The one-man army whose playground is the French Alps

French photographer, Tristan Lebeschu, tells us about his favorite adventure sports, finding inspiration in the Alps, and how his love of photography began.

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© Tristan Lebeschu

What sparked your passion for photography?
When I did my first winter snowboarding season in 1999 in Tignes, French Alps, I felt the need to keep memories of all the good times with my friends up the hills - so I started with disposable cameras.
Digital photography started growing rapidly and I loved it straight away. The very first digital camera I was using was a Kodak 2MP camera. At the time, I was passionate about panoramas and I was always capturing and stitching together photos.

What impact does living in the French Alps have on your work?
I chose that place for the winter sports and have completely fallen in love with it, all year long. I love to shoot outdoor sports, so I got the perfect playground and backdrops right by my doorstep.

Your work is quite diverse, from real estate to landscape to adventure. Is there something specific you like about photographing adventure sports?
I really don’t like routine, and I love photography as it always provides renewed intellectual challenges - it’s never the same. Especially with outdoor sports, with the variety of sports, the everchanging light and weather conditions you can never shoot the same thing twice.

Which adventure sport is your favorite to shoot and why?
A hard question! I love to shoot all of them, I especially love to shoot activities I’ve never shot before because you’re outside your comfort zone which means your mind is running at 120%. But, if I had to choose only one, it probably would be paragliding / paramotoring or air activities in general because there is so much that hasn’t been done yet, due to complexity of shooting in the air.
The most difficult sport I’ve had to capture is Wingsuit / BASE jumping. Hands down! The action is happening so fast and you can’t repeat it every 5 minutes.

How did you develop your signature style?
I’ve always loved photography with impact, stuff that you stop and look at when you’re scrolling through your social media feed, for instance. So, I’ve always been on the lookout for contrast, color, light, and impactful composition. I also like to use ambient light, flash, or even a mix of both.
My recipe for years has been very simple: Give the best possible justice to the athlete’s performance with the most impactful composition, light and background / backdrop.

Has Red Bull Illume had an impact on your career?
For sure, I love the extra motivation to shoot more personal projects, and I love meeting other photographers and talking with them about our craft and our common issues / ideas.

Did you submit a picture to the Image Quest 2021?
Of course, just like every edition since I first entered 3 editions ago.

You mentioned you were on a photoshoot in Iceland, can you tell us more about it?
Well, yes and no. We often shoot for commercial projects like this one that won’t be released for several months or a year. However, I can tell you about Iceland and how much I love that place. It was my second time there and I fell in love with this incredibly beautiful place all over again. It has one of the most stunning and varied landscapes on the planet with outstanding and welcoming people that keep it clean and protected. I’m a huge fan of New Zealand, I’ve been there 10 times in my life. For me, Iceland is like the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere, or the closest thing I’ve found to it!

Are there any other countries you would like to travel to for photography?
Of course, so many of them, even though local travel is what I’ve got my eyes on at the moment. I think I’m going to explore Europe and the Alps more.

Do you have any tips for aspiring/fellow photographers?
Be passionate and ready to work very hard. Talent is not enough, you are going to need to be a skilled one-man army; marketing yourself, negotiating, doing your accounting, and always improving your skills in areas where you not necessarily at the most ease. But if you’re motivated enough, no mountain is too big for you to climb and it’ll be a beautiful journey to embark on.


You can find more of Tristan's work on his website and on Instagram @tristanshu.

Red Bull Illume 2021 Photobook - Limited Edition

This limited-edition photobook features the top 256 images of the Image Quest 2021.
Be the first to see those inspiring images printed and order your exclusive copy now! 

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Will Saunders crowned overall winner for astounding image

U.S. photographer becomes the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 Overall Winner with his shot of a falling climber.

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© Will Saunders / Red Bull Illume

After months of anticipation, the wait is finally over – this year’s Red Bull Illume Overall Winner is revealed and it goes to Will Saunders for his shot of climber Jake Talley striking a pose as he takes a lead fall on a spectacular rock tower in Indian Creek, Utah. The image was voted overall winner by a panel of 53 judges from around the world. 

Saunders was handed the overall winner trophy at a ceremony in Aspen Snowmass, CO, USA, as the resort officially opened the first tour stop of the Red Bull Illume Exhibition. He said it was a great honor to receive the award. 

“I’m just super grateful, I never thought I would be here. But it really is a team effort, it takes so much more than an individual.”

Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume said: “I offer my sincere congratulations to Will for his outstanding image. It’s a great shot and a worthy winner to take the Red Bull Illume crown, joining many other iconic shots that have won in the past. This year we saw an unbelievable display of talent from adventure and action sports photographers from around the world – 41,447 images were submitted. To select the finalists, category winners and overall winner has been a tough choice. There were so many creative, unique and technically brilliant images this edition. Of course, I would also like to thank all the partners who make this event happen.”

Saunders wins a selection of prizes worth €50,000 including a Lenovo 9iPC, a Leica SL2 camera, a workflow bundle from SanDisk Professional, and gear from Black Diamond and COOPH. In addition, he will receive a printed and framed copy of his winning image from WhiteWall.

Saunders’s winning shot was already the category winner in the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category. It shows Jake Talley mid fall while climbing. Saunders explains the story behind the shot: “I've shot many whippers but this time I wanted to try something a little different. A group of us rallied out to my favorite place in the desert to get some climbing in and make some imagery along the way. I asked Jake to really shape his body into more of a powerful movement rather than the classic falling position. With grace and style, Jake pulled this shape out of the air, allowing me to capture an image that is unique compared to most of the literal climbing imagery we see.” 
 
He adds: “His body reminded me of a superhero, which is fitting to me because most of my friends in this action sports world are my heroes. The ticket here was to just push the conceptual idea enough while also grounding the image in reality.”
 
With the contest officially over, Red Bull Illume now hits the road as a unique global exhibit tour, kicking off with a stop in Aspen Snowmass, CO, USA, until January 2, 2022. 
Stay tuned for the latest updates on the European tour, and to see all the category winner shots, head over here.

Energy by Red Bull Photography Winner

Rod Hill (New Zealand) wins the Energy by Red Bull Photography category for his shot of a kayaker.

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© Rod Hill / Red Bull Illume

Rod Hill’s image of kayaker River Mutton bursting through a rapid at Huka Falls, New Zealand, was voted the category winner by the panel of Red Bull Illume judges amid strong competition.

It’s a magical moment for the photographer. “This shot was not supposed to happen,” he says. “River Mutton was supposed to leave for work but decided on one last run. I had already packed my gear away by the time they walked back up from the take-out point. 
Once they decided being late to work was worth it, it was a mad rush back down the river with my camera. I didn't have time to get to my normal spot, so instead I tried this angle. All of a sudden, the light popped like I had never seen before. Straight away I knew this was going to work.”

It is the first time the amateur photographer, a chemistry teacher from Rotorua, has been selected in Red Bull Illume and will be a huge honor. Hill has been passionate about photography for many years on his skiing, surfing and climbing adventures and expeditions. 

The four other finalists in the category are: Stephan Gruber, for his unique angled shot of a skateboarder, Silvano Marino Zeiter for his POV motion blur of a skier, Dan Krauss for his photo of a climber sticking a dyno and Matt Power for his underwater shot of an unknown surfer against a setting sun. 

If you missed this announcement and want to see Rod’s first reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Innovation by EyeEm Winner

Thomas Monsorno (Italy) wins the Innovation by EyeEm category for his shot of a climber on ice.

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© Thomas Monsorno / Red Bull Illume

Innovation is the category for images that reveal a unique angle, a visual idea, a different format… something never seen before!

The category winner this year certainly lives up to that criteria. It goes to Thomas Monsorno, for his unique aerial shot looking down on athlete Dani Arnold ’climbing’ frozen Lake Baikal. A line of orange rope trailing from Arnold contrasts beautifully with the ice’s vertical cracks to create a beguiling image. 

“In February 2020 we traveled to Siberia with Arnold for a challenging expedition above the deepest lake on earth, Lake Baikal,” recalls Monsorno. “Siberian winters present difficult and fascinating conditions. At this time of year, conditions are extreme, with temperatures as low as -35° Celsius. The first steps on the ice of the lake were impressive – to see clearly through the thick ice of the deepest lake in the world was an extraordinary and absolutely unforgettable experience.”

Monsorno, who is based in South Tyrol, describes his work as a ‘collection of sports, documentary, lifestyle, and travel photography’.

The other finalists in the Innovation by EyeEm category were Alexey Shabanov, for his drone shot of a mountain biker riding sand dunes, Dean Treml for his black and white image of a diver in Baku, Sergey Shakuto for his night-time long exposure of a paramotor and Kevin Molano for a photo of a skateboarder in Colombia reflected in a puddle. 

If you missed this announcement and want to see Thomas’ first reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Best Mountain Photo by Black Diamond

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The U.S. photographer Colin Wiseman has won the award for Best Mountain Photo by Black Diamond, for his shot of Eric Jackson snowboarding in Alaska. Best Mountain Photo is awarded by Black Diamond and it was announced by Will Gadd during the Instagram Live on December 2, you can rewatch it here.

Wiseman’s winning image captures Jackson riding a wild line in Valdez, Alaska. He picks up the story of how he got the shot: “A heavy crew including riders Austen Sweetin, Robin Van Gyn, Jamie Anderson and Eric Jackson arrived in Valdez, in early April of 2021 with high hopes. But just before we got there, a windstorm hammered the Chugach Mountains, making it difficult to find good snow in steeper terrain. With the help of guides Justin Befu and Travis Elquist, we were able to tap into a couple protected zones on our first fly day, including this late afternoon spot.”

Wiseman, an outdoor photographer based in Bellingham, Washington State, wins a sizeable product haul from Black Diamond worth $5,000. He says, "Winning Best Mountain Photo by Black Diamond is such a surprise. I’m excited, humbled, and thrilled. Thank you. Red Bull Illume is the pinnacle of actionsports photography and it’s such an honor to win this prize. A bit of a dream come true, honestly. A huge thank you to E-Jack and the whole crew up in Alaska who made this moment happen. It’s always a group effort in our line of work."

Creative by Skylum Winner

Jan Kasl (Czech Republic) wins the Creative by Skylum category for his surreal shot of a skater inside a spiral.

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© Jan Kasl / Red Bull Illume

Kasl explains how he created the shot: “The idea snuck into my mind as a side effect from a campaign I produced based on an optical illusion called ‘forced perspective’. It sounds like a pretty sophisticated technique, but it’s basically exactly what thousands of tourists do when holding the leaning Tower of Pisa, hoping to get a unique photo of their holiday in Italy. 

“It’s very similar for most adventure and action sports photographers,” he adds. “It doesn’t really matter if we’re on vacation, on a shoot, or just going on a random walk through the city – our imagination recreates interesting pieces of architecture into an action sports playground. With a tool like forced perspective, I felt like I could push it a little further, bending reality and bringing the athlete into an absolutely surreal environment.”

The other category finalists were Luis Alejandro Arriaga Osorio, for his photo of a skateboarder superimposed above a building in Mexico City, Marc Daviet for his nighttime image of a frozen bivouac, Nejc Ferjan for his black and white drone shot of a kayaker and Chris Garrison for an image featuring BMX rider Broc Raiford inside a hexagonal garage. 

If you missed this announcement and want to see Jan’s first reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Emerging by Black Diamond Winner

Victoria Kohner-Flanagan (USA) wins the Emerging by Black Diamond category for her strong shot of a resting climber.

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© Victoria Kohner-Flanagan / Red Bull Illume

Emerging by Black Diamond is the category for up and coming photographers under the age of 25. This year saw an incredible number of inspiring images submitted. But only one photographer can take the category winner crown – and that is Victoria Kohner-Flanagan.

She stunned the jury with her image of climber Jack Nugent stretching out his arms behind his back on a virtually featureless wall of blank rock. 

She explains how she got the shot: “My friends and I spent the winter of 2021 living communally in an assortment of vans and cars amidst the Buttermilk’s monstrous granite boulders in Bishop, California. Our days looked like this: wake up, drink coffee, go climb. Jack grew eager to test his fitness on ‘Queen of Heartbreaks’ in Pine Creek Canyon. Before tying into the sharp end he was clearly nervous. 

“From the ground, the route’s 39 meters were daunting and blank. The holds remained obscured to me even as I ascended the fixed line to find the best position to shoot from. Questing up the blank face, Jack found a cheeky no hands rest. Doubt cleared from his face as I snapped the shot.”

The three other finalists were Caleb Ely for his shot of a mountain biker in a misty forest, Monica Dinh for her image of a surfer shooting into the air and Cody Hammer for his shot of a winter surfer inside a barrel.

If you missed this announcement and want to see Victoria’s first reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional Winner

Will Saunders (USA) wins the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category for his shot of a climber taking a fall in Utah.

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© Will Saunders / Red Bull Illume

Masterpiece is the category where photographers give us their best shot. This year, there were no shortage of contenders but after the judges’ votes were counted – it goes to Will Saunders. The American photographer wins the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category with his shot of climber Jake Talley striking a pose as he takes a lead fall on a spectacular rock tower in Indian Creek, Utah. 
Saunders tells the story behind the image. “I've shot many whippers but this time I wanted to try something a little different. A group of us rallied out to my favorite place in the desert to get some climbing in and make some imagery along the way. I asked Jake to really shape his body into more of a powerful movement rather than the classic falling position. With grace and style, Jake pulled this shape out of the air, allowing me to capture an image that is unique compared to most of the literal climbing imagery we see.” 

He adds: “His body reminded me of a superhero, which is fitting to me because most of my friends in this action sports world are my heroes. The ticket here was to just push the conceptual idea enough while also grounding the image in reality.”

The other category finalists were Rein Rijke for his drone shot of a kitesurfer negotiating bergs in Iceland, Petr Polách for his image of a diver in the caves of Yucatan, Gerald Situ for a shot of a highliner midway across the Great Arch of Getu, China and Karim Iliya for his shot of an ‘aquanaut’ standing on an underwater ledge. As the winner of the Great Outdoors category of the EyeEm Awards, Song Gang becomes an additional finalist for his shot of a freediver and manta ray. 

If you missed this announcement and want to see Will’s reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Lifestyle by COOPH Winner

Carolin Unrath (Germany) wins the Lifestyle by COOPH category for her shot of an urban surfer.

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© Carolin Unrath / Red Bull Illume

The Lifestyle category is one that always produces some of the most imaginative and varied shots in Red Bull Illume, and this year’s edition proves no exception.

The category winner is Carolin Unrath’s black and white shot of a surfer about to board a train in Munich. 

“The shot ‘Surfmask’ is part of a series I created with Peter Scherb in Munich in May 2020,” she says. “I’ve always loved seeing Munich's Eisbach river wave surfers all over the city. That's why we joined Andi Müllner on one of his first sessions when the river wave reopened after lockdown in 2020. The shot shows him on his way to the Eisbach.” 

The photographer is a freelancer based in the southern German city.  “I started as a musician, taking pictures on international concert tours, and used photography as a medium of art to make my memories tangible. This passion continued to consolidate through my fine arts and multimedia studies in Munich.” 

She adds: “The artist's world is limitless. I love to fill up and create a room of energy, emotions, moments, and discovery, leave enough space for someone else to get there, show people around and let them dive deeper into different worlds they've never been to before.”

The other category finalists were Mark Mackay’s shot of naked mountain bikers in Squamish, Canada,  Roman Neimann’s image of BMX riders exploring an Estonian ‘jungle’, Nicolas Jacquemin’s photo of a family of surfers in the Philippines and an incredible night shot of a hiker watching a comet in Yosemite, USA by Priscilla Mewborne

If you missed this announcement and want to see Carolin’s reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Playground by WhiteWall Winner

Markus Berger (Austria) wins the Playground by WhiteWall category for his shot of a wake boarder in action inside a glacier.

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© Markus Berger / Red Bull Illume

The Playground by WhiteWall category is all about celebrating some of the incredible locations and environments where athletes get to play. Few are quite so remarkable or hostile as the glacier ice cave where photographer Markus Berger struggled to capture Dominik Hernler in action, riding a meltwater stream inside the Hintertux glacier. He got the shot, and it has become the winner of the Playground by WhiteWall category. 

But it could easily have gone the other way, Berger explains. Such was the cold and the wet conditions, he battled to keep his cameras – and himself – alive and functioning. 

‘It was a crazy location,” he recalls. “In terms of photography, this was an extreme challenge, as we were facing intense cold, moisture and also very cold water. After more than three hours in the water I didn't feel anything below my waist and one of my cameras failed as well. When Dominik finally arrived and pulled the action it was also a matter of luck if I got the camera to trigger at the right moment. It was such a relief to see the image pop up on my screen and get the shot. Right after this shot the camera shut down and didn't work for three days until it dried up completely!”

The other category finalists were Federico Ravassard for his shot of a Marzio Nardi climbing marble quarries in Italy, Andreas Busslinger for his shot of paragliders above a frozen lake, Bruno Long’s unique image of a ski tourers on a glacier and Ebrahim Adam, for a shot he captured inside a production facility for prefabricated homes in Singapore. 

If you missed this announcement and want to see Markus’ reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.

Photo Story Winner

Philipp Klein Herrero (Spain) wins the Photo Story category for his creative stop-motion lockdown story.

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© Philipp Klein Herrero / Red Bull Illume

Covid lockdown was the inspiration for many creative ideas, as photographers sought imaginative ways to fill the long hours of boredom behind closed doors.

For Spanish photographer Philipp Klein Herrero, it gave birth to a unique idea, to somehow capture a day in the mountains, at home. The result is the winner of this year’s Photo Story category.

He explains the concept behind the home shoot: “I was sick of the sad news on TV and wanted to spread out a positive message to cheer up my family and friends, who I couldn’t visit at the time. A few days later, the idea of creating a stop-motion, skiing on the floor of my living room, came to my mind. It seemed brilliant; it was funny, cheerful, simple and with the right message – stay positive, stay home.”

But could it work? “I spent a few days getting the story right, figuring out if it was even possible. (How do you make a mountain out of bed sheets?) Finally, I taped my GoPro to the ceiling, put on ski gear and started shooting, one shot at a time. Once posted, it went viral in a matter of hours, something I never expected but showed me how much the world needed something positive.”

The other category finalists were Satchel Cronk for his series riding in a burnt-out forest, Maxime Ramoul for his black and white film shots, Adi Geisegger for a light-painting shoot with paragliders and Silvano Marino Zeiter for his nighttime snowboarding shoot.

If you missed this announcement and want to see Philipp’s reaction then you can rewatch it on our Instagram channel.

The overall winner will be announced on Saturday, December 4 during the Red Bull Illume Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass, CO, USA. Stay tuned to our channels for the latest updates.