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Surf photo by Chris Burkard wins Red Bull Illume....

Winning Image: Peter Mendria : photo Chris Burkard / Red Bull Illume | zoom

Red Bull Illume Image Quest

Surf photo by Chris Burkard wins Red Bull Illume....

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 7 September, 2010 : - - The Red Bull Illume 2010 Image Quest has uncovered a new, stunning collection of images. Fifty finalists were unveiled on August 31 at a spectacular ceremony in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Chris Burkard (USA) received the honor of being voted the Overall Winner.

His image of surfer Peter Mendria riding the waves in golden sunlight on Chile's West Coast was selected by a international Jury of 53 photo experts, winning him a Leica S2 camera worth €30.000 and prizes from SanDisk, J.Lindeberg and Lowepro.

As night time fell over Dublin, the Front Square of the historic university was illuminated by arguably the greatest collection of action and adventure sports photography ever seen. The category winners and finalists in the top 50 images were selected from the 22,764 images submitted to the 2010 Image Quest by thousands of photographers worldwide after an extensive search for the world's best photographs in BMX, surfing, skateboarding, B.A.S.E jumping, climbing, motor and winter sports.

The Red Bull Illume Photobook 2010 is a record of this quest. The top 250 images have been published in high-quality hardback and is available for purchase for fans of these stunning, breathtaking images.

“I am so blessed,” said Burkard on picking up the biggest prize in freesports photography. “I feel really, really lucky just to be here and be surrounded by people I look up to and my peers. There’s something to be said to win an award in front of people you respect. So for me this is huge, a really huge honour. I’m really grateful.”

“As action sports photographers, we’re used to getting towards the action and getting close to it. And nine times out of ten, that’s what we’ll do. But I decided to get as far from the action as I could so I could show the whole landscape so people could appreciate everything that was going on and not just the surfer.”

Burkard’s image proved to be a hugely popular choice with fellow photographers and the public on the night. “The overall winning shot by Chris Burkard is amazing,” said New Creativity finalist Silvano Zeiter. “When I saw the random pictures exhibited on the Red Bull Illume website, I looked through them and saw that one picture by Chris Burkard. I made a screen shot and said to my friend, ‘This is going to be shot!’”

Fred Montagne, the previous winner of the Image Quest in 2007 also thought Burkard was a worthy winner. “My favorite photo was the overall winner by Chris Burkard, really. I like these kind of photos where you see the athlete in a big environment. It’s not just about the action, it’s about the action in some crazy environment. I like when the individual is really small. It would still be a good photo without the surfer.”

See the full list of category winners and finalists here.


Chris Burkard : photo Red Bulll Illume


Interview with Chris Burkard (USA), Illumination Category winner and Overall Winner

How do you feel about winning the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010?
I’m overjoyed, it’s hard to put into words being able to be nominated and to win this award in front of all your piers and people I respect, I’m truly blessed. I feel really lucky right now. My expectations were to put a photo in there and hope for a few editors to see it.

To be a finalist was a huge honour and to be able to come here was a huge honour. Being up on that stage (collecting the award) was an out of body experience. I didn’t know what to think. There are few moments in a photographer’s life where he is truly appreciated for the work he does and to be looked at as someone who creates beautiful images. We’re usually the workhorses that are behind the scenes and this is something I could only dream of. I’m really grateful.

More than anything I’m grateful to the surfer, Peter Mendia, he’s the guy who paddled out there (in the photo) and made it happen. And to the landscape: we live in such a beautiful place and my main goal in photography has always been to inspire people to see and seek out the world around them.

What’s the story behind the shot?
We went to Chile in 2009, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We sat in the rain for weeks and it was terrible. We woke up one morning and it was bluebird skies and the waves were the best I’d ever seen. We went down to check all these spots and this was the last place we went. This was the last session of the day and I hiked up to a sand dune so I could get a pulled back shot to capture the whole landscape and environment that the surfer was in. This image was the outcome. For me it was scary. Photographers usually want to get up close to the action but in this case I went further away. I’m lucky I did because this came of it.

For me it’s all about light or the absence of light, dark clouds or a moving storm: the simple moments. Or the most beautiful evening you have ever seen. By shooting a silhouette like in this image it makes them timeless. I want to capture moments on earth like this in their natural state, as if (humans) were not even there.

What was it like being part of Red Bull Illume?
The competition in general was amazing. I looked at these people’s photos and I thought, ‘I need to step up my game’. I did not think there was any chance that I might win. I looked at all these different sports and the beauty that they create and everything that they do and I thought, ‘wow there is such good photography out there now.’

My photo is not flash, it’s not experimental, it’s just natural light in a natural setting and I thought people would be looking for something more technologically advanced and more new age. My photo was almost a step back to just the basics of photography.

What’s next for surf photography?
Surfing photography is going to keep evolving. There’s going to be people pushing the sport in all different ways. I don’t think there is going to be one thing that is the next big thing, but it’s going to be everyone pushing each other to capture more and more incredible images. As far as technology is concerned the sky is the limit. Flash, different types of lighting and the different studio effects that are done. I think some people are going to revert back to using film and maybe large formats. Surf photography is untapped, there are so many opportunities for everyone to explore and create.

What do you do day to day?
I’m a staff photographer at Surfer Magazine. My day-to-day routine is to check emails and see what the editor and photo editor want. I talk to surfers, check what’s going on and plan what I’m doing in the next weeks, months or years. I usually have trips planned long in advance.

How did you get into photography?
Photography was something that never came easy to me; it was something I had to work on. I took art at school and draw and paint a bit to have fun. I always used to go surfing a lot with my friends and one day I picked up a camera and it was like I had found the most expressive medium I have ever put my hands on. It was everything I wanted to do. I worked hard and I managed to make it into a career. It took me a long time to come up with something like this!


Chris Burkard


Biography: Chris Burkard, USA

I am 24 years old and live in the small town of Pismo Beach, California. I have served as a freelance photographer for various publications and a staff photographer for Surfer magazine and My passion for photography came about when I picked up a camera at a goodwill auction five years ago. I have always aimed to document the lifestyle of the sport more than the action, also focusing on the pulled back perspective to give the viewer a feeling like they are in the moment.

My inspiration comes from landscape photography and unique lighting situations. i have always tried to capture a landscape perspective in my action sports images to show the natural arenas in which the athletes find themselves.

Unique lighting and silhouettes are my specialty. My goal is to capture my subject in the photo so that they aren’t dated by logos or any certain era. I like my images to remain timeless and hopefully be appreciated by someone at any age.

Key bio quote:
My inspiration comes from landscape photography and unique lighting situations. I have always tried to capture a landscape perspective in my action sports images to show the natural arenas in which the athletes find themselves.

About the shot: IL10_009366_003138.jpg

It was a last minute decision to go to Chile. We sat in the pouring rain for days and days waiting for the swell to come. We thought we had planned it perfectly, but even in the fall you can still get a winter storm.

We woke up the morning after the rains to howling offshore winds, swell was pulsing and the conditions were as good as they get. We drove to a spot in the afternoon that the locals had said, “rarely breaks.” When we pulled up it was reeling left barrels for almost a football field’s length. We scrambled to get out and surf. i was sun burnt and tired and had no idea how to document this moment. The waves were some of the most i had ever seen, so I decided to risk it. I sprinted down the beach and hiked up a sand dune to get a pulled back perspective.

The shore break was so big, and the offshores’ plumes so high, that I was missing most of the best waves, but finally a set came through. The light, the wind, and the swell were perfect. It was as if everything in nature fell into perfect harmony for this single moment. As Peter Mendia eased into this wave, the backwash hit, sending a golden shower of water 10-feet above his head, and sending him down the line of another 20-second barrel.

Check out for regular updates on the nominated photographers and tour, as well as picture galleries, news, interviews and videos about the world of action sports photography. 


Red Bull Illume Factsheet

Photos submitted to the Image Quest 2010: 22,764
Photographers who submitted images to the Image Quest 2010: 4773
Number of countries of participating photographers: 112
Number of judges voting during each round: 53
Number of voting rounds: 3
Categories: 10 (Culture, Playground, Energy, Spirit, Close-up, Wings, SanDisk Sequence, New Creativity, Experimental, Illumination)
Number of female photographers in top 50: 1
Age of youngest photographer in top 50: 20 years old

Unveiling/ Exhibition
Number of images exhibiting: 50
Number of lightboxes used in exhibition: 27
Weight of each lightbox: 200kg + 500kg water ballast
Lightbox dimensions: 2.1x2.2m
Trinity College is recognised internationally as Ireland's premier university and is 43rd position in the top 100 world universities and amongst the top 50 European universities (13th) by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) university league tables.
Year that University of Dublin, Trinity College was founded: 1592.
Registered students in 2008/09: 15,914
Famous alumni: Bram Stoker (writer of Dracula), Oscar Wilde (writer), Samuel Beckett (playwright), Dr James Watson (Nobel Laureate), Mary Robinson (politician)
Number of non-university events held at Trinity College before Red Bull Illume: 0

Overall winner: €30,000 of Leica equipment including S2 camera and lenses, year’s supply of SanDisk ExtremePro 64GB flash memory cards, Lowepro ProRunner x450 AW camera bag.
Category winner: 10 64GB flash memory cards and Classified 160 AW camera bag

The Photobook
Number of photos in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2010 Photobook: 250 – (the 50 finalists and the 200 other semi-finalist images)
Number of editions printed: 4500, each individually stamped and numbered
Weight of Photobook: 3.2kg

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Ian Boyle / Red Bull Illume

Photography - Surfersvillage


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