The wait is over for the 5.645 photographers from around the world who entered Red Bull Illume, the world’s greatest action and adventure sports photography contest. On September 28, the Overall Winner, 11 Category Winners and Top 55 images have been unveiled at a spectacular ceremony held at The Art Institute of Chicago.

This elite selection of images represents the best from the world of action and adventure sports photography and shines a spotlight on the unsung heroes behind the lens. We show you a wide selection of semifinal pictures on these two links.

Lorenz Holder
Overall Winner and Masterpiece by Yodobashi category winner

Athlete: Senad Grosic
Location: Gablenz, Germany

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
ISO: 500
F-Stop: 8.0
Shutter Speed: 1/640


Lorenz Holder grew up in Munich, close to the Bavarian mountains, and it is those mountains that have always played a major role in his life. He was a semi-professional snowboarder back in the day, until he injured himself badly and he pretty much had to quit snowboarding for a whole season in 2003. In that time he discovered the pleasure of photography.

Lorenz was fascinated by photos that could describe a whole scene, a whole story or even a whole week, in just one small moment caught on film. This fascination was one of the biggest motivations for him to start a career as a professional photographer.

In his photos, Lorenz like to show the viewers the beauty of the environment where athletes perform. He is a huge fan of landscape and architectural photography and he tries to combine those genres with action sport. Lorenz Holder thinks a great location is one of the key elements for a great action picture. Right now he works as a staff photographer for Nitro Snowboards.

The Shot:

Senad Grosic and Lorenz Holder were on the way to a different location early in the morning, when they passed this scenic spot. They saw a sign from the street and Lorenz had some pictures in mind that he had seen from this bridge on the internet. When they got there the sun was just above the trees and it was lighting up the full color-spectrum of the autumn leaves in a very soft way.

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.

Sometimes you just need a bit of luck: I had been on a fishing trip some days before and still had my fishing-boots and a net in the car. So got the stuff and tried to clean the lake by hand. It took a while until it was almost perfectly clean – at least where it was relevant for the picture. Luckily the sun was still very soft, so we had good light for the shot.

Lorenz chose 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 them two or three tries to get the shot. There was also no more time for another try because the wind came up and the perfect reflection on the water was gone.

The two jumped back to the car and drove towards their originally planned spot. It was an awesome feeling to have shot this picture with more or less pure luck. Without the sign next to the road, they would have passed one of the nicest photo scenes.

Jody MacDonald
Lifestyle category winner

Athlete: Ken MacDonald
Location: Choum, Mauritania

Camera: Leica X-U (Typ 113)
Lens: 23.0mm f/1.7
ISO: 100F-Stop: 7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500


The Shot:

When Jody Macdonald was young she 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. Jody had dreamt of the oceans of sand, the loud noises of the train, the cold, the wind, the scorching sun, the unknown smells and sounds of the desert and the discomfort that goes with it. So when she was asked to dream up and photograph a trip in harsh conditions, a 700 kilometer journey through the Sahara desert in Mauritania came to mind.

After weeks of planning, the journey began in the capital of Nouakchott, from there her brother and her moved north through the interior to board the Mauritania Railway. Their risky rail journey started from the iron-mining center of Zouérat in the Sahara, and snaked through the barren desert toward the port of Nouadhibou on the Atlantic. They wanted to get to the coast to try to find some unexplored surf breaks and capture the spirit of adventure and exploration through this incredible landscape. Having only a few minutes to hop on the train in the middle of the night, they 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.

Dean Treml
Enhance category winner

Athlete: Jonathan Paredes
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Lens: EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
ISO: 400F-Stop: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/4000

The Shot:

Jonathan Paredes of Mexico dives from the 28 meter platform on the roof of the Copenhagen Opera House during the first practice session of the second stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, Copenhagen, Denmark on June 20th 2013.

Dean Treml remembers while he was originally scoping out the location for this event thinking how surreal images could look without the diving platform jutting out, and just the small form of the diver, and the huge cantilevered roof dominating the frame, and even discussed it at the time with his wife (the photographer Romina Amato) who was also there.

As Dean was editorially focused the integrity of the image is paramount so the platform stayed, but while reading the categories of Red Bull Illume this image jumped into his mind and he figured a quick ‘fix’ to one of my shots couldn’t hurt, so this version of the image really came about thanks to the ‘Enhance’ category.

Micky Wiswedel
Wings category winner

Athlete: Jamie Smith
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Lens: EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM
ISO: 400F-Stop: 3.5
Shutter Speed: 1/1600


The Shot:

Micky Wiswedel‘s buddy Jamie “Jimbo” Smith had been opening new hard routes in the area and they wanted to try and capture some of the climbs. With climbing photography it’s not often you can just walk somewhere to get a good angle – most good shots require some form of rigging. The angle of this image happened by chance. They were setting up for another shot but when Micky looked back he knew they had to change plans and grab the shot with the sea and horizon in the background, framed by this huge rock roof.Lighting is also difficult, as climbers prefer to climb in the shade as cooler temperatures provide more friction between skin and rock. This often means overexposed backgrounds and underexposed foregrounds. The best Micky could do in this situation was to shoot somewhere in the middle.

The route is one of the hardest on Table Mountain. The last ‘crux’ section is near the top – you have a few pieces of protection below but there’s a final jump, or ‘dyno’ for the last hold. The image captures what happens if you don’t manage to stick that hold!
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! It’s a pretty big and impressive fall, but luckily far from the ground – that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

They had planned to grab some cool climbing shots, but in the end this image of Jimbo mid-air was the shot they felt captured the intensity of the climb. Jimbo did send the route that day – after a few more falls.

Vegard Aasen
Mobile category winner

Athlete: Unknown
Location: Hakuba, Japan

Camera: HUAWEI P8
ISO: 64
F-Stop: 2.0
Shutter Speed: 1/3200

The Shot:

This winter some friends and Vegard Aasen 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 the group went out into the backcountry. One of Vegard’s friends brought his DSLR camera, so he decided to not bring his camera because he wanted to ski instead of taking photos.

They hiked for a while, and discovered a group hiking across the ridge above them. The wind and the clouds looked amazing, so his friend took out his camera and started shooting. Vegard hated himself for not bringing his camera. Luckily he had his mobile phone in his pocket. He could not see anything on the screen, but obviously managed to aim pretty well.

A week later, he scrolled through his phone, while waiting for sushi at a restaurant. He had completely forgotten about the shot, so he was pretty stoked when he found it. He edited it to black and white in Photoshop Express on his phone, and was really happy with the result.

Close Up winner: Denis Klero, Russia with his black and white shot of climber Rustam Gelmanov showing his chalk-covered hands in Fontainebleu, France

Energy winner: Luke Shadbolt, Australia for his black and white image showing the power of nature. Surfer Renan Faccini is set against a huge swell in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

New Creativity winner: Ale Di Lullo, Italy for his fun shot of Aaron Chase riding his mountain bike on the windshield of a NYC cab.


Spirit winner: Dean Treml, New Zealand for his image showing kayaker Josh Neilson being supported by fellow paddlers after a bad landing off Matze’s Drop, Storulfossen, Norway.

Playground winner: Lorenz Holder, Germany showing BMXer Senad Grosic ride a rusted viewing platform in Senftenberg, Germany.


Sequence by Sony winner: Daniel Vojtêch, Czech Republic with his shot of Flying Bulls pilots Miroslav Krejci, Jan Rudzinskyi, Stanislav Cejka and Jan Tvrdic in Jaromêř, Czech Republic