Check out the full story behind three great shots that made the top 50 of Red Bull Illume.
Photographer Chris Burkard has roamed the world shooting the best riders in the business as senior photographer for Surfing mag. Far from the islands of the South Pacific, he scored this shot of Dane Gudauskas and Keith Malloy on a surfing trip in Norway's Arctic Circle.
According to Chris, the day had a great start. "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."
When they spotted a perfectly peeling wave over an icy hill, the run to the water was frantic – so frantic they missed the clear signs of incoming weather. "The waves seemed perfect and we thought it would be a long session of the best arctic waves any of us had ever scored," says Chris. " But very suddenly, the winds changed and that looming cloud on the horizon had snuck up and was almost upon us."
The hardy souls got out the water as quickly as they could and took shelter in the truck – but that's when they made their second mistake. The truck – now firmly entrenched in snowdrifts – was going nowhere. What do to? "Well, Dane and Keith knew another surf session was nowhere in sight," says Burkard. "So they just started walking back to town."
The image won the Spirit category.
Jody MacDonald and partner Gavin McClurg were in the fourth year of a five-year, round-the-world kiteboarding expedition when they scored this magic paragliding session. But half of the adventure is how they got there. "We sailed 600 miles across the Mozambique Channel from Madagascar to the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the southeast coast of Mozambique, says Jody. "It’s considered one of the most beautiful destinations on the African continent."
The flight-minded crew knew exactly what to do upon their arrival at the 20-mile long sand dune off their bow, the east side of the which juts out into the Indian Ocean at a perfect angle for paragliding a few hundred meters above the sea. Says Jody, "Everyone just ran for their wings."
There was one more obstacle: the distance between the boat and the beach – and the massive shore break pounding into the sand. "We plotted our attack at low tide," says MacDonald. "Keeping the dinghy ashore wasn’t an option so we anchored it a hundred meters off the beach. 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 mesmerising."
All perfect, right? Until they spotted the 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."
The image was a top 50 finalist in the Illumination category.
To take an incredible picture, you've got to have the right angle to shoot from. For Krystle Wright, shooting BASE jumper Michael Tomchek meant being in the air herself. "Twenty-four hours before this shoot, my original paramotor pilot pulled out as his daughter had gone into labour five weeks early."
Not to be put off, Wright went searching for another way to get airborne. "A few friends and I went driving around Moab 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!"
However, the challenges weren't over. – Krystle was having trouble getting in touch with the BASE jumpers, and that meant she might miss the brief few seconds they were in free fall. "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."
What did that mean? Krystle would have to rely on something else highly common in adventure photography — lucky timing. "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."
Timing is everything.
The image was a top 50 finalist in the Wings category.