The Red Bull Illume photo contest, now in its 10th year, highlights the best images and photographers in the outdoor adventure world. Fifty-three premier photo editors whittle down almost 35,000 images into 55 finalists. Those images are separated into 11 categories, with a winner in each, plus a grand prize winner. Tens of thousands of dollars in gear await the winners, in addition to bragging rights from one of the most prestigious photo contests on earth. Here a preview of some of the incredible work.
Photo: The grand prize was awarded—for the second time—to the German photographer Lorenz Holder for this shot of Senad Grosic in Gablenz, Germany. “One thing that was a little annoying was that the lake was covered with leaves which had fallen from trees, so the reflection of the bridge in the lake was just not there,” Holder says. “But sometimes you just need a bit of luck—I had been on a fishing trip some days before and still had my fishing-boots and a net in the car. So got the stuff and tried to clean the lake by hand. It took a while until it was almost perfectly clean—at least where it was relevant for the picture. Luckily the sun was still very soft, so we had good light for the shot.”Enhance category winner by Dean Treml
Jonathan Paredes of Mexico dives from the 92-foot platform on the roof of the Copenhagen Opera House during the first practice session of the second stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Copenhagen, Denmark on June 20, 2013.Mobile category winner by Vegard Aasen
Aasen went to Hakuba, Japan, with friends to ski some deep powder and big mountains last winter. On a windy day in the backcountry, the friends spotted a group of people hiking across the ridge above them. “ I hated myself for not bringing my camera,” Aasen said. “Luckily I had my mobile phone in my pocket. I could not see anything on the screen, but obviously managed to aim pretty well.”New Creativity category winner by Ale Di Lullo
Di Lullo: “I’d been working on shots through transparent surfaces for a few years but it was during a long drive across Europe that I had this idea. I was forcing myself to think of new angles and nothing really came to mind. But when I said to myself that the best ideas are the simplest ones, that usually you have the answer in front of you, I realized the shot was actually in front of me.”Sequence category winner by Daniel Vojtěch
Vojtěch stitched together this image of the Flying Bulls, Red Bull’s team of pilots. “We had an air to air photoshoot and I knew it would be great for a sequence,” Vojtěch says. “An airplane is the only place from where you can see something like this.”Spirit category winner by Dean Treml
Josh Neilson (center) of New Zealand is supported by fellow paddlers as he waits for a helicopter evacuation after a bad landing off Matze's Drop, Storulfossen, Norway on July 7, 2014. It left him with a broken L1 vertebrae.”Wings category winner by Micky Wiswedel
Wiswedel and climber Jamie Smith (pictured) had been setting routes in the area. “With climbing photography it’s not often you can just walk somewhere to get a good angle—most good shots require some form of rigging,” Wiswedel says. “The angle of this image happened by chance. We were setting up for another shot but when I looked back I knew we had to change plans and grab the shot with the sea and horizon in the background, framed by this huge rock roof.”Wings category finalist by Jan Kasl
This image shows wakeskater Andrew Pastura at the Red Bull Winch Sessions in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in summer 2015.
“This was the last day of the photo shoot and I was already pretty happy with all the photos I had taken so far, but we decided to check one more location and that was this amazing gap on a remote lake in Slovakia,” Kasl says. “The guys were setting the winch and I jumped into the hole, where I buried myself ankle-deep in the mud and found the most impressive angle I could imagine.”Spirit category finalist by Corey Wilson
Surfer Mick Fanning competes on the final day of the Pipeline Masters on the north shore of Oahu in 2015. “Early that morning Mick got the terrible news that his brother had passed away,” Wilson says. “This is the last thing I had ever expected because Mick had already had the worst year ever—shark attack, divorce, and now this.”Wings category finalist by Vernon Deck
Deck: “I spent eight days in the Engadin Valley in the Swiss Alps with two different crews. One crew was after night time powder shots and the other just wanted to go riding and maybe shoot something. This shot was obviously with the second crew!”Spirit category finalist by Dean Treml
American Nicholi Rogatkin crashes during the qualification day of Red Bull Rampage freeride mountain bike event in Virgin, Utah, on October 15, 2015.Sequence category finalist by Sebastian Wahlhuetter
Pro climber Andrea Maruna took on the arch route “Mama” at the Danube Channel in the center of Vienna. “The intention was to place a spotlight on urban climbing in the Austrian capital, and to show how such a climb can look,” says Wahlhuetter.Sequence category finalist by Tristan Shu
Shu: “Jean-Baptiste Chandelier and I had the idea to shoot him touching the surface of a mountain lake with the tip of his wing. We did some online scouting, and this lake not too far from where he lives appeared ideal for what we intended to do in terms of orientation at sunset, scenic background and ease of access.”Playground category finalist by Rein Rijke
Pro kitesurfer Elvis Nunes races across a volcano crater in Cape Verde, an island chain off the west coast of Africa.
“The moment I looked over the edge [of the crater], I knew I had the chance to make a shot that was different to all my other kitesurfing photos,” Rijke says. “The whole crater was covered in salt evaporation ponds that looked like stained glass windows.”Playground category finalist by Federico Modica
Modica: “I wanted to have a shot of the first slackline ever done on an iceberg. And there we go, me and my friends suddenly organized this expedition. We left Italy to spend 20 days in East Greenland, taking a small boat and looking for icebergs. We finally had the possibility to climb two icebergs and apart from that, to set up and walk the first highline and slackline ever done, on two different icebergs.”Playground category finalist by Ken Etzel
Climber Wiz Fineron on the Taipan Wall, a slab of overhanging sandstone in Grampians National Park in Australia. “Other than the brilliant orange and black streaks on the wall, I felt like I hadn't fully captured what it's like to climb on this otherworldly formation,” says Etzel.New Creativity category finalist by Jaanus Ree
Ree: “After seeing a portrait in a bookstore where I was able to see the photographer’s silhouette against the reflection of an eye, I got the idea to make something similar. I played around with the idea and thought about making a silhouette shot through an elephant’s eye but the local zoo did not approve it! So the next best thing was my cat. We used a large white sheet to have a clean background and Erik Orgo started to ride.”New Creativity category finalist by Tim Kemple
In March 2015, Kemple traveled with professional climbers Rahel Schelb and Klemen Premrl to the southern coast of Iceland to explore iceberg climbing. “We spent hours watching the ice before we decided it was safe to climb,” Kemple says. “As the sun went down we noticed that the Northern Lights were visible, so we used our three headlamps to illuminate the climb as well as the shape and color of the iceberg from the inside. With this little bit of light Rahel climbed the face while I snapped photos from below.”Mobile category finalist by Satchel Cronk
Cronk grabbed this frame of his dad with his phone on a morning he chose not to bring the big camera. “For me, sunrise rides often feel like a special secret shared amongst a few committed souls. Yet for those willing to brave that early alarm and the heavy fatigue that seems to drag on your eyes as you get your gear together, it’s a magical time,” says Cronk.Masterpiece category winner by Victor Sukhorukov
Sukhorukov grabbed this one from his drone just before it nearly fell out of the sky because of freezing temperatures. “One frozen foggy morning we decided to shoot BASE jumpers parachuting from the lighthouse that sits in the waterways of the Gulf of Finland. It was an unusual frost and the Gulf of Finland was covered in ice earlier than usual,” says Sukhorukov. “BASE jumpers started to parachute from the top of the lighthouse and I began to shoot in burst mode. Only one photo from the huge number of images was in high quality. It shows Semen Lazarev making his jump.”Masterpiece category winner by Gaps Sabuero
“A good size swell was bound to hit Siargao Island. It was off season. There hadn’t been decent surf for a while so everyone had expectations. It was my second month on the island and my first good swell. I had some experience of shooting small surf but knew I was going to get worked by what was coming,” says Sabuero.
“Hammered by set waves, I got washed back a few meters. Manuel Melindo was paddling back to the line-up after taking one of the waves that got me. I swam back out with him and this smaller wave came. When we went under I pointed my GoPro at him, swam back to position and forgot about the shot.” It was a good one.Lifestyle category winner by Kirsten Quist
“On one of the coldest days this past winter, I joined hundreds of other undeterred Canadians gathering at a park in Edmonton, Alberta to view ice sculptures and to enjoy some winter activities,” says Quist.
“I came across Halley, an avid whitewater kayaker and sledge hockey team member with the Paralympic Sports Association. She was in charge of tending to the fire pit for the winter enthusiasts. I loved the way both blue and ash covered icicles framed her as well as the contrast of fire and ice. I immediately asked her if I could take some photos.”Lifestyle category finalist by Frank Kretschmann
Kretschmann: “This shows Mayan Smith Gobat and Ben Rueck waking up in the fields of Sao Jose do Divino with the biggest monolith in Brazil ‘Piedra Riscada' in the background, a few days after climbing the route 'Place of Happiness' (5.12d, 18 pitches).”Enhance category finalist by Klaus Thymann
Thymann: “These images were shot on location, underwater in a cenote, or sinkhole. This was inside El Pit, part of Sistema Dos Ojos, a structure of underwater caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
“The model is Guillaume Nery, a champion freediver. He would dive to 100 feet deep whilst I was 150 feet inside the cave with my camera. We did a lot of research ahead of the shoot and customized gear to get the flash equipment to work there. It looks like sunlight, but the sun very rarely hits the water, it is nearly always completely dark.”Enhance category finalist by Markus Rohrbacher
Rohrbacher: “Nitro Snowboards came up with the idea to let a group of riders jump through a cloud of helium balloons. Besides organizing enough balloons, helium and covering material for storing the filled balloons, we also had to find the right location.
After some brainstorming we came up with Kitzsteinhorn, where they built us a special gap-kicker. A bowl in the middle allowed us to hide the balloons and the crew who had to lift them.”Enhance category finalist by Jeremiah Watt
Watt: “Pat Kingsbury spends his time working for new ascents on rock wherever he can find it. Often, in the spring and fall, he can be found on the sandstone splitters of Indian Creek, Utah. Here he is digging deep on a redpoint attempt of his new 5.13 tips crack ‘Stemcell’ near Kitzsteinhorn, Austria.”