From catching a wave the size of an office building to climbing the world’s highest mountains, adventure athletes are often the subjects of some truly incredible photography. But the people behind the lens are working hard, too. Capturing athletes’ exploits requires impressive feats of endurance, lots of skill, and plenty of grace under pressure—for proof, look no further than the winners of the Red Bull Illume photography competition.
This year, French photographer Ben Thouard was named the Overall Winner for his incredible shot of surfer Ace Buchan catching a wave in Teahupo’o, Tahiti.
“Luckily I was right below, breathless with my waterhousing waiting for this moment,” said Thouard, according to a press release.
Check out the full image here:
Thouard shot the image during a freesurf session just before the Tahiti Pro event earlier this summer. Tahiti’s ultra-clear water makes it a great place to practice underwater photography, which is Thouard’s specialty.
“I’ve dedicated the last few years to shooting underwater,” he said in the press release, “looking for new angles and a new way to shoot surfing and waves.”
Illume, which is now in its fifth edition, was first held in 2006. In addition to the overall winner, the competition covers 11 different categories and honors photographers from across the globe. This year’s winning shots were chosen from over 59,000 photos—the most submissions in the history of the competition—by a panel of 50 photo editors and digital photography experts.
Most of the winners were from Europe, but one American was honored as well: Noah Wetzel won in the “RAW” category, which recognizes photos that are completely unedited and submitted straight from the camera. He shot an image of a mountain biker riding below a solar eclipse in Wyoming’s Teton Valley. Check it out below:
It wasn’t an easy one to get. In an Instagram post, Wetzel wrote that the image took months to plan, and “2-3 days of scouting, securing a campsite before the crowds, and 16 hours on the side of that mountain, hiking out in the dark” to shoot.
Now that’s some serious dedication. Read on to see the rest of this year’s winning shots.
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