Archive for October, 2016

The View From Behind The Lens

October 10, 2016

This is a little different to my usual pieces here, but as I’d already written the words for the web page for Maidstone Parkrun, whose doings I photograph just about every Saturday morning, I thought I’d share them here too. They fit better here than on my landscape photography blog, I think.

I’ve been photographing Maidstone Parkrun now for about two years. It’s by no means the only running that I shoot, as you’ll know if you’ve ever visited my web site, but it’s amongst my highest volume work. Maidstone Parkrun regularly attracts something like 300 runners, and I’ve added more than 17,000 (yes, seventeen thousand!) photos to the Parkrun’s Group on Flickr . I have always got feedback from runners about my work – most, but not all of it complimentary – and I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a piece from my side of the lens.

The most common remark I get a variation on “Why wasn’t there a photo of me in your stuff from last week?” This is far more common (thankfully) than “I didn’t like the photo you took of me last week!”. Well, there are lots of reasons why you might not be in my photos. Here’s a small selection of them:

1. I might simply have missed you. Easily done, especially if you were in or behind a group.
2. My photo of you might not have come out well. Autofocus on the camera can be very fickle, especially in the kind of poor light we get along the river path in Maidstone Parkrun.
3. You might have looked a plonker in the photo. I might just have caught you badly, in a pose or making a face you’d not have thanked me for. However, you might just have been playing to the camera.
4. In a photographic or artistic sense, I might just not have liked the photo I took. My prerogative!

It’s never been my intention each week to try to photograph everyone. Nor, for reasons touched on above, is that ever completely possible. I take something like 500 photos at Parkrun each week. I am most definitely not one of those who then download the whole lot, unsorted and “warts and all” on to Flickr. Therefore, one of my major tasks each week is to thin the batch down to something closer to the 300 or so I do post for your enjoyment. Because I often take two shots at a time, thinning-out can be time consuming but fairly easy. There’s usually one that’s the better one. If not, I usually keep both.

If you’re a Maidstone Parkrun regular, you’ll know that you hardly ever see me at the same spot on the 5k course on consecutive Saturdays. I like a bit of variety in where and what I photograph. I think I’ve covered most of the good places several times over by now. I have my favourite spots, of course. There are also others that have great potential in theory, but because of the light or shadows there, they are not places that give satisfying pictures. Believe me, I’ve tried! It’s also why I often miss photographing the presentations before the start of a run. I can’t be in two places at the same time!

My love of variety extends to poses, too. There’s probably only so much I can do to add variety to a picture of someone running towards or past me, but I think I do ok. My dislike of runners waving at me as they approach is both well-known and misunderstood. Try these points:

1. After dozens of runners have waved at me or saluted as I’ve photographed them, it just become, frankly, awfully boring for me as photographer!
2. I love a nice photo of a runner running well, and many of you have great style – even down the back of the field. Flinging your arms up in the air ruins that. Armpit hair’s not my thing, either!
3. When people wave in a group, their arms often obscure the face of the runner next to or behind them. Neither is it aerodynamic. It’ll slow you down!
4. See point 3 in my first list, earlier in this article!

My favourite story is of a lady runner who loudly complained to me before the start of one Saturday’s run, saying: “I really hate your photos. Every single time you photograph me, I’m waving at the camera.” Yes, well….

So, my tips:

1. Keep running.
2. Smile. It’s well known it relaxes many important muscles!