70 Of The Most Powerful Action Photos Of 2016
Red Bull Illume is a major international photography competition dedicated to action and adventure sports. Tens of thousands of amateur and professional photographers enter the contest each year but only a select handful get chosen by the competition's 53 judges. 34,624 photographs were entered this year from 5,646 photographers across 120 countries, and the stunning winners from the 11 different categories can be found in the list below.
The main prize went to Lorenz Holder for his beautiful shot of BMX rider Senad Grosic crossing a bridge in Germany. Other eye-catching entries include Daniel Vojtech's hypnotic picture of fighter planes for the sequence category and Victor Sukhorukov's mesmerizing picture of a paraglider swirling around a wintry lighthouse. Scroll through the list and vote for your favorites.
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Masterpiece Category Finalist, Gablenz, Germany
"Senad and I were on the way to a different location early in the morning, when we passed this scenic spot.
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. I then tried to clean the lake by hand. I’d chosen a very low camera position to get an almost perfect mirrored scene on the water surface. The bridge looked like a perfect circle and the light was still very good. When Senad was on the bridge, it took us two or three tries to get the shot."
I'm surprised it only took a couple of shots to get this photo. Doing a wheelie hand-stand is difficult on an uphill angle!
New Creativity Category Finalist, Tallinn, Estonia
"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.
We decided to use my cat. We used a 6x9 meter white sheet meant for shooting cars as a softbox. In front of that Erik Orgo and Kristo Õismets started to perform. We made several good shots, even a few in black and white but color worked out the best."
Sequence Category Finalist, Budapest, Hungary
"I always wanted to photograph the Red Bull Air Race and I finally had the chance when in 2015 it was organized in Hungary.
I decided to shoot a sequence which could show the rapid change of direction of the airplanes. I was curious also to see how an image could demonstrate height and speed.
I took this photo with a Nikon D3 camera with a fixed 50 mm/ f.1.8 lens. I used f.11 F-stop to reach the right focal depth and a shutter speed of 1/1000 to freeze the motion."
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
"One frozen foggy morning we decided to shoot BASE jumpers parachuting from the 40m high lighthouse that sits in the waterways of the Gulf of Finland. A magical fog was all around us but it was so thick that we were afraid we would not find the lighthouse. However, soon the lighthouse tower appeared on the horizon.Four BASE jumpers climbed onto an open platform outside the lantern room. I took only a quadrocopter drone from my equipment.
Then the 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"
Enhance Category Finalist, Kitzsteinhorn, Austria
"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. After a couple of tries and analyzing the timing and perspectives, we were able to get the right moment and all the effort we put in paid off."
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Murnauer Moos, Germany
"I was taking a walk to scout spots for a landscape picture and as I was walking through the swamp area around Murnauer Moos, I found this unique spring-bowl with crystal clear water and awesome colors.
I decided that a bird's-eye view must look incredible and I wanted to get an action sport picture here. However, the closer I got the less snow was on the fields. When I finally got there, it was a big shock: no snow, just wet grass.
I talked to the snowboarder Max Horn and we discussed what we could do and he just made the call, trying it out without snow.
I think we had like three tries before the grass got dry and it became impossible to get enough speed. The image came out differently to what I expected, but with no snow around I think it makes the photo even more special."
Artist is correct, the snow would have distracted from the final photo. The snowboarders' spray turned out excellent!
Enhance Category Finalist, Vail Pass, CO, United States
"I had an idea for a series of photographs incorporating light trails coming off snowboarders’ boards a while back. When we met with Sage Kotsenberg, we were shocked to find there was no snow to be seen. Sage is a pro though, and wasn't fazed. After a couple warm up hits, he started blasting over it. It was almost too dark to see and Sage wasn't sure how many more attempts he had left in him. Luckily as the sky was showing its last signs of life, Sage launched a perfect one and I caught the moment."
Sequence Category Finalist, Jaromer, Czech Republic
"Red Bull asked me to do some portraits and action photos of the Flying Bulls. It was cloudy so the final image looks very dramatic. The pilot also turned on the smoke so you can see the trail behind.
The camera I used for this photo was Nikon D5 and Nikkor 16/2.8 fisheye because there was almost no space and I wanted to show inside the part of the airplane I was sitting to show the pilot’s POV."
New Creativity Category Finalist, Brooklyn, New York
"Nobody had done an extreme sport shot from inside the car having the rider riding on the windshield. I understood that a shot like this had to be made in an iconic spot and the spot had to be in a city so it was clear that New York City with all its bridges was the place. And what could have been better than a NYC cab to shoot from?
Choosing Aaron Chase as the rider was natural. He has been a friend for a long time and happened to be a pioneer of street riding in our sport and is almost a local in New York. It took us one year of preparation, one full day of work, involved a few people and a bit of money. But I kept shooting and 12 attempts later I nailed this shot."
Playground Category Finalist, Grampians, Australia
"The Taipan Wall of Grampians National Park in Australia is a massive wave of overhanging sandstone with bullet hard rock and nails hard rock climbing.
We had been shooting at the wall on and off for a week or two. Wiz Fineron was looking to take another lap on one of the finest routes in the world.
I jugged up my fixed line and had someone pull the other end way out from the base so I could capture the immenseness of the wall and the position Wiz would be in while climbing. On the lower half of the route, he flipped around and was facing out to catch a rest. I grabbed the frame and knew I had captured something unique in the world of rock climbing."
Sequence Category Finalist, Retallack, Canada
Energy Category Finalist, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
"I was traveling with a group of Brazilian bodyboarders. At each end of the beach were sheer cliffs that would refract the swell causing crossed-over peaks, perfect for bodyboarding.
Shooting from down the beach trying to capture some of these abstract formations I didn't even notice Renan (pictured) in the shot until afterwards. It’s got a kind of duality to the meaning; it could be seen as a salute to the power and randomness of the ocean, or it could be seen as a mocking attempt at some kind of manipulated sorcery, showing man’s unending quest to control nature."
Close Up Category Finalist, Fontainebleau, France
"The main instruments in rock climbing are your hands and arms. With the help of two medium soft box sets on both sides I focused on the hands and fingers, their owner hiding in the shade. I wanted the viewer to see more than just the hands of the athlete, Rustam Gelmanov. In this picture color is not important, the contrast is."
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Teahupo’o, French Polynesia
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Siargao Island, Philippines
"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.
There was so much water from the swell already and the high tide was peaking. 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. When we went under I pointed my GoPro at him, swam back to position and forgot about the shot. I knew I had some good barrel shots but I was surprised to see this amazing one while sorting on the computer."
Wings Category Finalist, Cape Town, South Africa
"My buddy Jimbo had been opening new hard routes in the area and we wanted to try and capture some of the climbs. 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. There was always a chance that Jimbo would fall, so I was ready for it. For the couple of seconds leading up to the big move I was holding my breath and ready to fire. I could definitely feel the adrenaline pumping! We had planned to grab some cool climbing shots, but in the end this image of Jimbo mid-air was the shot we felt captured the intensity of the climb."
Mobile Category Finalist, Hakuba, Japan
"This winter some friends and I went to Hakuba in Japan to ski some deep powder and big mountains. The day this shot was taken was a really windy one but the snow was still really good, so we went out into the backcountry.
We hiked for a while, and discovered a group hiking across the ridge above us. The wind and the clouds looked amazing, so my friend took out his camera and started shooting. I hated myself for not bringing my camera. Luckily I had my mobile phone in my pocket.
I had completely forgotten about the shot, so I was pretty stoked when I found it. I edited it to black and white in Photoshop Express on my phone, and was really happy with the result."
New Creativity Category Finalist, South, Iceland
"In March 2015 I traveled with professional climbers Rahel Schelb and Klemen Premrl to explore the possibility of climbing inside the glaciers and on the icebergs found along the southern coast of Iceland.
During one day of exploring we discovered a giant iceberg that had broken off from the glacier. We spent hours watching the ice before we decided it was safe to climb. As the sun went down we noticed that the Northern Lights were visible. Rahel then climbed the face while I snapped photos from below."
Playground Category Finalist, Senftenberg, Germany
"Senad Grosic and I took a road trip and drove all the way to Senftenberg. I shot this unique location a couple months before this action shoot as a landscape picture because I just liked the whole structure and the way it was integrated into the landscape. We discussed and fine-tuned a plan that would look rad on photo. Senad had the idea to be dressed all white to give it more contrast, because I didn’t want to use flashes to keep the structure as evenly lit as possible. The angle is almost the same angle I chose for the landscape picture. It’s actually an architectural picture with the spice of action sports in it."
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Zion National Park, UT, United States
Spirit Category Finalist, Verdon Gorge, France
Sequence Category Finalist, Lac Du Pontet, France
Lifestyle Category Finalist, Piedra Riscada, Brazil
Playground Category Finalist, Pamukkale, Turkey
Lifestyle Category Finalist, Venice, California
Lifestyle Category Finalist, Choum, Mauritania
"When I was young I used to look through National Geographic magazines and dream of adventures like this; train hopping through the Sahara on one of the world’s longest trains. After months of planning, our risky rail journey started from the iron-mining center of Zouérat in the Sahara. Having only a few minutes to hop on the train in the middle of the night, we spent 15 long hours slithering through the desert on the three kilometer train that transports approximately 84 tons of iron ore across a country crippled by terrorism, slavery, and poverty."
Playground Category Finalist, Riem, Germany
"I never really found out what this place actually is. It’s just a garden with small hills, where concrete tracks find their way through it in a random way. Anyways, I thought this could look really good from a bird’s-eye perspective if a skateboarder could do a kickflip and the sun would make the trick visible with the skater’s shadow.
I showed my idea to Conny and he was stoked to give this a try. The plastic ground was pretty horrible to skate on – it was the same material basketball courts are made of – but Conny is a hell of a skater and so he was still able to fire some flips even on that terrain."
Masterpiece Category Finalist, Nozawa Onsen, Japan
Mobile Category Finalist, Potomac, MD, United States
Wings Category Finalist, Hrabovo, Slovakia
"We spent ten days together with four of the best wakeskaters in the world in Red Bull Wing Session project.
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. 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.
The guys were sending huge tricks, which made my shot even better!"
Enhance Category Finalist, Tulum, Mexico
Spirit Category Finalist, Hildale, UT, United States
Enhance Category Finalist, Klasterec Nad Ohri, Czech Republic
Lifestyle Category Finalist, Edmonton, Canada
Spirit Category Finalist, North Shore Of Oahu, Hawaii
Mobile Category Finalist, Fairfax, CA, United States
I've been to Fairfax, CA, but never saw it this way. Gorgeous!