Capturing jumpers

Photographer Steve Boyle captures an annual B.A.S.E. jumping event in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

parachuters jumping off bridge
Bridge Day composite image by Steve Boyle and George McCardle

Published on Show Me Mizzou April 30, 2024
Photos by Steve Boyle, BJ ’04

For one Saturday every October, hundreds of B.A.S.E. jumpers are legally permitted to take turns leaping from the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia, and falling nearly 900 feet to the river below. Bridge Day, as it’s called, is not just an opportunity for thrill seekers. It also enables the Philadelphia-based photojournalist and commercial photographer Steve Boyle, BJ ’04, to experiment.

In 2022, Boyle, whose work has been published in ESPN the Magazine, Runner’s World, Bicycling and elsewhere, positioned his tripod in the New River on Bridge Day and shot images of each person descending toward him from the steel arch bridge. He then collaborated with digital artist George McCardle to create the composite image shown on the facing page.

“That day I was operating three cameras with focal lengths from 14mm to 1280mm and shot over 12,000 images,” Boyle says. He has covered the event sporadically over the years and has shot from various locations. One year he did portraits of each jumper. “I’ve photographed from the top of the bridge, the ground below the bridge and even from within the rescue boats in the water that pick up jumpers who wanted to take a dip,” he says. 

Boyle has been making annual pilgrimages to the New River Gorge and Gauley River for two decades. It’s “a love that began while still at Mizzou,” he notes. In October, Boyle hopes to photograph the jumpers from a walkway beneath the bridge.

View additional Bridge Day photos below, and see more of Boyles work here.

parachuter jumping off bridge
parachuter freefalling off bridge
parachuter descending from bridge
parachuters descending from bridge
crowd cheering for parachuters
parachuter landing in river
rescue boat helping parachuter in water
parachuter in river

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