This past weekend was one of the first I have had completely free in quite some time. I made the most of it by going for a nice mountain bike ride on Saturday and taking advantage of some great local events to get me out shooting on Sunday. Even though photography is what I do by profession, I still enjoy it enough to get out shooting whether I’m on the clock or not. Photography is like anything else, if you want to stay sharp and improve your skills, you need to practice, practice, practice. Most events I shoot are for clients and I am usually charged with capturing specific athletes or to shoot the event a certain way – “get all the signage in, leave lots of room for copy and don’t miss the podium” they say. I like to use these free days to create self-imposed assignments, outline my own criteria and work on shooting techniques and styles I want to develop. For instance, I may choose to restrict myself to a certain focal length or shoot exclusively with available light. I knew I wanted to get some shots of the Toronto International Cyclocross but also wanted to see if I could squeeze in the Toronto Marathon as well. It would make for a hectic day but I was optimistic about giving it a try. I wasn’t interested in “covering” either event completely but I had a few shots from each I was after.
I made my way down to the furthest western point of the marathon course at 9:00am. This was the turnaround point of the race so I thought it would give me some more options. I tried to find an area where I could capture the runners with the cityscape in the background. Most of the images I have seen of the marathon are from the start / finish line or the downtown core. I thought I would try and get something different. Maybe aim for more of an environmental action / portrait style image. Unfortunately, the race course used the upper, paved, portion of the Martin Goodman trail which left all sorts of trees, people and parks between the runners and the water. The biggest hurdle however was that the Martin Goodman trail was not closed to other trail users. So not only did the runners have to contend with strollers, inline skaters and cyclists but I had to as well. I struggled to find clean backgrounds and had to shoot at very wide apertures in order to render the background milky smooth. The top runners where also escorted by a lead motorcycle or marshal on a bike which added to the clutter. My window for getting a clean shot was pretty narrow. I wouldn’t have minded adding interesting elements to my composition but the fact is, these were undesirable. The whole thing seemed disorganized and this is how it would come across in the images. I like a good chaotic image, just wasn’t what I was after that day. Once the runners reached the furthest western point of the course they looped back East along the Lakeshore. The shots of the runners among traffic was equally uninspiring. I focused on faces and shot tighter than I would have liked but managed to get a few interesting images, including the fastest man and woman of the day. Here are a couple of shots from the race.
I fought my way out of the marathon area and made my way up to Centennial Park in time to capture the elite men and woman’s cross starts. I found the venue interesting enough and could immediately see some nice shooting possibilities. The light was decent and there were some fall colours and a pond I thought I could incorporate into the images. The only real challenge was that a good portion of the course, sections that I found interesting photographically, were back-lit. I got most of the shots I was after and had a nice time catching up with old friends. Here are some shots from the race.
Images from the cyclocross race are available here in the FastTimes online store. http://fasttimesinc.com/store/index.php?gnum=149