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We Are Jump Picture Addicts

There have been many bizarre photographic trends this summer: planking, owling, leisure diving.   As a self-described old soul, I prefer the good old-fashioned method of jumping.  Unlike the popular poses used over the past few months, jump photos are simple and straight-forward.  There is none of the curiosity of planking, or the optical illusion of leisure diving (although the latter could be considered a type of jumping).  Jump photos are completely obvious, and depending on the skill involved, the result can be  fascinating, or rather boring.

There are three players involved in creating a quality jump photo: the photographer, the jumper, and the composition. Five years of post-college ingenuity and social gatherings have led myself and others near to my heart to become jump picture experts, special agents of sorts who can pull a picture off anywhere, anytime.  Start counting down from three – two – one  and we assume a fluid crouch position in preparation for synchronized lift-off.  One click is all we need – multiple shots require multiple poses, no repeats.  Spacing, facial expressions, props, we’ve practiced the proper use of them all.  Throughout our studies though, it has become apparent that certain people are meant to be either subjects or photographers, but perhaps not both.   My own jump skills are mediocre at best, but my timing abilities with a shutter are spot-on.  By contrast, one Mr. A.S. has consistently proven that his combination of creative leaping tactics (to appear unnaturally high off of the ground) and straight-at-the-camera, crystal-clear facial expressions are the best of this generation (for some of his gorgeous work, see the photo below).  

The Photographer: The hardest job of the group – the photographer not only needs to time the shutter to match the apex of the group’s jump, but they also have to read the participants’ styles and vertical potential.  A consistent countdown is critical – as amazing and talented as our wedding photographer was, bless her heart she was the most inconsistent 3-2-1 counter I’ve ever collaborated with.  The weight of the final image is on the photographer’s shoulders – jumpers will NEVER blame the failure of a photo on their ill-executed ninja kicks.

The creator of “jumpology” was Latvian photographer Philippe Halsman, who used the silly, spontaneous technique to relax his celebrity subjects before the real photoshoot began.  Thanks to Mr. Halsman, we can count ourselves among the earliest jump photo participants – Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe (with Halsman), and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor!

The Jumper(s):  As mentioned above, the two most critical elements for a potential subject are the illusion of height and the clarity and variety of facial expressions.  Many people are skilled at one or the other, but doing both well can be difficult at first (see my self-described criticism above).  The third element is timing, but if you have the magnetic draw of the first two elements, the camera will be timed to you, not the other way around.

The Composition: More than just the setting or background environment of the photo, composition can also include lighting, colors, alternating viewpoints, and general mood or tone of a scene.  Most of our photos are taken spur-of-the-moment, with little-to-no planning ahead involved.  However, when even just a little bit of time is used to compose a shot, the result can be pretty spectacular and unique.

As a beautiful example, visit Yowayowa Camera Woman Diary, a website started by a young Japanese woman that consists of one photo each day of the author “levitating.”  Though relying on the same type of optical illusion used in leisure diving photos, each levitation photo is exquisite, a serene version of the common jump photo.

I think the reason a love jump photos is not the end result – it’s the getting there.  The jump photo is recognized in almost any culture, and no language barrier can deter passerby from smiling – the act of jumping is fun.  Unlike planking, owling, and even leisure diving, a jump photo is best when it’s a group event, whether at the busiest intersection in the world, a family reunion, or an Ugly Sweater party.

No matter what, it always ends in giggles.

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