Ready? After weeks of anticipation it's finally time to announce the winners of Red Bull's epic photo contest! About a month ago, we showed you 20 of Red Bull Illume's most inspiring entries which featured everything from a crazy perspective photo of two BASE jumpers in Greece to a serene shot of a freediver plunging into the deep waters off of Egypt.
This year's overall winner was also the winner in the Playground category as well as the Experimental category. For the grand prize, photographer Lorenz Holder shot snowboarder Xaver Hoffmann in the air next to a giant satellite dish. “I found this unique spot in the summer and I really wanted to shoot a snowboard picture there,” he explained to Red Bull Illume. “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!
Now, check out the top 10 winning shots, one for each of the photo contest's 10 distinct categories. If you can't get enough of these adrenaline-pumping photos, you can also look through the winning shots in 2010.
Close Up Category Winner
Photographer: Jeroen Nieuwhuis, Athlete: Erik Journe, Location: Denekamp, Netherlands
“I was looking at my portfolio and thought to myself that I should shoot some different images – less ‘studio-lit', if you will. It had been a while since I shot skateboarding, but I decided to give it another try. After a short brainstorm session, my buddy Erik and I thought it would be a cool thing to try something different than usual. I wanted this shot to be less set up.
“We grabbed our boards and went to the street seen in the picture. It's just outside a forest, and a couple kilometers from where I live. The position of the sun was just right. I quickly grabbed my camera. Skating the street from front to back a couple of times, I kept trying to get the right shot. After almost smashing my camera on the concrete, I thought I would give it just one last try. This is the last image I shot in that series.”
Illumination Category Winner
Photographer: Scott Serfas, Athlete: Travis Rice, Location: Tordrillo Mountains, AK, USA
“This photo was taken on the second trip during the making of the ‘Art of FLIGHT' snowboarding film. We had been in Alaska for a month and I knew the trip was ending very soon. I really wanted to shoot a photo from the helicopter, right above Travis Rice as he was riding a line, but it was very difficult to coordinate because there was another heli in the air shooting with a Cineflex camera.
“We worked out that if our helicopter hovered above the line Travis was going to ride, then the other Cineflex heli could maneuver around us without a collision.
“So as Travis mentally prepared himself to ride the line, I rose up about 30 meters above him and waited. The other helicopter practiced their move around us, making sure they could still get the shot they needed. The sun was setting fast so the director Curt Morgan called for Travis to drop into the line and as he made his second turn down the mountain I snapped this shot.
“This turned out to be the last photo I took during what was the best snowboarding trip of my life!”
Lifestyle by Leica Category Winner
Photographer: Morgan Maassen, Athletes: Jake Marshall, Taylor Clark, Frankie Harrer, Colt Ward, Thelen Whorrell, Nolan Rapoza, Dryden Brown, Location: Tavarua, Fiji
“Late one fall I gathered a group of America's next generation of young surfers, and we departed for Fiji to try our hand at an impressive south swell. Arriving at Cloudbreak to perfect conditions and an empty beach, we had an absolute blast enjoying the dreamy scenario. The young surfers handled the size and intensity of the menacing reef break well, and we truly had an amazing trip of waves and weather.
“The kids consisted of Jake Marshall, Taylor Clark, Frankie Harrer, Colt Ward, Thelen Whorrell, Nolan Rapoza, and Dryden Brown, all young stand-outs with promising futures. They surfed for ten hours a day, coming in only for food or sunscreen. I captured them one morning in this shot, discussing in the crystalline water anything from the surf they were enjoying to homework they forgot at home.
“Reflecting on the trip after we had gone our separate ways, it was not the performance of the children or the caliber of surf that made our adventure memorable; it was their social dynamic. I was fascinated by their camaraderie in the intense surf and realized that while the atmosphere was thick with competition, their friendship had them trading waves with nothing but smiles, laughing and hollering at each other's successes and misfortune with pure glee.”
Experimental Category Winner
Photographer: Lorenz Holder, Athlete: Jordan Mendenhall, Location: rnskldsvik, Sweden
“In the last couple of years I have been shooting 90% of my action shots from a tripod. I have been doing this because I messed up the framing of my pictures many times when I shot by hand. After a session I always end up with the same picture, with only minor changes when I flip through them. Pictures with riders, pictures without them and everything else that happened in the scene when I triggered the camera.
“As I had used a tripod so many times, I found out that I could flip different pictures in Photoshop and put them together again to create a totally different, new world that doesn't exist in real life. All the pictures have perfect symmetry and that's something I like a lot.
“In this picture, I mirrored parts of the building to get a really, really big building. Jordan in the front is the only element that is not symmetrical.”
Wings Category Winner
Photographer: Samo Vidic, Athlete: Jorge Ferzuli, Location: Athens, Greece
“This image shows Jorge Ferzuli from Mexico diving from a 26.8-meter platform during the first training session of the third stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series at Lake Vouliagmeni in Athens, Greece on May 20, 2011.
“I was booked for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series stop in Greece. My task was to capture all the action from the water. I was shooting with my Canon 1D Mark IV with a Canon 15mm fisheye lens placed in an SPL water housing.
“I usually try to get different styles of photos from the water and here I was lucky enough to capture a bird flying next to Jorge Ferzuli. It is very difficult to shoot from the water as you are very limited with the angles. Later when I showed this photo to other people, everybody was really impressed and I also won the Slovenian Press Photo Award with this shot!”
New Creativity Category Winner
Photographer: Daniel Vojtech, Athlete: Tomas Slavik, Location: Prague, Czech Republic
“I had had this idea in my head for a long time: I wanted to do something similar to one of my older pictures with a snowboarder. For this new project, I chose four-cross rider Tomas Slavik. He is a former Czech freestyle champion and sees the progress of freestyle tricks from a different perspective. He performs completely new and impossible tricks on his MTB, and if something seems impossible now, it will be the norm in a few years.
“This shoot took place in a studio because we could control all the lights very easily and wanted to create a backstage feeling, and also because it was very easy to suspend the bike from the ceiling. We had one special rope for Tomas and two smaller ones for the bike.
“I chose a Nikon D800E with a Nikkor 24-70/2.8 lens. We also had seven Fomei Digital Pro X strobes, and a super cool gadget – a special flash remote control app for the iPad.”
Sequence Category Winner
Photographer: Zakary Noyle, Athlete: Gabriel Medina, Location: Oahu, HI, USA
“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.”
Energy Category Winner
Photographer: Romina Amato, Athlete: Todor Spasov, Location: Vila Franca do Campo, 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?”
Spirit Category Winner
Photographer: Chris Burkard, Athletes: Keith Malloy, Dane Gudauskas, Location: Unstad, Lofoten Islands, Norway
“We woke at dawn to what appeared to be clear skies and we immediately scrambled to get our things together. Windows of clear blue skies are rare in these parts of Norway and each minute that passed as we gathered our boards and wetsuits seemed twice as long.
“Jumping into the truck, we drove the cold icy roads looking for peaks on the horizon. Then just over the frozen hillside the top of a wave could be seen. Our excitement grew as we saw the mist of the offshore wave. So focused on the offshore waves ahead of us, we failed to see the looming clouds behind them. We ran to the shoreline and paddled straight out. The waves seemed perfect and we thought it would be a long session of the best arctic waves any of us had ever scored. Suddenly the winds changed and that looming cloud on the horizon had snuck up and was almost upon us. With little regard for what was in front of it, the rain began to pour and within minutes it began to snow. Caught in a blizzard, we did what we could to paddle in. Finally making it back to the truck, we took shelter and tried to wait out the storm. Weather is constantly changing in the Arctic and sometimes all it takes is a little patience.
“On this day, the weather got the best of us and our time spent sitting in the truck ended up being our downfall. The snow had piled high around us and soon it was pretty clear that our truck was not going anywhere fast. Dane and Keith knew another surf session was nowhere in sight and decided to head back into town. As the storm continued to brew the pair made their way back home.”