Behind the shot

Which images from the race do the photographers love the most? We talk to race photographers to find out.

Maxime Pinot (FRA1) performing during the Red Bull X-Alps in Montafon / Austria on 23-June-2021. In this endurance adventure race athletes from 18 nations have to fly with paragliders or hike from Salzburg along the alps towards France, around the Mont Blanc back to Salzburg.

This weekend is the deadline for the imagery contest Red Bull Illume; it’s the last chance photographers have to enter the renowned adventure and action sports imagery contest, so to encourage anyone else out there to enter, we thought we’d take a closer look at some of the best images to emerge from Red Bull X-Alps 2021 and have the photographers explain how they got the shot. Got a great adventure shot yourself? Submit it here!


How many times have you covered Red Bull X-Alps?

Five, since 2013

Favorite shot?

Very difficult question, whether I like a picture or not normally depends on how we got that image. In general the more we were fighting to achieve it the more I like it. But sometimes easy ones like the one with the long grass in the foreground happened. It was on my way back to the helicopter at the Gaisberg. We were waiting for the right time to take off (to avoid causing turbulence). We (pilot, Cineflex OP and me) were heading back to the heli to get airborne when I saw the pack quite close together. We wanted to shoot the first to leave the pack which is always a cool picture especially if you can compress it with a long lens. I realized the long grass on my way, checked the angle (engine was already started up) and did three fast pictures with manual focus to infinity without looking through the finder as the camera was all the way in the meadow. I was hoping I could somehow use these little gaps in-between the grass straws without blocking too much the view as my aperture was pretty closed. It turned out nice. It’s for sure one of my favorites but not THE one.

Challenges of the job?

We are not the same way physically exhausted as the race photographers on the ground, we are dealing more with exact planning, finding the right heli ports, cloud bases, wind and weather, flight plans, customs, fuel amount for the aircraft concerning high altitude work and manoeuvrability. For example around the Mt Blanc area we had deal with only 50% of oxygen compared to sea level – pretty interesting but not so funny in a helicopter, better trust your pilot and stay calm and focused haha!


Athletes race at the turnpoint Gaisberg prior to the Red Bull X-Alps in Salzburg on June 20, 2021.
Sebastian Marko grabbed this shot on the way to the waiting heli. © zooom / Sebastian Marko


How many times have you covered Red Bull X-Alps?

This was my first time.

Favorite shot?

On the first day in Switzerland I had a speed hike with Michal Gierlach, Tobias Grossrubatscher and Markus Anders, up a very steep mountain called Schafberg but you have this beautiful view of the Rhone valley. The goal was to get a cool action while taking off but including the sun star. The challenge is you have to shoot with a closed aperture, f16 but also freeze action with a high shutter. The diagonal lines show the steepness of the mountain and with the athlete leaning forward, it gives a very dynamic feeling. I just think it looks cool!

Challenges of the job?

The main challenge was to get to know the race and understand how it works in order to get the best images. It was physically demanding and I’ve never done so much sport with so little sleep. But it’s the dream of any adventure photographer, chasing athletes through epic mountains.


GER2 performs during the Red Bull X-Alps in Wildhaus, Switzerland on June 24, 2021.
To get this shot of Markus Anders, Pilz had to hike up a mountain fast. © zooom / Lukas Pilz


How many times have you covered Red Bull X-Alps?

The first time was in 2007, a while ago!

Favorite shot?

I can’t say I have a favorite image. I have a few unforgettable moments when I was at the right place at right time. I rather remember the moments I shared with the athletes. Like hiking with Toma Coconea and his team towards Säntis, chasing Chrigel after his flight around Mont Blanc when he landed in city center of Brig and hiking with him the next morning to launch above Fiesch. Or meeting with Simon Oberrauner and Maxime Pinot at Kronplatz. It was amazing to witness these emotions. Simon was almost crying from happiness and could not stop laughing while Maxime was broken at the same time. I like my shots because of the story behind.

Challenges of the job?

I felt much more comfortable during the race this time. I was somehow in flow with what was happening. Also, hiking with the athletes was easier than the years before. I trained more than before and I also used a different tactic. I hiked a little sooner to be able to wait for the athletes high in the mountains rather than trying to follow them from the valley.


Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) performs during the Red Bull X-Alps 2021 in Fiesch, Switzerland on June 27, 2021
For Ludvik, it's the special moments with athletes that he remembers. © zooom / Vitek Ludvik


How many times have you covered Red Bull X-Alps?

This was the first time.

Favorite shot?
We slept with Yael Margelisch on a stormy windy and cold night on the Furka Pass at day 6 during the race. At sunrise we hiked up to the summit Tällisstock. Yael was tired but in a good mood. The hike was very steep and sometimes the snow was not hard enough so we sank down up to our hips. When we arrived at the summit the light was magical. We were surrounded by high peaks and in the front of us the king of all summits, Mont Blanc in the rising sun together with the moon. The glide down in the valley was epic for me. To shoot the strongest women during the hardest adventure race in our sport put tears in my eyes, and gave me the feeling there is a window for equal rights.

Challenges of the job?
The challenge was for me to understand what idea the athletes have for the next day and how good the flying conditions would be! I had very often the feeling of being a storm chaser, the only difference was that I was watching the live tracking not the meteo map. And of course the other challenge was to have a creative and clear mind with only a handful of hours’ sleep.

Top image © zooom / Sebastian Marko

Red Bull X Alps 2021 Behind the shot 5
Trying to follow athletes in the race is like storm chasing, says Adi Geisegger. © zooom / Adi Geisegger

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