Will Saunders Crowned Overall Red Bull Illume Image Quest Winner 

Press Release / 06.12.2021
With this shot US photographer Will Saunders becomes this year's Red Bull Illume Overall Winner.
With this shot US photographer Will Saunders becomes this year's Red Bull Illume Overall Winner. / © Will Saunders / Red Bull Illume

For his breathtaking image of a climber falling from a rock tower in Indian Creek, UT, USA, Will Saunders has won the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2021. The US photographer was announced as the overall winner at a ceremony in Aspen Snowmass, CO, USA, on Saturday evening local time. His shot of climber Jake Talley striking a pose as he took a lead fall was voted overall winner by a panel of 53 judges from around the world.

Saunders was handed the overall winner trophy by former Red Bull Illume Overall Winner Chris Burkard in the mountain resort, which now hosts the first tour stop of the Red Bull Illume Exhibition.

Saunders was overwhelmed when he received 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.“

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 – 41,447 images were submitted. To select the finalists, category winners and overall winner has been a tough choice. There were so many creative, unique and technically brilliant images this edition. Of course, I would also like to thank all the partners who make this event happen.”

Becoming overall winner of Red Bull Illume is the highest honor in adventure and action sports photography, bringing huge recognition and prestige. Saunders also wins a selection of prizes worth €50,000 including a Lenovo™ 9i laptop, a Leica SL2 camera with three lenses, a Workflow Bundle from SanDisk Professional, and gear from Black Diamond and COOPH. In addition, he will receive a printed and framed copy of his winning image from WhiteWall.

Saunders’s winning shot was already the category winner in the Masterpiece by SanDisk Professional category. It shows Jake Talley mid fall while climbing. Saunders explains the story behind the shot: “I've shot many whippers but this time I wanted to try something a little different. A group of us rallied out to my favorite place in the desert to get some climbing in and make some imagery along the way. I asked Jake to really shape his body into more of a powerful movement rather than the classic falling position. With grace and style, Jake pulled this shape out of the air, allowing me to capture an image that is unique compared to most of the literal climbing imagery we see.”

He adds: “His 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.”

With the contest officially over, Red Bull Illume now hits the road as a unique global exhibit tour displaying the images on 2x2m lightboxes, kicking off with a stop in Aspen Snowmass until January 2, 2022. It will then tour the world with planned stops across Europe.

PayPal Limited Edition SleepMonsters BUFF Patreon SleepMonsters Newsletter SleepMonsters Calendar SignUp


AR Discussion Group

Our Patrons

Adventure Enablers

Danish AR Union

Open Adventure

Rootstock Racing


SleepMonsters Patreon

Thank you to all our

adventure racing


Adventure Enablers

Danish AR Union

Open Adventure

Rootstock Racing

Tanz Navigation

-- -- --

Adventure Race Croatia

Adventure Race Georgia

Brian Gatens

Chris Dixon

-- -- --

Ajita Madan

Chipp Dodd

Celia Nash

David Ellis

Erik Sanders

Graham Bird

Jakub Malik

Josh Hayman

Liam St Pierre

Magnus Foss

Marijn Edelenbosch

Nicola MacLeod

Robert Rulison

Strong Machine AR

-- -- --

Adrian Crane

Barbara Campbell

Dejna Odvody

Ivan Park

Klaus Mygind

Lars Bukkehave

Marco Ponteri

Maria Leijerstam

Nigel Davison

Rob Horton

Semyon Yakimov