Red Bull Illume is the world’s premier action and adventure sports photography competition. First conceived in 2007, the second iteration of this competition ended on August 31st 2010, with a grand ceremony at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
There were a total of 10 categories, with a grand prize winner in each. The photograph had to have been taken after 01.01.2007, and the winners were selected by a panel of 40 esteemed photo editors from around the world. This year’s competition saw over 22,764 images submitted from 4,773 photographers in 112 countries around the world.
Below you will find the winning photograph for each category for both 2010 and 2007. The images are absolutely incredible! Be sure to visit Red Bull Illume for more information and photographs:
Images that show extreme detail of one or more aspects of an athletic feat: a tight shot of the action, the equipment, the body, the face, etc.
The shot here is of one of my mates and fellow central coaster Andrew Mooney. He’s one damn charger on a surfboard and he’s got all the tricks. He now mainly concentrates on free surfing and is always great to shoot. The shot was taken later in the day when it was pretty dark at Andrew’s home break in Wamberal, which is about 20 minutes from where I grew up.
I love late colors in waves and it always makes for a beautiful shot. I’m happy with the way the picture turned out – I’m sure it will always be one of my favorites. Surf photography is all about moments like this one and that’s what I’m addicted to.
Photographer: Nathan Smith | Athlete: Andrew Mooney | Location: Wamberal, New South Wales, Australia | Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark III | Lens: 10-17mm | ISO: 200 | F-Stop: f5.6 | Shutter speed: 1/1600
We waited for the right temperature for this boulder problem. The conditions were perfect, and Adam
Athlete: Adam Strong | Location: Sedona, AZ, USA | Camera: Canon EOS-1V | Film: Kodak T-Max 3200 black and white
Images that demonstrate the force that powers an action and show the energy, speed and strength required for an athlete to perform.
The day I got that photo was a really special day in my career. It was at my local big wave spot and the swell was forecasted to be really big, one of the biggest swells we have on record for that wave. For those conditions to all come together – swell, wind, tide, sun – and to have surfers crazy enough to surf was just amazing. It was borderline un-surfable that day, the tide dropped and the steps in the wave were just going totally mutant!
The concept for most big wave surfing and photography these days is pretty simple; get in the most critical place possible on the wave and then try to get out of it unscathed. The bad thing about this concept is that a lot of the time it doesn’t end too pretty! The surf was too big for me to shoot in the water as I usually would so I have to praise Ryan. Without his bravery, the shot would never have happened. To me, this photo is one of the heaviest situations I’ve ever seen a surfer in!
Photographer: Stuart Gibson | Athletes: Ryan Hipwood | Location: Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania, Australia | Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark II N | Lens: EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM | ISO: 200 | F-Stop: f 7.1 | Shutter Speed: 1/1250
Reto and I used to have the same girlfriend back in the day — not at the same time, of course. But even back then, we recognized that we’ve got the same eye for beauty! So, every time we shred together, we see pretty much the same windlips, gaps, and hips — it’s kinda fun. But he’s always way faster than I am — kinda not so fun! This time, though, I was sitting behind the camera anyway, so I am stoked for Reto to get a nice photo of him banging “my” windlip: “WUFF!” Can you hear it?
Athlete: Reto Kestenholz | Location: St. Christoph, Austria | Camera: Canon 20D | Lens: 70–200 mm f/4.0 | ISO: 100 | F-stop: 8.0 | Shutter speed: 1/640
Images that have been enhanced digitally or in the darkroom through alterations made in the production or digital editing process.
On the morning after the Red Bull Air race in Monument Valley, I had the chance to set up this picture of two race planes flying near the track on a transfer flight. After a briefing at the race airport and a location check, I was able to direct everyone from the air to their positions. The weather and the light was perfect for what I had in mind. Alex Maclean and Nicolas Ivanoff were able to perfectly execute the idea, and they switched their smoke on at precisely the right moment – it all happened so quickly. You’re standing outside the helicopter on the skid and the airplanes are racing towards you at about 350 km/h.
The picture was ideally suited to enhance with a 3-D depiction because in this case the technology works for the picture and not vice-versa. The 3-D depiction was created exclusively in post-production. To get an optimal view of the 3-D enhancement of this picture you have to look at it with the red lens on your left eye and the blue lens on your right eye. During the preparations for the Red Bull Air Race in Monument Valley I had the chance to talk with one of the local Indian inhabitants about the meaning of putting on a race at this spot. She said the Gods were most likely pleased about it – otherwise they would have prevented it with stormy weather or heavy rain.
Photographer: Daniel Grund | Athletes: Alex Maclean, Nicolas Ivanoff | Location: Monument Valley, UT, USA | Camera: Canon EOS -1Ds Mark II | Lens: Canon 24-70mm 2.8 | ISO: 800 | F-Stop: f 13 | Shutter Speed: 1/1250
I had just received a new water housing for my digital camera, so on the first clean swell down at Teahupo’o [in Tahiti] I called my friend Manoa Drollet to test it out. The conditions were not exceptional for above-surface photography, but the clarity of the water and the glassy conditions made for some incredible underwater imagery. It was the first swell of the season, and we had the lineup to ourselves.
Manoa, who is always interested in the photography and filming side of things, was checking out the shots on the camera screen inside the housing as the session unfolded. I managed to get him amped on doing some duck dives or inventive moves whenever he passed by me, heading back out to the lineup. Near the end of the session, Manoa slotted into a deep tube right in front of me. In his flawless backhand style, he grabbed the rail and put his hand and body in the face of the wave to slow himself down in order to go even deeper. I had just enough time to dive under, reposition myself, and click off a few shots while he zoomed past. His hand came within a few centimeters of the camera, as if he was waving to me from the other side of the wall of water. Manoa was encapsulated yet again in his favourite wave. As is often the case, the session ended at the local snack bar over a big plate of fresh sashimi while checking out all the shots.
Athlete: Manoa Drollet | Location: Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Plynesia | Camera: Nikon D2X | Lens: Nikon 10.5/2.8 G fisheye | Housing: Aquatech | Dome: Fisheye dome | Focal length, digital: 10.5 mm | Focal length, 35 mm: 15 mm | ISO: 100 | F-stop: 5.6
Images that illuminate your artistic skill, your personal best, your unique style; this is an open category so anything goes – give us your best shot!
We woke up the morning after the rains to howling offshore winds, swell was pulsing and the conditions were as good as they get. We drove to a spot in the afternoon that the locals had said, “rarely breaks.” When we pulled up it was reeling left barrels for almost a football field’s length. We scrambled to get out and surf. i was sun burnt and tired and had no idea how to document this moment. The waves were some of the most i had ever seen, so I decided to risk it. I sprinted down the beach and hiked up a sand dune to get a pulled back perspective.
The shore break was so big, and the offshores’ plumes so high, that I was missing most of the best waves, but finally a set came through. The light, the wind, and the swell were perfect. It was as if everything in nature fell into perfect harmony for this single moment. As Peter Mendia eased into this wave, the backwash hit, sending a golden shower of water 10-feet above his head, and sending him down the line of another 20-second barrel.
Photographer: Chris Burkard | Athlete: Peter Mendia | Location: Buchupero, Chile | Camera: Nikon D700 | Lens: 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 | ISO: 125 | F-Stop: f 6.3 | Shutter Speed: 1/1000
I had the idea for this picture last summer. I sat together with Nicolas Mueller and we sketched out the plans; when winter began, I started building the acrylic cube. Nicolas called me and we set a shoot date for March; he said that Travis was coming with him. I arranged everything with Laax, the ski resort in Switzerland where we were to shoot, and built the feature with help from the Laax shapers, who did a great job. Nicolas and Travis arrived just as everything was being finished, and the session started.
At first it was really difficult to ride, but with time the riders got used to it, and more and more tricks came out. The whole night was just a dream — such a nice spot, alone on the mountain with a good crew, and we had a full moon. Thanks to Travis and Nicolas, Alex Schauwecker (my assistant), and Laax, without whom this photo wouldn’t have been possible.
Athlete: Travis Rice | Location: Laax, Switzerland | Camera: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II | Lens: Canon 16–35 mm f/2.8 | ISO: 100 | F-stop: 7.1 | Shutter speed: 1/125 | Flash: Broncolor Grafit A4 and Profoto B2 with Pocket Wizard radio slaves
Images that visually capture the creativity of the culture, music and lifestyle that surrounds action and freesports, or represents what happens before, between, and after the action.
This photo was taken in Tallinn at the Simpel Session, one of the biggest international BMX events, in February 2008 after a long day of qualifiers. Everyone was tired and was looking forward to getting back to the hotel because of the climate; it was -10°C.
The riders started cramming into the bus that wasn’t leaving. The bikes took up a lot of space! The scene was taking place very quickly and so I decided to take a few snaps without setting my camera or lens, just for fun and memory’s sake.
I was very lucky to capture this unusual scene, especially as my friend Alex Baret had his face between the spokes of a wheel. He always has a very rock ’n’ roll attitude and he kept the group entertained!
Photographer: Vincent Perraud | Athletes: Alex Baret and friends | Location: Tallinn, Estonia | Camera: Canon 50 | Film: Kodak | Lens: 15mm | ISO: 800 | Shutter Speed: 1/30
To capture this feat, multiple camera angles were needed. For the film crew (and myself) to avoid aviation authorities and fly below the 1,500-foot minimum flight limit, the paddlers had to set off across the crocodile- and hippo-infested waters above the falls before sunrise. The paddlers approached the edge of the mile-wide, 350-foot-high falls to scout the rapids below. This moment was captured from a helicopter circling 500 feet above the falls, battling with mist and wind blowing up from the narrow canyon. Challenges included extreme air turbulence and constantly having to wipe water from the spray off of the lens. I had initially planned to shoot wide at 15 mm, but a last-second in-air lens change in these conditions rewarded me with this shot.
Athletes: Steve Fisher, Sam Drevo, Dale Jardine | Location: Victoria Falls, Zambia, Africa | Camera: Canon EOS 20D | Lens: 28–105 mm | Focal length, digital: 105 mm | ISO: 200 | F-stop: 5.6 | Shutter speed: 1/500 | White balance: Outdoor
Images that reveal a unique angle, a visual idea, a different format, light and flash effects… something never seen before! It’s the purely creative image without digital alterations.
This image was captured in a snowmobile access backcountry area just South of whistler. a friend of mine, Adam Topshee, had scoped out some interesting ice formations he thought would be good to shoot, so we asked mutual friend and skier Dan Treadway to join us.
At first it didn’t seem like much, but as we began to explore we found interesting angles and got more comfortable working around the ice. Eventually, I was comfortable enough to position myself in one of the cracks in order to shoot out towards the opening. i was pretty nervous and excited at the same time, as I realized it was a unique angle and had some potential to be a great shot.
Photographer: Eric Berger | Athlete: Dan Treadway | Location: Whistler, BC, Canada | Camera: Nikon D3 | Lens: 10.5mm f/2.8 | ISO: 250 | F-Stop: f7.1 | Shutter Speed: 1/1250
On a boat trip in Indonesia last June, our captain brought us to a relatively unknown surf break. When we pulled up, we saw perfect waves breaking like a machine down the reef, with no other people in sight. I was shooting from a dinghy in the channel and had brought my remote flash and water housing with me, knowing that, later, this would be the perfect time and place to light up the surfers with an off-camera flash, creating a studio lighting–style surf photo. I had my friend swim out with it and directed him to where I wanted the flash.
At that point, it was pretty much in Mother Nature and the surfer’s hands to make something happen. It was just my job to push the trigger at the right moment and hope for the best. Luckily, Alek Parker launched this air in the perfect place for the flash to light him and part of his board up, while the early evening ambient light created a copper tint in the background. Like any good photo, certain elements have to come together perfectly for it to come out right. I feel fortunate that I ended up with this image.
Athlete: Alek Parker | Location: Mentawai Islands, Indonesia | Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark II N | Lens: Canon 70–200 mm f/2.8 | Focal length, digital: 200 mm | ISO: 100 | F-stop: 5.6 | Shutter speed: 1/125
Images that showcase the landscapes, locations, platforms, and environments in which athletes play.
I met Stefan for the first time that day. He was visiting Germany with well-known videographer Dominik Wrobel of Woozy BMX to gather material for a new video edit. I spontaneously grabbed my camera equipment and joined them for a few hours during their visit to Düsseldorf. We’d already visited some spots resulting in great material on video and film when I told them of a special place I used to skate at.
The setting was perfect by the time we arrived. Stefan entered and had fun. He rode it intensively for a while, so I had the chance to test various techniques. But it took me a while to realize how massive this pipe actually was when looked at from the outside, thinking that this was only a piece of what was destined to become part of an even bigger industrial pipeline system.
Photographer: Tim Korbmacher | Athlete: Stefan Lantschner | Location: Krefeld, Germany | Camera: Canon | EOS 20D | Lens: 50mm | ISO: 200 | F-Stop: f 5.6 | Shutter Speed: 1/250
Pontus Alv is a Swedish skateboarder with Polish roots. When he was in Poland, he was looking for some different places to skate — and he found some. This photo was taken of him on the roof of the Powisle train station in Warsaw — typical Polish 70-foot architecture. Pontus was so happy with this roof, and so was I with this shot. This spot has never been skated before.
Athlete: Pontus Alv | Location: Powisle train station, Warsaw, Poland | Camera: Canon EOS 5 | Lens: Tokina 80–210 mm f/2.8 | Film: Ilford 400 forced to 1600 | Focal length, 35 mm: 80 mm | ISO: 1600 | F-stop: 5.0 | Shutter speed: 1/500
Images that tell the whole story in a single frame and capture the progression of an action at every stage.
I talked with a good friend of mine who is a skateboarder and I asked him if he could help me take the sequence. It was hard because I only used a Sunpak flash and my radio slave pointing at the wall of a very overcrowded place. When I got the sequence, I quickly went to my office and edited the pictures together. But something came to my mind and I didn’t want to do a usual sequence that has been done many times before.
I wanted to make the sequence different so I only used the image of when Alfredo first jumps in the air with his skateboard – and then used his shadows to create the rest of the sequence. From the moment it begins, all his movements can be seen right through to their completion. To give the image a title or describe the concept, I would name it “The Climax” because you see the best moment in the trick’s execution.
Photographer: Miguel Angel López Virgen | Athlete: Alfredo Salcido | Location: Guadalajara, Mexico | Camera: Canon EOS 30D | Lens: 28.0 mm | ISO: 1000 | F-Stop: f 3.5 | Shutter Speed: 1/250
This photo was taken during the shoot for an upcoming “Snowboarding for Beginners” book. We finished the main shoot on time and, beers in hand, started talking about something special we could do in the resort. We got the idea for an air-to-fakie, shot from a stepladder, and decided to try it the next morning.
The halfpipe was super icy that day, and I didn’t get a chance to dig a hole to secure the stepladder. I just put some snow around it, hoping the rider wouldn’t hit me. The session was super fun, and we got the right result after only a few attempts, including two great single shots as well.
Athlete: Pavel Bruzek | Location: Les Alpes, France | Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark II | Lens: Canon 15 mm fisheye | ISO: 200 | F-stop: 8.0 | Shutter speed: 1/3000 | White balance: Daylight
Images that portray the spirit or personality that athletic performances produce, as well as the pain, emotion and struggles that go along with trying to achieve ones goals, whether due to injury, failure or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tomaszowski Vychlad is the name of a rock wall near Spisske Tomasovce village in Slovakia. I made the photo shoot in that region for the polish magazine ‘Gory’, which means ‘Mountains’.
The main problem was to talk the climbers into going there, as the region is known for its very dangerous and unsafe routes. The idea for the photo came into my mind only on the spot, during the climb of Micha? Król, who was resting before the difficult final section of the route. I asked him to lean against the wall and enjoy the views. The use of a wide-angle lens created an amazing effect.
Photographer: Adam Kokot | Athlete: Michal Krol | Location: Spisske Tomasovce, Slovakia | Camera: Canon EOS 350D DIGITAL | Lens: 10.0-20.0 mm | ISO: 100 | F-Stop: f 4,0 | Shutter Speed: 1/80
This was during the final heat of the Pipeline trials, and Brian Pacheco needed this wave to win the heat. I can’t remember why he didn’t catch it, but as he pulled back, the frustration was obvious in his body language. It makes me think of the TV show from when I was young, called “Wide World of Sports,” and the phrase “the agony of defeat.”
Athlete: Brian Pacheco | Location: Pipeline Beach, HI, USA | Camera: Canon EOS-D1 Mark II | Lens: 600 mm | ISO: 100 | F-stop: 4.0 | Shutter speed: 1/640 | White balance: Automatic
Images that capture the point in a performance in which the athlete jumps, catches air, free falls, soars.
In September 2008 I went to Hamburg, Germany, for the Red Bull Cliff Diving event, which was at three different locations over four days. The first spot was Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse complex in the world, built on oak pile foundations.
It wasn’t easy to get permission to shoot there because the buildings are protected as they are historically important. For a safe dive the organizers needed to dig out a bit of the canal bed to get the four meters of water the divers needed for the high dives. We had just one hour of high tide to get as many shots as possible.
I used 2 cameras, one overhead above the platform connected with flashes, and the second on the opposite bank for the sequences. Just before the session was over I changed my position to a bridge over the canal to get this angle. It was 4pm and I shot against the sun. Because of the bad light conditions I decided to shoot in HDR to get more information in the picture. In order to avoid the typical HDR look, I manually put the five single exposures together.
Photographer: Marcel Lämmerhirt | Athlete: José Eber Pava Ordoñez | Location: Hamburg, Germany | Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III | Lens: EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM | ISO: 125 | F-Stop: f 8,0 | Shutter Speed: 1/1600
As usual, this picture was taken during a skateboard session I had intended to shoot on video. It was during a Cliché skateboard tour called The Gipsy Tour, for which we had absolutely no set plan — apart from going with the feeling, sleeping out every night, and having only 10 euros a day for food. It was definitely the best skateboard tour I’ve been on.
This session wasn’t exceptional. Looking for a good filming angle, I ended up finding one that would be interesting only for something photographic. I told the guys I was going to take a five-minute break to shoot a photo and asked Andrew Brophy, who wasn’t skating, to do this 360° flip trick because I knew he had the best style of all while performing that trick. I was looking for something very stylish. It worked out perfectly, just the way I visualized it. It’s always a good feeling when this happens.
Athlete: Andrew Brophy | Location: Geneva, Switzerland | Camera: Nikon FM2 geared up with a motor drive | Lens: Nikon 35 mm | Film: Kodak 400 Tri-X, pushed 1 stop | Filter: Yellow
ALL INFORMATION AND PHOTOGRAPHY VIA RED BULL ILLUME
If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends: THE ART AND HISTORY OF THE KICKFLIP [21 pics]