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Winners of the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest 2013

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The winners have just been announced in the 3rd edition of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest photo competition. The overall winner, top 10 category winners and top 50 finalists were unveiled at a ceremony in Hong Kong earlier today. The contest invited photographers to submit images of the world of action and adventure sports in one of 10 categories, including Energy, Illumination, Sequence, and Experimental (where digital manipulation is allowed). This year the competition received more than 28,000 entries by 6,417 photographers from 124 countries. Below are some of the winning images, accompanied by the stories behind the shots, in the words of the photographers themselves. (Also, be sure to see the earlier entry, featuring some of the semi-finalists.) [36 photos]

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Stuart Gibson's photo of Sean Woolnough on a wave in Namotu Island, Fiji, was a finalist in the Spirit category. "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. This is 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. 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!" (© Stuart Gibson/Red Bull Illume)
Stuart Gibson's photo of Sean Woolnough on a wave in Namotu Island, Fiji, was a finalist in the Spirit category. "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. This is 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. 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!" (© Stuart Gibson/Red Bull Illume)
This image by Lorenz Holder is the Overall Winner of the 2013 contest. "I found this unique spot (in Raisting, Germany) 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!" (© Lorenz Holder/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Dimitrios Kontizas: "I never thought that at some point in my life, I would stand right at the edge of a 200-meter cliff, taking pictures of 'crazy' people jumping off it. But there I was in Zakynthos Island, Greece, where the 2011 'ProBase Shipwreck Boogie' was taking place. Thirty BASE jumpers from all around the world had been invited to participate in this competition. This particular picture was taken right after the competition had ended, leaving all the BASE jumpers free of stress and letting them have 100% fun jumps. I had the focus point on one of the jumpers because they are the main subject in the frame. The Greek sun did what it does best, providing perfect lighting conditions for a result, I think, that is worth viewing." (© Dimitrios Kontizas/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Sterling Lorence: "Matt Hunter has a reputation in freeride mountain biking for finding and building very progressive lines. Matt built this air for the filming of his segment in the film, 'Follow Me'. It is a 45-foot air to wall ride move that he hadn't done much practice on. I framed up this shot from this perspective to be able to express the entire story of his line and the size of the gap he had to make. I originally thought I would shoot it as a sequence so that the viewer would be able to understand the extreme journey more. With my motor drive running, Matt nailed his line and I watched him hit the wall and carve out the finish. I was completely floored and in awe by the explosion of dust he had created. As I sat back and reviewed my images, I saw this one frame and I realized that I no longer needed the full sequence. The entire story, speed, impact and energy of this huge air was captured in this single frame. That is why I love photography, telling so much of a story in a single image." (© Sterling Lorence/Red Bull Illume) #
Jeroen Nieuwhuis was named the winner of the Close Up category for this shot of Erik Journee skating in 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. 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." (© Jeroen Nieuwhuis/Red Bull Illume) #
Scott Serfas won the Illumination category with this photo of Travis Rice in Alaska's Tordrillo Mountains. "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. 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!" (© /Red Bull Illume) #
Left: Lorenz Holder's finalist image of Benny Urban in Oberschleissheim, Germany. "I had the idea to shoot a snowboard waterslide from underneath the surface a couple of years back, but I found out pretty fast that it wasn't as easy as I thought. After several tries, I knew that I would have to go down into the water myself. So I rented water-housing and diving equipment and went to a pretty perfect location in Munich, Germany for the shoot. The idea was to shoot upwards where the rider would be, in the so-called 'Snell's window'. Looking upwards underwater, this is the circular area of light on the surface caused by refraction of light entering the water. In my image you can see the rider and the sky through that window. In other parts of the surface this effect takes place and mirrors the underwater world. The communication with the rider was also a bit difficult, because we both were in two different worlds and we could not just raise our hands when both of us were ready. But in the end, everything turned out way better than I expected!" Right: Olaf Pignataro, finalist in the Playground category. "After waiting for the town to go to sleep and for the streets to empty, Stefan Lantschner climbed down a rope into the hole of the ancient bridge Ponte Pietra in Verona, Italy. Using the same rope, crew members lowered down his BMX, and Stefan began to ride the giant full pipe. Some tourists noticed the flashes coming from the bridge, but Stefan was lucky enough to climb up without getting caught by the police after a short session. Ponte Pietra is a Roman arch bridge crossing the Adige River and was completed in 100 BC." (© Lorenz Holder, Olaf Pignataro/Red Bull Illume) #
Morgan Maassen, finalist in the Close Up category: "On this overcast day in late autumn, Rebecca Ronald and I went out to Chun's Reef in Hawaii for a surf as the waves were quite clean and uncrowded. Despite the overcast skies, the water was unusually clear so I figured I would shoot with a fisheye, hoping the sun would pop out at some point during our session. Unfortunately, the sun never did come out, but Bec had a marathon session and we lined up on too many waves to count. After riding a wave past where I was shooting, she paddled back towards me... only to swing around and catch another wave. And it was at this moment that I captured this over/under shot of her, showcasing her as she prepares to nab another wave on that delightful day at Chun's Reef." (© Morgan Maassen/Red Bull Illume) #
Vince Perraud's image of Luc Legrand was a finalist in the Sequence category. "The great magazine 'The Albion' asked me to follow Frenchman Luc Legrand for an article, and we arranged to spend a week on the road all across Spain, living in his van. Luc loves to ride in unique locations even if they are not easy. He remembered a crazy set-up around the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and we found it again. I was not used to shooting sequences but I thought it would work for this one. I also thought shooting fisheye from below would really capture the movement. After a couple of run-ups, he just did it first go, and I was really happy to catch it first go too!" (© Vince Perraud/Red Bull Illume) #
Jody MacDonald, finalist in the Illumination category: "In the fourth year of a five-year world kiteboarding expedition, we sailed 600 miles across the Mozambique Channel from Madagascar to the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the southeast coast of Mozambique. As we made landfall, a massive 20-mile sand dune grew off our bow. No words were said, everyone just ran for their wings. The east side of the dune juts out into the Indian Ocean at a perfect angle for paragliding a few hundred meters above the sea. In no time we were soaring and exploring a place by air that had never previously been flown. It is the stuff that even vivid dreamers cannot imagine and as a photographer it was perfection. The way the light danced and played along the sand was mesmerizing. It was perfect until we spotted our dinghy washed up on the beach. By the time we reached it, there was no obvious damage but we would still have to wait again for low tide to make any attempt to leave. We ended up sleeping on the dune that night in our paragliders and awoke again the next morning to more perfect flying conditions. Being quite possibly the most playful and stunning soaring site on the planet, we had to keep flying. Only after we were sunburnt, exhausted and dehydrated did we manage to get the dinghy through the shore break and back to our catamaran." (© Jody MacDonald/Red Bull Illume) #
Jussi Grznar's shot of Jeff Croker in Sussex Inlet, Australia, was also named a finalist. "Jeff Croker is a true Australian bushman. Having lived in Australia all his life, he only saw the ocean for the first time at the age of 20. The next day he packed all of his stuff and moved to the beach. To this day, Jeff still lives by the beach with his lovely wife and two not-so-lovely sons (just kidding!). I met him during a personal trip to Australia in 2012, and I really wanted to photograph him. Jeff is known for not interacting with people very much, so I decided to put the camera away and just sit back for a bit. After one long night and a happy wedding we all went for a surf together, and I got the chance to get to know the man a little better. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of good waves, and maybe a beer or two!" (© Jussi Grznar/Red Bull Illume) #
Zakary Noyle was named the winner of the Sequence category for this shot of Gabriel Medina in the surf off Oahu, Hawaii. "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." (© Zakary Noyle/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Ismael Ibanez Ruiz: "I was in Barcelona for a week shooting the local BMX scene. Barcelona is definitely one of the most interesting BMX Meccas in the world, with many street spots where you can ride all day. After a hard day of searching for different spots, I shot this picture where an old man was angry with one of the local riders (Nil Soler), thinking that what he was doing was a bad thing for the city. He doesn't understand it's only BMX! After this mishap, which is usual in Barcelona lately, we continued our search for new images, new spots and new sensations." (© Ismael Ibanez Ruiz/Red Bull Illume) #
Morgan Maassen won the Lifestyle category for his photo of surfers Jake Marshall, Taylor Clark, Frankie Harrer, Colt Ward, Thelen Whorrell, Nolan Rapoza, and Dryden Brown, in 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. 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 kids 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." (© Morgan Maassen/Red Bull Illume) #
Ryan Taylor, finalist in the Illumination category: "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. 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." (© Ryan Taylor/Red Bull Illume) #
Left: Finalist Scott Serfas: "I was in the middle seat of a helicopter with Travis Rice, Mark Landvik and John Jackson, circling around in the Tordrillo Mountains in Alaska when the three of them started talking about a jump they wanted to build below us. I had no idea what they were looking at, but after about 10 minutes of discussing it in the air we landed and got the shovels out. I was in charge of shaping the in-run along with the other media team members on this particular "The Art of FLIGHT" trip. We shoveled for hours without even knowing what this feature looked like. From where we were working, all we could see was where the riders were shaping the take-off and the Alaskan valley in the background. When it was time to shoot, I hiked up a few hundred meters and then traversed over to the side, trying not to disturb the snow in the foreground. When I got to the side, I was able to see what it was these guys planned to jump over and how big it really was! I hiked up and down the slope I was on until I found the perfect angle. I held my breath and the boys dropped in. John Jackson made history that day by landing the largest backside double cork ever!" Right: Romina Amato, winner of the Energy category: "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!" (© Scott Serfas, Romina Amato/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Jimmy Wilson: "The US Open is as chaotic as surf contests get. You will never see more people show up to watch a surf event, and the number one person they come to see is Kelly Slater. It can be really hectic trying to shoot photos with a crowd like that. Luckily, Surfing Magazine lets me do my own thing and doesn't require a particular number of images per day or anything. They just want me to get some different perspectives from the online galleries and run-of-the-mill Instagram photos. The most important aspect of this shot was making friends with the security team -- they can be stingy no matter what kind of pass you have, but in this case I was allowed to run behind Kelly as he entered the water for this heat. I didn't have a pole cam or anything, I just held the camera up as high as I could and hoped the focus and composition worked out right. Normally I fail in these situations, but with a 24mm lens it's a little easier to hold it up there and guesstimate what you're shooting. When I checked the LCD screen after, I was really psyched and saved it for the magazine. Of course, it ended up caught in a page cut and never saw the light of day, but it's still one of my favorite lifestyle moments I've ever shot. Plus, of course Kelly went on to win the contest and $100k!" (© Jimmy Wilson/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Theodore Van Orman on his shot taken in Frisco, Colorado: "I was thrilled to check out this spot after seeing a few blurry cell phone photos of it. Full pipes are few and far between and one of my favorite things to ride. After being invited to check it out, I stayed up most of that night anticipating the next day. Two hours in the car and a short hike through a forest, and we were heading up into the belly of this beast. The only light source for this long tunnel was the sunlight piercing through the opposite end. During the entire trip through the tunnel, my eyes were fixated on that circle of light. We were high in elevation, and my equilibrium felt off. When we finally made it to the opening, I quickly put my lens on my body and metered a shot as my counterparts kept moving ahead into the light. I waited until Cody looked up into the light to shoot. I used just natural light with a shallow depth of field to make the subject pop. The subjects did not know I was taking this photo, which made it a completely natural moment. No planning, just riders mesmerized by the light at the end of the tunnel." (© Theodore Van Orman/Red Bull Illume) #
Juan Cruz Rabaglia was named a finalist in the New Creativity category for this shot in Glaciar 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." (© Juan Cruz Rabaglia/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Florian Breitenberger: "In the summer of 2012 I was hired to shoot the Nine Knights Mountainbike event at Austria's Wildkogel. The weather conditions were not super good, so we had to focus on one or two good weather days to produce our entire media output. Since it was my job as an event photographer to highlight the sponsor's branding and lifestyle atmosphere, I also got the chance to shoot some creative angles during sunset and night sessions. Apart from the bad weather forecast, the event was perfect. Xavier "Sherwy" Pasamonte and all the other riders were riding super well. Xavier threw that superman a few more times during the event. Meanwhile I found this little lake beside the wooden castle. I thought about producing something different, so I turned off my flashes during the sunset session and tried to catch Xavier against the backlight of the setting sun and the reflection of the water at the same time. Afterwards I adjusted the contrast during post-production in the same way I visualized the image on the mountain before. I was very lucky to produce this high-contrast black and white photo combined with the perfect style of Xavier -- it was such an incredible atmosphere during the event!" (© Florian Breitenberger/Red Bull Illume) #
Left: Finalist Christian Pondella: "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. 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." Right: Ray Demski's finalist shot of Bernd Zangerl in the Himalayas. "This image was taken during a bouldering trip to the Indian Himalayas. I used flashes to capture Bernd as he climbed this nearly 15m highball by the light of headlamps. It was some very delicate climbing and everybody held their breath in the near-freezing night. Once Bernd was down safely, I made several long exposures for the star trails and spent the rest of the night out alone to get some good options. The final image is a combination of the flash exposure with Bernd climbing, the star trails and lightpainting." (© Christian Pondella, Ray Demski/Red Bull Illume) #
George Karbus, finalist in the Close Up category. "This photograph was taken on the west coast of Ireland at the most intimidating surf spot called "Rileys". I dove beneath the water with my diving mask, held my breath, and waited for the moment when local surfer Tom Lowe would pass with a powerful snap close enough to my lens. Water visibility is always very limited in Ireland, and I was lucky to get a clear shot like this. The image was captured with a Nikon D700 with a 16mm fisheye inside a Subal housing." (© George Karbus/Red Bull Illume) #
Daniel Vojtech was named winner of the New Creativity category, for his photo of Tomas Slavik in a studio in Prague. "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." (© Daniel Vojtech/Red Bull Illume) #
Chris Burkard, winner of the Spirit category for this shot of surfers Keith Malloy and Dane Gudauskas in 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. 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. 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." (© Chris Burkard/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist David Carlier: "The lower part of Mesa Falls in Targhee National Park in Idaho is definitely a world-class spot for shooting white water and descent waterfalls. As we heard the water level was pretty high, we left Jackson Hole early that morning with two boaters, Gary Edgeworth and Eric Seymour, and a videographer to shoot with a small waterproof Nikon camera fixed on the boats. Gary went first off the massive fall, taking off from a black rock that looked like a perfect kicker. Full speed ahead, he went with the flow, taking full advantage of the energy produced by the roaring waterfall. This shot was one of the first ones I took that day and looking at the screen on my camera, I knew straight away that the position was right and there was something going on. Shooting action sports is always pretty tough as most of the time the decisive moment happens only once. There is no time for hesitation. The key is often to have a pretty precise idea of the shot you want to achieve and then move fast to find a secure location and try to anticipate the moves of the rider." (© David Carlier/Red Bull Illume) #
Scott Dickerson was named a finalist for his shot of surfers Mike McCune, Eric Newbury, and Dave Calkins riding a bore tide in Turnagain Arm, Alaska. "One thing my years of experience photographing in Alaska has taught me is to appreciate those magical moments when everything comes together. This photo is a defining moment for me where several of my passions aligned perfectly to create an image that I had been visualizing. This was when we first started surfing the Turnagain Arm bore tide on our stand up paddle boards and we were getting incredible 5 mile rides that would last up to 50 minutes. But the bore tide is a mysterious thing and sometimes it would be a clean perfect wave, and other times just a surge of turbulent whitewash, often both in the same ride. The morning before it was a bust, so I wasn't feeling too confident waking up early on this morning. I loaned two of my boards to friends and passed up on surfing the morning's wave so I could try and shoot some aerial photos. As we raced to beat the incoming wave, one of the surfers in the shot actually had to help me launch my paramotor from a short little strip of beach. It was an incredible morning with a picture-perfect wave and beautiful light from the sunrise. My three friends managed to ride the wave for about 40 minutes and I was able to shoot the entire time, flying back and forth over this spectacle of nature. In all the time I've surfed or photographed the bore tide, none was as photogenic a moment as this." (© Scott Dickerson/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Krystle Wright: "Twenty-four hours before this shoot, my original paramotor pilot pulled out as his daughter had gone into labor five weeks early. A few friends and I went driving around Moab, Utah, desperately trying to find a solution. Thankfully, we came across Lyn Ottinger who happened to own the only tandem trike in town. We struck a deal and thankfully my shoot was saved! As the BASE jumpers ascended Castleton Tower, we began the motor and started to buzz around the tower. I couldn't get clear radio contact with the jumpers and it was a little chaotic as we tried to communicate. In the end, the athletes would just jump when they were ready and it was sheer luck for me to be in position when Michael Tomchek took his 400ft leap. The shoot happened so fast that I didn't get a chance to see my images until I was back on the ground. I am incredibly stoked with this image and it has also inspired new ideas about how I can evolve this concept even further, which I hope to make happen at the end of the year." (© Krystle Wright/Red Bull Illume) #
Benjamin Ginsberg's shot of Bobby Okvist high above the Wedge, in Newport Beach, California, was named a finalist. "Surfer Bobby Okvist and I started with a simple plan: to hunt down the largest waves of the swell. Hoping for an evening glass-off, we ventured back to the Wedge for our third session of the day. Exhausted from battling massive waves and long hikes from the previous sessions, I decided to stay dry and shoot from the beach. Shooting at this location often, I knew I wanted to set up far down the beach at an extreme angle, looking into any potential barrels, with the sun as far to my back as possible, and the cliffs of Newport Coast/Crystal Cove as a backdrop. A crowd of photographers in my favorite spot pushed me even further down the beach. Adding to the challenge, it was nearing sunset. Light was getting both less and more acutely angled, creating shadows within the wave face and bright highlights elsewhere. First wave out, Bobby was in position for the largest peak of the day. The wave was breaking so far out that when the refracted energy peaked, it crumbled. The wave chased Bobby towards shore, only to heave over and start barreling in the shallow water where a wave usually first breaks. Without enough speed to make it back to shore, and the wave violently closing in behind him, Bobby carved up the face and aired off the back, shocking even himself at the height he flew." (© Benjamin Ginsberg/Red Bull Illume) #
Finalist Elias Kunosson: "I shot this image during the first autumn I spent in Are, Sweden. I had just moved out of my car and found a place to stay. Not really knowing the village that well, I had heard that there would be a market, so I decided to check it out. When I walked into the village I noticed posters saying they were going to have a FMX show down by the lake. I went back to my apartment, grabbed my camera and went to see if there was anything worth photographing. As it turned out, one of Sweden's best riders, Fredrik "Frog" Berggren, was going to be there. As I got down to the show area it was already smacked full with people. I saw some other photographers close to the ramp where it was very crowded. I thought there was no point in competing with them for the space, only to get the same kind of images as they would. I looked around and saw a fire escape on a nearby hotel, so I decided to climb up there and try and get an elevated view. When I got up, I decided I wanted to showcase the crowded area but at the same time leave the focus on the rider. Not owning a specific tilt/shift lens, I had to do the effect in post. I think it makes for a slightly surreal image while highlighting the action." (© Elias Kunosson/Red Bull Illume) #
Nicolas Jutzi, finalist in the Illumination category: "The shot was taken before a sailing competition on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The boats were preparing for the start. The clouds were also getting bigger very quickly and we knew we were going to have a big storm, as usual for hot summer days. As the sky was getting darker, I thought it would be a good idea to put one of my cameras in a water housing in case it would start pouring. As I put in the last screw of the housing, the wind started to blow stronger. A couple of seconds later we were caught in heavy rain and the sky was almost black as night. All the boats were behind me in the dark but one of them was in line with the blue sky behind the storm. I took a couple of shots but this is the only one where there isn't too much water everywhere and you can see something!" (© Nicolas Jutzi/Red Bull Illume) #
Left: Finalist Dave Lehl: "This photo happened on a road trip through the American Southwest. Originally I just wanted a shot of two skateboarders pushing down the famous "Forest Gump" road. Being that the road has a little steepness to it, the guys weren't pushing very hard, and the shot looked lame. So for one pass, I asked them both to push really hard. They came flying past me and both took a big push. However, Andy's back foot hit the back of his board, which sent him flying. Although I wasn't planning on a crash, I captured the moment that we all as skateboarders fear the most, that split second where you think "Oh shit, this is really going to hurt." Luckily Andy's a tough cookie and all he got was a scrape on his shoulder and forearm, and I got an awesome photo." Right: Rafal Meszka, Finalist in the Spirit category: "I went to Dahab, Egypt, 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." (© Dave Lehl, Rafal Meszka/Red Bull Illume) #
Stuart Gibson, finalist in the Close Up category: "We were surfing a shallow reef break in Fiji called Wilkes Pass, just off Namotu Island. It's a fun right-hander wave that gets solid on large SW swells. On this day it was about four to six foot (double over head). We got caught inside by a wide set, and the heavy slab section on the inside of Wilkes exploded right on top of us! It's always a little more comforting when someone else is in a bad situation with you, so I turned to look at Ryan on this duckdive -- we were laughing but scared at the same time, and I shot a sequence. This is the shot before the white wash landed on both of us, sending us high and dry on the coral." (© Stuart Gibson/Red Bull Illume) #

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