The Photo Marathon was on Saturday 9th March, 12 photos of 12 topics over 12 hours. All photos had to be in order on the memory card, meaning that once you were happy with the topic photo and moved on to the next topic; you couldn't go back to a previous topic. If you did, you'd then have to reshoot all of the other topics.
We'd been told that registration was at 8:30am in Brighton, which meant me getting up at just gone six in the morning to make sure I got a cuppa and cooked breakfast in me for the long day ahead. Once registered, we couldn't get the first set of topics until ten o'clock, so sat in a cafe for a bit making sure our cameras were set up correctly.
The first four topics were: My Entry Number, Night Life, Silence is Golden, Orange
My entry number was 132, so we walked for a bit trying to find phone numbers on businesses, door numbers, train times... anything with those numbers in that order. In the end, I did an adhoc still-life using my hat as a background and my watch set to 1:32.
Night Life was also tricky, considering it was around 11am when we were on the lookout for it. Things had either been cleaned up from Friday night, or places weren't open yet. Got a shot of a bar which had opened on the beach, neon lights, optics and beer pedestal all in pin-sharp focus.
Silence is Golden was rather taxing - how do you capture the absence of sound in a static image? The answer lay across the beach in the form of a man fast asleep. The 300mm lens really brought some nice background separation.
Grabbed some lunch from a noodle bar, then went hunting for Orange. I shot various shop-fronts and items as we walked back towards Brighton Library, but wasn't happy with what I'd got. As we sat down for my mate to look through our shots so far, I woman with the brightest dyed orange hair you've ever seen walked past - I felt like a paparazzi chasing her down the street.
Back to the Brighton Uni building for the next set of topics: Lost and Found, Reflections, Cheap as Chips, Victoria was Here
We had to make sure we were back at the building every four hours for the topics. If you didn't get there within half an hour of the time, you'd be disqualified.
Lost and Found was tricky. I was on the lookout for a garment or some other item left in the street, but the only thing I found didn't work well. My next idea was to grab a cardboard box from the back of a supermarket, scrawl "lost & found" on the side, and fill it with random crap. None of the local supermarkets had any rubbish out back, and I wasn't about to buy props. My mate instead sat outside a church looking forlorn.
His shot was much better - a worried looking dog tied up outside a Tesco Local.
Next up, Reflections! Easy right? Not on a grey day in Brighton apparently. The newish buildings around the station gave me nothing, and I ended up in the station car park shooting new car headlights. These turned out alright. Walking through the station, the flower stall had some shiny balloons up and I grabbed a few more shots of reflected station scenes. We started walking down to the seafront for Cheap as Chips when I noticed a puddle in the subway leading to the beach - a nicely composed reflection of my mate and the iron gates worked wonderfully.
Cheap as Chips only meant one thing - we bought some chips. I just got a simple hand-coming-in-to-pick-up-chips shot, will my mate sprinkled said chips with coppers and 5p coins. Cue some oik in the background saying to his mates "Oi, what the hell is he doing?!" There were other ideas - go to a casino, or shoot some chipboard.
Lastly, Victoria was Here, which I took to mean Queen Victoria. There's a large statue of her down Hove seafront which my mate (who has lived in Hove his entire life) was completely unaware of. Twenty minutes later, we were standing next to the plinth. I managed to get a very basic shot, statues are not my forte. In hindsight, I should have put a lot more thought into the composition, been a bit more creative. Oh well.
Since we were in Hove for Victoria was Here, we thought about getting some food in us while we had time. Stumbled into the Blind Busker, an horrendous pub filled with middle-aged boozehounds. Ordered some food, grabbed some ale, sat down... and waited, and waited, and waited. Bear in mind we had to be back at the uni for 18:00 to get the last set of topics, we suddenly realised that our food stop was a very bad idea.
The food eventually arrived at bang on 18:00. I threw my burger down my throat, washed it away with the dire ale I was quaffing, then headed to the nearest taxi rank. Luckily we were able to hail a cab en route.
We arrived at the uni building at 18:20, very lucky. The last set were: Illusion, Hashtag, Heaven on Earth, To the Beat
After a quick toilet break, we headed back out into the cold and dark.
My idea for Illusion was a simple light-trails shot on Brighton seafront. I got the traffic coming off the Aquarium Roundabout and traffic heading in the other direction, with the rotating Brighton Wheel on the right. The end result was quite successful, though I could have sat there for another hour taking further shots.
We then walked down to the beach once more for my mate to get his Illusion image - me running around a sculpture with a torch for a fifteen second exposure.
Hashtag was downright evil. I wasn't about to go and take a photo of a poster with a hashtag on it, so I made a hashtag out of pebbles. The photo is... basic. I'd say that I was running out of creative juice by this point.
Next up was Heaven on Earth. I didn't have a clue where to start with this. There are plenty of churches in Brighton, but none of which look one bit heavenly. We'd walked up to the Palace Pier from the beach, so I began to look for interesting lighting effects from the rides and lights. Thanks to losing the lens cap from my 20mm pancake lens at the 2011 Chatterbox Awards, the UV filter on that lens is a bit scratched - which means that it reflects a lot of bright lights in strange ways. Composing a shot of a spinning ride, the lights reflected up into the sky looking almost angelic. Bam, that was my shot.
And finally, we came to To the Beat. Looked out for buskers on the streets, but it was too cold for anyone but tramps, photo marathon competitors, or hen parties. I thought back to the taxi ride we had earlier in the day; the cabbie had 90s dance music blaring out. This gave me an idea for a night shot at a slow shutter speed, jerking around to look like a visualisation of music. I was happy with that.
It was at 21:00 that we started to make our way back to Brighton Uni to submit our photos. I was still walking okay at this point, but my mate was in dire straits. He'd put on his standard non-walking trainers, and his feet were (in his words) mashed. What should have been a ten minute walk took us twice as long.
On returning to the building, we found some comfy seat and began to delete the images which wouldn't be submitted - remember, only twelve JPEG files were needed. I'd already picked mine from what I'd shot, so it was reasonably easy to go back through the memory card doing multiple deleted. One had to be careful not to delete the final image though - you'd have to go out and take all of those shots all over again! All of my files were copied over by 21:45.
There's going to be a gallery showing of all the images on 28th March. Around 260 people took part in the photo marathon, either as individuals or in groups - twelve photos per entry number. Every photo will be printed on 6 x 4. Then there'll be prizes awarded for the top three shots of the day, the best collection of shots, and the youth award.
Would I do it again? Definitely. Preparation was key - all lenses were cleaned the night before, all batteries charged, and memory card tested to make sure it was viable. The latter was particularly important - my mate's Lexar card was brand new, never tested, and corrupted a couple of images.
Hydration was very important as well. We set ourselves an hour for each shot, so stops at shops for food and drink ate into shooting time. I'd brought along a Thermos of sugary tea, keeping my liquids and glucose up.
I know I'm a firm proponent of the Micro Four Thirds format already, but I have to say that the weight and size benefits really assisted us on Saturday. I had my Panasonic Lumix GH2, he had his Lumix G3 - both light cameras, and both with the same mount, allowing us to share equipment. In my Retrospective 5 bag, I had the 9-18mm, 20mm, 14-140mm, 100-300mm, as well as spare battery shutter release and cleaning equipment. I was very sore the next day around the legs and hips, but my shoulder is fine.
The GH2's multi-aspect sensor allowed me to shoot at specific crops (1:1, 3:2, 16:9) and get the best resolution possible. It also has a "multi-film-mode" which means that for each three-burst show, you can assign a different JPEG treatment to each. This gave me amazing flexibility for what to submit - for each shot I had colour, high-contrast B&W and standard B&W.
Hints and tips for future marathons: take a notepad and pen/marker. And think laterally.