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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

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

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 paired with a 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 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)

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 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!

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

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 or to see all the category winner shots, head over to here.

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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'.