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.

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Red Bull Illume Limited Edition Photobook 2019

Adventure and actions sports may be on hold for a little while but that just means it’s the perfect time to gather inspiration for your next sesh! The Red Bull Illume Photobook 2019 is the perfect way to spend your time at home, looking at 260 of the best adventure and action sports images from the Image Quest 2019.

 

Every image in the Photobook has been selected from a record-breaking 59,551 submitted by thousands of photographers from all over the world. It’s our mission to give honor the hard work and dedication of the artists who pour their passion into creating the world’s best adventure and action sports imagery by giving them the credit that they deserve. It’s the reason these limited edition photobooks are individually numbered and stamped – with only 4,000 available!

If that isn’t enough, every Photobook includes a SanDisk Ultra SD Memory Card (16GB) with the Moving Image Category Videos and a full version of Luminar Photo 4 Editor. That means you or your loved one don’t have to wait for the next adventure to start getting creative. It’s the perfect gift for every adventure and action sports lover.

There are also a handful of Photobooks from previous editions that have been uncovered and are now on sale for a limited time. Perhaps you weren’t able to get one last time, or you’re just looking to experience the full collection? Head on over to COOPH Store and check out all the available bundles up for grabs!

Be sure to get your hands on a limited edition Red Bull Illume Photobook today!
 

Podcast Series 4/4 - Overall Winner Ben Thouard

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for the fourth and last episode next Tuesday!

© Ben Thouard / Red Bull Illume

© Ben Thouard :

This week Red Bull Illume Image Ques 2019 overall winner (and winner of the Energy category) Ben Thouard talks about his journey towards a spending more time under water than above and what taking away the grand prize meant for him personally.

Listen to the Podcast below or head over to Pitched Industries

If you haven't yet done so - make sure to check out the previous episodes:

Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms 

Episode 2 with RAW category winner Noah Wetzel

Episode 3 with two times category winner and former overall winner Lorenz Holder
 

More work by Ben Thouard at benthouard.com or on his Instagram @benthouard.

Podcast Series 3/4 - Two times category winner Lorenz Holder

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for the fourth and last episode next Tuesday!

This week Playground and Masterpiece by EyeEm category winner and two-times overall winner of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest Lorenz Holder talks about his winning formula and what inspires him to create masterpieces day in day out.

Listen to the podcast BELOW or head over to Pitched Industries​​​​​​​!

If you haven't yet done so, make sure to check out Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms and Episode 2 with RAW category winner Noah Wetzel!


More work by Lorenz Holder at lorenzholder.com or on his Instagram @lorenzholder.

Dive in! Underwater Photography with Kohei Ueno

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Kohei Ueno doesn't like shooting underwater - he lives for it! His black and white image of freedivers at the Freediving Championships in Indonesia is astonishing and daunting at the same time. We wanted to know what it's like to shoot 100m beneath the surface with no air, no light but a lot of water.

Why have you chosen to submit your image to the Image Quest 2019?

I was so impressed and inspired by the submissions of the Red Bull Image Quest competitions in the past that I knew I wanted to be a part of it someday. This is by far the greatest adventure sports photography competition in the world, where photographers capture the spirit of adventure and exploration, where minds and bodies are pushed to the very edge of human limits. To me the sport of freediving fits right into this world, not only as a sport but also as a lifestyle, so I am extremely glad to be selected amongst the very best and represented in this category [Lifestyle].

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with Red Bull Illume 2019?

The Red Bull Illume 2019 Winner Award Ceremony on top of the Kronplatz Mountain at 7000ft was out of this world, capturing the essence of Red Bull's spirit in style. It was one of the most spectacular photography competition that I've ever been a part of with so many amazing talents and like-minded individuals from across the globe, who all shared the same love and passion for photography and creating stunning images of their sports.

 

"I experienced a very powerful moment, something so good that I had never felt before."

 

Your image made it to the final stage, congrats! How did the shot came about?

This shot is an image of a freediver coming up from a competition dive at the AAS Freediving Depth Championships. A rather intense moment where the athlete is awakened from the dark, quiet, lonely depth of space, to the bright, loud, and hectic environment of the surface above. To me, what makes this image even more special is that I've watched this athlete grow over the years, overcoming her own fears one step at a time, from when she could barely dive to a few meters down, to now where she's diving to depth of over 50 meters on one breath of air.

What’s the story behind your love for free diving?

My relationship with the ocean started at 13 years old when I got my first open water scuba certificate, but it was not until the age of 30 when I discovered freediving that transformed the way I saw the ocean. I realised that there was a lot more to freediving than just holding your breath, or the thrill of adrenaline, or to show off or anything like that. When I completed my 16m depth requirement during my first freedive course, I experienced a very powerful moment, something so good that I had never felt before. I was immediately hooked to this new sensation, and I knew right away that this is a sport that I would continue for the rest of my life.

What came first for you: free diving or photography?

I picked up my first 'non-point and shoot' camera when I quit my job at Google to travel the world, self learning on the go with just a basic understanding of aperture, shutter speed and iso. A year later after returning home, I won a grand prize at a major photography competition, and that was when photography became a little more than just a hobby. That same year, I discovered freediving and fell in love with it straight away. Naturally, I took the camera underwater and that's how it all began. So in a way photography came first, but freediving is what got me interested in underwater photography, and I am happy to have found a way to combine the two together.

What fascinates you about underwater photography?

What I find fascinating about shooting underwater on a breath hold is that it has the ability to reset my mind to really focus on the present, washing away everything and anything that goes on above the surface. Everything works differently underwater than it does on land, both physically for our bodies and technically inside the camera, and I find it very interesting to balance these two together. We know so little about the ocean, like we know so little about freediving, and while we can spend all day studying about it from the surface, admiring the weird creatures and science within it, it's quite hard to grasp the true wonders of it all until you dive down and experience it yourself. I hope my images will inspire more people to take that plunge to look closer into our oceans and into ourselves.

 

"... all while holding your breath and worrying about your own safety as you go deeper and deeper."

 

One of the biggest challenges when shooting underwater?

When you’re dealing with shooting freedivers who are diving at speeds of one metre a second, things can get really complicated. Not only do you have to adapt to the loss of light at different depths, but also the change in pressure while diving head down with a camera in your hand. Trying to keep steady while fighting against things like current, waves, thermocline and varying visibility, all while holding your breath and worrying about your own safety as you go deeper and deeper. All of this happens at the same time, and that is the most difficult thing about freedive photography.

What do you always have with you equipment-wise?

You absolutely need a good set of underwater housing, and a good pair of fins! To me Nauticam housing is the ultimate when it comes to housing my Sony gears and Molchanovs short fins does wonders for freedive photogaphers like myself. As I shoot mostly wide, my choice of lens is usually the 16-35mm fisheye and a decently sized dome port for above under shots. Also, as I'm near the ocean a lot, one thing I find essential is having a good backup solution. Personally I use a QNAP NAS to backup my files over the network and this really helps with my workflow and a peace of mind knowing that my data is safe even when I'm overseas. I also like to bring a solar panel charger to take advantage of the sun whenever possible as well as Litra lights for occasional night shoots.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can find my work at www.koheiueno.com and Instagram @kuenok. I am also working on some collaborations with art galleries in Singapore and Australia, once I have more details, the information can be found on my website.

Podcast Series 2/4 - RAW Category Winner Noah Wetzel

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for a new episode every Tuesday over the next four weeks!

This week RAW category winner Noah Wetzel talks about how exactly he was able to pull off a shot that many thought was not possible to produce without the help of post-production!  

Listen to the podcast BELOW or head over to Pitched Industries!

If you haven't yet done so, make sure to check out Episode 1 with Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms


More work by Noah Wetzel at noahdavidwetzel.com or on his Instagram @noahwetzel.

Podcast Series 1/4 - Innovation by Sony Category Winner Laurence Crossman-Emms

In this series by the Pitched Industries Podcast Red Bull Illume category winners including the overall winner of the Image Quest 2019 give us their unfiltered insights into how they were able to capture their winning images, what inspires them, why they do what they are doing and what winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest has done (and might be doing) for their careers. Stay tuned for a new episode every Tuesday over the next four weeks!

This week Innovation by Sony category winner Laurence Crossman-Emms explains, amongst other things, what makes him feel attracted to puddles and take photos everytime he spots one. 

Listen to the Podcast below or head over to Pitched Industries

Find more of Laurence Crossman-Emms work at laurence-ce.com and follow him on Instagram @laurence_ce.

Behind the finalist shot by Robin Pearson

With his stunning image of a BMX rider in an underground tunnel in Portugal, that plays with light and shadow in a very unique way, Robin Pearson made it to the Top 60 of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. Check out this exclusive behind the scenes video which shows how he nailed this insane shot!

Born in the UK, Robin Pearson's drive to capture the finest moments of BMX riding on the most interesting terrain he can find brought him all the way to Portugal where he now lives. It was his move to the westernmost country of Europe that made the image possible in the first place: "Soon after I moved to Portugal, my friend Anthony Pearson (no relation) hit me up about coming to visit. He is a fellow spot enthusiast - as in, he loves finding and riding the most interesting spots possible - and had wanted to make the trip to this full pipe spot for years. With me living fairly close by, he finally had a good excuse to make it happen."

When you look at Robin's image one of the first questions that will pop into your head will be about the location. So what's this spot? "It's a drainage channel that leads from a reservoir down into the earth, under the hill and out into the next valley. It does baffle me how civil engineering projects often produce huge rideable transitions like this, but I'm not complaining. To get in there, you head down a dirt track, cut through some trees and then face a steep drop down into the valley. Many of the metal rungs of the old ladder had eroded away long before we arrived, but thanks to the locals João and Bruno Soares, who helped us find the place, we were prepared with ropes to handle the descent. The feeling you get when you see a spot like this can't be overstated. It's genuinely electrifying - standing at the entrance of the pipe, Anthony and I could not believe the scale of it."

No one had the final picture in mind at all, they all just wanted to ride the spot and have a good time: "Our goal for the day was actually to ride the far end, which is more like a half-pipe, but pitched down a steep slope into the pipe. And that's what we did! All four of us cleaned the place up a bit, felt it out on our bikes, rode it the best we could, shooting photos and filming clips. At the end of the session, as you'll see in the video, Anthony even sent a flair on the vert wall."

The image that made it to the final stage of Red Bull Illume has not been shot up until this point: "As we were on our way out, we saw the full pipe in a new light - quite literally. The sun had come down and was now beaming along the valley, illuminating the vast concrete pipe with a beautiful warm glow. I told Anthony we had to shoot a few carves! I knew he was knackered from riding all afternoon but I didn't know how long the light would last and wanted to capture the sheer scale of the pipe in that glow. It's just a simple carve in a big pipe. No tricks just pure BMX."

But how was the exprience for the BMX rider Anthony Pearson? "As we climbed down the sketchy ladder and arrived at the mouth of the full pipe all sorts of thoughts were running through my head. What if someone sees us and calls the police? What if someone gets hurt? What if the water suddenly started flowing through this thing? But all these doubts were suddenly replaced with pure excitement to start riding."

Since the light changed quite late, Anthony was already pretty worn out. To get the final shot he pushed himself to his limits: "As I started to pedal down the pipe I quickly realised the gearing on my bike was far too light for such a big and full pipe. I knew we would only have a few shots at this before my legs gave up on me. Pedalling as fast as I could, pulling a small wheelie through the puddle of water at the bottom I carved up into a spot where I hoped Robin would be happy with. Luckily for me he is a true professional and nailed the shot at the first try. It was a fantastic end to an amazing day riding one of the best spots in Europe."

See more of Robin Pearson's awesome work on his Instagram or check out his website!

Interview: Free Solo Speed Climbing with Christian Gisi

Born and grown up in Switzerland Christian Gisi is a true expert when it comes to extraordinary vertical adventures. In this interview the RAW Category finalist talks us through what it means to document the most thrilling projects mountaineers and climbers can encounter - speed climbing and especially free solo speed climbing ascents of some of the wildest peaks in the Alps.

What fascinates you about photography and why have you chosen to take part in the Image Quest 2019? 

Anyone who is active in the outdoor and action sports scene can hardly get past Red Bull Illume. I was thrilled by the pictures of the past editions. The level is incredibly high - all the more I feel honored to be a small part of it in the 2019 edition. 
The combination of aesthetics and athletics is what makes it special for me. We see athletes at great performances in beautifully composed images. This is also part of the answer to what fascinates me about photography in general. Despite an epochal overload of images in the digital age, photography has lost nothing of its magic for me. However, with the incredible quantity of pictures, it has become more of an art not to press the shutter button or to take a picture only when I am convinced that I have something as unseen and valuable as possible in front of my lens. 
Ideally you then make the difference between a good and a very good picture... 

Your image of the athletes Caro North and Steph Davis on the famous Mittellegi ridge on the Eiger in the Swiss Alps made it to the final stage of the Image Quest 2019. Can you tell us a little bit about the shot? How did it come about? 

As a mountain, the Eiger is simply an absolute knockout. The visual and historical dominance of its world-famous north face makes you shudder every time you approach it. 
The impressive east ridge that is visible in the photo is probably one of the most beautiful ridge tours of the Alps. With regards to the ambiance, the shot is actually quite a "no brainer". 
The photo was taken during a shooting for a Swiss mountaineering equipment supplier. We installed two camera teams to accompany Caro and Steph - one with the photographer Thomas Senf directly on the mountain, a filmmaker and myself for the aerial shots. On this second day of shooting everything was just right: We waited until late afternoon to get the perfect lighting conditions. That the fog in the south wall added to the drama was the icing on the cake. Such impressions stay with you - not only in the camera. 

You worked with exceptionally talented athletes over the years. Have you learned something from them that also comes in handy for your work as a photographer? 

To be in the terrain with such athletes is of course impressive at first: Their way of understanding what is going on in the mountains, their way of assessing the dangers but most of all their incredible athletic abilities to move on rock and ice leaves me speechless even after many years. Although it may sound trite, the respect they show towards the mountain is impressive. 
In addition, professionals like Dani Arnold, Steph Davis or Jérémie Heitz know exactly what is important when it comes to illustrating their sport. It is therefore worthwhile to listen. 
But what really impresses me is the modesty of these athletes: Someone who pursues a sport at the highest possible level in the world, gives everything for his passion and still never gives his environment the feeling of being too good for anything. 
These are perhaps less the central skills that influenced me as a photographer, but as a human being I have really taken a lot of such personalities with me on my way. 

What’s the biggest challenge when shooting free solo and speed climbing records? 

You have to make a difference: Usually such pictures are re-enacted after a record. This applies to most of the famous records on the Eiger, Matterhorn, El Cap etc. For example, we also did it this way with Dani Arnold on the Matterhorn.
However, during his speed ascent of the Cassin Route on Piz Badile in 2016, we went a new way and made a documentation of Dani live during his record. This changes the situation for both, the athlete and the photographer, completely. 
There is an aesthetic-planning dimension: What does the shooting process look like? In which passages do you absolutely want to have pictures? What possibilities for spectacular angles do we have, how quickly can we change from one position to another, etc.? 
Then there's a technical one: Basically you have exactly one shot. During a speed ascent, the athlete cannot just turn around and climb a passage again. So you better make sure that you have the camera under control. 
Finally, there is a personal level: Someone close to you is climbing and risks his life. If he makes even a small mistake, you will be watching him fall to certain death. I don't think that this can be answered conclusively, but you must ask yourself if and how you could live with it. 
So it takes an enormous amount of trust on both sides. The athlete has to know that we do not put additional pressure on him in any way. He has to be able to rely on it, that everything works out and that we capture his exploit as professionally as possible.
I, on the other hand, must be able to rely 100% on him not taking the slightest unnecessary risk because of the camera.
That's where the dilemma comes from: Do you shoot during the ascent and risk putting the athlete under additional pressure - or do you shoot afterwards and expose the athlete again to an extremely risky situation, just to have nice pictures? 

Can you explain how a shoot like this usually works? Do you climb next to the athlete(s) or do you use drones?

Without (massive) technical aids, it is usually not possible, because climbing along is definitely not an option. You can recreate scenes in the wall from fixed positions, but this is not really possible when shooting live. For this you would need a very large crew with many different teams in the wall. At best, you can do this in Yosemite in stable weather, but in an exposed wall in the Alps at 4000m above sea level, it's a logistical nightmare. As a lay person you can hardly imagine the enormous climbing speed - but in many places it is actually more of a running than a climbing. The whole thing advances so fast that you always have to be fully concentrated. 

Drones are ingenious - of course I use them too. But with large walls there are still limits. For really good pictures, I'm afraid the helicopter is (still) irreplaceable in such terrain. The interaction with the pilot is then crucial, he must know the site very well, understand where the most important passages are and from which positions the view of the route is best. During the record attempt itself, communication with the athlete is not possible - so good planning is essential. 

What equipment do you use when you shoot free solo or speed climbers? One would imagine it has to be rather light?
 
No, lightness is not the most important thing. Of course, I only take to the mountain what fits in a backpack and I can carry around with me without any problems. But absolute reliability, speed (like a fast, precise focus) and a certain redundancy are the most important things. Basically, I always work with two cameras with different lenses more or less parallel in such projects. It would really be most unfortunate if an athlete would make a phenomenal exploit and I would mess it up... 

What are your goals as a photographer? Anything specific for 2020? 

Photography is only one of my activities and passions - I fear that 2020 will be more about other tasks. Nevertheless: Some projects are definitely on the agenda this summer in the mountains.
And of course: Slowly I will start to develop first ideas for the next Red Bull Illume Image Quest... 

Where can we find more of your work? 

Best is to visit my website atlense.com I'm afraid I'm a little too lazy to maintain social media channels - but sure, you can find me on Instagram @atlense_photography. Ok, with the latter, a few more followers would probably be nice...

Gallery: It's more fun together!

No matter if it's the pleasure, the suffering or the glory, emotions around adventure and action sports can easily go beyond the boundaries and no matter if you're an athlete or a photographer, you want to make sure you can share them. Here are 8 images from the 2019 Image Quest that instantly make you want to text your adventure buddies!

Feel inspired? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more adventure and action sports! 

Interview: Lachie Carracher on his perfect shot at the end of the rainbow!

Lachie Carracher's spectacular shot of kayaker Bren Orton dropping down Alexandra Falls perfectly captures the thrill and joy of kayaking! With us the finalist of the Wings Category in the Image Quest 2019 chats about his happy place, challenges along the way and the ultimate location he wants to shoot at.

Now you're a Red Bull Illume finalist, describe what the Wings Category means to you?

The Wings Category to me is the moment of flight, the still moment where things go completely quiet. As a photographer, it is the moment my breath stops and I just hear the shutter.

What came first for you - whitewater kayaking or photography?

Whitewater kayaking came to me first, I had just started travelling for whitewater kayaking when I purchased my first camera. After that first big trip abroad my photography passion grew exponentially.

What is it that draws you into the water and whitewater especially?

The flow of being on the river is addictive, once you peel out into the current you are in a different world. Moving downstream with a group of friends in a stunning environment is my happy place for sure! Every river has a different character and spirit, that's what makes travelling around the world and being drawn to new and foreign rivers so appealing.

What are your biggest influences in adventure and action sports photography?

Somehow, I surround myself with crazy people unintentionally all the time, it's the norm now really. Now and again I take a step back and realize that my friends are some of the craziest whitewater kayakers, BASE jumpers and surfers in the world and we are all so privileged to spend our time on this planet checking out wild places and new experiences. Long story short - my influences are my friends, wild places and my drive to be best at what I do.

How did the idea for your finalist shot come about?

Alexandra Falls has fascinated me since I first saw an image of it in 2003. Drone photography has allowed so many more creative angles and perspectives to shoot waterfalls. I thought about the perfect shot for a long time, one that combines both the scale of the waterfall and the perspective of the paddler staring down one hundred feet. When the paddler decides to run down such a steep waterfall, he doesn't think about the perfect light, like I ususally do. As a photographer you have to work with what you have. But I coudn't be happier with the way the image turned out, incorporating the rainbow at the bottom of the falls.

How did you discover the location and meet the athlete?

The location is known in the whitewater scene since its first descent in 2003, it only has been paddled by a few people. Although I knew the rough location, it wasn't until I got there that I fully understood that I was almost in the arctic circle. I traveled there with two friends from home and I met Bren (Orton, ed. note), the athlete, at the Falls as he arrived with another group of some of the world's leading paddlers.

Did the final image turn out exactly as planned?

More or less, yes, even better in some ways. I love that you can see the deep water channel so clear. I had not expected this until I first flew the drone over it to do a test shoot.

What was the biggest challenge in capturing this photo?

Managing multiple cameras and getting the timing right. That's always a challenge when you are shooting aerial and handheld at the same time. Also, the athlete usually takes a couple of minutes to get in the right mindset for the drop. The drone battery has a very short lifetime so the timing was key here.

A kayak doesn't have enough space for suitcases full of gear. What do you carry on a regular adventure?

Safety gear, my camera, something to snack on and a lighter and knife are always with me on a day trip in my kayak.

Your ultimate location/athlete/sport to shoot?

Such a hard question! Any wild and remote place with my friends on a river is a dream I will have forever. Whitewater will always be close to my heart but I am shooting a lot more BASE jumping these days. If we are talking dreams though, Dean Potter somewhere in the Yosemite Valley.

How did you discover Red Bull Illume?

I first learned about it when I saw Eric Parker's entry in the last contest. It's a fantastic event and I feel honoured to be a part of it.

Plans vs. dreams for 2020?

My plans this year take me to the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, followed by the West Coast of North America. Then to Kyrgystan and Ethiopia in the fall and maybe to Madagascar. I'm excited to visit some new locations. My dream shot this year would be a humpback whale while Freediving in Madagascar.

Where can we find more of your work?

On Instagram @follow_the_river and on my website LachieC.com!