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Skateboards and silhouettes: see the first Red Bull Illume photo contest winners

Red Bull Illume 2021
(Image credit: Bruno Diego Cavalcante / Red Bull Illume)

The first semifinalists of the Red Bull Illume 2021 photo contest have been revealed, starting a week-long unveiling of category winners before the overall winner is announced on Saturday 04 December. 

The 11 category winners of the high-profile photo competition are being unveiled live each night on Instagram, with the titular Best of Instagram and RAW categories being the first to be showcased. (Full disclosure: the author of this article served as a judge on the Red Bull Illume 2021 panel.)

• Read more: Best cameras for sports photography (opens in new tab)

The Best of Instagram category, sponsored by Lenovo, had two winners: one for photography and one for video. Spain's Yhabril won the photo category with his shot of a skier and a snowboarder silhouetted against the moon, while Brazil's Bruno Diego Cavalcante took the prize for best moving image with his film of skateboarder Sara Watanabe skating on the Aterro do Flamengo sea front in Rio de Janeiro.

Watch video: Best of Instagram video winner Bruno Cavalcante

"What's particularly difficult to achieve in a shot like this one is to place the two kickers in the right place," said Yhabril, who planned the shot for a week. "Even more tough is that it needs to be taken at 3,000m high with the heavy gear you need to take the shot. 

"Once you have the scenery ready, you just have to wait for the moment and pray for a bluebird sky that day, along with being confident in the riders to synchronize the jump and the handplant. That's the real challenge. When the moon was rising I went to my place 300m away, communicating via walkie-talkies. What's really amazing is that we took the shot on the second try."

Red Bull Illume 2021: Best of Instagram by Lenovo photo winner (Image credit: Yhabril / Red Bull Illume)

The RAW category, sponsored by Leica, is dedicated to straight-out-of-camera images that are uncropped, unretouched and unfiltered. The winner was Canada's Bruno Long with another silhouetted shot, this time of mountain biker Dylan Siggers.

"Playing with dust and light has always been one of my favorite ways to shoot mountain biking," said Long. "It's such a random process, with the dust and light different in every situation. 

"This particular section of trail was super steep and local rider, Dylan Siggers, was in his element. This was his second or third time through this section and by this try, I had figured out exactly where he would be in the frame and captured the moment as he emerged from the dust perfectly."

Red Bull Illume 2021: RAW by Leica winner (Image credit: Bruno Long / Red Bull Illume)

Two more category winners will be revealed live at 18:00 and 20:00 CET each night this week on Instagram (opens in new tab) and the competition website (opens in new tab), leading up to the overall announcement on Saturday. Among the prizes on offer are a Leica SL2 (opens in new tab) and Leica Q2 (opens in new tab) camera.

A limited edition Red Bull Illume 2021 Photobook is also being released, featuring the competition's top 256 images in an individually number-stamped run of just 3,000 copies. You can pre-order the book here (opens in new tab)

Read more: 

Best professional cameras (opens in new tab)
Best cameras for Instagram
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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.