The 3rd Red Bull Illume Image Quest photography competition has just announced the winners, so it’s time to take a look at some of the best pictures. The competitions was really intense this time – there were over 28 000 entries, submitted by 6417 photographers from 124 countries around the world. The overall winner was Lorenz Holder from Germany. His image (below) of snowboarder Xaver Hoffmann performing a jump at a satellite dish in snowy Raisting, Germany won universal praise from the judges.

The photo contest was first held in 2007, followed by the second one in 2010. This year the participants had 10 different categories to choose from, ranging from close-ups to experimental, or from sequence to illumination. The jury had to pick 50 winning pictures from all of them. Lorenz Holder was named the first prize winner, and was awarded with the new Leica S camera and a broncolor Move Outdoor kit as well as Sun-Sniper gear. The winners were awarded on the 29th of August, 2013, on the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong.

The TOP 50 pictures will now be traveling around the world as an exhibition, presented on 2 x 2m lightboxes. Don’t worry if you won’t get a chance to see it live – here’s a selection of some of the photos we liked the most. Enjoy!


Photo by Lorenz Holder

“I found this unique spot in the summer and I really wanted to shoot a snowboard picture there. I told Xaver Hoffmann about the spot and he was also fascinated. My idea to shoot in heavy snowfall wasn’t going to be easy, as it only snowed once in this spot last season. So there was pretty much just a one-time chance to get this shot. I used two big Elinchrom strobes in the background to light up the snowflakes and create a ‘white wall’ where I could capture Xaver’s silhouette as he jumped. To get some light onto the dish, I chose a 4-second exposure time to get some light from the moon. Overall, I’m pretty happy that we made it there that day!”

Photo by: Dimitrios Kontizas

“I never thought that at some point in my life, I would stand right at the edge of a 200-meter cliff, taking pictures of ‘crazy’ people jumping off it. But there I was in Zakynthos Island, Greece, where the 2011 ‘ProBase Shipwreck Boogie’ was taking place. Thirty BASE jumpers from all around the world had been invited to participate in this competition. This particular picture was taken right after the competition had ended, leaving all the BASE jumpers free of stress and letting them have 100% fun jumps. As I looked through my camera, I realized that there were three perspectives – angles I had not noticed thus far. One angle is made by the rock itself and its shade on the water, and all the boats positioned in parallel, even the one that is leaving the scene. The second angle is the beach that runs parallel to the shipwreck and perpendicular to the rock. The third is the direction of the free fall of the BASE jumpers. The shipwreck is the start of all three perspectives. So even if this shot is full of energy and freedom, it also contains hidden geometry, which is why I believe people like it so much. I used a zoom lens in order to follow the BASE jumpers and get them in the right position in my frame. I used the preset “sport” because I wanted to have good lighting on the jumpers, giving priority to the speed of the shutter. I had the focus point on one of the jumpers because they are the main subject in the frame. The Greek sun did what it does best, providing perfect lighting conditions for a result, I think, that is worth viewing.”

Photo by: Stuart Gibson

“This was a new wave discovery quickly going wrong! Sean Woolnough and I were in Fiji for big swell and the wind went dead, so while we still had amazing conditions, we jumped in a Fijian long boat. We checked out a reef pass we had our eyes on for a few years. It’s more of a tow wave, as you can see – paddling this wave doesn’t end well. The island jetski was out of action so we thought we’d give it a go. I dropped Sean at the top of the reef, and the ocean went flat, like someone had turned off the tap. This is pretty common on certain tides in Fiji, ten foot one hour and two foot the next. It takes a big set to light this slab up, and as Sean sat patiently I saw a big lump coming. I started yelling, but he had no reference as to where he was on the reef so he waited and paddled for this first wave of the set. He just missed it, and when I looked back, this deep blue lump just started draining out, almost sucking him under the wave. He took one big duckdive and got under the breaking lip. On a normal wave this is fine but this thing didn’t have a back – the reef drops to 200m out the back of this place so when it breaks it really folds. The wave had just too much power and sucked him back over the falls, it’s pretty much a surfer’s worst nightmare position, so many people claim this is photoshopped, but it certainly is not!” 

Photo by: Krystle Wright

“Twenty-four hours before this shoot, my original paramotor pilot pulled out as his daughter had gone into labor five weeks early. 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! 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. 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. The shoot happened so fast that I didn’t get a chance to see my images until I was back on the ground. I am incredibly stoked with this image and it has also inspired new ideas about how I can evolve this concept even further, which I hope to make happen at the end of the year.” 

Photo by Romina Amato

“It was not an easy day in the “office” when I took this photo. I was covering the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo in the Portuguese Azores from a boat. It was quite rough at the time and I was really happy that I had previous experience of shooting on boats so I knew I wouldn’t get seasick. You need to be fully concentrated on finding good angles when shooting in such high swells, speaking to the boat driver to hold positions while protecting your gear and somehow managing to hold on while still needing both hands to shoot. I saw this angle between the rocks but it was difficult for the boat driver to stay in position, it was a very narrow gap and just a little movement one way or the other was the difference between seeing or not seeing the diver at all. The skipper fought so I could see what was going on and try to anticipate when to hit the right position to get the shot before the diver disappeared behind the rocks. Eventually it all fell into place! I like pictures where it leaves the viewer questioning, in this case: Where is he coming from? Will he survive this? Does that guy seriously think he can fly?”

Photo by Juan Cruz Rabaglia

“Right beside the lateral moraine of Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier, natural dams of ice and rock are occasionally formed. Thanks to glacial-fed rivers and streams, these often give rise to small lakes. When the water pressure finds a crack, a slow process of ice boring begins. Thus, little by little, these caverns are sculpted underneath the glacier. When the lakes are emptied completely, for a brief period of time it is possible to explore these ephemeral and psychedelic ice galleries.”

Photo by Zakary Noyle

“This was not a large day by North Shore standards but sort of a lay day. When the waves are smaller, the surfers usually go out for a surf right before the sun sets. I walked down the beach with my camera and a 70-200mm lens – I did not take a tripod, as it is easier to hand hold. I really love capturing the different elements of my surroundings, to be able to put the viewer of the image into the exact location of where I was and what I saw. By pulling the lens back, I was able to get the sand and sky, so it is almost as if someone were walking down the beach and looking over to see Gabriel doing this massive backflip.”

Photo by Lorenz Holder

“In the last couple of years I have been shooting 90% of my action shots from a tripod. I have been doing this because I messed up the framing of my pictures many times when I shot by hand. After a session I always end up with the same picture, with only minor changes when I flip through them. Pictures with riders, pictures without them and everything else that happened in the scene when I triggered the camera. As I had used a tripod so many times, I found out that I could flip different pictures in Photoshop and put them together again to create a totally different, new world that doesn’t exist in real life. All the pictures have perfect symmetry and that’s something I like a lot. In this picture, I mirrored parts of the building to get a really, really big building. Jordan in the front is the only element that is not symmetrical.”

Photo by Jeroen Nieuwhuis

“I was looking at my portfolio and thought to myself that I should shoot some different images – less ‘studio-lit’, if you will. It had been a while since I shot skateboarding, but I decided to give it another try. After a short brainstorm session, my buddy Erik and I thought it would be a cool thing to try something different than usual. I wanted this shot to be less set up. We grabbed our boards and went to the street seen in the picture. It’s just outside a forest, and a couple kilometers from where I live. The position of the sun was just right. I quickly grabbed my camera. Skating the street from front to back a couple of times, I kept trying to get the right shot. After almost smashing my camera on the concrete, I thought I would give it just one last try. This is the last image I shot in that series. The camera I used for this shot was a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon 15mm F2.8 fisheye lens. Because the 5D is a full frame camera, the fisheye has a 180-degree angle of view. I used a shutter speed of 1/50 to get that nice motion blur of the street and a little of the background, as well as an F-stop of 16 to get as much in focus as possible.”

Photo by Stuart Gibson

 “We were surfing a shallow reef break in Fiji called Wilkes Pass, just off Namotu Island. It’s a fun right-hander wave that gets solid on large SW swells. On this day it was about four to six foot (double over head). We got caught inside by a wide set, and the heavy slab section on the inside of Wilkes exploded right on top of us! It’s always a little more comforting when someone else is in a bad situation with you, so I turned to look at Ryan on this duckdive – we were laughing but scared at the same time, and I shot a sequence. This is the shot before the white wash landed on both of us, sending us high and dry on the coral.”

Photo by Jussi Grznar

“I shot this photo in January 2013 with Anto Chamberland, Jody Wachniak, Matt Belzile and Mathieu Gibeault during my annual trip to Quebec. Anto was filming his video segment for the Stairmasters contest and looking for “something big” to finish his part off. Mathieu, Anto’s cinematographer, works for a TV channel and knows some amazing locations they use for filming. He pointed out this old, abandoned building that was close by. After we went to check it out, Anto decided to jump out of the third-story window. It was definitely big and scary, and it took Anto a few tries to land. Actually it’s pretty apt that the writing in the image, “Peur”, is French for “Fear”! As soon as Anto landed one and we got the photo, I went back inside the building and shot a few multiple exposures of the artwork on the walls as I was shooting my “Environments” series at that time. It turned out to be my favorite image of the series and one of my strongest images to date. Thank you Anto, Matt, Jody and Mathieu for pulling this one off!”

Photo by Vincent Perraud

“The great magazine ‘The Albion’ asked me to follow Frenchman Luc Legrand for an article, and we arranged to spend a week on the road all across Spain, living in his van. Luc loves to ride in unique locations even if they are not easy. He remembered a crazy set-up around the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and we found it again. I was not used to shooting sequences but I thought it would work for this one. I also thought shooting fisheye from below would really capture the movement. After a couple of run-ups, he just did it first go, and I was really happy to catch it first go too! After this, we went back to the van to celebrate and continue our adventures.”

Photo by Florian Breitenberger

“In the summer of 2012 I was hired to shoot the Nine Knights Mountainbike event at Austria’s Wildkogel. The weather conditions were not super good, so we had to focus on one or two good weather days to produce our entire media output. Since it was my job as an event photographer to highlight the sponsor’s branding and lifestyle atmosphere, I also got the chance to shoot some creative angles during sunset and night sessions. Apart from the bad weather forecast, the event was perfect. Xavier “Sherwy” Pasamonte and all the other riders were riding super well. Xavier threw that superman a few more times during the event. Meanwhile I found this little lake beside the wooden castle. I thought about producing something different, so I turned off my flashes during the sunset session and tried to catch Xavier against the backlight of the setting sun and the reflection of the water at the same time. Afterwards I adjusted the contrast during post-production in the same way I visualized the image on the mountain before. I was very lucky to produce this high-contrast black and white photo combined with the perfect style of Xavier – it was such an incredible atmosphere during the event!”

Photo by Ryan Taylor

“Every year in northern Wisconsin, cranberries are grown and harvested in the late fall. Unknown to some people, cranberries are grown dry, and it is only during harvesting that the fields are flooded. This allows the berries to float to the surface for ease of harvesting, creating a large sea of red. This uncharted territory seemed almost impossible to ride, until the invention of the winch. This image of Ben Horan carving through a cranberry field was a photo that I had wanted to shoot for a long time. I was finally able to do it in October 2012, when the Red Bull Winch Sessions crew asked me to tag along once again and shoot stills as well as some video. The producers of the winch sessions and I discussed the best approach to shooting and the overhead carve shot quickly became high on our priority list. We discussed several different approaches and landed at shooting from a crane high overhead. One of the challenges we faced during the shoot was the weather. On the morning that this photo was taken, we awoke to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. By the time we started shooting, the snow had melted but the temperatures were still close to freezing. Knowing how unique the image would be, Ben (as well as everyone else involved) was still willing to put the time and effort into riding. It was a long hard week of shooting, but this particular shoot will definitely go down as one of my most unique shoots to date.”

Photo by Morgan Maasen

“Late one fall I gathered a group of America’s next generation of young surfers, and we departed for Fiji to try our hand at an impressive south swell. Arriving at Cloudbreak to perfect conditions and an empty beach, we had an absolute blast enjoying the dreamy scenario. The young surfers handled the size and intensity of the menacing reef break well, and we truly had an amazing trip of waves and weather. The kids consisted of Jake Marshall, Taylor Clark, Frankie Harrer, Colt Ward, Thelen Whorrell, Nolan Rapoza, and Dryden Brown, all young stand-outs with promising futures. They surfed for ten hours a day, coming in only for food or sunscreen. I captured them one morning in this shot, discussing in the crystalline water anything from the surf they were enjoying to homework they forgot at home. Reflecting on the trip after we had gone our separate ways, it was not the performance of the children or the caliber of surf that made our adventure memorable; it was their social dynamic. I was fascinated by their camaraderie in the intense surf and realized that while the atmosphere was thick with competition, their friendship had them trading waves with nothing but smiles, laughing and hollering at each other’s successes and misfortune with pure glee.” 

Photo by Christian Pondella

“Helmcken Falls, located in Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada with a height of 141 meters. The water cascades over a natural amphitheater where the mist from the waterfall freezes to the overhanging and horizontal rock, creating a recent discovery for the world’s elite ice climbers. Will Gadd and Tim Emmett were the first to discover and climb this severely overhanging cave. Due to the unique way the ice clings to the rock and the ability to place bolts into the rock, Will and Tim were able to scale the frozen walls with the safety of knowing their gear would not fail. The climbing here is the first of its kind and very cutting-edge as it is several grades harder than traditional ice routes. Tim Emmett is on the second pitch of “Spray On”, where the route is perfectly horizontal for about 20 meters. The climbers have cleared a path between the hanging ice daggers that encompass the cave and create a huge threat as many of them have the mass of an automobile and are extremely unstable and can randomly drop from above. When shooting this photo, I had to take extreme caution while standing underneath these free-hanging ice daggers. I wanted to show the strength required by Tim as he scaled across the roof and freeze the moment where he is hanging side by side with the ice daggers in this very unique and surreal part of the world.”

Photo by Scott Dickerson

“One thing my years of experience photographing in Alaska has taught me is to appreciate those magical moments when everything comes together. This photo is a defining moment for me where several of my passions aligned perfectly to create an image that I had been visualizing. Like most good things in life, it didn’t come easy, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of some friends. This was when we first started surfing the Turnagain Arm bore tide on our stand up paddle boards and we were getting incredible 5 mile rides that would last up to 50 minutes. But the bore tide is a mysterious thing and sometimes it would be a clean perfect wave, and other times just a surge of turbulent whitewash, often both in the same ride. The morning before it was a bust, so I wasn’t feeling too confident waking up early on this morning. I loaned two of my boards to friends and passed up on surfing the morning’s wave so I could try and shoot some aerial photos. As we raced to beat the incoming wave, one of the surfers in the shot actually had to help me launch my paramotor from a short little strip of beach. It was an incredible morning with a picture-perfect wave and beautiful light from the sunrise. My three friends managed to ride the wave for about 40 minutes and I was able to shoot the entire time, flying back and forth over this spectacle of nature. In all the time I’ve surfed or photographed the bore tide, none was as photogenic a moment as this.”

Photo by Theodore Van Orman

“I was thrilled to check out this spot after seeing a few blurry cell phone photos of it. Full pipes are few and far between and one of my favorite things to ride. After being invited to check it out, I stayed up most of that night anticipating the next day. Two hours in the car and a short hike through a forest, and we were heading up into the belly of this beast. The only light source for this long tunnel was the sunlight piercing through the opposite end. During the entire trip through the tunnel, my eyes were fixated on that circle of light. We were high in elevation, and my equilibrium felt off. When we finally made it to the opening, I quickly put my lens on my body and metered a shot as my counterparts kept moving ahead into the light. I waited until Cody looked up into the light to shoot. I used just natural light with a shallow depth of field to make the subject pop. The subjects did not know I was taking this photo, which made it a completely natural moment. No planning, just riders mesmerized by the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Photo by Daniel Vojtech

“I had had this idea in my head for a long time: I wanted to do something similar to one of my older pictures with a snowboarder. For this new project, I chose four-cross rider Tomas Slavik. He is a former Czech freestyle champion and sees the progress of freestyle tricks from a different perspective. He performs completely new and impossible tricks on his MTB, and if something seems impossible now, it will be the norm in a few years. This shoot took place in a studio because we could control all the lights very easily and wanted to create a backstage feeling, and also because it was very easy to suspend the bike from the ceiling. We had one special rope for Tomas and two smaller ones for the bike. I chose a Nikon D800E with a Nikkor 24-70/2.8 lens. We also had seven Fomei Digital Pro X strobes, and a super cool gadget – a special flash remote control app for the iPad.”

Photo by  Chris Burkard

“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. Jumping into the truck, we drove the cold icy roads looking for peaks on the horizon. Then just over the frozen hillside the top of a wave could be seen. Our excitement grew as we saw the mist of the offshore wave. So focused on the offshore waves ahead of us, we failed to see the looming clouds behind them. We ran to the shoreline and paddled straight out. The waves seemed perfect and we thought it would be a long session of the best arctic waves any of us had ever scored. Suddenly the winds changed and that looming cloud on the horizon had snuck up and was almost upon us. With little regard for what was in front of it, the rain began to pour and within minutes it began to snow. Caught in a blizzard, we did what we could to paddle in. Finally making it back to the truck, we took shelter and tried to wait out the storm. Weather is constantly changing in the Arctic and sometimes all it takes is a little patience. On this day, the weather got the best of us and our time spent sitting in the truck ended up being our downfall. The snow had piled high around us and soon it was pretty clear that our truck was not going anywhere fast. Dane and Keith knew another surf session was nowhere in sight and decided to head back into town. As the storm continued to brew the pair made their way back home.”