Take a Pic on the Wild Side

Check out 15 of the best adventure images from the Red Bull Illume photography contest.
By Tarquin Cooper

These 15 shots are just a small selection of some of the incredible adventure shots revealed in the latest Red Bull Illume Image Quest.

The photo contest aims to celebrate the photographers behind the lens. We think these shots — just some of our favorites that celebrate adventure sports — do a pretty good job at that.

Check out the 11 category winners here.

Let the adventure begin

On the walk-in to attempt a ski descent of Shishapangma
The long walk-in to Shishapangma © Marcin Kin/Red Bull Illume

This shot sums up the anticipation, hopes and dreams of climbers heading to the greater ranges. "In this picture we see Andrzej Bargiel, sherpas and yaks carrying food, equipment and skis to base camp,"says the photographer Marcin Kin. "We’re on the Tibetan plateau, hiking 15 miles to ascend to 16,000 feet.

"Andrzej is about to attempt an alpine ski descent from the peak of Shishapangma (26,000 feet) seen in the distance. Eighteen days later we were happy because the expedition was a success."

Night flight

Skydivers preparing to jump at night
Lit up and ready to jump © Kuba Konwent/Red Bull Illume

"The camera was mounted onto the plane's wing with a special articulated mount that I made myself," says photographer Kuba Konwent. "I prepared the frame and settings of the camera before we took off. I then took the picture with a wireless remote release and right after the shot we all jumped together."

Van life

Climbers Mayan Smith-Gobat and Ben Rueck wake up in the fields of Sao Jose do Divino
Right, who’s making the coffee? © Frank Kretschmann/Red Bull Illume

Photographer Frank Kretschmann was planning on scoring a night shot but as is often the way, another shot worked out better. “Hanging the portaledge on the side of the van was a totally spontaneous idea which arose because we suddenly found ourselves in a field full of cows with no tent and had just enjoyed several beautiful days sleeping in the ledge on the wall," he says.

It shows Mayan Smith-Gobat and Ben Rueck after climbing the route "Place of Happiness." It could be a description for their camping spot.

Paragliding heaven

Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer fly above a lake in Berchtesgaden National Park shot by Philip Platzer, Red Bull Illume 2016
This is why we paraglide © Philip Platzer/Red Bull Illume

If there's one image that captures the appeal and adventure of paragliding, it's this. Photographer Philip Platzer's shot of Paul Guschlbauer and Tom de Dorlodot flying near Salzburg shows the athletes doing what they love best.

Wingsuit and slackline sequence

A wingsuit pilot flies underneath a slackline in Chamonix, France
"It was madness," Fabrice says of the feat © Fabrice Wittner/Red Bull Illume

We're not sure whether we love this shot because the photo is so eye-catching — or because the feat is so crazeballs. "Men walked the line while others flew under. It was madness," says photographer Fabrice Wittner.

Into the light

A climber ascends a shard of light, in Zion National Park, Utah
Into the light © Jeremiah Watt/Red Bull Illume

Jeremiah Watt teamed up with the climber Rob Pizem for this shot in Zion National Park. "When Rob called with an especially wild line in mind, I was intrigued,” Watt says.

But when he rapelled into the chasm, Watt had zero expectations for how it would turn out. Then a shard of light burst through and he started blasting the shutter. “The phenomenon lasted but a few minutes and we were lucky enough to bathe in it,” he adds.

Lighthouse leap

A BASE jumper parachutes after BASE jumping from a 40m high lighthouse that sits in the waterways of the Gulf of Finland: Victor Sukhorukov, Red Bull Illume
The fog nearly meant it was a no fly day © Victor Sukhorukov/Red Bull Illume

Things weren't looking good for the crew when they arrived at this lighthouse in the Gulf of Finland. First they couldn't find it. Then technical issues hindered photographer Victor Sukhorukov, who also works as a war photographer, shooting the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

The cold temperatures affected the drone and error messages started appearing. Then the BASE jumpers began to jump. "Only one photo from the huge number of images was in high quality. It shows Semen Lazarev making his jump," he says.

Monster waves in the Southern Ocean

Navigator Simon Fisher during Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race
Battling the ferocious waves of the 'Roaring 40s' © Matt Knighton/Red Bull Illume

"This shot is of navigator Simon Fisher during Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race at the exact moment he was hit by a 20-foot wave while trimming one of the sails," says photographer Matt Knighton.

"I had anticipated it and barely had the time to get in front of him and clip myself in for safety before the wave hit so I wouldn't fall overboard. I didn't anticipate the split second air pocket I created by doing so that created this shot!"

Fire and ice

Halley Coxson tends a fire on ice in Edmonton
What Canadians do in winter © Kirsten Quist/Red Bull Illume

There is something surreal about this photo. A girl tends a fire on ice. Photographer Kirsten Quist was roaming this park in Edmonton, Canada, soaking up the fun when she came across Halley Coxson, 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 and I immediately asked her if I could take some photos," she says. "My biggest challenge here was the near -22 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. The cold was affecting both my automatic focus and memory cards. Neither would work. Luckily, after some rudimentary heating techniques (aka body heat), both started functioning so that I could take this photo.

Tasmanian sea stacks and snakes

Climbers enjoying the 22-metre Moai sea stack on the Tasman Peninsula
Climbers ascending a sea stack in Tasmania © Simon Carter/Red Bull Illume

"The Tasman Peninsula is famous for its extraordinary sea stacks," says photographer Simon Carter. "The 72-foot Moai is one of them. It offers an adventure for climbers, a fun day out (tip-toeing past tiger snakes being the exception) and a great introduction to summit bagging and all the games that go with that.”

He had hoped to catch the climb in the perfect dawn light, but a squall put paid to that. In the end, the threatening rain clouds made the picture. "It reinforced my thinking that sometimes you’ve just got to go for it and flirt with bad weather."

The big blue 

Freediver Guillaume Nery in El Pit, part of Sistema Dos Ojos, on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico
The freediver Guillaume Nery doing what he does © Klaus Thymann/Red Bull Illume

Look closely: This is actually a composite shot made up of several images, although there's nothing fake about it. It shows French freediver Guillaume Nery at a depth of 98 feet in El Pit, a sinkhole in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

He would dive a total of 24 times over four days to get the shot. The challenge lay in lighting up the cave. “It's nearly always completely dark there,” says photographer Klaus Thymann, who positioned himself at 164 feet. The shoot was commissioned for a whisky label. "The concept was to capture a moment of exploration," he adds.

Flying across an active volcano

A paraglider flies alongside an Italian volcano
Jochen Schweizer flies an Italian volcano © Felix Wölk/Red Bull Illume

Felix Wölk is one of those adventure photographers who's as fit, talented and tough as the athletes he shoots. His aerial photos are all taken from a paraglider. Sometimes he flies tandem so he can concentrate on shooting, but this time he was flying alone.

"That means piloting hands-free, just by shifting your weight," he says. "It was breathtaking scenery," he adds. "To hear the nonstop thunder that came out of the thick smog in the crater was something else. It was scary! For me, it was clear I had to expose this shot in black and white. It's still the truest look; true like the elements in this photograph — fire, water, air."

Shark bait

Freediver Marianne Aventurier confronts a blue shark – shot by Alexandre Voyer  Red Bull Illume 2016
A freediver goes head to head with a blue shark © Alexandre Voyer/Red Bull Illume

There are not many people who'd go head-to-head with a shark on its home turf. OK, it's a blue shark, which mainly feeds off small fish. But still!

"We were off the coast of Faial Island when we met two blue sharks in the open ocean," recalls photography Alex Voyer. "There we were, alone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the water was dark and clear, and there was perhaps 6,500 feet below our fins; it was an incredible moment."

Dangerous drop

Mike Dawson drops a fall at night in his slalom kayak – Graeme Murray, Red Bull Illume 2016
Mike Dawson drops into a chute at night © Graeme Murray/Red Bull Illume

The image is the result of a perfect collaboration between athlete and photographer. "Elite kayaker Mike Dawson and I had been discussing trying to create something cool, something different. He wanted to run the drop in his slalom boat; I wanted to shoot at night and light it up. So after some planning we headed to the river at 5 p.m.,” recalls Graeme Murray.

"This drop is quite dangerous and if you get it wrong you can be stuck in the hole going around and around — not a place you want to swim out of your kayak. It was a bit of a mission carrying all the gear in, but totally worth it. We shot until midnight. Mike ran the drop in the dark a bunch of times and was tired and cold but was stoked with the result," he says.

Northern Lights

Rahel Schelb climbs a giant iceberg in Iceland, lit by the northern lights
Climbing an iceberg under the Northern Lights © Tim Kemple/Red Bull Illume

Most photographers are content just to capture the Northern Lights. But in this shot Tim Kemple went one step further. Not only has he managed to capture them over the unusual setting of Icelandic icebergs and sea, but look closely and you can see a climber there, too. "We spent hours watching the ice before we decided it was safe to climb," he says. 

"We used 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 Schelb climbed the face while I snapped photos from below."

See more awesome photos from this year's Red Bull Illume here.

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