So, this year I was one of the lucky ones to get an entry into the Vancouver 12x12 Photo Marathon. You may remember from last year's marathon that I spent most of the day with Chilliwack's other two entrants Tracy and Kennedy. Well, they got in as well, so again it was the three of us! I was all ready to go and waiting for them the Saturday of the marathon, and they picked up a coffee for me on the way over (thanks again, ladies!). When they came over I just jumped in the van, and off we went.
This year the marathon was being held at JJ Bean, a coffee house on Commercial Drive. A very diverse area of Vancouver, this neighbourhood was ripe with photo opportunities. We arrived at about 9am, with the start occurring at 10am sharp. When we got there - just like last year - we realized that again we weren't the first ones there. It was great to see some familiar faces - Angela and Morten of course, as well as Shannon, Benjamin, Jackie, Tagh, Cara, Sam, Dwayne, Faith, etc. We spent the waiting time drinking our coffee (essential for this kind of thing), catching up, checking out each others gear, and just relaxing before the storm that was about to occur. We also got our mug shots taken. Benjamin had me stand on a block or something and shot up at me. Kind of an odd shooting angle considering I'm about 6 foot 3 - but hey, whatever works for him.
So came the kick-off. Morten drew the first theme at 10am, and it was...Drama + Your Entry Number (they always do + Your Entry Number for the first theme). So we went out and hit the streets. I had entry number 15, Kennedy had number 8, and Tracy had 5. We went wandering down Commercial Drive, with Martin in tow. Martin is a film maker, and he was doing a video of the marathon. Lucky him - he got to hang out with us first.
We eventually came across a homeless guy sleeping, with a tray out and a sign that said "Every $5 goes towards killing Justin Beiber". Tracy took out a $5 bill, put it by the sign, and took a photo for her first theme. We went wandering quite a bit further, and went down side streets, through back alleyways, and through some apartment complexes. Kennedy found her shot in a driveway involving bees and a honeycomb (a decent shot, I have to say). We went back up Commercial, and I came across my shot. Here it is:
It almost worked. I wish the window washer guy would have had a better pose, but I was happy with it. So we wandered back to JJ Bean to catch the reveal of the next theme. A continuing pattern throughout the day seemed to be that we got there just before the announcements happened. So we got to the coffee house, and the next theme is revealed to be "Never Gonna Give You Up". So, they're making themes from bad 80's music? This theme was drawn by John, a coworker and good friend, as well as a 12x12 competitor. So, off we went in search of Theme 2 - this time we went north instead of south.
This time we all got our shots at the same park on Commercial Drive - but it was a long walk to get there. Tracy took a shot of a dog sitting with it's owners, Kennedy took an award-winning shot of a old roll of film, and I took this one:
Tracy had her idea right away, so we hiked south again so we were overlooking the Skytrain tracks looking west. Tracy wanted to wait for a train to go by at the perfect time. So we waited, and waited, and finally a train came by. I guess they were running a little slow that day, but she got her shot. We walked around a little bit to where Kennedy had spotted a mural, and she got her theme. We walked back up the Drive - where we again bumped into Shannon who was walking in the opposite direction, and we let her know what the theme was - to where I remembered seeing a travel agency, and Kennedy was kind enough to help me get this shot:
So we hiked it back to JJ Bean (we hiked a lot that day, more on this later), where the next theme was announced. So Theme #4 was...Reject. They definitely weren't going to make it easy, were they?
So off we went in search of rejects. We went searching side streets and back alleys. I saw a great idea, but it was on somebody's property. I saw the owner come out and I explained to him about the contest and what I wanted to photograph, and he said "no" and that was it. So much for that idea. Instead we went walking further down the alley and I found this:
Tracy had an idea for a photograph after we got back onto Commercial Drive involving a locked gate. We wandered around for a bit, up and down the Drive, and Kennedy saw something that worked for her, so she got her shot. We then walked back to the coffee house where they announced Theme 5: I Bet.
From what I remember, this is the point where we stopped for lunch. It was 2pm and we were all getting hungry and thirsty. When Kennedy went to sit at a stool, her skirt brushed a bee that was sitting there, so it went and stung her. She got the stinger removed, and she got some ice on it to reduce the swelling, and she was fine. I grabbed a muffin, downed some juice and hung out for a bit to recharge. I started chatting with some other marathoners, and got to play with one of their Epson RD1S's (think of it as a very early digital Leica). It was an unusually heavy camera, but it was fun to play with. I could see the appeal.
After we recharged, we hit the pavement again. Tracy quickly found her shot - a "Medicinal Marijuana" shop on Commercial Drive. We went over to a local park, and Kennedy was able to take a shot over at the playground. It wasn't until we got back to JJ Bean that I got my shot. I saw a couple women in a very animated conversation. I politely asked them if I could photograph them conversing, and they said that was fine:
That's when they announced Theme 6: Impress(ion). Greaaaaaaaaat. Another easy one (heavy on the sarcasm).
Tracy got her idea pretty quickly. There were numerous impressions in the pavement along Commercial Drive, so she photographed one of a cup of coffee (go figure). Kennedy had a really cool idea involving her science text book and making her own diagram of ions - great idea focusing on the "ion" part. That took a little bit of time for her to do, so Tracy and I just relaxed in the shade while Kennedy was working. I was a little tired, so inspiration didn't hit me. We wandered back to JJ Bean for Theme 7: My Own Reality. Tracy's idea came pretty quick involving a photo of her daughters. Kennedy's idea came quick too, photographing her Mom. I had a great idea, so I had to get my Theme 6 shot done first. As it turns out, I had a similar idea to Tracy: photograph an impression in the pavement. It didn't turn out to well, but you can almost see the signatures in the blue tiles:
My Theme 7 shot came right after this one. Special thanks to Translink for stalling a bus at the corner and blocking traffic so I could run across the street to catch up to this friendly family:
Being a relatively new Dad, this shot kind of hit home with me. So after this we wandered back to JJ Bean for the announcement of Theme 8. It was unbelievably almost 5pm. There were only four more hours to go in this insanity. So Theme 8 turned out to be "Metamorphosis". Yay for easy themes - again with the heavy sarcasm.
From what I recall we didn't go very far for this one. Tracy was able to find a flower surrounded by some flower buds. We ran into Shannon again (a recurring thing) and Kennedy had a great idea. Shannon is kind of a tiny person, and I'm not. So Kennedy had Shannon put one of her hands over one of my hands to show the difference in size between them. My idea came from walking down to one of the local grocery markets, where I saw some bell peppers, and did a little rearranging to get this:
I actually liked this shot, it turned out just the way I planned. So, off we went back to the coffee house for Theme number 9. As it turns out, Theme 9 was "Before the Storm". This should be an interesting one. I had an idea right away. I just had to find it. In the meantime, we went off in search of Tracy's idea. We got told no at the first bar, and yes at the second. So, she photographed a stack of beer mugs that were ready to be used (6pm on a Saturday). We found my idea, but it wasn't quite perfect. I was kind of hoping a rider would be there, but it was close enough:
Kennedy struggled with this one a bit, in then end she didn't want to run too far behind so she got a photograph of the sky. Then, back to JJ Bean for Theme 10. It was almost 7pm. The announcement came, and it was "Advantage".
For this one, we wandered back to the local park. Tracy had a great idea involving Kennedy, myself, and a set of jungle-gym bars (me having a distinct advantage in reaching for the bars). I was running low on brain power, so the best I could do was a tennis game:
We had a nice walk back to the coffee shop, running into John and Martin, and seeing several other marathoners in the park. Kennedy got her shot by photographing a coffee (a great advantage in this marathon). This brings us to Theme 11: Overachiever. At this point it was 8pm, and we were hungry. So off we went to a burger joint for some food. It was great being able to sit down and just relax for a bit. While we were sitting and eating, we spotted another marathoner across the street, photographing something in the parking lot of a local body shop. After we were done, we wandered back to JJ Bean, but on full and happy stomachs. We were one theme behind, but we were fine. The last theme came at 9pm: Favourite. Just around this time something weird happened. A BMW was carrying some stuff on it's roof and came to a quick stop at the red light on Commercial and 6th. A very large framed mirror came shooting off it's roof and landed in the intersection. Some marathoners went over to get it out of the way quickly, and once the mirror was pulled to the side of the road - the car left. We were all like "what the hell was that?"
This is where I split off from Tracy and Kennedy. I had my ideas and they had theirs, but mine involved walking. I hiked up the street to get my shot for "Overachiever", and came up with this:
Considering I hand-held this at about 1/15th of a second, I think it turned out pretty well. I then crossed the street, to get my last shot. This was Commercial Drive, and I knew what I wanted - I just had to find it. As I was heading north, I was confronted by an angry individual who was questioning why there were so many photographers around, and was shouting about the privacy act. I was trying to explain, and he was shouting about the privacy act. I wasn't going to argue legalities, so I just let him spout off. He demanded that I put my camera away, but I refused. I just stared him down until he walked away. When he was far enough way, I continued on my quest, camera in hand. A few minutes later, I found my shot for "Favourite"
Obviously, this little one was a woman's favourite. I encountered this guy with his owners outside a small cafe and explained what I was doing and what I wanted to do. They were interested and flattered. So, I crouched down and took my shot. This was hand-held, wide open at f1.8, and 1/15th of a second. I felt for sure that the dog moved when I took the shot, but it actually turned out fine.
I walked back to the coffee shop and met up with Tracy and Kennedy. I rewound my roll of film and handed it in, with Angela and another woman being cheerleaders to re-energize people after a very long day.
At this point I checked my pedometer on my phone...We had walked 26.72 kms over the course of the day. I later worked it out that we had burned about 2500 calories each.
With the day being done, we packed up the cameras, loaded up the van, and went home. It had been a great day, even though we hadn't been involved in a police takedown like the year before.