Red Bull Photography recently joined our community with a verified brand profile of their own. This partnership isn’t just about amazing photography—it’s also about amazing stories. Behind every shot on Red Bull Photography is a talented photographer, a wild story, and a few lessons learned. We’ll be telling those stories every week here on 500px ISO and the Red Bull Photography website. Scroll down for the story behind this action-packed shot, courtesy of the Red Bull Content Pool.

At first look, you’d think this was a hummingbird in mid-flight. Think again! It’s actually a shot of a wakeboarder in action taken and created by photographer Chris Garrison at the recent Red Bull Wake Rivals event in Florida. We are beyond impressed with this unbelievably beautiful photo, which is featured in this week’s Spotlight Shot, and we wondered just how the photographer had achieved something so different. So we decided to ask the maestro instead and get the full story behind the shot. Read on to see what Chris has to say!

I have always been obsessed with light and the effects it can have on what you see. Since the start of my photography career, I have used every tool I could find to bend and shape light into places it should not be.

When approached by Red Bull with the Wake Rivals project, I knew this could be an amazing opportunity to create a unique set of images. I was given full control of 12 high-powered Sharpy stage lights, a full cable wake park at night, and some of Red Bull’s top athletes. We wanted to create something that showed the different colors of the Red Bull flavors to celebrate summer and the release of the new Summer Edition.

Recently, I was in Saint Lucia enjoying an anniversary trip with my wife. All around the island there were an astonishing amount of hummingbirds. It was amazing to watch the power, speed, and precision of movement they were able to produce. I also noticed they had an unreal amount of vivid color in their feathers. With the speed they passed by me along with the movement of their wings, they created a very colorful-like blur across my vision during every sunset. In those little hummingbirds would lay the inspiration that would help me show the power, precision, and beauty of wakeboarding.

Steel Lafferty competes at Red Bull Wake Rivals. by Red Bull Photography on

I wanted to create a very colorful image that would show all the motion of the action and water—and yet freeze the motion of the athlete. This would give the same effect the hummingbird has while suspending itself in the air. The image also needed to be shot from a very high, bird-like view angle to finalize the surreal look.

The shoot had to overcome many different challenges before the final images were reached. The images needed motion to create the blur of the water and athlete as well as burn in the color of the Sharpy lights—about 3 to 6 seconds of motion to be exact. This style of shooting required me to mount the camera to the 121 foot boom we had rented to keep the camera stable. I was not able to use a tripod because I was almost shooting straight down on the action, so I used a heavy-duty magic arm to hold the camera in place. I had to trigger the camera with a Pocketwizard to keep it as stable as possible. This was mainly due to the fact that just breathing on the fully extended boom added movement to the camera!

I then had to freeze the athlete in motion so he was visible in the image and not just a blur. This was completed with 2 to 3 (image depending) Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS packs with A-Heads to stop the motion. They were placed along the waters edge at full power to give a rim lighting effect to stop the edge motion of the athlete. These were triggered separately with the new Elinchrom EL Skyport plus for reliability and power control of the packs.

The images were an absolute blast to create. Each one was unique in it own way depending on the color mix of the lights, athlete style, water spray, shutter drag, and flash timing. I love every image and I am glad I was able to recreate the look a humming bird gives off to celebrate summer time!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for another story from Red Bull Photography that will blow your mind next week!