Cliff diving, BMX biking, and kayaking down waterfalls may be extreme, but so is action photography. The Red Bull Illume contest honors the extremes (and extreme challenges) of action photography, and they just unveiled their winners. Spanning 11 different categories, the 2016 winners could just be the best action images you see all year.
The 2016 contest broke records with 5,645 photographers from 120 different countries entering, with 34,624 total images entered into the contest, the most since the competition began in 2007. The competition is held every three years.
Along with earning the Athlete’s Choice award, Lorenz Holder took top honors in the competition for the second year in a row for his shot of BMX rider Senad Grosic riding across a bridge. Holder, a photographer based in Germany, was actually on his way to another location when he spotted the autumn scene and adjusted his plans. The lake was covered in fallen leaves, so to get the reflection, he dug a fishing net out of his car and cleared the lake by hand — and still had time to get the shot before the sun came too far over the trees. He got the shot in two or three tries — and after that the wind ruined the reflection on the lake.
“In my photos, I like to show the viewers the beauty of the environment where athletes perform,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of landscape and architectural photography and I try to combine those genres with action sport. I think a great location is one of the key elements for a great action picture.”
Holder, a staff photographer for Nitro Snowboards, nabbed the shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 27-70mm lens. His photo also took the Masterpiece by Yodobashi category prize.
Winners were also chosen within ten additional categories, including a new category for mobile photography.
Spanning sports from skiing to cliff diving, the winning photos will part of a traveling display for the next two years. The images are displayed in lightboxes, and the gallery will only be open after the sun goes down. The best 275 images from the contest will also be part of a coffee table book.