Friday, 22 May 2015

Canon PhotoMarathon is one of the few photo competition that does not give out fancy international awards, but I would still personally highly regarded on. Competitors will receive their brief(s) on the day. They have limited time to interpret, shoot, and deliver the shot as a photo print. while post processing is not allowed. It is a truly all-in-one competition that put creativity, mental and physical ability in a test.

I first knew and received my invitations to Canon PhotoMarathon was back in 2009. However it was a Hong Kong only event and I didn't attend. This year they are running it in Australia for the first time and I have registered. I am trying to summarize how I prepare.



  • 3 briefs to shoot on the day.
    • Brief 1: Announces 9 am / Closes 11 am
    • Brief 2: Announces 12 noon / Closes 2 pm
    • Brief 3: Announces 2.30 pm / Closes 4.30 pm
  • Photo editing by computer is not allowed.
  • Unedited digital photos submitted to the checkpoint by closing time.


  • 23rd May - 7th June 2015
  • A full day event from 8.30am - 4.30pm.
  • Each day is treated as a separate event.


  • The Rocks, Sydney


  • May/June is about fall/winter in Sydney.
  • I anticipate around 18 - 25 C, and windy.




  • Canon 1DX
  • Canon 24-70mm/2.8, 70-200mm/2.8
  • Monopod Tripod is better if you can afford the weight
  • Flash
  • CPL Filter
  • CF USB Card Reader (Because Canon is very specific about SD Card only) Canon provides card reader to transfer photo from CF to SD
  • 2X Extender (As cropping is not allowed, getting the right focal length is crucial)


  • Tamron Marco 90mm
  • ND 1000 Filter
  • Camera Rain Cover (Weather dependent)


  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks / Energy bars
  • Water (provided by Canon)
  • Hat (provided by Canon)
  • Wind and waterproof jacket


It is a full day event with 3 briefs to shoot. I will need a super versatile setup to adapt to different briefs, but at the same time it needs to be compact enough so that I can conserve my stamina to move around for a day long event. Therefore, I will choose zoom lenses over prime lenses.

It is very similar to what I do as a photojournalist. Carrying cameras to places where we never been to, shoot for brief in unfamiliar environment that are unanticipated. Therefore, the surprise factor should have less impact for those who are familiar to these situations.

My photography style is about "working behind the camera" and less photo editing. The banish from photo editing have the least impact on me; and is more like an advantage for those who do not heavily rely on post processing.

Creativity is the key factor. I need to think what sort of photos that other people will be doing and avoid shooting the similar. An ND filter and a macro lens would allow me to use different techniques and shoot with different perspective.


Camera Settings

  • Shooting in Jpeg only as photo editing allowed.
  • Pay attention to white balance. There won't be a chance to correct later when shooing in jpeg.
  • Try different in-camera picture style profiles. The key is to get the right shot straight off from the camera.


  • Experiment different aperture size and shutter speed settings.
  • A trick that I would consider using is the Auto Bracketing. For the same shot, there will be 3 photos with different exposures for me to choose from.
  • Turn on Auto Lighting Optimizer to even out the contrast in high dynamic range scene.


As photo editing is not allowed. that implies no cropping will be allowed too. Thus the photo dimension will be locked to 3:2 (SLR perspective) ratio. In order to get a photo in different ratio, we can use the frame within a frame composition technique to give the photo a different look and feel.

The window frame made the photo look more slender than the usual 3:2 ratio

Interpret the brief

This is probably the most important aspects of the competition. We need to interpret the brief the way how the photo judge were expecting; then execute and present the idea in a photo print.