Red Bull Illume Workshop rundown

Red Bull Illume Workshop rundown

© Rutger Pauw

As things gear up towards the 2013 Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony tonight, a number of action sports photography workshops have taken place all over Hong Kong.

Two of the workshops that took place yesterday were hosted by Rutger Pauw, who demonstrated the Leica S2. Photographers had the opportunity to shoot Red Bull BMX star Viki Gomez as he performed stunts. The second workshop for local photographers and athletes took place in an urban setting in downtown Hong Kong in the evening.
So popular was the Leica workshop that another impromptu one took place on the rooftop of the W Hotel today!

Another popular workshop was hosted by broncolor & Sun-Sniper. Broncolor photographer Urs Recher demonstrated different light systems, and photographers got the chance to shoot Matthias Dandois at a traditional fish market in Kwun Tong. Sun-Sniper’s Urs Goetze also discussed tips on using different Sunbounce diffusers and reflectors.

Of course, everyone is waiting for the main event: the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony kicks off tonight at 20:30 HKT / 14:30 CET. We will be posting all the live updates on Facebook as well as revealing all the winners in real time on our gallery. Be sure to tune in!

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Almost a visual Q&A: Geoff Coombs

The underwater images of Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Geoff Coombs give you goosebumps and not just because they are shot in freezing cold Canadian lakes. But because his work perfectly captures that eerie and mysterious underwater-feeling. Being an experienced freediver himself, Geoff knows best what to consider when shooting in (and under) water.

© Geoff Coombs / Red Bull Illume

In this Viusal Q&A Geoff shares a few of his incredible images (including personal favorites) and the story behind each one. He also talks us through his most challenging shot so far!

What's your style of photography and how did it develop?


My style is constantly evolving and I would describe it with words like surreal, dark, and imaginative. My photos from five years ago look vastly different than they do now as my skills have improved and my style has changed. Over time I naturally gravitated to creating photos that evoke emotion, surreality, and mystery – photos that have a “wow”-factor and make people take a second look.

Why are you passionate about photography?


I love photography because of the challenges and creative expression it brings. Creating images that stand out from the crowd is hard but rewarding. The constant desire to improve and perfect my craft is something that keeps me moving forward. That desire for perfection, while unattainable, motivates me to think of new ways of capturing the world. Creating images to not just satisfy me, but also to help brands communicate their product and mission in a surreal and inspiring way is a unique approach that I strive to take on every production.

What inspires you?


I love seeing other photographers’ work and creativity. Seeing what they create inspires me to constantly improve my own work and never settle. Discovering new locations or seeing how light can make a familiar place look new is also inspiring.

What captures your attention immediately?


Seeing something new for the first time - whether it's through another photographer's work or when I'm out in the field and come across something special and unique.

What's your motivation to dive in freezing cold water and how did your relationship with the sport begin?


I live central to the majority of the Great Lakes and smaller lakes in the Muskoka region of Ontario. I have always loved the underwater world. As a kid at my family cottage I would copy the big wave surfers of Hawaii by rock running on the bottom of the lake (holding a rock underwater and running along the bottom on one breath). I would swim and wakeboard as much as I could, so I was always comfortable around the water.

I dreamt of diving in the Caribbean often when I grew up, and when I was 22, I finally did. After that trip to the Bahamas I was obsessed with learning how to freedive. Little did I know, some of the most beautiful freshwater diving in the world was only a few hours away from my hometown. When I started freediving in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, I knew the potential of winter images could be one of a kind. I knew it could provide the potential for my own unique voice in a world full of repetitive content. So, my best friend Andrew and I gave it a try and the images that we created were game changing in my career.

After five years of ice diving, I am still motivated by the physical challenge, the raw beauty, and the simple tones that lie beneath the frozen surface. The ice is always changing, and every dive is different, which adds to the allure. I am always wondering what we might see under there, and how I can create even more impactful images.


What are the biggest challenges when shooting underwater? Any tips?


One of the biggest challenges of shooting underwater is finding the right angles to shoot from. When you're on land you are essentially working in two planes of motion. When you're underwater the game changes and you're free to move in all sorts of ways. I photograph everything underwater on one breath while freediving as well, which is another challenge. Maneuvering the camera while holding your breath and swimming under a frozen surface requires a lot of practice, mental calm and physical skill.

As for tips - it's important to be comfortable underwater without a camera before you try to go underwater with one. Once you're comfortable and confident, bring the camera under and try to find new angles and experiment with different focal lengths. On land the best times to shoot are obviously when the sun is lower in the sky. But underwater, it's generally the opposite as the higher the sun is the more it will penetrate the water and create more light to work with.

Where's your favorite location to shoot?


My favorite location is Tobermory in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, which is where I shoot most of my underwater images. The water is clear, blue, and cold. Exploring the vast amount of wrecks and frozen icebergs in winter is an adventure. A very close tie would be Exuma, Bahamas. The water is the same clarity and almost the same colour as the lake, but it also offers abundant sea life, warmth and unique beauty.

What's the most rewarding image you took and why?


That is a tough one, but I think one of the most rewarding images I took was this image of my friend Andrew as it allowed me to make it to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019. The conditions were also beautiful this day - the water was incredibly clear, and the sun was setting over the thin ice which made the purple hues come to life. Combining the low light, the shipwreck, the ice, and a freediver into the frame made it a compelling and interesting shot that I'll always remember.

And what was the most challenging one?


The most challenging image I have ever shot would have to be this one. It is a shot of my two friends holding hands floating in the ice hole and looking down. While the image shows a surreal world and beautiful textures, it doesn't show the raging snowstorm that was taking place above the surface. The wind chill and whiteout conditions were making it very difficult to stay warm, and water would quickly freeze over our masks in between dives. But despite the discomfort it was worth it. It's one of those situations where you look back on and have fond memories of, but in the moment it is a tough grind and you just want to get warm.

Favorite image you took this year?


This image would have to be my favourite from the year because of the simplicity, color, and what it means to me. This image was shot in April during lockdown, and it summed up what I was feeling, and I'm sure what most were feeling at that moment. When I view this image themes and words come to mind like isolation, uncertainty, and hope for the future. It also gives feelings of wonder and mystery, which tie in to the reason why I started underwater photography.

Find more of Geoff's work on his Instagram account or on his website!

Gallery: Endless Illumination

Different colors, different positions or a whole different source. Not a new topic but one where ideas and visualizations are endless - lighting! In the following gallery we picked some remarkable images that will definitely inspire your lighting game.

I know a spot: Martin Golob

Red Bull Illume 2019 finalist Martin Golob usually captures athletes in pure moments of action. He's an experienced pro when it comes to urban sports photography and parkour is his strong point. With this in mind, we asked him what locations he's looking for, what expectations they need to fullfill and how the sport helps him to add a fresh perspective to a well-known spot.

© Martin Golob / Red Bull Illume

How would you describe your style of photography?

I don't know if I have a style yet, I'm still a young photographer who tries to find himself and I prefer to let people describe me however they want. But I do my best to highlight the earth, the kindness of human beings and the simple nature of these objects.

What makes a "perfect" image to you?

When the image turns out exactly like I imagined it beforehand. For me that's when the subject and nature become one.


The location of the image you submitted to Red Bull Illume is pretty cool. How did you find it?

Ironically, it was not very difficult at all. Germain, the athlete in the image, lives near the spot, so we already knew the location, how to enter it, and the fact that at a certain time the sun will cast a shadow on the wall! But it was really cool to shoot and somebody even stopped to watch us and we had to explain the whole parkour thing.


Where's your favorite spot to take images?

For now, it's in the city. I don't have a particular favorite spot because parkour can bring you to a lot of different places. There's always a location you move in, no matter where you are. But locations with different heights are great because then you can shoot new and interesting perspectives.

How do you find new, undiscovered and stunning locations?

I often work in collaboration with the athlete. Since I do parkour myself, I know where to move, climb and jump. But the physical and mental aspects are not the same for everybody. When I see a spot, I ask the athlete first to see if he feels comfortable performing at the location. I don't plan any action before, I prefer to improvise and decide in the moment. It's always better when you start shooting without any expectations.


What exactly are you looking for when you search new places and locations?

I always lift my head up and look for heights in which the athlete can move smoothly. And it's always better when the location provides unique light conditions.

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

Parkour makes you able to move everywhere and it makes you see places in a different way. So, in a well-known place you can always add something fresh with these kind of movements.


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

By changing the perspective and playing with heights. If there are loads of people I'd have to adapt to the situation myself. But I'm quite good at that since you always have to do that in parkour anyways. If I have to climb up somewhere to get a new angle and people out of my vision I will definitely do it!

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

I'm not sure if I can say that, but I won't wait for permission if I want to go to a specific place, haha. Sometimes you can't wait on people to do what you want so you have to take matters into your own hands. If you take care of the places you go to and don't leave any waste behind, people will know that you are not here for any trouble.


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

The best tip that I can share is to let things happen and to open your eyes - sometimes awesome locations are right next to you. But you won't see them if you don't look around. Of course it always depends on the image you want to take, but in my case, I just walk around the city and try to be hyperaware of everything. And don't forget, anything is possible as long as you haven't tried it!

Where can we find more of your work?

Just follow me on Instagram. I just moved to Paris, France, and can't wait to shoot at new locations. More photos of urban sports and parkour are coming soon!

Gallery: Moment before the fall

That moment when you hit a rock, slip away or just loose your balance. A short moment of slow motion in your head that makes you stop breathing for a split of a second, when you realize you will hit the ground no matter what! Thats exactly the vibe we were looking for in the following 10 images. Expression of fear, pain and determination captured in some impressive pictures.

Category finalist 2013: Spirit; Photographer: Dave Lehl; Athlete: Casey Capper, Andy Orley; Location. Monument Valley, UT, USA

I know a spot: Erik Gross

Round two of our new series "I know a spot" that's all about stunning locations and where to find them. This week we talked to Red Bull Illume 2019 semi-finalist and skateboarding enthusiast Erik Gross. His images are most often set in spectacular surroundings that you don't come across on your average location scout. Find out how he discovers them (and why being kind definitely pays off!) in our interview below.

© Erik Gross / Red Bull Illume

How would you describe your style of photography?

I always try to integrate my subject in the environment and to achieve a clean and calm look, so the focus is just on the subject.

What makes a "perfect" image to you?

A perfect photograph makes me want to look at it for a long time without getting bored.


The location of the image you submitted to the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 is really stunning. How did you find it? What's the background story here?

It's an empty Aquapark on the island of Gran Canaria. I knew it existed because Tom, the athlete in the image, had been there before. At first, we were kicked out immediately, but we were polite because we knew that the security was just doing his job. He was impressed by our manners, so while we were walking out he said to us, "Hey guys, come back at 5 and you can skate." We did that and he was really nice to us.


Where's your favorite spot to take images?

There's no specific one, any spot that has good natural light.

How do you find new, undiscovered and stunning locations?

Sometimes via Instagram and other photographers, sometimes via Goggle Maps, or by asking the locals.



What exactly are you looking for when you look for new places and locations?

I always try to find out when the lighting conditions are the best and what would be the best angle to shoot from. I prefer it when there's no fuzzy background behind the subject, e.g. the sky or a clean wall.


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

With different angles or lighting conditions. Alternatively, I try to shoot from the top if nobody has done it before.

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

I think it can make an image even better when people are in the foreground!


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

Hard to say, getting up early, hiking to the spot and bad weather conditions are no problem for me. But, of course, the skater must still be able to do the trick. However, I would do a lot to get the image I have in mind.


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

Just try to keep your eyes open. Sometimes a boring looking spot looks amazing from another angle or if the light hits in a certain way - that can change everything! Even when I'm not skating I'm constantly on the look-out for good locations.


Where can we find more of your work?

On my website and on my Instagram!

Reconnecting with old friends: A series by Christian Heilwagen

We talked to photographer Christian Heilwagen about his latest project with his friend, downhill-biker Jonas Hohmann.

On one side an athlete always on the run hunting for the next competition, on the other side a photographer with a calendar full of events. When it is hard to find time, photography can reconnect old friends and create memories that last.

The story about their day out and the stunning images they came up with we put together in the story below.

© Christian Heilwagen

"...a meeting which had to be, before the ways separate again, because Jonas lives only about 40km away from my home town.

Jonas, who just came back home from a 3 week trip, asked me if it wouldn't be a good idea to take some images during his stay. Without hesitation I said yes, since it’s not often that we both have time!

He mentioned that he was thinking about some cool, flowy enduro pictures. The weather was perfect, I packed my bike and decided to only take one camera-lens combination with me.

We drove to several spots, and felt more and more enthusiastic about what the region around Eisenach [Germany] has to offer. My idea was to create enduro pictures that are in harmony with nature and less action-packed."


Location: Waldgebiet Sängerwiese / Thüringer Wald


"I also wanted to integrate elements like light and shadow as well as dust into the picture."

"A few shots later, the photo story of the day was done. Jonas, his sponsors and the team were happy with the pictures.

Now Jonas is starting his season, and my schedule is also increasingly full with sporting events."

I know a spot: Vegard Aasen

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

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


© Vegard Aasen / Red Bull Illume

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

How would you describe your style of photography?

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


What makes a "perfect" image to you?

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


Where's your favorite spot to take images?

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


How do you find new, undiscovered and stunning locations?

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


What are you looking for when you are location scouting?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Where can we find more of your work?

On my website and on my Instagram!

Justin Coomber: Seeking adventures in South Africa

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


© Justin Coomber / Red Bull Illume

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


What equipment did you take with you?

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

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


How did your relationship with (adventure) photography begin?

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


What makes the "perfect" image to you?

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

Where do you find inspiration for your images?

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

Any dream projects you wish to accomplish in the future?

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

Where can we find more of your work?

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


Gallery: 10 simple but strong images

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

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

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

Images that will make you yearn for water

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

© Mahallia Budds / Athlete: Felix Georgii

How did the relationship between you and wakeskating begin?

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

What came first: Wakeskating or photography?

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




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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Any stand-out memories or moments in your career?

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

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

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

Where can we find more of your work?

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