Skip to main content

Spectacular photo of "falling" climber is Red Bull Illume 2021 final winner

Red Bull Illume overall winning image of cliff climber
(Image credit: © Will Saunders / Red Bull Illume )

Photography fans around the world have been waiting in anticipation all week long for the unveiling of the overall winner of Red Bull's Illume Image Quest 2021. The unveiling week began on 29 November  whereby two winners from two categories were unveiled each evening via a livestream, each of the 11 category winners were in the running to be considered for the winning title. 

· Read more: Skateboards and silhouettes: see the first Red Bull Illume photo contest winners (opens in new tab)

A ceremony was held on Saturday 4 December in Aspen Snowmass, USA, where it was announced that US photographer Will Saunders had been chosen as the overall winner of Red Bull Illume 2021. Saunders was presented with the trophy by former Red Bull Illume Overall Winner, Chris Burkard (opens in new tab)

Previous winner for the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category, Saunders' image features a climber (athlete Jake Talley) striking a unique Mario-style pose while mid fall climbing a cliff. The shot was taken using a Canon 5D Mark IV (opens in new tab) paired with a 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (opens in new tab) lens. Image capture data tells us that Saunders used an ISO of 160, an aperture of f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/2000sec. 

His shot had been voted overall winner by a panel of 53 judges from around the world and bested 41,447 submitted images. Understandably overwhelmed by his win, Saunders states when receiving the award: "I’m just super grateful, I never thought I would be here. But it really is a team effort, it takes so much more than an individual.“ 

He also added “His [Jake's] body reminded me of a superhero, which is fitting to me because most of my friends in this action sports world are my heroes. The ticket here was to just push the conceptual idea enough while also grounding the image in reality.”

Overall winner Will Saunders receiving his award (Image credit: © Natalie Starr)
(opens in new tab)

Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume, said: “I offer my sincere congratulations to Will for his outstanding image. It’s a great shot and a worthy winner to take the Red Bull Illume crown, joining many other iconic shots that have won in the past. This year we saw an unbelievable display of talent from adventure and action sports photographers from around the world.” 

To be crowned a winner of Red Bull Illume is considered as one of the highest honors among adventure and action sports photographers. Saunders will receive a selection of prizes including a Leica SL2 (opens in new tab) camera with three lenses, Lenovo 9i laptop, a Workflow Bundle from SanDisk Professional, gear from Black Diamond and Cooph, as well as a printed and framed copy of his winning image courtesy of WhiteWall.

· Read more: Photographer wins Red Bull Illume 2021 prize skiing inside his apartment! (opens in new tab)

The Exhibition in Aspen Snowmass (Image credit: © Natalie Starr / Red Bull Content Pool)
(opens in new tab)

Aspen Snowmass was the finale ceremony location but is also where the Red Bull Ilume Exhibit Tour is expected to officially kick off, all finalist images will be displayed on 2x2m light-boxes and exhibited around the world, providing photographers with an unprecedented level of exposure. 

The exhibition will remain in Aspen until 02 January, 2022 before heading to other locations including a European tour with dates and planned stops yet to be revealed.

That concludes this year's Red Bull Illume Image Quest! Congratulations to Will Saunders for the well-deserved win, you can rewatch the Instagram Live of the final ceremony here (opens in new tab) or to see all the category winner shots, head over to here (opens in new tab).

· Read More:

Best professional cameras (opens in new tab)
Best action cameras (opens in new tab)
How to tackle winter sports photography (opens in new tab)
Best camera for sports photography (opens in new tab)
Photographs that prove that Red Bull really does give you wings (opens in new tab)

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.