I live to see new places. Usually that means rock climbing, swimming, or hiking into the wild. But sometimes it means coiling up, pressing hard, and leaving our planet.
About seven years ago my wife and I found a fun way to capture the joy of being in beautiful places. Looking through a camera lens over alpine grass and rocks, Megan said, “Jump.” I jumped. And she captured this moment – feet off the ground, disconnected from Earth on the shoulder of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Since then, we’ve traveled at every opportunity, occasionally inspired by vistas wondrous or quaint to stop, power on the camera, and grab a moment of flight.
I believe these pictures resonate for three reasons. First, jump pictures put a person in a place. And that person’s act is a compliment to nature, it’s praise of this amazing world we inhabit. Often it looks to me like geography and a human being in harmony.
Second, jumping connotes joy. Pump your legs. Explode off the ground. Raise your hands. It’s a setup for this universal expression of delight – head back, arms raised, big smile. What better place to celebrate life than in Death Valley National Park?
Third, it’s a fleeting moment. It’s action. It’s movement, frozen for us to see but inevitably brought to a close, even after the shutter has snapped. I see it as a metaphor for life. We’re there, airborne, tasting and living and soaring, knowing all the while that time will bring a return to the Earth.
Here are my top ten tips for jump photos.
1. Warm up. This pic commemorates the moment beside Mt. Peale in the La Sal Mountains when I learned that cold legs result in pulled muscles.
2. Find a relatively flat spot. Don’t tell mom that I nearly toppled off this mountain in the Sierras after a bad landing.
3. Ask someone with good timing. Megan usually gets a good shot on the first try. You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to ask Megan to jump from this bolder into chilly Lake Tahoe waters.
And she got this one on the first try.
4. Use a good camera. Regardless of whether your cameraman’s timing is good, be prepared for sore legs if there is shutter delay and you must jump again. And again. And again. I was sore after this one, taken this month near one of my favorite cirques in the La Sal Mountains.
5. Camera down, jumper up. If the jumper’s feet are right on the horizon before he jumps, there will be more air in the frame, which creates the illusion of a trampoline launch.
6. Try new body positions. Like “Frogger in Iceland”…
Or “Air Jordan on the Olympic Coast”…
Or “One Hand Up”…
Or “Click the Heels near Vegas”…
Or different angles, like this one with my buddy Simon: “Jumping Shadow in Delicate Arch”…
Or varied landing zones. Like “Colorado River Here I Come”…
And “Florida Beach”…
And “The Merry Merced River in Yosemite”…
7. Sometimes, don’t land on your feet.
8. Use props. Like rope swings.
9. Do it wherever you are. Even a hotel pool can become a lovely setting when a lovely subject is getting air.
10. Break the rules.
Jump for joy. Jump for love. Jump for place.
And by all means, jump for the camera.