“For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach.” – Bo van Wyk.

“For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach.” – Bo van Wyk.

Sports photographer and seasoned traveller, Bo Van Wyk tells IMAGO about his journey from action sports fascination to professional photographer.

Constantly seeking to improve his work; travelling further, climbing higher and pushing harder than before, action sports photographer Bo Van Wyk talks to IMAGO about both his creative journey in photography and production and the many journeys he has taken to capture some of the stunning shots both on land and in the water.  Starting out with sport, photography soon followed allowing for creative risks, experimentation and commitment. Witnessing moments of glory and distilling athletes emotions in and out of competitions. 

 

Read the full interview with our IMAGO partner here.

IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk

What’s your first memory of photography?

I still remember that day in the 80’s when my father came home with a new SLR and a set of lenses he bought for his office. Luckily I was able to convince him to let me try the kit after a few months and from that day on I was quite busy taking pictures of almost everything. As there were no digital cameras, I was only limited by the film rolls which I had to buy from my pocket money. Some of those pictures still exist – a very nice memory!

 

What was the first photograph you remember as being most proud of?  Can you say if and how that one image changed your creative practice?

I don’t have that single picture that changed everything. It was more of a process I went through. I am usually quite critical with my work, always looking for ways to improve it.

“For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach.”     - Bo van Wyk.
Photo: Van Wyk

What came first, sport or photography for you. Have you ever competed in action sporting events or were you always a photographer first?

Sports definitely came first! Since my young age I was fascinated by those new action sports like windsurfing, snowboarding and mountain biking but I was never really interested in competing. In these sports you have to take extreme risks to compete on high end world class levels – I definitely prefer the safe place behind the camera.

 

You must travel all over the world for your craft. What are some of the best events and places you have visited? 

Yes, you are right: I used to travel quite a lot – at least before the pandemic.

Hard to say which is THE best event or THE best place. 

Of course, Cape Town with it’s famous kiteboarding event „Red Bull King Of The Air“ or Vancouver / Canada would rank in my personal top 3 but I’ve met amazing open minded people across the planet. Even in places where you usually wouldn’t expect it. 

Just as an example: Saudi Arabia. From our daily news point of view, I am sure you wouldn’t rate it as your N°1 travel destination but I’ve experienced an unmatched hospitality there.

But apart from action sports, travelling enabled me to capture contemporary travel, social and political content in many different countries worldwide. 

 

IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk
IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk

What is the best and most challenging element of photographing action sports?

Usually nature itself. For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach. To be honest, I actually like that I would always prefer a challenging shooting situation in nature over a setup in the studio.

 

How did you get into sports photography? How was this area of the industry changed since you started out in it? Do you think this has been a negative or positive progression?

First of all, I do most of the sports I’m shooting myself. Well, not on a professional level, but I know what I’m doing with years of experience. That helps a lot when it comes to the right timing for capturing action. 

After a while playing around with camera gear on the beach and taking photos for friends, people started to approach me asking if I could take photos or film them. That’s basically how it started and yes, the whole industry has changed a lot since then.

Everyone’s got his smartphone camera and everything will be shared on social media super fast. 

If that’s good or bad? We will see in the future. 

I personally think that overall quality (of pictures and journalism itself) has decreased.

“For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach.”     - Bo van Wyk.
Photo: Van Wyk
“For great shots you have to go to remote places, climb mountains, lay down in the dirt or get yourself sandblasted on the beach.”     - Bo van Wyk.
Photo: Van Wyk

You work with drone technology and aero plane licensing, can you tell us a little more about how that works and how you incorporate it in your work?

You won’t find any professional production without aerial footage nowadays. 

In the past you had to charter an airplane or a helicopter to get (mostly shaky) pictures from above. The drone technology makes it possible for everyone to take pictures from the sky at an affordable price. So, basically it’s a huge step forward.  But it’s not a solution for every situation! In fact this technology is limited: to the line of sight, to height limitations, airspace restrictions, battery life etc.

With an airplane you can break these boundaries and if you are used to flying in real airplanes yourself, you are used to all the rules & regulations required for safe aerial operations and you easily know how to orientate yourself in the sky. 

In my opinion, it makes a huge difference if you see the world from above through a tiny screen only.

 

Your company also works on scaled productions for clients and companies. How did your craft evolve to include this?

Listen to your clients, get to know their needs and then do your homework and develop ideas. If they don’t like it you have to do it again, even if you were totally convinced by your creativity. That’s a process I had to go through myself and I had to invest quite a bit in equipment for being able to take pictures and record video on a professional level.

IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk
IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk

Alongside professional production and shootings, you also produce emotional content. Why do you think it is important to capture this side of the sport and industry also?

Isn’t life itself full of all kinds of emotions? It’s that simple: if you want to touch people, you have to create emotions. 

 

What is one of the most memorable projects you have worked on either for a client or yourself?

I had the opportunity to create promotional content for the Rogue Adventure Group, a Canadian non profit organisation which is helping veterans and first responders to overcome PTSD with adventure therapy. 

The camp took place in Cape Town, South Africa and it was a truly emotional experience to see (and record) how adventure sports turned these broken and emotionally wounded warriors into positively smiling individuals in just a weeks time. Everything surrounded by South Africa’s incredible scenery.

Definitely a project which changed my way of thinking, too!

IMAGO / Bo van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo van Wyk
IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk
Photo: IMAGO / Bo Van Wyk

Browse Bo van Wyk‘s photography on IMAGO or visit his Website and Instagram.

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