Red Bull Illume Photography Contest

Decision Time

Red Bull Illume is the world’s biggest contest for action and adventure sports photography. Over the next few pages, six of this year’s 275 semifinalists reveal how they got the shot—from the ocean floor, from above with a drone or by skydiving on a jet-black night

Photography: Ben Thouard
Category: Masterpiece by Yodobashi
Location: Teahupo’o, French Polynesia

“I decided straight away only to shoot underwater photos that morning, because the waves were perfect: They were completely glassy, as there was no wind at all. I spent four hours shooting below the surface. Everything lined up perfectly, and I was really happy with the result. However, it took me almost a year to find out who the surfer was. Thanks to social media and the three-colored fins, Landon [McNamara] was later able to identify himself to me.”

Red Bull Illume Aaron Chase
SCREEN grab 

Photography: Ale Di Lullo
Category: New Creativity
Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA

“I’d been shooting through transparent surfaces for a few years, but it was during a drive across Europe that I had this idea. No one had done an extreme-sport shot from inside the car, with someone riding across the windshield. And what better to use than a New York cab? Aaron Chase was the natural choice for the rider. I kept shooting, scared the glass would break, and 12 shots later I’d nailed it.”

Red Bull Illume
big air 

Red Bull Illume: Adrenaline shots

Red Bull Illume has been celebrating outstanding achievements in action and adventure sports photography every three years since 2006. For this year’s 10th-anniversary competition, a total of 34,624 images from 5,645 photographers in 11 categories were submitted. The winners, as decided by a jury of experts, will be announced on September 28 in Chicago. The best 55 pictures, plus the 11 category winners and the overall winning photo, will then form part of a traveling exhibition. The Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour will take the images around the globe, presenting them on light boxes after dark, until 2018. 

For more semifinal pictures, information on the award ceremony and all exhibition dates, go to 

Photography: Lorenz Holder
Category: Playground
Location: Munich-Riem, Germany

“I found this spot on Google Earth, which is a great tool for scouting when shooting with a drone. It’s just a garden with small hills and winding concrete tracks, but I thought it’d look really good from above, especially if a skater did a kickflip and the sun’s shadow made the trick visible. The plastic surface was horrible, but Conny [Mirbach] is a hell of a skater, so he could fire flips even on that terrain.”

Red Bull Illume
the light fantastic

Photography: Kuba Konwent
Category: Energy
Location: Kazimierz Biskupi, Poland

“I began jumping from planes in 2014, but I had to gain experience before I could do it with a camera. Shooting a night jump had been on my mind since I heard my drop zone does one each year. My first try was unsuccessful—too humid—but it was worth another year’s wait. The camera was fixed to the wing with a mount I’d made myself. I took the picture with a wireless remote, then we all jumped.”

Red Bull Illume
the narrow way

Photography: Christian Pondella
Category: Close-Up
Location: Sierra Nevada, California

“During five days in the Sierra Nevada, we found this little slit in the cliff. I knew that if the couloir was going to get any light, it’d be at sunrise and only for a few minutes. Fortunately, Max [Hammer] agreed to get up at 4 a.m. for the trek. As luck would have it, the sun rose perfectly into the couloir and we got some amazing images. Here, I’m standing above Max for a close-up that revealed the tight walls and the narrow gap he was descending.”

Red Bull Illume
storming the castle

Photography: Bartek Wolinski
Category: Playground
Location: Castle Hill, New Zealand

“I was on a BMX trip when we caught a glimpse of something that looked like a torn-down medieval castle. ‘Castle Hill,’ as we learned afterward, was a dream come true for every epic shot hunter. After a few tries of finding a good action angle, I decided to shoot a landscape instead. All of a sudden Victor Salazar asked me to catch his bunnyhop tailwhip. This photo is the outcome.”

Read more
10 2016 The Red Bulletin

Next story