Krystal Wright, an accomplished Australian photographer, secured a historic win in the Red Bull Illume 2023 photo competition with her captivating shot of climber Angela VanWiemeersch hanging over an illuminated crack in Long Canyon, Utah.
Wright became the first female photographer in 17 years of Red Bull Illume to claim the overall win in the largest action sports contest. With a longstanding reputation in adventure, expedition, and action sports photography, Krystal has consistently pushed industry limits.
With emotional words, she started that she thought her career was over this year. “I thought I was done. So this is an incredible bonus. We believe in ourselves so fucking much, so having a platform that can recognise and celebrate what we do really means a lot.”
Wright’s winning shot is one of the ten breathtaking photos and videos that snagged awards at the Red Bull Illume Winner Award Ceremony in Sölden, Austria. The ski resort in the Alps hosted the ceremony for the first time, surrounded by workshops and side events featuring Red Bull Illume partners Canon, MPB, Radiant Photo, and COOPH. The event brought together some of the greatest adventure and action sports photographers, including past champions Fred Mortagne, Lorenz Holder, and Ben Thouard, who also shared inspiring knowledge in pre-award ceremony talks. It was one special gathering of creative minds and adventurers celebrating the raddest moments captured through the lens.
The winning images were selected blind by a jury of 50 judges from the action sports and media industry without knowing the photographer or any background information about the shot. The finalists shots from all categories will be displayed in exhibitions throughout Europe, including Sölden, Berlin and Salzburg.
Emerging Category by Canon
“I think this is one of my favorite photos as it included a bit of everything. To get to the waterfall you had to drive two hours, walk ten minutes and then to take this photo I had to do a 15 meter rappel as the waterfall is in a deep canyon. To get in the position I wanted, the only way to get there was to rappel in. With Kilian, we have been filming and looking for places for a couple of years now and continuing to do these missions with him is one of my favorite things to do.” – Gonzalo Robert Rarraguez
“One of the most extreme days at the incredibly challenging Shipstern Bluff on a remote stretch of coast in Tasmania Australia. The irregular bathymetry creates steps in the wave that adds to the unpredictably and creates a spectacular platform at the base of passive imposing sea cliffs. Local legend Jimmy McKean navigates a series of irregular steps in the face of a giant southern ocean swell. The steps are somewhat unpredictable and add to the precarious nature of one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous waves.” – Ted Grambeau
Innovation by MPB
“Turns out by slowing down life and embracing boredom again into my life, my dreams have come back that ignite new passion projects. One day as I was driving to my local crag, an idea hit me like a lightning bolt where I conjured the concept of illuminating a crack from within on an iconic trad climb. After all, the crack is the feature of trad climbing and I wanted to search out the perfect fissure. Moab UT has always brought me back time and time again and teaming up with Angela VanWiemeersch, we found ‘Seventh Serpent’ in Long Canyon. As per usual, my timing is atrocious and a heat wave had descended onto Moab which meant we only had a few precious shaded hours in the afternoon to rig the lights into the crack. I’ll always be a nervous wreck in these situations but when I raced back across the canyon to set up my position to capture, what a spectacular feeling it was to witness the crack come alive as the darkness enveloped around us.” – Krystle Wright
“This was for me one of the most difficult shots to take. In a windy week, a lot of larch in the valley were losing their thorns. So we were looking for the most beautiful larch around Briançon in France, and fortunately came across this magnificent tree with the waterfalls as a backdrop. Everything was perfect.
We came in the morning to create a jump, then had to find a yellow sweater for Arthur that would perfectly match the tree!
I hooked a flash on a drone and had it flown over the jump and the tree, the drone fell several times due to the wind and the flash weight. Our shot window was very short, I absolutely wanted to have the waterfalls in the background while having the tree and Arthur well lit by the flash. A single test allowed us to have all the conditions united in a single perfect shot.” – Léo Grosgurin
Masterpiece by Sölden
“La Muralla Roja is a huge apartment complex in the Spanish town Calp and was built by Ricardo Bofill in 1969. This building is just a miracle itself – there are stairs, small corridors, platforms and concrete walls everywhere and it’s very easy to lose orientation. The building is divided in different zones that are all colored differently in pastel tones, but work together beautifully. Just walking through this masterpiece is breathtaking and you feel instantly transferred into a different world. For Senad and I, this was just an playground with almost unlimited spots and opportunities, where we both could live out our creativity.
For this shot, I wanted to show the variety of pastel colors and different structures and compose this with an BMX-trick of Senad with the right balance of architecture and action sports. We had to wait a little bit, till the sun was at the right place, to illuminate all the scene pretty equally, so the colors of the building would show its full potential without having shadows within the image.” – Lorenz Holder
Lifestyle by COOPH
“I was out in Morocco on a surfing holiday with friends, which luckily happened to coincide with the first really good swell of the season slamming into the coast. The night before there was a real buzz of anticipation around the town, with everyone excitedly discussing if the swell was going to live up to expectation. The next morning, I eagerly pitched up to the carpark before sunrise and, through the twilight and mist, saw perfect peeling faces thundering down the point. A crowd of eager challengers quickly gathered readying themselves to do battle with what Mother Ocean was going to throw at them that day. When this retro ride overladen with all manner of surf craft pulled up I knew it was a composition too good to pass up. I hope this image bottles up just a little of the vibe which all us surfers know well; the excitement, anticipation and pure stoke of turning up to a spot to find the waves are even better than forecasted and it’s going to be a special day for all in attendance.” – Ross Taylor
“L’Usine is a dry-tooling cave situated over an old factory. On a Sunday after fun-filled night out with Virgile Devin and friends in Grenoble we decided to go for a climb at this spot. That’s when I got to shoot Virgile hooked to the roof of the cave, the bright light coming from the outside of the cave on the original shot gave me the idea of a high contrast minimalist collage. To create this image, I decided to push the boundaries of my creativity by merging my photography editing skills with modern technological advancements.
I designed the scene using a digitally generated block of ice. By choosing black and white, I was able to express my love for simplicity and contrast, while recalling the greatness of the mountain with an oversized ice element. This image is the result of many inspirations that have shaped my journey as a photographer: the mountains, the power of extreme sports, the exploration of new ways to create, all shared with some good friends.” – Delphin Montessuit
Playground by Radiant Photo
“We were shooting for a week around Cusco with the whole video team but when they left, we changed my flight to come to this place, I had to wait a couple more days at the hotel as Kilian had a race at the end of the week. The minute after he crossed the finish line, we took a car and drove 12 hours on mountain roads from 6PM to 6AM. We arrived at the hotel in the morning and after a quick nap, we were headed to the highest dune in the world.
We only had one evening and one morning there as our plane was leaving from Lima the next day. We had to have good weather and all conditions come together. I was suffering from a knee injury and had to climb up the 500m high dune with almost just one leg. I flew my drone once up there and the view was absolutely breathtaking. The wind just shaped that huge dune with a perfect pattern, the same pattern we can see on a way smaller scale. It was so perfect it almost looked fake.
Once I decided which line I wanted Kilian to ride, it was go time and we were lucky enough that he made a turn at the perfect moment to lift up some sand. It was that one shot this whole part of the trip was all about.” – Jb Liautard
Photos of Instagram
“After enjoying the recent snowfall in the resort, we usually look for places outside to build kickers and take advantage of the best moments of light for the shoots. The weather this day was very bad and it seemed that we were not going to be able to do anything, but after midday the clouds began to move and the friends’ chat began to heat up, so we decided to go up and build. We arrived a little late and the sky closed again so we decided to do the job and leave it done for the next day, with the landing untouched.
We were in darkness with everything almost finished when an evening glow began to enter in the distance. Alejan was working on the speed check and I was doing light tests with the flashes. It was an all or nothing bet to one try. Alejan is a motivated and qualified rider, capable of landing a huge first try backflip, so we went for it and we did it, that was the only jump that day, in the next moment the sky was dark again. In addition, the colors are a fundamental part of this photo, everything fits together, the blue tones are complementary to the orange and yellow ones, and there are times when this issue becomes crucial, that’s why this photo is titled Psychology of Color.” – Yhabril
Reels of Instagram
“Me and Dolph were planning to shoot for a short film. We never planned this. We were looking for good spots for our film and fortunately, we just gave this a try and it came out well.
This could actually be our first intro to the film, we thought. Then I asked Dolph: “Let’s try and put some sounds on it”. We thought of using some music but we wanted to do something different. I actually had no recording device other than my phone. I took it out and recorded the audio step by step and it was right on track on what we wanted with our film.” – Gabriel Marwein