Cambridge May Bumps

Cambridge has a strong rowing tradition, and the May Bumps is one of the big events of the year when thousands of people gather at the river to watch the students race. This race is no normal race, it goes on for a week. Each day the boats start in a long row, and if one boat catches up with another one and bumps it, then both boats are taken out of that day’s race. It is pretty much a real world implementation of bubble sort. On some rare occasions an over bump might take place. This happens if you have four boats in a row and boat three bumps boat two, then boat four catches up with boat one. In this case boat two and three swap, and boat one and four swap.

On my way to the first May Bumps I caught up with a group of girls wearing sports clothes and with twigs in their hair, so my curiosity got the better of me and in a very un-British way I asked what was up with the foliage and got the modest answer that it was a rowing thing. It was not until later watching the race that I saw that the winners kept breaking off twigs and decorating each other with leaves. This was on Thursday, I ended up coming back on Friday afternoon and on Saturday as well. Below is a selection of the photos from the three days.

The crew from Jesus College provides a great foreground to the photo, leading the viewer into the frame where the other boats are passing by. I found the white balance a bit tricky, so added a coloured texture with soft light blending mode.
Lady Margaret Boat Club, which I believe is from St John’s College, waiting on the beach for the race to start.
Darwin had a crazy crowd, the good kind of crazy. Here with Anouska Bartlett, Melissa Antoniou-Kourounioti, Christina Schweitzer, Veronique Pouthas, Elizabeth Green, Ying Qin, Claire Louise Raisen, Iva Cek and Kate Campbell. I did not have a big zoom like some of the other photographers, so I did a lot of shots while the crews were on the beach.
Emma Moffatt, Becca Auster, Charlotte Burns,Ros Gregory, Jessie Beech and Lois Overvoorde from Sidney Sussex were waiting under the bridge right next to the starting gun. The sound and echo when the shot went off were surprisingly loud.
There was a bit of variation in the atmosphere between the different boats, some were sitting still focusing inwards and not saying much. Here is Fleur Siswick, Rosie Valiant Baker, Julia Jaskólska, Alice Spencer, Kathryn Wingrove, Pippa Robinson and Fay Davies (not in that order in the photo) from Lady Margaret’s crew again, with lots of excess energy.
Sarah Gales, Becca Zhao, Charlotte Jackson, Holly Newton, Mary Carr, Emily ‘Milly’ Baker, Jennifer Sutherland and Molly Whitehall rowing for Jesus College. I like how the eye is led to the woman boarding the boat. I decided to desaturate most of this picture to emphasise the crew, which I did by reducing the saturation for all colours except orange and red in the Camera Raw importer. This did most of the work, then I just cleaned up the last coloured spots. There is also a faint split tone, which makes the shadows blue.
Waiting for the race can be quite fun! Lucy Griffin, Cath Aitchison, Elodie Broad, Lizzie Ribey, Grace McGregor, Alessa Betts, Miriam Apsley and Tricia Smith rowing for Christ’s College.
Most of my shots were group shots, but I also stepped in close and snapped a portrait shot here and there. Here with Daisy Gomersall.
Clare boat club getting ready to set out. The expression on the men’s faces tell what they are thinking.
Fleur Siswick, Pippa Robinson, Rosie Valiant Baker, Alice Spencer, Julia Jaskólska, Fay Davies, Kathryn Wingrove and Sarah Doré rowing for St John’s Lady Margaret boat club. They are about to start, you can see Fleur still holding on to the chain. Here again I am having fun with the red colour which is easily separated from the background.
I was happy when the chain dipped into the water before being pulled back up again, forming the ripples that make it more visible. The one minute mark cannon has fired, and they are counting down the seconds to the start shot.
Lots of speed in this photo. Now looking at it again I should perhaps have made it a tad warmer in the colours, but don’t have energy to go back and fix it. I took about 2500 photos during the three days, and ended up photoshopping around 350 of those.
Most of the people were looking at the boats as they were going by, but there was just as much to look at if you turned your camera around. The coaches were blasting past on bikes yelling encouragement to the rowers.
A bump! Here I was lucky and it happened right in front of my eyes. This particular bend can be tricky for the rowers, so the odds are perhaps a little bit better on this particular stretch of the river just before the Plough. You can see the cox signalling with his hand marking the bump which usually is a physical contact between the boats.
The joy on Queens’ College rowers is clear. I like these photos where the people display their emotions.
Here one of the crews has just been bumped and is rowing to the side to make way for the boats behind. This photo has a foreground, a middle ground as well as a background, which add a sense of depth.
Not all rowers were in such a hurry, some took a more leisurely pace.
The rowers that have just finished the race are returning back to the boat houses. This photo has a nice atmosphere, and I like the dust that the bikes stir up into the air.
You only really need one hand when rowing. I cropped this photo in close and darkened the shadows so that you could see the can better.


Abbi Brown, Fiona Macklin, Miranda Bond, Palomita de Maíz, Sophia Crüwell, Meike Wiese, Katharina Clausius, Alice Farrell and Charlotte Abell from St John’s celebrating their bump.

I enjoyed this a lot, and it was fun when on the second and third day that I was there some of the people had seen my photos posted the previous day on Facebook and recognised me. There is a big album uploaded if you want to have a look. Feel free to tag your rowing friends so they can see them also. I’ll try and get in touch with one of the crews to take some nice photos in the early morning mist at the beginning of next year. If you happen to be a rowing captain and that sounds interesting, let me know.



Written by:

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.