Inside the mind of action sports photographer Bo Bridges

Chances are good that if you don’t know his name, you’ve at least seen his work. And chances are even better that if you are a pro athlete in the action sports world, he’s photographed you.

Bo Bridges is one of the outdoor world’s most famous photographers, and while he’s all over the globe shooting photos, he’s usually in the right place at the right time. Some of his more well-known work includes shots of blue whales surfacing in the Pacific Ocean–which he caught while he was paddle boarding–big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara, calving glaciers creating 20-foot swells and barrels, and countless summer and winter X Games.

We recently got a chance to chat with Bo and gain some insight into his world. Here’s a sampling of what he said.

When did you first start getting interested in photography?

I started my senior year of high school in Zurich. I took a class in black and white film and I was hooked.

What inspired you to get started in photography and what inspires you today?

I fell in love with the darkroom. I spent endless hours, day and night, processing and developing film for print.

I’m inspired by my kids and by traveling and just getting out there and shooting.

Technology is always inspiring. It keeps getting better and better. My five-year-old can take great photos with a push of a button.

When did you get started in your craft professionally?

After College in 1996, I started an aerial photo business in Tampa, Florida, called Above and Beyond Aerial Photography. I had gotten my pilot’s license, and I was shooting from a small Cessna aircraft, hanging out the window shooting while flying the plane. It got too difficult so I had to hire a pilot.

I started to make some money but wanted to shoot more action, so I jumped in my old SUV strapped with a mountain bike and a snowboard and drove to Vail, Colorado. From there I started shooting snow events like the Winter X Games in Crested Butte. I have been shooting the X Games since 1997, both summer and winter. Towards the end of the late ’90s, I was traveling almost 200 days a year with some of the top snowboarders and skiers in the world chasing the snow both summer and winter in both hemispheres.

I lived in Vail for about 5.5 years and then moved to Hermosa Beach, California, in 2001.

Hermosa appealed to me because of its close proximity to the LAX International Airport. I can be anywhere in the world in about a day.

It was a great move and the location brought all kinds of opportunity and access to lighting, grips, studios, and many new clients. I still travel often and living close to both the beach and the airport just makes sense.

What’s your favorite experience or trip that came about because of photography? My latest was on board the Indies Trader IV in North Sumatra. We are currently working on a short documentary, which we should have ready in October.

Who are your favorite action sports athlete(s) to photograph? The late Andy Irons, Kobe Bryant, and the Metal Mulisha.

Any favorite hobbies/sports/activities you do in your free time? I love to surf. Whenever I’m home and whether there are waves or not, I jump in. I love being close to the water.

Anything on a board I enjoy; I like surfing, snowboarding, skiing. I played rugby in high school and college and also love football, basketball, and soccer. My kids’ schedules lead me to play a ton of sports.

What are three things you can’t live without, or three things you can’t leave the house without?

1. I must have a camera, but I leave the house without it often, so I take a lot of pics on my iPhone. 2. Surfboard. 3. A good attitude.

What do you have lined up on the horizon? I own a 3,000-foot soft gallery in the heart of Hermosa Beach. I have a bunch of events lined up here. I also have a studio bay and five editing bays upstairs. We constantly have something going on between shooting still ad campaigns, video, flying the R/C heli, and editing.

Any advice for someone who wants to pursue photography? Go shoot, and get as technical as you can. Learn your equipment. Shoot tight. Edit tighter. Less is more sometimes. Only show your best and don’t show a bunch of images from the same event or location in your portfolio. Keep your head up and keep a positive outlook.

Working for yourself is like a roller coaster at times with many peaks and valleys. The best images in the universe could be tucked away on a hard drive somewhere and nobody sees them

Find ways to get your name out there.

Focus like a laser.

All photos courtesy Bridges