Photo Critique: The Jumper :: Digital Photo Secrets

Photo Critique: The Jumper

by David Peterson 4 comments

Last week, I did a two article series on how to create a composite sequence photo with a digital SLR camera and some photo manipulation software. I have received some excellent examples of photo sequences, and I would like to share and critique one of them with you. The following image was sent by Jack Bivins, and it is a prime example of an action sequence. You get a true sense of motion and a subject who is visibly thrilled to be jumping over 30 feet into the deep blue.

Jack took some time to give me a little bit of background on this image. Interestingly, this picture isn’t just a composite of the jumper’s actions. Even the waterfalls are created with a completely separate exposure. Jack then layered all of these exposures on top of one another to create the final image.

Color choice

I am immediately struck by the vibrant green trees in the upper section. They provide a nice contrast to the jumper, framing his motion through the shot. You will notice that they surround the jumper without crowding him out or distracting the viewer from the action. They also dip down, almost as if they are following his trajectory.

This rich green color simply isn’t achievable without doing a longer exposure. Jack informed me that he setup a tripod and used a slower shutter speed. In doing so, he gives the trees a longer time to expose on the image sensor, causing their dark green color to come out even more.

Conveying a sense of motion

Jack also exposed the waterfall for a much longer time. You will notice that it blends into one large moving body. This is great because it helps to emphasize the sense of motion. The waterfall shoots out to the left, mimicking the jumper’s direction. Had the photographer decided to use the same shutter speed he used to capture the jumper to capture the waterfall, the waterfall would feel frozen and out of place.

I really like the photographer’s use of negative space in this image. The blue water in the bottom left corner balances out the green in the upper right corner and serves as an excellent exit point for the eye. Whenever you have a moving subject, you want to create a space in front of that subject for it to move into, and the water serves its purpose very well in this respect.

I must also point out the real sense of scale with this image. It gives the viewer a true feeling of how frightening it must have been to make this jump. By simply zooming out and finding a way of cropping the image so the viewer can compare the jumper with the rest of the scene, the photographer helps to immerse us in the image.

Avoid “guy in the sky” shots

I see a lot of action photographs that I call “guy in the sky” photos. They usually consist of a person who is doing some kind of jump, and he or she is completely surrounded by air. While it’s nice to see someone in the middle of something challenging or risky, it’s difficult to tell what’s going on without some kind of reference. That’s where this picture succeeds. The photographer knows exactly where to place the frame so the subject can be seen in relation to everything else.

There is only one place where this photo could be improved, and I am pretty sure the photographer already knows. While taking the sequence of jumper shots, the shutter speed must have been a little slow. The jumper appears blurred in all of the images. This could be improved by using a faster shutter speed to take the individual sequenced images of the jumper. The jumper will appear a little dark or grainy (if you increase ISO to get a brighter exposure) with this change, but he won’t be blurry. All in all, this isn’t too much of an issue because the blurriness conveys his motion.

In critiquing this photo, we touched on many of the basics for taking good action shots. As a rule, always provide some kind of reference and remember to give your subject a space to move into. This sequence photo is a prime example of how the two can be combined to create something meaningful.

Keep sending your photos my way, and I’ll keep picking new themes for the weekly photo critiques. I look forward to seeing what you capture!

Most people think this post is Awesome. What do you think?


  1. David Peterson says:

    Hi Chris and Rog,

    A lower ISO will allow the camera to receive more light, and therefore more color information, onto the CCD sensor. So it is able to create a higher saturation image which means better colors.


  2. Chris Schonwalder says:

    I had the same question when in Hawaii a pro told me to "burn in the colors" with a longer shutter speed. My guess is that if this works (it must now that I've heard it from different places), it is because the light is coming through a more central part of the lens and thus there is less chance of chromatic aberration which would dilute the colors.

    Comment on whether this makes sense???


  3. Rog Hawkins says:

    I teach Digital but have not considered the below statement as a item to consider. I have always assumed( I guess in error) That a image taken with a proper exposure (generally Centered on the histogram) would produce the same proper Color depth at all shutter speeds. My teaching foundation has always been F stop to get proper Depth of Field. Shutter speed to show proper action and ISO set to allow the two above desired adjustments and produce proper exposure. ( I do understand the higher ISO noise concerns)
    The Statement
    his rich green color simply isnt achievable without doing a longer exposure. Jack informed me that he setup a tripod and used a slower shutter speed. In doing so, he gives the trees a longer time to expose on the image sensor, causing their dark green color to come out even more.

    Can you give me better insight on the this color/shutter speed relationship.

  4. Michel says:

    Wow, great idea and what a setting. I wish I could do the jump.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Michel Peys

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.