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Exhibit illuminates action photography

Winning sports photos will be displayed near the Huntington Beach Pier through June 17.

June 08, 2007|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

As dusk settles on Huntington Beach tonight, 25 8-foot cubes dotting the sand near the pier will light up to reveal some of the best action photography in the world.

The traveling art exhibit has drawn thousands of spectators on the first two nights of the free Red Bull Illume exhibition to see 50 backlit photographs mounted on the cubes.

"It's kind of Stonehenge-esque," professional kayaker Steve Fisher said of the circular arrangement of steel-and-glass cubes. "They've taken our activities and added a real artistic twist."

Fisher, from Durban, South Africa, was in Huntington Beach to see a photo his girlfriend, Desre Pickers, shot of him from a helicopter while he kayaked in Zambia.

In the photo, titled "Into the Abyss," Fisher and two other kayakers stand on a rock outcropping peering over the edge of Victoria Falls.

The exhibit's images were selected as the best action and adventure sports images taken by thousands of photographers from 90 countries. The sands of Huntington Beach are the second stop of the touring exhibit, which began in January on a ski slope in Aspen, Colo. and will next go to downtown Portland, Ore.

Generators and solar panels inside the cubes power lights that shine through glass panes to show athletes, including skaters, surfers, snowboarders, skiers, climbers and kayakers, in a fittingly outdoor setting.

"Rather than taking these images and displaying them in a gallery, we wanted to turn the gallery experience inside-out and place it in a unique outdoor environment where these sports take place," said Wil Tidman, project manager for the exhibition.

Organizers of the event, sponsored by the Red Bull energy drink company, said they conceived of the exhibit as an artistic way to call attention to action photographers, who they said often don't get proper recognition.

"Other sports photographers are just sitting on the sidelines, but we have our swim fins on, we go out to where the action is," said Brian Nevins, a surf photographer from New Hampshire who went to see the first night of the exhibit, which includes one of his photos.

Spectators, including some professional athletes and photographers, said it was an unexpected treat to see photos usually displayed in magazines and on websites out in the open air.

"Here you are in Huntington Beach, one of the biggest surf spots in the country, and you see lawyers and doctors walking around checking out your photos," Nevins said. "I was really amped up to see that."

The outdoor exhibit, just north of the Huntington Beach Pier, is free and open to the public every night from dusk to 11 p.m.

The exhibit is on display until June 17.

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