Extreme Sports Photography with Red Bull’s Naim Chidiac

March 26, 2018
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Extreme Sports Photography with Red Bull’s Naim Chidiac

Dear Explorer,

We at ub-cool love adrenaline and love the amazing extreme sports photography of Red Bull’s Naim Chidiac!
Originally from Lebanon, this 40-year old award-winning photographer is based in Dubai and is one of Red Bull’s famous team of international photographers. Catching that perfect moment when an athlete flips in the air, lands in the water, or screeches a car to a halt, Naim is known for his extreme sports action shots. When he’s not behind the camera, you can find him riding the waves kite surfing or wakeboarding!
Naim sat down with us to tell us about his journey to becoming a Red Bull photographer and the extreme sports he enjoys!

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Early days of photography

ub-cool: Your specialty is ‘extreme sports action’ photography and I understand you yourself are an avid kite surfer and wakeboarder?

Naim Chidiac: Yes, I started when I was 6 years old because I lived on the Mediterranean in Lebanon. It was more body-boarding than surfing. In fact, we didn’t have the body-board itself, so we used to make one out of a piece of wood. It was in Lebanon where I fell in love with extreme sports.

“I was born like this – I love extreme sports.”

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ub-cool: Before teaming up with Red Bull, did you study photography?

Naim Chidiac: Yeah, this is a very nice story. A friend of mine called saying his friend, the famous photographer Fares Jamal, needs an assistant. And, at that time, we were young in university and we needed money – a part-time job. So, I said yes and went to my interview and the first question was:

“Do you know how to drive manual?”

And, I didn’t know how to but I still said yes because I didn’t want to lose the job. So, he then said straightaway: “Tomorrow, we leave for Beirut.”

Now, I’m left thinking how can I drive tomorrow? So, I called my friend and he stayed all night long teaching me how to drive manual, and then in the morning I managed to put the car into first gear to take off to Beirut. When we reached the Army Break I said “hello” to the soldier and he said, “please proceed.” Then, instead of putting the car into first gear, I put it into reverse and hit the car behind me! That was my first job. My first day at work.

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ub-cool: What a story! Did you lose the job?

Naim Chidiac: No, no. We still work together and do a lot of jobs together. We travel to do jobs for big brands in places like Morocco, Spain, Turkey – essentially, everywhere.

Even as a kid, I remember that where ever we would go, I would always take people’s cameras and start taking pictures. So, when I started working with Fares, I realized there is something inside me that loves photography.

Helicopter tour in Dubai

ub-cool: How old were you at that time?

Naim Chidiac: I was 17 then. I started asking millions of questions and was very curious about photography. Back then, it used to be negatives and slides and not digital like today where everyone now clicks thousands of images to choose just one. It used to be long hours working every day.

I learned the hard way. I was carrying bags, carrying lights, jumping on the third floor to shoot an apartment interior, or to shoot the mountain or to shoot the snow. So, while I was carrying and driving, I was always asking questions and keeping my eyes open. Luckily, I’m a quick learner too and suddenly Fares discovered that I have this talent for photography inside me and he bought me my first camera, which was a Nikon F3. It was a manual camera which had no auto-focus – nothing! And, a few years later, in 2002, I won best picture in Lebanon.

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The Red Bull team

ub-cool: How did you become a Red Bull photographer?

Naim Chidiac: After winning the award in 2002, I had an idea: Why don’t I combine my lifestyle and photography and try to join Red Bull because I myself do a lot of extreme sports?

At that time, there was no Internet so we would wait every two or three months to go to our friend – he’s a wealthy guy who had Internet access – to watch one of Red Bull’s videos. So, we used to watch only two videos per year. This is how I fell in love with the brand.

Snorkel in Oman

For the next two years in Lebanon, I went to Red Bull knocking on doors trying to get an appointment saying: “I do a lot of sports, I’m a skiing professional, and I do photography. It’s good to work with me.” But I never got an appointment. But, I didn’t give up.

“Suddenly, in 2005, I got a phone call from Red Bull saying they had a job for me. I was to cover running in a quadrathlon event in Lebanon. I was so excited that I did not sleep that night!

In fact, I didn’t sleep for probably two weeks. Everyday thinking, “what do I have to do?”

Then, I asked Fares if he would lend me all of his equipment and he said, “take anything you want.” I took lighting gear and everything and headed to the mountain for the downhill running discipline where I snapped amazing shots. Then, after that, I decided to also capture the other three disciplines in the quadrathlon: cross-country running, cycling, and kayaking from the snow to the sea.

Red Bull couldn’t believe that I managed to capture all four disciplines alone. And, since then, they decided to work with me.”

Nick De Wit performs during Red Bull X-Fighters Jams at La Grande Poste in Algiers , Algeria on May 23rd , 2015

Nick De Wit performs during Red Bull X-Fighters Jams at La Grande Poste in Algiers, Algeria on May 23rd , 2015

ub-cool: When did you move to Dubai?

Naim Chidiac: I moved to Dubai in 2006 because of the war in Lebanon and was trying to connect with Red Bull as their headquarters was in Dubai. I got back in touch with the woman who had hired me in Lebanon and started shooting like crazy. Then, Red Bull International noticed my photos in 2008 and offered me a three-month-paid internship in Austria. It was intensive but I learned a lot about how to shoot, branding, managing an event, and so much more.

“The internship was amazing and, since then, my life changed completely: the way I think, the clients, my approach to projects, my approach to photography, everything. Then, in 2010, I became an official Red Bull Photographer in 2010.”

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ub-cool: How many official photographers are there and what does it mean to be one?

Naim Chidiac: There are 89 official Red Bull Photographers in the world. We are 100% supported by Red Bull and our clothing is also branded by the company. This has opened a lot of doors for me; I meet so many professional people, so many world champions, so many athletes, so many inspirational people, and I get to travel the world.

ub-cool: What are the difficulties involved?

Naim Chidiac: Yes, it’s amazing but it’s also hectic. There’s a lot of responsibility. Because you always have to be productive in an artistic way and it’s not easy all of the time. Sometimes you don’t have light, sometimes the weather is not in your favour, and sometimes the location is not good. And, there is a short time to take the many, many, many pictures required.

Mohamed Abu Issa performs during a photoshoot in Sealine Desert, Qatar on May 15th 1014

Mohamed Abu Issa performs during a photoshoot in Sealine Desert, Qatar on May 15th 1014

Nike & Nat Geo

ub-cool: You shoot photos for Nike as well – does Red Bull allow you to work with other brands?

Naim Chidiac: Yes, I do a lot of work for Nike as well. The good thing about Red Bull is that you’re not working exclusively for them. I give them priority not because they oblige me but because I love the brand. This is my life.

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ub-cool: Is photography is your full-time job or do you do something else on the side?

Naim Chidiac: Yeah, yeah, photography is my full-time job and I’m so busy I can’t handle it alone. I have lots of people working for me and it gets crazy. I shoot big events like the Abu Dhabi festival, and also a lot of advertising for Ferrari World, Etisalat, Sun & Sand, and others. And, many of my pictures won best advertising two years ago.

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ub-cool: Would you ever consider working for National Geographic?

Naim Chidiac: I love National Geographic. In late 2017, I worked on something with them. I love National Geographic but I cannot compromise my sports life. With Nat Geo, the pictures are amazing but you need to wait one month, a long time often, to take this picture of a lion passing somewhere. For me, sport comes first in my life. For instance, right now it’s windy and I want to go kite surf.


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Hot air balloon ride in Dubai

Camera equipment

ub-cool: What type of camera do you shoot with?

Naim Chidiac: I use a lot of cameras like Hasselbad and Nikon and I always update. Hasselblad has one of the highest resolution and it’s medium format; this means it has a bigger CCD inside and higher resolution so you can print huge billboards with amazing resolution.

“For my action photography for Red Bull and many other brands, I use a Nikon DSLR – specifically, the latest Nikon 850. It’s an amazing camera. I fell in love with this camera and I can’t stop using it.

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ub-cool: Do you ever shoot with your phone?

Naim Chidiac: You know, I do use my phone a lot. There are a lot of my pictures and also a large series that were taken on my phone and it went viral.

ub-cool: What was the most dangerous photo you have taken?

Naim Chidiac: My most dangerous shot happened while I was shooting Formula One. It wasn’t supposed to be super dangerous and I don’t know what happened. I was in the back of a truck with the back door open shooting David Coulthard driving behind us. I didn’t know that they were going to go at 240 km/h and I had no protection – nothing! I was shooting while the truck started turning with the curves. That’s when I switched to survival mode because the driver could not hear me.

“I was almost flying off the truck and there was nowhere to hold – nothing. I don’t know how I managed to but I held on to something and kept shooting (laughs).”

It was super scary. After that, I was really shaking for an entire hour. Even David Coulthard hugged me after the race because he was watching me struggling as he was driving. I got an amazing shot, but I was really super scared.

David Coulthard performs during Red Bull Racing F1 Car Tour in Petra , Jordan on April 24th, 2016

David Coulthard performs during Red Bull Racing F1 Car Tour in Petra, Jordan on April 24th, 2016

Fun & Family

ub-cool: What are your favorite three activities?

Naim Chidiac: I love kite surfing, skiing and hiking, and I actually used to compete in skiing. Every summer, I do a lot of hiking; I choose a mountain and I spend two or three weeks there. I also travel a lot. These are the four things I enjoy doing. It’s not a sport, but I travel a lot. Last year, I traveled more than around 70 times in the year.

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ub-cool: Where do you kitesurf and wakeboard in Dubai?

Naim Chidiac: At Sunset beach which is next to the Burj Al Arab hotel. The waves aren’t the best for surfing but it’s enough for desperate people like us.

ub-cool: Is your family as adventurous as you? 

Naim Chidiac: Yes – my wife is from Slovakia and is crazier than me! That’s why we match. We ski, dive, and wakeboard together. She also loves hiking and was the person who got me into hiking – now I love hiking.

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ub-cool: What advice would you give our readers to inspire them to go on extraordinary journeys?

Naim Chidiac: My advice to everyone is: don’t ever stop doing what you love even if you fail the first, second, third, and fourth time. You know how much negative feedback I received from Red Bull in the beginning? But, I never stopped. Some of the feedback made me cry because you feel like this is the end of the world; but, for me, I didn’t stop. I’m still learning, till now.

So, never give up in life. Never. I failed in many situations before but all that was a lesson and motivation making me super confident. I know exactly what I’m doing. So, never give up and never be lazy. Everything is happening outdoors so if you stay on your couch nothing will come to you.

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Where in the world is the ub-cool flag
Where in the World is the ub-cool Flag?

Dear Explorer, The world is your oyster!  You’ve heard that one before, eh? Well, it definitely is our motto at ub-cool. We are conquering the world one country at a time with our flag! The world is truly a small place now that we have the ease of air transport. Long gone are the days of sailing weeks across the rough-gut-wrenching seas, watching your suitcases (or, trunks!) slide across the room and almost squash your legs, just to get from one continent to another. Now, you can do that in 12 hours or less. Where in the World is the ub-cool Flag? Come along with us on our journey as the ub-cool team and friends carry our flag across the globe. We will update this page with new additions from the coolest places on Earth! If you want to be part of the journey, email us for a copy of our flag and then submit your photo and we will add it here! Spread the word and check back to see all the new cool places we have been! Turkey September 2018: Balloons in Cappadocia! Exploring the “fairy chimney” rock formations in Turkey,  brought along the ub-cool flag for the stunning sights! Ukraine August 2018: Cycling through the Carpathian Mountains Cycling enthusiasts, Kate Pakhomov and Fimm, carried the ub-cool flag through Ukraine! South Africa July 2018: Fun at Lion & Safari Park Devan Kupferman and Laura Symmonds watching lion cubs playing with the ub-cool flag! Arctic Circle June 2018: The Ultimate North! The ub-cool flag reached the Arctic Circle in our founder Medina Ilyassova’s backpack! Kenya June 2018: Hiking in Kwale County! Zarian Sohrab hiked with the ub-cool flag to find some spectacular views!   Oman May 2018: Waters around Muscat 10 meters deep in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Muscat, Oman, these passionate freedivers pose with the ub-cool flag! From left to right: Yousuf Al Mukaini, Sele Al Mabsali, and Omar Al Ghailani. Scotland May 2018: Dunottar Castle The ub-cool flag made its way to North East Scotland with our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan! Ireland May 2018: Southern Irish Coast Our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, high above the beautiful cliffs of Ballycotton in County Cork. Nepal April 2018: Mount Everest Base Camp After 7 days of hiking, our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, reached Everest Base Camp! Along for the journey was her friend and Jonathan Shubert, ub-cool Explorer and world-record endurance cyclist. Read more about Heather’s journey to Mount Everest Base camp here. Peru April 2018: Machu Picchu The iconic peak of Peru’s famous mountains rise behind ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani. He made the gruelling journey to the peak by the most difficult route… Then he made his way to Vinicuna, the Rainbow Mountain, to handstand in the Andes Mountain range. Georgia April 2018: Caucasus Mountains Enjoying her first visit to the beautiful country of Georgia, Medina Ilyassova returned with memories of paragliding over the stunning scenery, exploring castles, and dining on delicious cuisine. If you’re planning a trip to Georgia, discover awesome Georgia tours here. Hawaii April 2018: Koko Crater After a steep climb ub-cool friend, Anshul Bhatnagar, enjoys the view of a cloudy Honolulu! Kazakhstan  September 2017  ub-cool’s Medina Ilyassova hangs out in the mountains with family and friends. There is nothing better than fresh mountain air! Bulgaria September 2017 ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani, making his way through Bulgaria with the our flag in tow! Tanzania May 2017: Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano – “Mountain of God” Perched at the top of this active volcano, seen as the “Mountain of God” by the Maasai community, our ub-cool founder, Medina Ilyassova, waves our flag with exciting at her accomplishment. The climb was intense to say the least. Imagine climbing at an incline of more than 70 degrees! Not to mention, starting earlier in the dark with headlights to avoid roasting under the African sun! Read about Medina’s climb up Ol Doniyo Lengai Volcano here. Last Updated: 21st May 2018 Watch this space for regular updates! Email us for a copy of our flag and we’ll add your submission to this post!

Best Photos
Best Photos of the Web | April 2018

Dear Explorer, We have searched the web looking for the best photos of the web from the month of April 2018 to inspire you to say ‘WOW‘, get outdoors & lead an active life! 10 Best Photos of the Web Here are our Top 10 pics for this month’s photo competition: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah | Instagram: @alexgoldman  The mysteries of Hawaii | Instagram: @kelsealoha The iconic Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco | Instagram: @shangerdanger Turkey is now on our bucket list! Oludeniz Beach | Instagram: @buraktuzer The feeling of freedom! Los Glaciaras, Andes | Instagram: @vagabondhearts Everybody stay calm | @jferrara_photo  Travelling in style in Guam, West Pacific | Instagram: @matecasar Serenity at sunset. Inle Lake, Myanmar | Instagram: @vincelimphoto White Sands Monument in New Mexico | Instagram: @everchanginghorizon And happily ever after! | Instagram @nois7 Did you miss the best photos from March’s photo competition? It’s not too late to check them out. Do you want to submit your photos for May’s photo competition? You can email us or tag us on Facebook or Instagram and remember to use the hashtag #ubcoolphotocomp Liked what you read? Subscribe below and receive more great stories right in your Inbox!

Georgia Tours
4 Best Ways to Explore Georgia on Wheels

Dear Explorer, Counting down the days till your vacation but haven’t settled on a destination? Why don’t you set your eyes on Georgia? (The country in Europe, not the State in the United States!). This country has captured the hearts of many with its warm welcoming nature and generous people. It definitely has the ub-cool team completely in love! Some of our team really enjoy adrenaline-filled adventures like paragliding and white-water rafting, which Georgia has so much of to offer! But, others on the team prefer staying close to the ground – in fact, they prefer their feet firmly fixed to Mother Earth! So, we figured some of you – our lovely readers – may also feel the same and want to check out awesome adventures that keep you as close to the ground as possible. Below are a list of Georgia tours we love that allow you to explore this beautiful country from the comfort of a vehicle. Oh, and don’t forget these Georgia tours are also perfect to enjoy with the family! Related: 4 Best Sky-and-Water Adventures in Georgia 4 Best Georgia Tours on Wheels Recently emerging from decades of Soviet rule, Georgia re-opened its doors to the world in 1991. Since then, there has been a massive building project of hotels and resorts not to mention the increase in the number of flights to this small country. The Caucasus mountains are a sight to be seen – they stand tall with snow-capped peaks against gorgeous rolling-green valleys dotted with small towns. If you’re keen to explore the beautiful countryside and views from the hills all the while keeping your feet close to the ground, we have 4 different options for you from quad bikes to NASCAR-style cars! #1 – Experience the Caucasus Mountains and Castles on this Fun Jeep Tour Jump in for this fantastic jeep tour! The local experts will take you through the Dzama gorge, which is hidden between the valleys of the Borjomi forests and Kartli. Georgians consider this a sacred place as you’ll see by the many old-and-new monasteries in the area. You’ll also visit the gorgeous Bateti lake which sits on a mountain plateau surrounded by forest and a beautiful swamp. Whatever season it is when you visit, make sure you bring your camera because the scenic views will blow your mind! Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to mention the delicious barbeque picnic and red wine tasting you’ll enjoy! Learn more about this Fun Jeep Tour in Georgia > #2 – Explore Georgia on an Amazing Quad Bike Tour Want to explore the rolling green Georgian hills with your friends? Then hop on your very own quad bike and speed away! Imagine spending 2 hours exploring Mitarbi mountain, Bakuriani traditional villages, and rice fields! Then, after lunch, you’ll get the chance to taste the famous Borjomi mineral water in the national park! For those wondering – yes, the quad bike is really easy to handle making for a truly enjoyable journey. And, if you’re looking for fresh air, then this is the trip for you! Learn more about this quad bike tour in Georgia > #3 – An Exciting NASCAR-Style Car Ride in Georgia Do you love watching car races? Well, when in Gerogia, why don’t you give it a try! Strap on your seat belt and take this first-generation NASCAR car, The Legends, down the track for a spin! This modern vehicle is in the retro style fitted with a Yamaha 1300cc, 145 horsepower engine. What does this mean? Yes – You’ll go from 0 to 100km in 4.2 seconds! Fact: before NASCAR, this vehicle was a popular get-away car for the mafia! Learn more about racing NASCAR-style cars in Georgia > #4 – Adrenaline-Packed Off-Roading Drive Through Georgia Calling adrenaline seekers, this rafting trip in Georgia is perfect for you! Hang on tight for an exhilarating rafting trip down fast-moving waters! If you’re new to rafting, learn to raft from local experts and set off on an adventure of a life time. The waters in Georgia’s rivers are ideal for white-water rafting enthusiasts. Do you live for adrenaline-filled adventures? Then this off-roading tour is for you! Race through Georgia’s rugged terrain in the best off-roading vehicle, Polaris RZR. This high-quality AT vehicle will have you perched atop hills in no time! Learn more about off-roading drives in Georgia > Looking for other adventures? Visit ub-cool for more exciting adventures from all around the world! Working with local experts, the ub-cool team seeks out the best adventures for you to try! Liked what you read? Subscribe below to get more adventure tips right in your inbox!

Xia Boyu
Xia Boyu: Double Amputee Summits Mt Everest

Dear Explorer, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again” – this is definitely the case for 69-year-old mountain climber Xia Boyu who successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, this week. Xia Boyu On Monday, the 14th of May, Xia Boyu achieved his goal on his fifth attempt of conquering the iconic mountain spanning over 4 decades of attempts. You’ll be shocked to learn that it is not his mature age of 69 that sets Xia apart from the other 500 climbers attempting Everest this year… but also that he is a double amputee!  Photo Credit: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images First Attempt Led to Double Amputation Xia, now 69 years old, first tried to scale the 8,848m peak back in 1975. Only a tantalising 200m from the peak of the world, the climbers were heart broken as they were forced to turn back due to high-altitude storms. They were descending in treacherous conditions when Xia, then aged 26, gave up his sleeping bag to a fellow climber who was struggling, according to Chinese media. The severe weather took its toll on him and he discovered the next morning that he had frostbite in his feet, requiring both to be amputated. “It’s not been easy for me to reach the peak of Mount Everest which I’ve dreamed of,” he was quoted by the Peoples Daily. Related: Learn how Shaikha Al Shaiba takes on triathlons with only one arm! Time Line of Xia’s Climbing Dream 1975 – At age 26, Xiya made his initial attempt at Mount Everest but suffered frostbitten feet which required amputation. 1996 – Using prosthetic limbs he climbed mountains around Beijing but tragedy struck when he learnt he had contracted lymphoma and would need both legs amputated beneath the knee. 2014 –  Xia was ready to tackle Everest again, but his attempt was not possible due to ice avalanches. 2015 – Having reached Base Camp, his next attempt was delayed due to the disastrous Nepal earthquake of 2015. 2016 –  He attempted the climb again; but, within 100m of the peak, he had to turn back due to poor weather. 2017 – His planned attempt for 2018 was nearly derailed by the Nepal government, which in December banned double amputees and blind people from climbing Everest. It was claimed that it would make the mountain safer. 2018 – The Nepal Supreme Court finally ruled that the ban was discriminatory and it was dropped in March 2018. 2018, May – SUCCESS! Photo Credit: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters In April 2018, a month before his fifth attempt, Xia told Agence France-Presse that climbing Everest was his dream. “I have to realise it,” he said. “It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate.” On Monday 14th May, Xia finally reached the peak of Mount Everest. “Boyu finally won his 40-year-long battle for Mount Everest,” Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, the managing director at Imagine Treks, who accompanied the Chinese climber, told the Himalayan Times. Other Aamputees who have climbed Everest? Xia is the second double amputee to climb the summit after the New Zealander, Mark Inglis, who reached the peak from the Tibetan side in 2006. Santiago Quintero, who had half of each foot amputated during a climb in south America, also reached the peak in 2013. Congratulations Xia Boyu! Your determination and perseverance are an inspiration to us all! Feature photo: rockandice.com / courtesy of Xia Boyu Do you have a cool story to share with us? Get in touch at adventure@ub-cool.com