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  • Writer's pictureFaruk Kara

Panning Rowing Photos Showing Movement at the Town Bumps

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

The Cambridge Bumps date back to 1820. Devised to allow multiple boats to race on River Cam which is too narrow and not straight enough to have the boats side-by-side as in traditional regatta racing. The Town Bumps are held in July, whereas the College Bumps also known as the Lent or May Bumps are held in June.


Boats chase the boat directly in front of them having started staggered in distance. Bumping is achieved by physical touch or overtaking. Once bumped, both crews must pull over to the bank to allow others to continue the race. The bank party of the victorious boat will usually adorn the crew with greenery gathered from nearby, presumably in imitation of the laurel wreaths of victors in the ancient world. The Bumper and the bumped swap places for the next race and so on. The races are split into divisions with each division racing every day. The full competition runs for the week.


The challenge for the photographer is to capture a good rowing shot in the limited space whilst not being run over by the supporters, who travel down the towpath, on bicycles while shouting support and blowing whistles.


Capturing long shots are less of a challenge, it is about a good composition. What I found most challenging was having brought just the one lens, a telephoto, was to capture panning shots with a minimum focal lenght of 100mm on a very narrow river. The aim is to move the camera to track the movement of the boat with a slow shutter speed to achieve the subject in focus with all else not. The panning rowing photos showing movement with slowed shutter speed can produce extraordinary effects as the oars cut into the water and add a sense of movement.

Monochrome with multiple boat crews in a single file line starting to race. Smoke from the starting canon can be seen. Spectators line the river bank.
And They're Off
Colour image with multiple boat crews in a single file line starting to race. Spectators line the river bank.
The Boat Snake
Colour image with multiple boat crews in a single file line starting to race. Spectators line the river bank.
Finding the Racing Line
Colour image with multiple boat crews in a single file line starting to race. The second crew is coming up beside the first. Spectators line the river bank.
Pull Over, Bumped
Close up of female crew wearing victory laurels
Successful Crew Wearing Laurels
Close up of male crew member in profile with both hands on the single oar with the blade just entering the water. The camera tracking the motion shows the background  in streaks indicating movement.
Panning at 1/30s I
Close up of two male crew members in profile with both hands on the single oar with the bladeabove the water. The camera tracking the motion shows the background  in streaks indicating movement.Small wren bird sat in tree with a spider and greenbug in beak. The wren's head is turned to one side and the two insects are clearly visible.
Panning at 1/30s II
Close up of male and female crew members in profile with both hands on the single oar with the blade just entering the water. The camera tracking the motion shows the background  in streaks indicating movement.
Panning at 1/30s III











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