Perfecting Your Craft: Take a Leap (Matt Trappe)

This month, photographer Matt Trappe brings us this guest post as part of a series he’ll be contributing called “Perfecting Your Craft.” You can look forward to his photo tips at the end of each month! – Meghan

Bonsai!  I took this photo on a snowshoe hike in the Sierras this past month with my friend James, a fellow outdoor enthusiast.  We completed the 7-8 mile hike along the ridge between Mt. Judah and Mt. Lincoln near Truckee, California, in about 4-5 hours that day.

Nikon D7000 18mm f3.5 1/640 ISO100

During the hike we approached a high point on the ridge and James gave me a heads up that he was about to leap off a large rock ahead into the powder below.  Here’s where I needed to be creative and quick because the rest happened in a matter of seconds.  Here I go!  First, lighting.  I knew the sun was off to our right so I raced to the right side of the rock so that the sun was on James and not shining into the lens.  Next, composition.  I fell as low to the ground as possible to add more drama to his jump. I grabbed a bit of the rock and snow for perspective/framing at the bottom while planning for James to jump into the upper 2/3 of the photo where the height of his jump would be emphasized.  James sailed off the rock and right into my planned location with one hand holding his poles and the other pointing to the sky.  My autofocus shifted and the shutter clicked right on cue.  The low angle I had taken for the shot allowed his facial expression to be framed perfectly by his outstretched arms (got lucky there!).  The clouds at that moment were very wispy and in this case had been wisped by the atmosphere in just the right way to help the viewer draw their eye towards James in the center.  Perfect!

Afterwards, I am always critical of ways I could have made the shot better.  That’s part of perfecting your craft, right?  I thought, “what if I could have dropped on my back around the backside of that rock to get a snail’s view of James sailing overhead?”  Or, “what about a photo taken from behind that could have shown James appearing to be jumping off of a cliff since the rock blocked the rest of the ridge ahead?”  So many possibilities with so little time to react!

A great photographer can anticipate these moments and quickly determine what he/she sees as the best composition.  It all comes with practice.


This guest post was written by Matt Trappe:

Matt is an emerging photographer specializing in Outdoor Adventure and Travel Photography.  See Matt’s portfolio and blog at

You can also catch him on Facebook ( and Twitter (

3 thoughts on “Perfecting Your Craft: Take a Leap (Matt Trappe)

  1. David says:

    Bummer! And I am heeadd off to Yosemite in January for a wilderness EMT course! Was hoping to hit up Marmot for some goodies if the sale was before I took off. Gotta love living in Santa Rosa!

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