Heartstopping adrenalin-fuelled action revealed in winning photos of Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2023

Athlete: Angela VanWiemeersch (Social Media: @angela_vanwiemeersch) Location: Long Canyon, UT, United States Camera: Leica SL2 Lens: APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 f/2.8-4 ISO: 3200 F-Stop: 4 Shutter Speed: 1/30
Athlete: Angela VanWiemeersch (Social Media: @angela_vanwiemeersch) Location: Long Canyon, UT, United States. Leica SL2 with APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 f/2.8-4. 1/30sec at f/4, ISO3200. (Image credit: © Krystle Wright / Red Bull Illume)

Ice climbers, kayakers, surfers, bikers, and skaters showcasing their skills in some of the world's wildest environments, captured by equally daring photographers. The winning photographs of this year's Red Bull Illume 2023 competition are revealed. 

The Red Bull Illume is a competition that presents the pinnacle of action sports and adventure photography, and this year has been no different. Submissions from amateur and professional photographers from all over the globe have been judged by an esteemed panel of industry professionals, revealing the grand prize winner as Krystle Wright - the first female photographer to win the top spot in the competition's 17-year history. 

(For full transparency, DCW editor James Artaius is a member of the Red Bull Illume judging panel.)

The Australian photographer won over the judges with her incredible shot of climber Angela VanWiemeersch illuminated in a crack, deep within Long Canyon, Utah, United States. In addition to winning the grand prize, the same shot also won the Innovation by MPB category. Taken with her Leica SL2 and APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 f/2.8-4, the shot resembles a lightning bolt, illuminating the crack on an iconic trad climb.

On winning Krystle Wright said, "This is incredible. I wanted to earn my place in this industry and my work to get recognized. Red Bull Illume is the only platform that truly recognizes what we do."

Athlete: Senad Grosic (Social Media: @senadgrosic) Location: La Muralla Roja, Calp, Spain. Canon EOS R5 with RF 28–70mm F2L USM. 1/640sec at f/8, ISO200. (Image credit: © Lorenz Holder / Red Bull Illume)

Instead of ranking the winners, they are split into winners of individual categories and are therefore in no particular order. The winner of the Masterpiece by Sölden category is Lorenz Holder, a two-time overall Red Bull Illume winner. Teaming up with the BMX rider Senad Grosic, in a brightly colored post-modern apartment complex, Holder wanted to portray "a balance of architecture and action sports". His image was taken with Canon EOS R5 and Canon RF 28–70mm f/2L USM.

Athlete: Kilian Ivelic Astorga (Social Media: @kilianivelic) Location: Maipo, Chile. Sony α7 III with 25mm. 1/1000sec at f/4, ISO400. (Image credit: © Gonzalo Robert Parraguez / Red Bull Illume)

Emerging with Canon is the category for 'young talents', and was won by Gonzalo Robert Parraguez from Chile for his heart-thumping photo of kayaker Kilian Ivelic Astorga, traversing a cavernous waterfall. A two-hour drive, a 10-minute hike, and a 15-minute rappel into a deep canyon were needed before getting out his Sony A7 III and capturing this exceptional shot. 

Athlete: James 'Jimmy' McKean (Social Media: @jimmy_mckean) Location: Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania, Australia. Leica SL2-S with Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280. 1/1000sec at f/8, ISO400. (Image credit: © Ted Grambeau / Red Bull Illume)

The full list of winners can be found below:

Overall Winner -Krystle Wright

Innovation by MPB category - Krystle Wright

Masterpiece by Sölden – Lorenz Holder

Emerging with Canon – Gonzalo Robert Parraguez

Energy – Ted Grambeau

Creative – Delphin Montessuit

Lifestyle by COOPH – Ross Taylor

Playground by Radiant Photo – Jb Liautard

RAW – Léo Grosgurin

Photos of Instagram – Yhabril

Reels of Instagram – Gabriel Marwein

Athletes: Jonathan Sapir (Social Media: @jonathan_sapir5) & Jorden Brunshteen (Social Media: @b_yarden) Location: Anchor Point, Taghazout, Morocco.  Sony α6400 with Sigma 24–70mm f2.8 AF DG DN Art . 1/250sec at f/2.8, ISO 500 (Image credit: © Ross Taylor / Red Bull Illume)

The full winner's gallery along with an equipment list and stories about how the shots were made can be found on the competition website. The top five images, from each of the ten categories, are now part of a unique exhibition, beginning in Sölden until December 21. The exhibition then travels to Germany for the Berlin Travel Festival December 1 - 3 and then to Salzburg’s Hangar-7 December 13 – February 4, 2024.

If you can't make it to the exhibition, do not fear! You can now preorder the Limited Edition Red Bull Illume Photobook 2023, featuring the top 250 images including the stories behind those incredible images and biographies of the top 50 finalists.

For more information about equipment for sports photography, see our helpful guide on the best camera for sports photography and our tutorial on How I stay pitch perfect when photographing sport.

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Kalum Carter
Staff Writer

Kalum Carter is a UK-based photographer, writer, and photo editor. Kalum has been working as a freelance photographer for the best part of ten years, covering a wide range of assignments for well-known brands and publications in areas including portraiture, fashion, and documentary. 

Between commercial assignments, Kalum is currently working on a personal photography project exploring his connection to the Gower region of South Wales UK, as part of an MA in Photography from The University of West England.