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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Can't find your Race Photo? Part 1

One of the most eagerly awaited items after a race; in addition to the chip timing; is the race photos. In the past, the race photography scene was monopolized by the likes of Marathon photo and Sports PhotoX and to get one photo, a runner has to pay an arm and a leg for a hard copy. Then came the advent of the digital camera and photo hosting website and suddenly you can download them for free. The difficult part was sussing out where which photographer wannabe host his photos and whether they allow public access. Popular sites were Flickr; Picasa Web and Photobucket and the now defunct Multipy. But looking for one own photo through these websites was a pain in the posterior as there could be thousands of photos and most of these sites load photos at incredibly slow speed.

But then came Facebook with its super uber friendly photo hosting. A bit low resolution but the advantage with Facebook was everybody was free to tag photos and so if a friends see another’s friend photos, he can tag it and volia, no search required. The picture pops up in a notification from Facebook! How cool is that? So how come everybody else photo is there except yours?

Yes of the freaking thousand photos in all the friends’ albums in Facebook, your photo is not one of them! What happened? Why oh why? 

As a a runner and photo enthusiast who occasionally takes photographs at races, let me try to explain what happens and what makes a photographer takes a particular runner and not another.

A professional at work in front of the start line
Firstly, there are photographers and there are photographers. 

There are the professional employed by the event organizer or the official photo site. If the former, don’t hope to see your pictures. They are reserve for the eyes of the organizer only. Even if they do publish photos, it will only be a selected few – the flag off, the champions finisher and the prize presentation. If the latter, they will usually be stationed at the finishing line. Usually, they are seated comfortably right in front of the barriers. Their job is to take as many photo as possible but if there are thousand of participants, chances are they miss a few hundreds here and there. And don’t forget, you still got to pay an arm and a leg for the photo if you can find it. Good thing is their photo can come with official timing, logo, and a thousand and one format. Just remember the arm and leg.

A photo enthu with his bag of gadgets
Next you have the photo enthusiast. How to spot them? They are the one armed to the teeth with super duper long zoom lens, tripod and all sort of gadgets. They take photo selectively but whatever they take, be assured it is quality stuff. Only problem is, where to find their photos? One good source is photo forum like Clubsnap where they post their best photos for what they call “critique”. From there, a few click here and there and you should be able to find out where these photographers host the rest of the pictures. But don’t expect a lot. These photographers have high standard and anything that don’t meet their expectation will never see the light of day.

Then you have the runners themselves. Armed with a compact camera, they will run and take photographs of their friends, or pose at various memorial or scenic points along the route like the distance marker, drink stations, great view of the sea, the Esplanade; the MBS etc etc. But most of their pictures will be posed pictures of friends at the start and finish grounds. Running pictures if any, inevitably are not well taken and general not in focus. Not the type of photos that is going to show you with your determined face racing the guy next to you or your cheery face as you overtake that sweet lady.

Last but not least there is the photo cum runner enthusiast. People like the famous Malaysian guy, Mr Tey, who travels all over the region to take photographs of his running friends. These photographers, whose passion is running and photography see taking photographs of friends at races as a way of supporting friends. How to spot these people? They are usually stationed at strategic points along the route and armed with a camera fitted with a long lens (not the super duper long type). They may move from point to point; may even join in the run with the camera in hand! They are not very selective and try to take as many photographs as possible; and generally take fairly competent pictures. Photos are usually uploaded on to Facebook within days of the event and opened to the public to tag. There will usually be a few albums worth per photographers which will get numerous “likes” and comments and tag. 

And everybody will be happy except you cos you still can’t find your freaking photo.

To be cont’d

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