Tell us about Iceland
After our Baikal project, we planned a new one for the following year, which unfortunately we had to cancel due to the pandemic. We had already defined some new locations, but these were not feasible due to travel restrictions. It was supposed to be the follow-up project to Baikal, a mixture of road movie and climbing story. In autumn 2021 we decided to fly to Iceland to look for new ice climbing spots. The team consisted of Dani Arnold, Martin Echser, Lukas Kusstatscher and Davide Guzzardi. The aim was to produce photos and video. As is well known, the landscape in Iceland is spectacular, but the constantly changing, sometimes extreme weather conditions in winter made the project even more special.
Welcome to the Kingdom of Ice
Red Bull Illume Category Winner Thomas Monsorno captivated the judges with his shot of a climber on Lake Baikal. He’s been back on ice for his latest shoot and explains why.
Tell us about Iceland
Which equipment did you take with you?
In addition to my camera equipment and my drone, I also had my new Leica Q2 (category winner prize) with me, which I had received from Red Bull Illume a few days before starting the trip. The Iceland project was of course the perfect playground to test this 47mp camera. I always had it with me at every location because it is very light and compact. The low weight was a great advantage on the sometimes long ascents. I also didn’t have to worry about the constantly changing weather conditions (snow, wind, rain, cold) due to the robustness of the camera. The 28mm lens was a great focal length for me, although there is also a 35mm, 50mm and 75mm crops mode. For me it is a perfect allround camera, which I will always have with me for future projects!
What’s important to consider when shooting in such extremes?
When shooting in such extreme conditions, planning and equipment is of course very important. This certainly begins in advance, when you study the weather forecast through to choosing the right clothing and equipment. Some of the climbs are long, and the weight of the equipment means you have to be in good physical shape to keep up with the pro athletes. In most cases, the equipment is reduced to the essentials, so you can save a few kilos in weight. I always carry the batteries directly on my body to protect them from the cold.
Walk us through the creative process
The first step is always the selection of the location. If I find an inspiring location, then I think about what activity could be combined with a shoot here. The next step is then to contact an athlete to discuss the feasibility of the project. Then a team is put together (usually with a filmmaker, etc.) and the project is put on paper. At the end, the partners/brands will be contacted. The process of planning is always teamwork. It has happened that a global campaign has emerged from an initially free project when the brands have recognized the potential.
Why ice climbing?
There is something very fascinating about watching Dani Arnold ice climbing. Every movement is very considered, you have to be very strong mentally and physically to climb at this high level. In addition, there is always the cold, which certainly doesn't make it any easier to call up the full performance. Compared to other sports, the movements are relatively slow, which is often an advantage when taking photos, as the photographer has time to move and can shoot a route from many different angles and perspectives. I also find the element of ice very fascinating, as it is constantly changing. There are beautiful ice structures, the nature is just fantastic!
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I usually find the inspiration for my work in nature and when researching on the internet. There are also numerous artists who I find very inspiring.
What was the reaction to being a Red Bull Illume category winner?
The feedback was really overwhelming. So many people have congratulated me, written to me and sometimes simply approached me, even if I thought they wouldn’t be that interested in photography. Personally, it was a very nice experience and in some way a confirmation that the path I had taken was the right one and that the work of the last few years had paid off. I noticed that Red Bull Illume has a very high status in the scene, which is noticeable on a professional level.
Anything else coming up?
After Iceland we flew almost immediately afterwards for a five-week project to the Maldives. At the moment I am at home in South Tyrol, where I will also spend the summer. A few local projects are planned here. We don't have any concrete plans for next winter, but in all probability there will be a new project with Dani Arnold and co.