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.