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12 Tips for a Photo Marathon

I am currently involved in supporting the planning, organisation and production of Barry Photo Marathon. Having competed at many of these events over the years I am very excited to be involved in this one.

PhotoBarrython, as the photo marathon is probably going to be called, is based in Barry, South East Wales. Barry is probably best known as the setting for the BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacey. It’s not far from the capital of Wales, Cardiff and is a favourite tourist spot.

There will be two events available, a 12 Topics 12 Photos 12 Hours version and a 6 Topics 6 Photos and 6 Hours version, and it will be on Saturday 10th October, based at Memo Arts Centre. Lots more information on this very soon. But in the meantime, I thought you might be interested in some tips for surviving and thriving at a photo marathon.

Survive and thrive at a Photo Marathon

  1. Read the rules and all event information. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pickups, final deadline etc.
  2. If you’re using a Digital Camera start with an empty memory card and a charged battery. Carry spares of both. Spare battery and charger will keep you in the game. Spare memory card means you can create other photos as you go (if you have the energy).
  3. If you’re using a Smartphone charge your phone overnight and bring your charger.
  4. Using your Smartphone in Airplane mode will protect your battery life and keep you focused on your photo creation.
  5. Wear the appropriate clothing. Comfortable shoes, trousers that will get dirty and pack clothes for possible weather changes
  6. Enter the event with a friend. One of you has the camera, both of you fire off ideas at each other. Two heads are definitely better than one. You also get to spend time with that person and get to know how they think.
  7. Pace yourself. Make sure you build in breaks and refreshment; it is an endurance event. Often you are more creative during the first half, but more decisive in the second half. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive.
  8. Aim to be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half.
  9. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose the final topic photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  10. Discuss and view topic photos together, but decide in your pair who makes final decision on choice of photo (usually the photographer).
  11. Use insider knowledge. It is helpful if one of you knows the city. If not then talk to locals. Ask for advice. However, don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  12. Consider choosing a simple overarching theme to link the photos. You could use a prop to do this (e.g. a mini Lego figure who appears in every photo). You could choose a theme, like a colour or technique – red or low/high point of view.

PS The photo below was created at Bath photo marathon to illustrate the topic Missing. I did the event with Simon (in shot) which doubled the fun!

10 Tips to Survive a Photo Marathon

Having completed a few Photo Marathons now, I thought I would share a few tips to surviving (and thriving) at a Photo Marathon. I’ll be explaining what a Photo Marathon is, why you should try one and illustrating this post with the photos from my most recent event – the Bath Photo Marathon 2017.

What is a Photo Marathon?

A Photo Marathon is a test of creativity, endurance, photography skills and sense of humour. It is usually a competitive event, often with prizes, and takes place over a set period of time. A common format is 12 Topics, 12 Photos, 12 Hours. In that format you have to create 12 photos to illustrate the 12 topics, one photo per topic and they must be in topic order. You start with a clean memory card and complete with only the required 12 photos, unedited.

Why you should do one

A Photo Marathon is a test of your photography skills, knowledge and observation. It will test your stamina and resilience, but ultimately it is a test of your powers of creativity. It is worth noting that the 5 Creative Habits of Mind are described as: Inquisitive, Imaginative, Collaborative, Persistent and Disciplined. A Photo Marathon tests all of those habits of mind!

Taking part will fire your creativity, get you exploring a new city, introduce you to people with the same interest and challenge your photography skills. What’s not to like?

Ten Tips to Survive (and thrive) a Photo Marathon

  1. Read the rules and guidelines. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pick ups, final deadline etc
  2. Start with an empty memory card and a charged battery. Carry spares of both. Spare battery and charger will keep you in the game. Spare memory card means you can create other photos as you go (if you have the energy)
  3. Wear the appropriate clothing. Comfortable shoes, trousers that will get dirty and pack clothes for possible weather changes
  4. Enter the event with a friend. One of you has the camera, both of you fire off ideas at each other. Two heads are definitely better than one. You also get to spend time with that person and get to know how they think. Probably a good thing huh?
  5. Pace yourself. Make sure you build in breaks and refreshment; it is an endurance event. Often you are more creative during the first half, but more decisive in the second half. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive.
  6. Aim to do a negative split. Be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half. (That’s a running joke!)
  7. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose the final photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  8. Discuss and view topic photos together, but decide in your pair who makes final decision on choice of photo (usually the photographer)
  9. Use insider knowledge. It is helpful if one of you knows the city. If not then talk to locals. Ask for advice. However don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  10. In a standard Photo Marathon with the same number topics as photos and hours choose a simple overarching theme to link the photos. Some use a prop to do this (like a mini lego figure who appears in every photo). Others use in camera processing (usually allowed) e.g Black and White. Or choose a theme, like a colour or technique – red or low/high point of view. Surely someone will soon submit a set using a drone camera, if they haven’t already!

Bath Photo Marathon 2017

I did this year’s Bath Photo Marathon with my old friend Simon. It was a great excuse for us to meet up – as Bath was kind of equidistant – and we got to catch up and have a few beers after.

Our photos are below. They are in the order given, the titles are underneath and have an over arching theme – Scarlet. Well, it was red really, but a little orange crept in! We had to create 20 photos in 10 hours. These were provided in two sets of ten, with a location to pick up the second half.

Our favourite photo after all this was the ‘Fashion’ photo. This best illustrates our collaborative process and sense of the absurd!

Your Entry Number

Contrast

Red

Looking through

Fashion

Fragment

Corner

Refreshing

Control

Crossing the line

Next Generation

Street Life

Movement

Self Portrait

Abstract

Missing

Found

Show off

Sign

The End!