Superior photographic talent, passion for the outdoors and split-second timing have culminated in two, separately awe-inspiring images, resulting in two of South Africa’s most extreme sports’ photographers being shortlisted for the unmatched Red Bull Illume photographic competition.
Two of Cape Town’s extreme sports’ photographers Micky Wiswedel and Kelvin Trautman have been selected from some 5 645 international photographers from 120 countries as finalists in the prestigious Red Bull Illume photographic competition. The contest – considered one of the world’s greatest action and adventure sports’ photography competitions the world over – brought these talented individuals together at the awards’ ceremony in Chicago last night.
The overall winner, as well as the 11 category winners, were announced and the images unveiled as part of the Red Bull Illume Exhibit Tour.
Wiswedel won the ‘Wings’ category for his shot of climber Jamie Smith mid-fall as he attempts a new route on Table Mountain, Cape Town. “I can’t believe I won my category when there were such epic shots in the competition. I’m still buzzing like crazy, it all seems a little unreal,” said Wiswedel after his win.
He would like to see the exhibition come to the mother city. Its iconic landmark Table Mountain also featured in Trautman’s photograph which was selected runner up in the ‘Mobile’ category added this year.
Judged by a panel of 53 photo editors, all working within prominent international sports, news, lifestyle and photography publications, the top 55 photographs represent masterful imagery taken in extremely difficult environments.
Renowned for his incredible rock climbing imagery, 38-year-old Micky Wiswedel said he couldn’t contain himself when he learnt he was a finalist.
“It came as a complete surprise and still hasn’t quite sunk in,” said the Stocksy Sport Photographer of the Year 2016. “Red Bull has had such a huge global impact in bringing extreme sports into the mainstream, and now it is possible to have a professional career photographing what were once fringe sports. Red Bull Illume is the most prestigious platform for extreme sports’ photographers and being part of the competition is a huge honour.”
Wiswedel’s after-work passion was rock climbing and he constantly found himself in amazing places, watching inspiring people in action, yet nobody he knew was capturing these experiences. He bought a camera and started putting his newfound knowledge to the test. This simple act has resulted in a career that sees him travelling to some of the world’s most beautiful locations, meeting interesting people while capturing real-life experiences.
“I think mostly I’m just fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. A lot of what I photograph is actually my life, my friends and the experiences we share.”
This was certainly true for his winning image that depicts close friend and rock climber, Jimbo Smith, captured mid-fall while attempting a new climbing route at Jeopardy Wall on Table Mountain, known as the Squid and Whale.
“That moment of the climb is the crux of the entire route and there was always a chance that Jimbo would fall,” he explained. “The image of him being weightless in mid-air high above ground with only a thin rope to catch his fall was the shot that we felt captured the intensity of the climb.”
For 33-year-old Kelvin Trautman, captured his image while out running with his girlfriend, Sabrina Chesterman on Table Mountain’s Platteklip Gorge.
“That morning we decided to run together and I had my phone more for safety reasons than photographic,” explained the Zimbabwe-born photographer. “We got to the gorge and Sabrina was a little way behind me. As I turned, the vista opened up. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments.
The whole experience has been a great reminder that there is magic to be captured when you least expect it, and often the best camera that you have is the one in your hand.”He said that creating truly unique content is every photographer’s challenge: “Given the immense variety and quality of visual content we are bombarded with nowadays; it’s become more important than ever to try differentiate yourself as creative. Notwithstanding the grounding in photography and film basics you need to have to make this happen, I think it’s important to recognise and exploit those skills and attributes that make you good and potentially different. In my world that means being able to follow and document adventurers, expeditioners, and extreme sports’ people in remote parts of the world.”
This is evident in his work as he’s found himself swimming with Adelie penguins in Antarctica, running in the depths of the Atacama Desert, climbing mountain ranges in Papua New Guinea, and sailing the north-west fjords of Iceland.
“The contest is the biggest adventure sport photography competition of its kind and many past winners have attributed career success to the competition. I feel very honoured to have been selected.”
Another South African photographer, Wayne Reiche, made it to the top 275 for his image of BMXer Murray Loubser submitted in the ‘Playground’ category.
You can see the final 275 images at: www.redbullillume.com