Pictures from the Edge

Thanks especially to the extraordinary action sports imagery of professional photographer Bo Bridges, there is indeed sufficient evidence to suggest that living on the edge is as exciting as it seems.

Thanks especially to the extraordinary action sports imagery of professional photographer Bo Bridges, there is indeed sufficient evidence to suggest that living on the edge is as exciting as it seems.

And for those of us who haven’t pulled off an inverted aerial on our snowboards lately (or ever, for that matter,) this is refreshing news – the type that can usher in a revitalized perspective on approaching new adventures in our own lives. Bridges’ distinctively vigorous shots provide us spectators with a chance to dwell in a world of extreme maneuvers with the built-in bonus of not having to worry about breaking any of our own bones. While someone else does the dirty work, we get to bask in the glory, or at least the exhilaration, attached to the exploit. So if you’re looking for a thrill, check out this local artist’s unique portfolio of works at his gallery in Hermosa Beach.

Your eyes will feast on death-defying antics like those found in Bridges’ shots of motocross riders Travis Pastrana and Jeremy Stenberg. Guaranteed to conjure up images of a Ferris wheel running loose from its base, the morphed sequences in these images will play tricks on your visual perception. But, I promise, you won’t mind.

When Bridges revealed how he created these mesmerizing pictures, I was reminded I was dealing with a pro who is so in tune with his art that he does not convolute it with unnecessary mumbo jumbo. Rather, giving credit where credit is due, the photographer simply explains, “It all starts with the athlete. I just take the pictures, making sure I get in the right place to capture the take off, climax, and landing. Then I shoot individual images.” (Mind you, he does this with a special type of genius.) He continued, “Later in post, I recreate the background in Photoshop. This can take anywhere from two to ten hours, depending on the images. I shoot with the best cameras that Canon provides. Right now, the fastest motor drive on the market shoots ten frames per second. This is a little overkill. I tend to shoot manually and end up shooting about seven frames per second. Later, each individual athlete is cut out and positioned into the background again to produce one morphed sequence. The final image can take as long as 40 hours plus to create. I’ve lost track on a few of these projects. I just want them to be seamless and flow.”

Well, I can attest without any hesitation that Bridges has mastered his desire to produce seamless imagery that flows. And I guess this is why while Bridges has maintained his commitment to the action sports category, he has also successfully extended his reach into other, perhaps, more mainstream areas, working the camera for such clients as Pepsi Co., Coors Brewing Co., Remy Martin, T-Mobile, Campbell’s Soup and Hard Rock Hotel. The ease with which he travels from one arena to another has everything to do with his ability to breathe fire into his work. While there is obviously an innate flame burning within the people, objects and settings Bridges chooses to shoot, the photographer’s true gift is the particular way he provokes these flames, stirring them to blaze in a ferocious, yet still congenial, manner.

For instance, Bridges’ lifestyle shots and advertisements exude a raw sensuality colored with a flamboyance that I think is accurately described as a light-hearted defiance of all things orthodox. From behind his Canon camera – the EOS Mark 111 and the new 5D are staples in his equipment bag – Bridges captures exactly the right angle on the tattoo and just the necessary amount of golden brown flesh to strike a nerve without insulting any sensibilities. The flair with which he artfully carries out this balancing act has rendered his services invaluable to many marketing campaigns.

Take the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as an example. Bridges has produced, directed and shot this company’s ad campaigns for the last five years. By incorporating all walks of life into the “Rehab” ads, he sets the stage for any given weekend during the summer at a hopping Vegas pool. Of course, there is always a bit of a twist to the tale. And the more I learn about Bridges, this doesn’t surprise me.

With a spirited biography that reads a bit like that of an adrenaline junky, Bridges is certainly no stranger to adventure. As the son of a pilot in the Air Force, he moved almost every two years while growing up. To date, Bridges has lived in more than 20 different places within the United States and abroad. That, in and of itself, is a feat.

In addition to participating in traditional team sports throughout his childhood, Bridges brought BMX and skateboarding into the mix to keep things interesting. But still his thirst for excitement was not completely quenched. Luckily, for a time, his family lived on a small lake in Florida and he had access to a boat. In a quest to simulate surfing at all costs, he started riding on anything he could attach to or build behind the boat. Coolers and pieces of plywood served as makeshift surfboards. Cut to Bridges competing as a wakeboarder and being ranked number one in his class in the state of Colorado. This accomplishment was followed up by yet another when he kept racing BMX and was ranked number one in his 12-year expert class in the state of Alabama.

After retiring as a Colonel from the Air Force, Bridges’ father accepted an international marketing job that took the family to Switzerland. Bridges spent his high school years there, using his weekends to travel through the Alps with friends by way of skis and snowboards.

Back in the States at Miami University, he earned a BFA in Photography and a minor in Marine Biology. Already a licensed pilot by the time he received his degree, Bridges spent the first six months after graduation shooting aerials for clients like Remax, Prudential and Century 21. Eventually, he drove west to Vail, Colorado, where he invested five and a half years shooting on the mountain as well as many other parts of the world, chasing the snow, action sports and athletes. In 2000, he set up his business headquarters in Hermosa Beach, where he plans to stay permanently. After all, he reminded me, “I have the surf right outside the studio door, and I can fly anywhere in the world in a day from LAX, which is just nine miles north of us. Also, I have access to the best athletes, models, studio rentals, assistants, retouchers, lighting equipment as well as year-round good weather.” Who could ask for anything more?

Still, duty calls, and projects pull Bridges away to countless locations across the globe. A shoot that yielded some of the fondest memories for the photographer took place at Child’s Glacier in Cordova, Alaska, on the Copper River. Bridges described this adventure by first explaining that Child’s Glacier is anything but child’s play. In fact, it is one of the most active glaciers in the world. Apparently, it will shed ice or calve at any given time, producing waves upwards of 50 feet every so often. Bridges revealed, “The two surfers I went to shoot at this location ride some of the largest waves in the world and 50 foot waves would have been a welcomed sight to them. To me, it was terrifying. Yet, to date, it is one of the coolest, scariest, and stupidest things I have ever shot. The surfers eventually caught an insane wave and rode it all the way down the river. I photographed them and ran up the riverbank before the wave got to me. Had I stayed in the exact location I was standing to capture the shot, I would have been swept away in 34 degree water that was so full of silt it was more like quicksand.”

All right, Bridges has convinced me. Living on the edge is as exciting – and let’s face it, as cool – as it seems.

For more information on Bo, visit his Web site at

Always the innovator, Bridges has begun to experiment with a newfangled custom installation service that allows prospective buyers the opportunity to see how an image would appear in a particular space before pulling the trigger on the purchase. Whether it involves arranging a triptych – complete with a mounted surfboard – in a games room or hanging a 12-foot by 9-foot action shot in a modern designed office, Bridges and his team are ready to help exhibit the art in the best way possible. And, when circumstances allow, Bridges wants to provide a patron with a visual before the actual installation is conducted. So, after reviewing pictures, measurements and overall design elements of the space that will house the imagery, Bridges offers recommendations on how to successfully integrate the piece into the area. Things like color, size and texture may be adjusted to complement the vibe of a room. Truly, where Bridges is concerned, there are no limits.