Bungee!

My project this term is a calendar – I’m trying to get 12 images showing people demonstrating the things they’re passionate about, and that bring them fulfilment. I wanted an ‘adrenalin’ shot, and a bungee jump seemed an obvious choice. Adrenalin-junkie volunteers were hard to get in touch with, so I figured this was a good excuse to tick off a box on the list of lifetime-ambitions and do the jump myself. I roped a friend into taking photos, and on Friday afternoon we headed down to Bray Lake, just near Windsor. The UK Bungee Club have a permanent crane there, next to the water and just off – honestly – Monkey Island Lane.

It was hot. What was a warm day in Stratford was positively baking further south, so everyone was wearing shorts and t-shirts – except me, who was in jeans and a shirt. They were all about 18, too, but feeling out-of-place and vaguely intimidated was a good distraction from the impending jump. Here’s how it looked:

Bungee 24

The crane lifts you up to 91m/300ft, you immediately jump, and when you finish bouncing you’re lowered to the ground. Simple! It actually takes very little time – they had quite the throughput. So we watched this while queueing, and took a few photos:

Bungee 12 Bungee 14 - Tandem bungee

Bungee 09 Bungee 07

and before too long we were strapped into the harnesses, and on our way up.

The cage reached the top and we aligned ourselves correctly over the lake. I kept getting flashes of utter fear. I managed to deal with it, and the closest analogy I have is the moments before asking someone out on a date. You’re nervous as hell, but you can shove away the terror by force of will. You know this won’t work for long, and if you hesitate you’ll be lost, but it should get you through the next ninety seconds. I explained to the guy that I needed a photo of me doing something exciting, and he said:

Are you feeling brave?

I can’t remember what I said, but apparently it wasn’t enough to stop him carrying on:

If you are, you could go off backwards. It’s scarier, but it makes for a great photo.

I figured the extra fright was a tiny percentage difference over total tonnage, so why not? So, before I know it, I’m on the edge of the cage, hanging onto the bars, and leaning out over a 91m drop. @nodster is ready with the camera (which has its own safety strap), and the guy tells me that when he says ‘bungee!’ I should let go, bend my knees and throw my arms over my head.

Bungee 18

I don’t remember making that expression. Hard to deny it, though.

The guy says: 1…2…bungee!

And I don’t move. And then I do.

Bungee Sequence

By far the worst part was letting go. It was a moment of complete terror, followed by something much better – it was fun! I was suddenly upside down and hurtling towards the ground, which was perfectly fine. I was almost calm at this point. I had total confidence that the bungee cord would catch me, so I just enjoyed the feeling. It was oddly quiet, and I looked back up at the cage as I bounced1 (this is a pretty weird sight). I was particularly happy as I’d heard Nod firing the shutter as I launched myself backwards, so I knew there should be a photo of some kind. Hooray!

Then came the only unpleasant moment: hanging upside down while I was lowered. I didn’t like that much – my head pounded as the blood properly rushed to it, and I was very glad to be grabbed and made horizontal again. We grabbed a photo from the Bungee Club – they had someone with a 40D and an L-series telephoto lens photographing each jump – and they were happy to put the full-quality digital version onto a memory stick, too. And that was that.

It was quite the feeling of satisfaction afterwards, and I’d happily to do it again. Here would be good.

Thanks to Nodster for taking the photos. Finding someone willing to go up there was harder than you might think, and he did a great job! Photography info: I set the camera to shutter priority, 1/500th second, servo autofocus and auto ISO, and the lens was at “10mm” – actually 16mm with the crop factor. We got lucky with the lighting: the 17:20 sun was directly behind the cage, so my primary worry – that the landscape would be far, far brighter than me – wasn’t a problem. I’m glad I had the wide-angle – the cage isn’t big, and the photos on Flickr aren’t cropped at all. My usual 28mm wouldn’t have cut it.

  1. Oddly, I don’t remember the equilibrium points at the top of the bounces. I’d assumed this would be quite an interesting experience, but I have no memory of them at all. []