Red Bull Illume 2021 – Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional winner
© Will Saunders/Red Bull Illume 2021
Art

Photography lovers, drink in these winning shots from Red Bull Illume

Unveiling week for the world's greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest has revealed the 2021 overall and category winners, putting their amazing work in the spotlight.
Written by Trish Medalen
5 min readUpdated on
As the sixth edition came to a close in a special ceremony, US photographer Will Saunders was named the overall winner of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021 for his shot of climber Jake Talley taking a fall from a rock tower. Earlier in the week, Saunders's image had won the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category.
Explaining the spectacular image (which can be seen at the top of the page) taken at Indian Creek in Utah, USA, Saunders said: "I asked Jake to really shape his body into more of a powerful movement rather than the classic falling position, allowing me to capture an image that is unique compared to most of the literal climbing imagery we see."
Red Bull Illume brings together phenomenal work from photographers and content creators across the globe. Participants and fans alike had been looking forward to Unveiling Week ever since the 2021 contest opened on March 1, and a judging panel of 53 photo editors and experts reviewed a total of 41,447 submissions.
Read on to discover the stories behind the rest of the winning category images.

Best of Instagram by Lenovo

In this dual category, Spanish photographer Yhabril took photo honours for his shot of a skier and a snowboarder silhouetted against the moon, while Brazil's Bruno Diego Cavalcante was the moving image winner for his video of skateboarder Sara Watanabe in Rio de Janeiro.
Yhabril commented: "You just have to wait for the moment, along with being confident in the riders to synchronise the jump and the handplant. What's really amazing is that we took the shot on the second try."
Describing his own work, Cavalcante said: "Aterro do Flamengo shows one of the natural beauties of Rio de Janeiro. It's a great place to practise outdoor sports."

RAW by Leica

Bruno Long took the crown for his shot of mountain biker Dylan Siggers riding through a sun-pierced cloud of dust.
The Canadian explained why the category appeals to his style, saying: "Capturing real moments is my ethos and I spend a fair amount of my time exploring the far reaches of the world or my backyard to find them."

Photo Story

In this new category, Philipp Klein Herrero won for a stop-motion story that saw him climb and ski a 'mountain' in his apartment.
"I spent a few days figuring out if it was even possible," recalled the Barcelona-based photographer, who also has roots in Germany. "Finally, I taped my camera to the ceiling, put on ski gear and started shooting, one shot at a time."

Playground by WhiteWall

Austrian lensman Markus Berger topped this category with his shot of wakeboarder Dominik Hernler riding a meltwater stream inside a glacier.
"In terms of photography, this was an extreme challenge," said Berger, who spent more than three hours in intensely cold water. "Right after this shot, the camera shut down and didn't work again for three days!"

Lifestyle by COOPH

Carolin Unrath was the winner with an image of suited-up surfer Andi Müllner on a train platform in her home city of Munich, Germany.
"I've always loved seeing Munich's Eisbach river wave surfers all over the city," Unrath said.

Emerging by Black Diamond

US photographer Victoria Kohner-Flanagan captured a climber on a virtually featureless wall of rock.
"The holds remained obscured to me even as I ascended the fixed line to find the best position to shoot from," she said. "Questing up the blank face, Jack Nugent found a cheeky no-hands rest. Doubt cleared from his face as I snapped the shot."

Creative by Skylum

The category was won by Czech photographer Jan Kasl for his shot of a skateboarder inside a spiral, an optical illusion created by forced perspective.
Kasl said: "With a tool like forced perspective, I felt like I could push it a little further, bending reality and bringing the athlete into an absolutely surreal environment."

Innovation by EyeEm

Italy's Thomas Monsorno was the judges’ choice for his overhead image of alpinist Dani Arnold 'climbing' the frozen Lake Baikal in Russia.
"Siberian winters present difficult and fascinating conditions,” Monsorno said. "To see clearly through the thick ice of the deepest lake in the world was an extraordinary and absolutely unforgettable experience."

Energy by Red Bull Photography

Rod Hill was victorious with his photo of kayaker River Mutton bursting through a rapid at Huka Falls in the photographer's native New Zealand.
Hill got the shot through serendipity when Mutton decided to make one last run after the session was over: "I didn't have time to get to my normal spot, so instead I tried this angle. All of a sudden, the light popped like I'd never seen before and straight away I knew this was going to work."
Besides the 10 categories for Red Bull Illume, an award for Best Mountain Photo by Black Diamond was presented to US photographer Colin Wiseman for his shot of snowboarder Eric Jackson riding a big mountain in Alaska.
This year, Red Bull Illume category winners were announced on Instagram Live and on redbullillume.com, bringing the experience to fans all over the world for the first time.
There will be even more opportunities to become immersed in the remarkable imagery. The closing awards ceremony, held in Aspen Snowmass, also opened the first stop of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour, which displays finalist images in large format on lightboxes for the public to experience.
The tour is slated to visit capital cities and cultural hubs around the globe throughout 2022. All upcoming stops will be announced on redbullillume.com.
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