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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Bo Bridges follows the action, FMX

Bo Bridges
Bo Bridges has had a front-row seat for the growth of FMX and action sports.

For some of you who may have not heard of Bo Bridges, here's the rundown:

He's a professional photographer with photo credits that would mirror that of a pyramid wall filled with iconic pieces of history. He's been involved with action sports since 1996, starting out mainly with board sports and then moving onto freestyle motocross.

With a passion for the action-packed sport he's captured some of FMX's most iconic pieces of history: Carey Hart's first backflip attempt at Gravity Games, Jeremy "Twitch" Stenberg's crash at Dew Tour, Travis Pastrana's double backflip at X Games and Brian Deegan's 360 attempt at Winter X Games all line his credit list.

He's now found more use for his pilot's license in aerial photography with the hexacopter, a six-motor, remote-controlled helicopter added to his arsenal of tricks. We recently featured a video he produced with Todd Potter using this new filming tool. These drone-type RC helicopters seem to be growing more popular by every video shoot. We talked to Bridges about his hexacopter and what it's like to shoot with it. Here's what he had to say. Who is Bo Bridges and what do you do?
I'm a husband and father of three beautiful children with a studio and gallery in Hermosa Beach [Calif.]. I think I'm definitely known for my action sports and lifestyle photography. That's what I like to shoot.

My first big break in FMX was the first ever backflip by Carey Hart at the 2000 Gravity Games. But I've been shooting since around 1996. I did a lot of board sports growing up but action sports became my calling. And now with the digital movement I've been getting into the video side of photography.

Speaking of Hart's backflip, not a lot of people may know that was your sequence shot of him attempting the first ever backflip. That was a major iconic piece of FMX history; that's pretty cool.
Yeah, I used to shoot with Carey back in the day for the Mountain Dew print ads. And I was out there one day to shoot a lifestyle piece on him and he told me he was going to go for the flip at Gravity Games. So that was the one thing I focused on was getting that sequence. But I think they forgot to put in a photo credit [laughs].

That must have been like having an ace in the hole?
I knew I got the majority of it, but I wasn't expecting him to go into the hit with such little speed. If you look at that sequence you notice the takeoff shot is missing, which I always want to capture. I think it caught everyone off guard. But I expected there to be tons of sequences floating around because there was so many photographers there that day.

I know you've captured some other iconic pieces of history, who else have you shot?
I shot Todd Potter doing one of the first ever ruler backflips that was featured as a two-page spread in ESPN The magazine. I also shot Pastrana's double backflip sequence that ran all over the world, including a double page spread in Sports Illustrated. All of Deegan's major crashes, especially the one at Winter X Games when his 360 attempt went bad. Etnies ran a sequence of my shot as an ad. Also Twitch's crash at the Dew Tour where he broke both his legs.

What's it like to shoot action sports?
It's definitely action packed, there's so much going on. It's a lot of fun to shoot with everyone and it keeps you on your toes. I still get a huge rush of adrenaline when I know I nailed a good shot! But the hardest thing is making sure you nail the shot. A lot of the tricks aren't going to be repeated. It's not like a model in a studio setting. The tricks have major consequences. If you miss it the first time it'll probably be your last for a while.

Brian Deegan
Brian Deegan goes medieval on your photo session.

You said earlier that you're getting into video, do you like one more than the other?
I'm still a huge fan of still photography. I know what I'm going after before I even push the button. I know what the image is going to look like after I process it before I even create it. I've got that flow down. The video is pretty new to me. I'm absorbing that a bit slower. Probably because I'm so busy shooting stills but also because there is a lot to learn.

We recently ran a video you produced with Todd Potter using a drone helicopter, is that your set-up?
Yes, I own the hexacopter and I have a pilot who flies it and I operate the camera. I also have techs whose jobs are to monitor the temperatures of the six motors, keep track of time, and monitor airspeed all via laptop. It has full use of GPS and we can set coordinates to run the machine from point A to point B, etc. Myself and others can watch exactly what we are shooting live from the ground. Then there's a 360 degree gimbal I operate. So I tell the pilot where to fly it, where to put it in the air, and I can work the camera pan, tilt and direction. We travel often with the hexa and they can come apart pretty quickly and are shipped in an oversize pelican case.

Are you new to aerial photography?
No, I actually got my pilot license back in college, so I have a background in aerial photography as well. I used to shoot out of airplanes and small Cessnas. That's how I got my start in photography. Shooting aerial images for hotels, golf courses, and private large scale homes. What's it like to film with a drone?

It's just wild! You can do so much with it. You can put it two feet from the athlete's head and then take it up 300-400 feet. To have this in your bag of tricks is a whole new advanced level of capturing a unique point of view. To be able to walk into a space and then rise above it without the help of a crane, jibs, dolly or zip lines gives the viewer a whole new perspective.

Is this something you do for a hobby or a service you offer to people looking to "get the shot"?
At this point in my career it is definitely a service we offer. It's not like a little toy. Sometimes I wish it was and I had more time to play. We are flying $20,000 to $80,000-plus depending on cameras. We have mounted two Indie Cams side by side for a full 3D at 2000k uncompressed raw video. These little cams cost about $35k each. Then you have the R/C heli expense on top of that. The new one we just ordered will fly the RED Epic and many of the new cameras that shoot 1080 and higher frame rates so we can shoot slow motion from above.

Well, your work is definitely speaking for itself, and is making action sports look good. We'll have to get you out in the hills this next winter on a natural terrain session.
"I'd love to, but I'm making no claims on the natural terrain session. In fact, let's put the cameras away for that session … ha."

Metal Mulisha
The Metal Mulisha take some R&R in a foam pit.

Check out more of Bridges' work at