For an action sports or adventure photographer, it doesn’t get much more prestigious than being crowned and awarded through Red Bull Illume. Held every year, many shooters work tirelessly towards creating an image worthy of submitting in one of the many categories highlighting emerging artists, playgrounds, photo stories and more.
This year, over 47,000 images were submitted from around the world to an all-star panel of 53 judges that included luminaries such as snowboarder Anna Gasser and photographer Chris Burkard. With a strong contingent of adventure and action sports photographers in our midst from coast-to-coast, these three Canadians each topped their highly competitive fields with their stunning images.
Revelstoke-based Bruno Long took home the win in the RAW by Leica category, where only unedited images are able to be considered. Camera in hand, dedicated slackliner Gerald Situ travelled across the globe to China to capture something special. As a result, his entry into The Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category also reached the finals, highlighting a photographer’s personal best shot, unique style and artistic skill. In the Lifestyle by COOPH category, representing the all-important moments captured before or after the action, Whistler’s own Mark Mackay also came out on top as a finalist.
Below, the three Canadian standouts shed light on how these images came to be.
Name of Photo: Dust Devil
Date taken: August 26, 2020
Story behind the shot: On this particular day, Fernie, BC had been experiencing a very dry spell and the trails were as dusty as they get. As our crew tried to put together an editorial piece for Beta Magazine, we got caught up with shooting at other places and arrived at the resort midday…not ideal for shooting in the forest. However, we had a product to deliver so we persevered and sought out the best light we could.
On this trail, the fact that it was directly beside a ship run allowed a lot of natural light to pour in from an opening in the trees. As we rode through, we noticed the dust creating beams of light that caught my eye. We stopped. Dylan as well as Luke Stevens, another rider with us, both hiked up to hit the piece again. A few well placed kicks in the dirt and a couple of great riders go a long way into creating some magic. Dylan nailed this line on his first try but because we were in a bit of a time crunch, I took a quick look at the result and we continued shooting. It wasn’t until later on that I had the chance to enjoy the sublime image that we had created.
When Red Bull Illume came calling, I scoured through my catalogues for images that would fit each category. When this one popped up and I reverted it back to RAW, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t look all that different from the edited version. So I converted to black and white and submitted, never thinking that further down the road it would become a Category Winner.
Long's advice for new photographers: Shoot what appeals to you. When learning and evolving, shoot what you are passionate about, what excites your senses and puts a smile on your face. Whether it is a particular sport, idea or concept, shoot the stuff that you cannot get out of your mind. When you click the shutter and look at the result, if it puts a big smile on your face, keep shooting that sort of thing. Even if it isn’t perfect, if it excites you and pushes you, you’re on the right track. That continued search for that feeling is what will help you progress into the future.
Name of photo: Gateway to The Skies
Date taken: November 12, 2019
Story behind the shot: James Xu, an American adventure sports athlete and outdoor educator, and Caroline Dignes, an aerial silks artist, came up with the initial idea to establish a highline in the Getu Great Arch, and to work with Chinese highliners to share in the project. They reached out to me to document the process. The planning started back in March of 2019, and the project happened during November 2019.
This photo was inspired by Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnold's excursion to the same region back in 2016, where Jimmy took a shot of Alex and his partner rappelling down the middle of the arch. When James first showed me that picture, I was in awe. The grandeur and size of the arch contrasted with a figure in action make for a very compelling image. We wanted to pay tribute to that inspiration with something new and doing a sport that we all loved.
Situ's advice for new photographers: Shoot everything, be a sponge and take in what is visually compelling to you. Go to an art gallery, watch a movie from another country. The more your brain sees and knows, the more you can pull from to create something mesmerizing, something that’s never been seen before.”
Name of photo: Bums on Seats
Date taken: March 31st, 2021
Story behind the shot: The photo was part of a shoot for Raceface. They'd asked their athlete Hailey Elise to shoot a video where something is subtracted, and Hailey chose clothes. It was a wild crazy idea to begin with and I had my doubts, with it being winter in BC. The group of very close friends came together in such an inspiring way and put together such an uplifting and inspiring mountain bike video.
I was the photographer for the 4 days of shooting and it was amazing to see us all come together to get it done and overcome the challenges that came with the cold weather and pouring rain.
Mackay's advice for new photographers: Keep at it, as all good things take time. Learn the basics well, and do it because you live to.