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10 Most EPIC Photos from Red Bull Illume 2013

Well, what do you expect from a company that dropped a man from orbit as a stunt? The 3rd Red Bull Illume Image Quest photography competition, where 6,417 photographers from 124 countries competed to submit the most epic action and adventure sports photos (there were more than 28,000 entries), has just announced the winners.

And as expected, there was much epicness. Here are the top photos from the 2013 Red Bull Illume Image Quest:


Photo: Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume - Overall Winner; Athlete: Xaver Hoffmann

This fantastic shot by skateboarder and photographer Lorenz Holder is the overall winner of the 2013 Red Bull Illume contest. Holder wrote about skateboarding on a satellite communication antenna in Raisting, Germany:

"I found this unique spot in the summer and I really wanted to shoot a snowboard picture there. I told Xaver Hoffmann about the spot and he was also fascinated. My idea to shoot in heavy snowfall wasn't going to be easy, as it only snowed once in this spot last season. So there was pretty much just a one-time chance to get this shot.

I used two big Elinchrom strobes in the background to light up the snowflakes and create a ‘white wall’ where I could capture Xaver’s silhouette as he jumped. To get some light onto the dish, I chose a 4-second exposure time to get some light from the moon.

Overall, I'm pretty happy that we made it there that day!"


Photo: Juan Cruz Rabaglia / Red Bull Illume, Athlete: Leonardo Cuny Proverbio

Photographer Juan Curz Rabaglia discovered photography at 14 when his father reluctantly lent Juan his beloved camera. It's a good thing, too, as that set the path for Rabaglia to become a professional photographer. Here, he took this photo of athlete Leonardo Cuny Proverbio in an ice cave in Glacier Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina:

Right beside the lateral moraine of Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier, natural dams of ice and rock are occasionally formed.

Thanks to glacial-fed rivers and streams, these often give rise to small lakes. When the water pressure finds a crack, a slow process of ice boring begins.

Thus, little by little, these caverns are sculpted underneath the glacier. When the lakes are emptied completely, for a brief period of time it is possible to explore these ephemeral and psychedelic ice galleries.


Photo: Stuart Gibson / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Sean Woolnough

That's a big wave! Stuart Gibson said that he was "practically born surfing" so it's only natural that he was there to take this amazing photo of Sean Woolnough on top of a monster wave in Fiji:

This was a new wave discovery quickly going wrong! Sean Woolnough and I were in Fiji for big swell and the wind went dead, so while we still had amazing conditions, we jumped in a Fijian long boat. We checked out a reef pass we had our eyes on for a few years. It’s more of a tow wave, as you can see – paddling this wave doesn’t end well.

The island jetski was out of action so we thought we’d give it a go. I dropped Sean at the top of the reef, and the ocean went flat, like someone had turned off the tap. This is pretty common on certain tides in Fiji, ten foot one hour and two foot the next. It takes a big set to light this slab up, and as Sean sat patiently I saw a big lump coming.

I started yelling, but he had no reference as to where he was on the reef so he waited and paddled for this first wave of the set. He just missed it, and when I looked back, this deep blue lump just started draining out, almost sucking him under the wave. He took one big duckdive and got under the breaking lip. On a normal wave this is fine but this thing didn’t have a back – the reef drops to 200m out the back of this place so when it breaks it really folds. The wave had just too much power and sucked him back over the falls, it’s pretty much a surfer’s worst nightmare position, so many people claim this is photoshopped, but it certainly is not!


Photo: Ryan Taylor / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Ben Horan

Action sports photographer and cinematographer Ryan Taylor of Minneapolis, Minnesota traveled to Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin for this snapshot of Ben Horan wakeboarding ... in cranberry!

Every year in northern Wisconsin, cranberries are grown and harvested in the late fall. Unknown to some people, cranberries are grown dry, and it is only during harvesting that the fields are flooded. This allows the berries to float to the surface for ease of harvesting, creating a large sea of red. This uncharted territory seemed almost impossible to ride, until the invention of the winch.

This image of Ben Horan carving through a cranberry field was a photo that I had wanted to shoot for a long time. I was finally able to do it in October 2012, when the Red Bull Winch Sessions crew asked me to tag along once again and shoot stills as well as some video. The producers of the winch sessions and I discussed the best approach to shooting and the overhead carve shot quickly became high on our priority list. We discussed several different approaches and landed at shooting from a crane high overhead.

One of the challenges we faced during the shoot was the weather. On the morning that this photo was taken, we awoke to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. By the time we started shooting, the snow had melted but the temperatures were still close to freezing. Knowing how unique the image would be, Ben (as well as everyone else involved) was still willing to put the time and effort into riding. It was a long hard week of shooting, but this particular shoot will definitely go down as one of my most unique shoots to date.


Photo: Zakary Noyle / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Gabriel Medina

Zakary Noyle stitched together snapshots of surfer Gabriel Medina doing a backflip along the shores of Oahu, Hawaii into this amazing shot. Now that is a perfect circle!

This was not a large day by North Shore standards but sort of a lay day. When the waves are smaller, the surfers usually go out for a surf right before the sun sets.

I walked down the beach with my camera and a 70-200mm lens – I did not take a tripod, as it is easier to hand hold. I really love capturing the different elements of my surroundings, to be able to put the viewer of the image into the exact location of where I was and what I saw.

By pulling the lens back, I was able to get the sand and sky, so it is almost as if someone were walking down the beach and looking over to see Gabriel doing this massive backflip.


Photo: Romina Amato / Red Bull Illume, Athlete: Todor Spasov

When she was 13 years old, Romina Amato declared in her school's homework assignment that she wanted to become a professional photographer. Her teacher took her aside and said, "It’s great that you are enthusiastic about your hobby, Romina, but you should really think about a decent profession!*"

We're glad that she didn't heed his advice because she was able to take this phenomenal photograph of Todor Spasov cliff diving off the coast of Vila Franca do Compo, Azores, Portugal:

It was not an easy day in the "office" when I took this photo. I was covering the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo in the Portuguese Azores from a boat. It was quite rough at the time and I was really happy that I had previous experience of shooting on boats so I knew I wouldn’t get seasick. You need to be fully concentrated on finding good angles when shooting in such high swells, speaking to the boat driver to hold positions while protecting your gear and somehow managing to hold on while still needing both hands to shoot.

I saw this angle between the rocks but it was difficult for the boat driver to stay in position, it was a very narrow gap and just a little movement one way or the other was the difference between seeing or not seeing the diver at all. The skipper fought so I could see what was going on and try to anticipate when to hit the right position to get the shot before the diver disappeared behind the rocks. Eventually it all fell into place!

I like pictures where it leaves the viewer questioning, in this case: Where is he coming from? Will he survive this? Does that guy seriously think he can fly?

*Thirteen years later, Amato ran into her old teacher at a supermarket, who heard on the radio about her career as a photographer. She was delighted to be able to tell him that she's having a blast traveling around the world as a professional photographer.


Photo: Jussi Grznar / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Anto Chamberland

It all started when Jussi Grznar was three years old and his dad strapped a pair of skis to his feet and pushed him down a local hill. Years later, the avid snowboarder became a senior photographer at Snowboard Canada Magazine and continued to chase that "next great photo." Which led us to this one:

I shot this photo in January 2013 with Anto Chamberland, Jody Wachniak, Matt Belzile and Mathieu Gibeault during my annual trip to Quebec.

Anto was filming his video segment for the Stairmasters contest and looking for “something big” to finish his part off. Mathieu, Anto’s cinematographer, works for a TV channel and knows some amazing locations they use for filming. He pointed out this old, abandoned building that was close by. After we went to check it out, Anto decided to jump out of the third-story window. It was definitely big and scary, and it took Anto a few tries to land. Actually it’s pretty apt that the writing in the image, “Peur”, is French for “Fear”! As soon as Anto landed one and we got the photo, I went back inside the building and shot a few multiple exposures of the artwork on the walls as I was shooting my “Environments” series at that time.

It turned out to be my favorite image of the series and one of my strongest images to date. Thank you Anto, Matt, Jody and Mathieu for pulling this one off!


Photo: Christian Pondella / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Tim Emmett

Perhaps just as dangerous as the sports of ice climbing is photographing it. Adventure sports photographer Christian Pondella took this amazing photo of Tim Emmett on a climb from underneath "ice daggers" that could break off and fall at any moment:

Helmcken Falls, located in Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada with a height of 141 meters. The water cascades over a natural amphitheater where the mist from the waterfall freezes to the overhanging and horizontal rock, creating a recent discovery for the world’s elite ice climbers.

Will Gadd and Tim Emmett were the first to discover and climb this severely overhanging cave. Due to the unique way the ice clings to the rock and the ability to place bolts into the rock, Will and Tim were able to scale the frozen walls with the safety of knowing their gear would not fail. The climbing here is the first of its kind and very cutting-edge as it is several grades harder than traditional ice routes.

Tim Emmett is on the second pitch of “Spray On”, where the route is perfectly horizontal for about 20 meters. The climbers have cleared a path between the hanging ice daggers that encompass the cave and create a huge threat as many of them have the mass of an automobile and are extremely unstable and can randomly drop from above.

When shooting this photo, I had to take extreme caution while standing underneath these free-hanging ice daggers. I wanted to show the strength required by Tim as he scaled across the roof and freeze the moment where he is hanging side by side with the ice daggers in this very unique and surreal part of the world.


Photo: Rainer Eder / Red Bull Illume; Athlete: Anna Stöhr

Mountain climbing? BTDT, so Austrian climbing enthusiast and photographer Rainer Eder decided to take a climbing photograph unlike any other:

I have been a climbing photographer for many years now. I have shot with some of the best athletes in the world and I know that the easiest way is usually not the most successful one.

My idea was to take Mammut’s pro team of climbers out of their usual environment and show the athletes performing in a surreal setting. For the shoot with Austria’s boulder ace Anna Stöhr, I chose a car dump. On the one hand, the piles of wrecked cars vaguely resemble the boulder blocks Anna usually climbs – on the other hand, the trashy, metallic objects perfectly contrast with Anna’s youth, power and vitality.

Many of the possible handholds were too sharp or too greasy to use safely, and some of the car piles were not stable enough to climb. World champion Anna Stöhr had to make her way over dozens of old cars and do countless pull-ups before we found the right spot for this photo. But both Anna and me stayed true to our motto: never ever give up!

However, the shot does not show all the effort that was necessary to get to this final point. My thanks go out to advertisement agency Perger & Berger, who helped me visualize my ideas with beautiful storyboards. The next step was to search for the perfect location and obtain permission from the owner to shoot at some very unusual places. It took me more than a year to turn my imagination into an image. But I think it was worth the effort!


Photo: Rafal Meszka /Red Bull Illume, Athlete: Emilia Biala

Polish photographer Rafal Meszka captured the mesmerizing deep waters in this absolutely stunning photograph of freediving champion Emilia Biala in Dahab, Egypt:

I went to Dahab with Emilia Biala to make a documentary about freedivers. Emilia is the Polish national record holder in freediving, and she also won second place at the 2011 World Championships AIDA Indoor Event. Disaster struck five months after this contest when Emilia was badly injured in a train accident in Szczekociny, Poland, in which 16 people died.

The doctors said that Emilia probably wouldn’t be able to dive anymore. This image was taken during her first dive after arriving in Dahab, and we were about to find out if what the doctors said was true. Fortunately, Emilia is still an excellent freediver, and at the time of writing she is busy preparing for another World Championship in Belgrade.

View many more epic photos over at Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2013

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