the mountains, wild places and at sea. Currently this means it excludes images of traditional sports, team sports such as football, and motor sports such as MotoGP. But motorcross is allowed.  

How do I submit a video?

You can submit videos of up to 60 seconds to the Best of Instagram by Lenovo category on Instagram. All you need is to share the video on your Feed and use #rbi21submission and tag @redbullillume in the caption. Make sure that your profile is public, otherwise we won’t be able to see your work.

For more information and frequently asked questions on submissions, rules, and general info about Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021, head over here.

 

Feeling ready now? Then submit your best adventure and action sports imagery here. You have time until July 31, 2021!

7 skills every adventure photographer should have

Want to know what it takes to become an adventure and action sports photographer? Here are some of the most important skills that you need to push your passion forwards.

Red Bull Illume 2021 7 skills 1

© Micky Wiswedel / Red Bull Illume

Comfort zone? Never heard of it.

The best photos generally aren’t the ones taken at eye level. To get the perfect shot, you have to be willing to hang off the side of a mountain, sink waist high into the river, or even lie down with your face in the dirt. You’re going to get sweaty, cold, wet, and tired ¬– probably all at once too, but working in those extreme conditions is what makes getting that shot so much more worth it.

Being one with the sun

As most adventure and action sports photography is controlled by natural light, the sun can be your biggest asset or your biggest downfall. You want to get to know the sun, getting in tune with when it rises and sets, how it behaves and affects colors and shadow. This comes from many years of experience, or with a handy little app on your phone.

Plan ahead

One of the obvious ways to make your adventure photography stand out is to look for a unique location. This means a lot of planning, research, and scouting ahead of time. You should know what the weather holds, which equipment to bring, and again what your friend, the sun, is doing. For tips, check out our I Know A Spot series.

Get fit and strong – and dial your admin

If you’re shooting athletes in the outdoors, you need to be able to keep up with them. As a photographer, you’re also likely to be carrying at least 10kg more than them. You also need to be up before they wake, and you’re quite frequently the last to go to bed. It’s a tough gig so you’d better be fit, strong and super organized with your equipment and personal admin.  

Persistence and patience

Things don’t always work out the way you plan and sometimes after hours of working your butt off the image you had in mind just doesn’t happen. That’s ok. It’s part of the process. The trick is to pick yourself up and start again.

Communication

Building a good relationship with your friends and athletes is how you make magic. They need to understand your vision and you should always share what you’re trying to achieve with them. Quite often, the best images in Red Bull Illume are collaborations between an athlete and photographer working together to create gravity-defying imagery.

Positive attitude

Adventure and action sports photography is a whirlwind of the unknown and it’s important to have fun and be able to laugh things off. Equipment will not work, batteries fail, shots will be missed, weather will change, and the sun will disappear behind a cloud the moment you find the perfect composition, but just remember that the greatest part of being an adventure photographer is… the adventure!  

Click here to submit your best shots or start tagging your best photos and videos on Instagram with @redbullillume and #rbi21submission!

To plan or be spontaneous?

Two Red Bull Illume winning photographers reveal the very different methods for nailing their shots. One took weeks of planning. The other involved grabbing a shot in an instant.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Spontaneous 1

© Karim Iliya/ Red Bull Illume

Capturing a great moment can take months of planning. Adventure photographers often spend hours waiting patiently for the light to change or the shadow to hit the perfect length. But great moments can also be captured in an instant, by simply being in the right place at the right time, being open to the possibility, and grabbing the shot with whatever camera you have to hand, whether it’s a DSLR or a phone.

That was the experience for Roberto Zampino who had both DSLR and mobile phone while climbing in a spectacular spot in Sicily known as the Grotta del Cavalla – the horse cave. “It’s a spectacular overhanging wall facing the sea,” he recalls. The photographer had just sent a 7c line and was giving his girlfriend a photography masterclass when he noticed the light begin to change.

“I was trying to teach her about composition and lighting. We climbed until the very end of the cave looking out at the sea. A climber started the same route I had just sent. When he was roughly in the middle of the route the light turned perfect. The red rock lit up with the sunset which lasted for three minutes – three minutes of beauty and harmony.”

However, instead of grabbing the DSLR off his girlfriend and risking an argument, he chose to ‘let the situation flow and keep the peace’. Instead he pulled his mobile and shot this photo that became a Mobile category finalist in 2016.

Other shots require next-level planning and complicated logistics – especially if you’re shooting athletes. Karim Iliya is an underwater photographer, drone pilot and filmmaker based in Maui, Hawaii. For this long exposure of kayakers he had to scout the area. “This photo was one of the more logistically challenging photos I have ever taken, trying to combine two forms of time into one image. One week before I took a similar photo of the river alone but wanted to include kayakers to give some perspective,” he says.

“After showing the photograph to kayaker Adrian Mattern, he pointed to an eddy current, the only feasible place where they could maintain their position so that they would show up in a long exposure.  Without any radios or form of communication, I got into position above the valley and waited. They set off from the top of the river and waited upstream until just after sunset, when the light was balanced. In between rain showers I flew the drone out, signaled to them with the drone to go to the eddy. They held their position as long as they could while I took some photos. While flying back the rain returned and darkness covered the valley.”

Spontaneous or planned, what produces the better shot? Join the conversation on Instagram and enter your images via the submit page here.

Seven reasons why every adventure photographer should enter

Here’s seven great reasons why entering Red Bull Illume could be the best thing you ever do – and how it could change your photography game forever!

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© zooom

1: The prestige

The real prize on offer to winners is priceless – that’s the exposure and prestige associated with being a Red Bull Illume winner, which can be a real career boost. Since 2006, Red Bull Illume has existed to put adventure and action sports photographers on the map – shining the light on the men and women behind the lens. Winning a Red Bull Illume Trophy is one of the highest honors in photography.

2: All of the exposure

Your work will be featured in magazines, blogs, and news stories from top photographic and sports publications. It opens the door to a whole bunch of new opportunities; many previous winners have turned their passions into their careers thanks to Red Bull Illume.

3: Speaking of careers…

Winning a photography award like Red Bull Illume is about more than celebrating your big trophy, it’s about getting your work seen by, not only, a panel of photography and digital experts, but the whole world, really. It just looks really good on your resume.

4: The Global Exhibit Tour

All of the finalists’ imagery will be brought to life in the one-of-a-kind exhibition, which tours the world for a full year. Their breathtaking work will inspire people from all walks of life, even those who think shredding is for paper.

5: You’re in!

Red Bull Illume is a worldwide community of photographers who are passionate about adventure and action sports and everything in-between. You’ll be adding a bunch of new contacts into your phone, many who will become lifelong friends.

6: A life-changing experience

As if reasons one to five weren’t enough, you should enter Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 because it could change your life. Of course, you’ll never know unless you enter!

7: And what about those prizes?

Apart from the prestigious trophy? The total value of prizes on offer is €200,000. They include a Lenovo computer, a SanDisk Professional workflow bundle and a paid photoshoot with Black Diamond. The outdoor apparel brand is also offering a $5,000 worth of Black Diamond products for the Best Mountain image. In addition, the German camera manufacturer Leica has confirmed they will offer a Q2 camera for every category winner and a Leica SL2 camera for the Overall Winner.

Click here to submit your best shots or start tagging your best photos and videos on Instagram with @redbullillume and #rbi21submission!

SanDisk Professional™ to be awarded to winners

SanDisk today unveils revolutionary new SanDisk Professional brand — products are to be given away as prizes in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021.

Red Bull Illume 2021 SanDisk Professional 1

There’s now another reason to enter Red Bull Illume, the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest. SanDisk has announced that winners of the contest will receive a workflow bundle from the new SanDisk Professional range, a brand of premium storage solutions for content creators and professionals, which launched today.

It includes high performance cards, card readers, docks, ultra-rugged portable drives, desktop drives and transportable RAID Drives. They’re high end, ultra-reliable, high performance and high-capacity tools that empower professionals to create the incredible.

We’re honored to have the iconic brand, which is renowned by photographers all over the world, on board for this years’ contest. They have revolutionized the way photographers work, giving them the freedom to shoot unlimited high-quality imagery without fear. For the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 they will sponsor the Masterpiece by SanDisk category. In addition, SanDisk is giving out prizes valued at over €30,000! The Overall Winner and Category Winners will each take home a SanDisk Professional Workflow Bundle, meaning endless space for even more award-winning creativity.

“As a professional photographer and filmmaker, my livelihood depends on how I get the job done. There is no room for error. I need the most advanced, reliable and trusted equipment out in the field,” says Lucas Gilman, a previous Red Bull Illume winner. “For years I’ve relied on SanDisk and G-Technology solutions because they enable me to focus on the moment with confidence that my creativity won’t be interrupted, and without concern about whether or not they can keep up with my technical needs.”

Thinking about entering? There’s a category for all types of adventure and action sports imagery from Emerging talent (under 25) to Lifestyle and Creative. There’s still time for anyone to enter. Submissions are open until July 31, 2021 and can be entered here and on Instagram while tagging @redbullillume and #rbi21submission!

Boost your chance of winning an award with EyeEm

Photographers can also enter Red Bull Illume via the EyeEm Awards 2021 to increase chances of being selected, as we partner up to showcase incredible photographic talent.

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Running at the same time as this year’s Red Bull Illume Image Quest are the EyeEm Awards 2021, a photo contest with six categories covering portraiture, story-telling, architecture, minimalism and environmentalism – and the great outdoors. Submissions are open until June 25th.

Anyone who submits an image to their Great Outdoors category is automatically entered into the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021. We will select the best adventure and action sports image from the category with the winner becoming a Red Bull Illume finalist and being invited to the Winner Award Ceremony. 

Among the judges for the EyeEm Awards is Red Bull Illume’s founder Ulrich Grill. He says it’s great to be partnering again with the platform, a global marketplace for premium stock photography and professional photo and video productions. “I’m super excited to be a judge in this year’s EyeEm Awards. This is a great partnership between Red Bull Illume and EyeEm, which helps to ensure photographers working in the outdoors, in adventure and action sports, gain the widest possible recognition for truly incredible and inspiring work.”

“It’s all about celebrating great photography,” he adds. “Red Bull Illume shines the light on the photographers and the incredible lengths they go to get the shot. EyeEm are known for their love of photography and the awards help to celebrate other genres of the artform. I look forward to seeing this year’s entries and selecting the best adventure and action sports image in the Great Outdoors category which will also go through to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021.” 

Increase your chances of becoming a finalist by entering your images into the Great Outdoors by Red Bull Illume category in the EyeEm Awards 2021. For more details, click here.

Black Diamond sponsors emerging adventure photographers

Global leader in outdoor apparel offers paid photoshoot for the winner of the Emerging by Black Diamond category.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Black Diamond 1

© Justin Coomber / Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume is all about celebrating the culture and lifestyle of adventure and action sports photographers who go to such lengths to get the shot. For Black Diamond, it’s all about climbing and skiing, and making the best gear possible. Sooner or later, our paths were bound to cross.

For the sixth edition of Red Bull Illume, we’re excited to reveal that Black Diamond is an official partner, sponsoring the Emerging category. This is the category for rising talents up to the age of 25. For the photographer who wins the category, the prize is a paid photoshoot with the equipment and apparel manufacturer. The brand is also rewarding a prize for the Best Mountain Image – which will be a generous product deal worth up to $5,000. Black Diamond will also donate prizes for the category winners, finalists and semi-finalists, including 90L Stonehauler Duffle Bags, headlamps and discount vouchers.

“Partnering with Red Bull Illume is a natural fit in terms of the sports we serve, our products and brand history, which is dedicated to stunning mountain imagery and content,” say Black Diamond. “In addition to celebrating the world’s most captivating imagery, the Image Quest uncovers the passion behind the lens of the photographers that shoot them.”

Red Bull Illume’s founder Ulrich Grill says it’s great news for adventure and action sports photographers, especially younger ones. “I’m super excited to welcome Black Diamond to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021,” he says. “We’re now in our 15th year and it’s great we have this opportunity to focus on the next generation of talent. With Black Diamond on board, it’s also a huge incentive for photographers to enter.”

With just over two months until submissions close, that leaves plenty of time to head to the mountains, and capture those unique moments.

For your chance to get your hands on this exclusive Black Diamond gear, enter your best images now!

Why every action sports photographer should enter Red Bull Illume

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Nicolás Pina explains why shooting ice and surf feels like a dream, and why the adventure and action sports imagery contest is such a great opportunity.

Red Bull Illume 2019 Nicolas Pina 1

© Nicolas Pina / Red Bull Illume

Why should photographers enter Red Bull Illume?
I think every adventure sports photographer should take the time to submit their work. It’s such a great opportunity, and you never know what could happen!

Any advice?
Just look for a good location nearby and think of what sport would fit that location. Then find an athlete and start shooting!

What are you entering?
I have a couple of images that I’m very proud of, unfortunately, due to the restrictions this year I haven’t been able to travel as much, and I had to set aside a couple of sick projects until we go back to normal. Those are coming for the next one!

What makes an image good enough?
It’s a matter of many different factors. Things like composition, light, colors, action and location are important, but for me it’s more about the overall feeling I get from the image and if it’s inspiring.

What came first for you, surfing or photography?
Photography. Since I was a kid I’ve always been interested in surfing as a sport but never had the chance to try it. Time passed, and once I started photography, I found surfing very visually attractive and I really enjoyed shooting it. Not long after that I finally started surfing myself and nowadays those two are my main passions.

How did you get into photography?
When I was younger I was really into filmmaking and video editing, somehow I thought photography wasn't as interesting. I bought my first camera with the intention of just shooting video, but slowly and through a photographer friend of mine I started shooting stills around the city and in no time I was hooked with photography!

What’s been your most rad shoot?
With no doubt the time I shot ice climbing under the Northern Lights. It was freezing cold (-25°C), I waited, hanging from the ice wall for hours and when the show started I thought it was a dream. I will never forget that.

What comes first, location or idea?
It’s both actually. Sometimes an idea comes to my mind and I spend hours researching and looking for a location that fits that idea, and other times it’s the location that inspires me and makes me imagine what would be the craziest shot I can get there.

The hardest thing about surfing photography?
Not being in control of what’s going to happen. When shooting surfing you not only depend on your photography skills but also on the swell conditions, the wind, tides, currents and athlete. There are many different factors to take in consideration, but that’s the beauty of it. When everything aligns and you get the shot it’s one of the best feelings ever.

What’s the number 1 equipment you always take with you?
Food! And a wide-angle lens.

You can find more of Nicolas’s work on his website and @nicopinacalvin.

 

See yourself as a Red Bull Illume photographer? Enter your best adventure and action sports images over here. As Nicolás says, you never know…

7 tips for a winning adventure photo

There’s still time to plan, shoot and nail the perfect shot for this year’s Red Bull Illume. Grab your gear, get shooting – and submit your work to the world’s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest.

Red Bull Illume 2021 7 tips for a winning image 1

© Laurence Crossman-Emms / Red Bull Illume

Look for new angles
Don’t let your height determine your angle. Watch any photographer at work and they’re crawling on the floor, climbing ladders and trees, contorting themselves into crazy positions. Think of Laurence Crossman-Emms’ category-winning ground-level shot of a mountain biker parting a puddle of water. Or some of the overhead shots of Lorenz Holder or overall winner Ben Thouard’s shot of a surfer shot from underneath the wave. They all called for a unique angle.

Plan but also be spontaneous
Some Red Bull Illume winners are the result of months of dedicated planning, bringing numerous complicated elements together – the perfect stunt, the perfect light, the perfect angle. Yet sometimes it’s the spontaneous shots that do well. In the 2016 Red Bull Illume Quest, photographer Reuben Krabbe had a couple of images entered. One was his shot of a skier framed by an eclipse in Svarbard. It was the result of months of planning and a huge logistical feat to pull off. The other was a cellphone shot he grabbed in a moment while boot-packing up a slope. It was the cellphone shot that became a category finalist.

Red Bull Illume could be your dream career break. Enter here.

Work with your athlete friends
Time and time again we hear from previous winners that their work is the result of a collaboration with athletes. Think of them as equal partners in the creative process. Share your vision, get them on-side and work together to create magic.

It’s ALWAYS about the light
It’s something that all great photographers are obsessed about – the light. What’s it’s doing and when. Quite often photographers are as in tune with sunrise and sunset times and positions as a 19th century sailboat captain. It’s all about the contrast, sometimes subtle, sometimes bold – explore the gallery page and see what we mean.

Research your location
Finding the perfect spot for your winning shot can be the result of months of research, poring over maps, Google Earth and other apps. But equally, it can be the result of wandering around your hood with a camera slung over your shoulder and your eyes open to possibilities. That’s what Kevin Molano did. He strolled around Bogata with the b-boy Dawinson Murillo and got him to perform in front of the San Francisco church. The result was a category finalist. For more tips on finding the perfect spot, check out our series here.

Focus on your fitness
If you’re shooting in extreme locations, it goes without saying that you need to be able to look after yourself. That means working on your outdoor skills – and fitness. As a photographer, you’re probably carrying 10kg more than anyone else and you need to be able to run around, grabbing shots, without slowing anyone else down. That means you need to be fitter than everyone else to keep up. When Red Bull Illume Kelvin Trautman covered the Red Bull X-Alps, he hiked almost as much distance and vertical altitude as the athletes themselves.

Shoot when you don’t want to
Sometimes you just don’t want to get your camera out. It might be cold, it might be raining, it might be hard going or even insensitive – but these are also the times when you capture authentic moments of emotion; like Tal Roberts’s shot of pro skier Karl Fostvedt getting stitched up or Hamish Frost’s shots of climbers in Scotland, which required pre-dawn starts, cold hands and much suffering. No pain no gain, is also true for photography.

The submission phase is open until July 31, 2021. More details on how to enter can be found here.