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Running out of my zone

It was a year ago, where I was given the opportunity to capture one of the largest London events the occur in the city. It was the London marathon, the weather was hot and the participants machined there way through 26.2 gruelling miles. Though the unique, iconic London landmarks must have felt epic to run through at ground level. I can only imagine the physical and mental pain it took each runner as they slowly but surely took a closer step to the finish line.

As a result of last year's event a few things happened. I made a good impression, the images I captured were valued and appreciated. Secondly I was able to meet some lovely people, some of which hired me to take their images for their business.

So when I was messaged back to cover the event again I was pleased. I thought I've done it before, let's do it again! It's great to have confidence but in this occasion it was short lived, I usually take images of interactions between people, and though I do sports photography I have never had to spot 153 people in a crowd of 50,000 + runners. I don't want to bore you with details, but a clear shot of a person wearing the same shade of purple as other runners is pretty hard to get in a dense crowd. However I sucked up the challenge and accepted it.

I love to be on time, and by this I mean early. So I was devastated when I made it to the location on the map highlighted to find out that the organisation that had booked me were on the other side of the road, separated by barriers I was not allowed to climb over. I went from being on time to being 20 minutes late due to the amount of time it took to find a crossing and shimmy through the crowd of on lookers.

I very quickly hopped over the barrier and took a vantage point next to the charity and gave the security assurances that I would not impede the runners. Let the fun begin! I was ready to get the images. My eyes scanned several faces, and clothing in the hope of finding the people who were looking forward to their pictures being taken. However as good as I was, I needed all the help that I could get. I had a resource next to me. The supporters of the charity fund raiser runners, some of which were in direct contact or tracking GPS's of the runners. However blink and it's gone, the second thing I needed was an alert system. I decided to scream "SCOPE" every time I saw a runner, why? Because I wanted the Scope squad to do the same to alert me. And guess what? It worked, I now had a team of spotters helping me out.

I couldn't help but capture some additional runners on the day. They saw me and I could tell that they would appreciate not being ignored. Others simply looked so cool that I couldn't let them go by. From people on the phone as they, ran, to a man eating an ice cream (how he managed this I do not know). I also saw the slowest flash ever in history, but he was lovely.

I still managed to mingle with the runners by making my way to the aftercare spot. This was because I wanted to make sure I had a selection of shots of the runners Scope could use.

Overall the day was a success, Scope was happy, though as usual I honestly felt I could of done better. However looking back at the results, I did well considering the factors, being out of my comfort zone, being unsettled due to events out of my control but still producing is a testament to how much I have grown and progressed. Being able to get a range of sharp, clean images of random runners in a crowd was a great achievement.

Top tips

1. Use a zonal focus AI servo, this will make fast moving objects easier for the camera to pick up

2. Take several shots panning at the speed of your subject

3. Back button focus is a must

4. Have a comfortable position, you are there for hours and must not be distracted by cramp and pain. I had a small stool, it worked wonders.

5. Have fun, buzz off the people around you, time flies that way

6. Use a telescopic lens, this gives you quick versatility in a rapid dynamic environment

7. Position yourself in a manner that gives you the widest vantage point

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