Massachusetts photographer Matt Baldelli loves jumping off of cliffs. It started years ago with skydiving, and from there, he advanced to B.A.S.E. jumping, one of the most extreme sports in the country, and legal only in certain jurisdictions. The B.A.S.E. in B.A.S.E. jumping is an acronym for Buildings, Antenna, Span, and Earth (or cliffs), referring to the different locations from which one can jump. Because of the short (yet still far) distance to the ground, B.A.S.E. jumping is significantly more dangerous than skydiving. Matt has found a way to marry his passions for jumping and photographing into one.
How does this project fit your style as a photographer?
The time of starting to B.A.S.E. jump was the start of my transition from a general photographer with no genre to an adventure photographer. In all of my free time you would find me mountain biking, rock and ice climbing, skydiving, and hiking. It hit me all at once to make my passion my career and it has all fallen into place now.
The B.A.S.E. jumping project has fit into my style as a photographer because living the sport and being an athlete is already engrained in my lifestyle—adding a camera was the next logical step. Participating in these activities gives me a competitive edge and background with knowing what an accurate and realistic photograph would be.
How do you make time to photograph on your adventure trips?
This B.A.S.E. jumping project gave me an excuse to take off a few months and drive from Massachusetts to California. It all started with some friends getting married at Lake Tahoe and from there I added a lot of stops in along the way. One of the stops, Twin Falls, ID, is one of the few places it is legal to jump off a bridge. During the two months on the road I had some assignments, having the chance to photograph fly fishing, backpacking, and rock climbing in some of the most beautiful places in America.
Is there any planning you need to do to accomplish these photographs?
Yes! There is a lot of planning and logistics that go into some of the hero shots that I try to capture along the way. Usually we go to the location and talk about the angles, time of day, weather, exit point (the place where the B.A.S.E. jumper jumps off), and safety.
In any sport many people try to push themselves when a camera is pointed at them. Finding the right people who know their limits and keep safety as the priority is key to making great photographs. It is a misconception that all B.A.S.E. jumping is just a wild sport—all the B.A.S.E. jumps I have participated in have been very strategic and well planned out. The most critical factor is the weather—a mild wind in the wrong direction or poor visibility can have us hiking back another day when the conditions are just right.
What are some challenges you’ve dealt with for this project?
Trying to be in the right spot at the right time. Most of the time the right spot is where you can’t be. You know, 15 feet off the edge of the cliff or bridge. Weather is another big challenge I’ve dealt with. There have been many times that the wind didn’t get the memo about the photo shoot and we had to find another location or delay the photo shoot for another time. Luckily, morning and evening are when the winds are the calmest, which coincidentally are also the best times to photograph.
What is the reaction to the images like?
Terrific! It’s great seeing how excited or scared people get just from looking at the images! The photos have had some great traction on social media, and this month Salt Lake City Magazine used my images of a B.A.S.E. Jumper in Moab, UT as the cover of their magazine.
Any future plans for the project?
In the next year or two I plan to go to Europe and back out west to capture more B.A.S.E. jumpers wingsuit flying (flying in squirrel suits).
To view more of Matt’s work, visit mattbaldelli.com