Cambridge Half Marathon 2014

The Cambridge Half Marathon took place this weekend and my friend Jenneke van der Wal was running, so I went out to take some photos of the festivities. The runners were starting at 9:30 on Midsummer Common, and it would have been nice to be there to photograph the start, but what I really wanted was to get some photos that everyone could recognise as Cambridge. My plan was instead to go to King’s Parade, and try and have one of the iconic buildings in the background. I was coming into town from the west, but Garrett Hostel Lane was closed, so I had to cut through King’s College instead. On the way there I came across the lead runner and snapped a shot. The path was winding back and forth through the city, so hopefully I would have enough time to get to my chosen spot before Jenneke arrived. Turns out my biggest problem would not be getting there on time, but actually spotting her in the crowd. There were four and a half thousand other people on the tracks and I had forgotten to ask what colours she would be wearing. I missed her on the first lap, but luckily I managed to get in touch with Wilbert, who was biking around to support her. He told me she was in black, and expected to pass at around 11:05. Brilliant! By this time I had found a good spot north of St Mary’s Church. The runners were coming into the sunlight, while the background was in shadows, making for good contrast. I got some nice shots from that location.

As usual I was looking for human reactions and emotions. Every now and then there would be some fun interaction between the crowd and one or two runners. There were also runners that had dressed up in spectacular ways. Wolverine, fairies, a running shoe, a guy in a ballet skirt and three guys in camo clothes carrying heavy backpacks to just mention a few.

One interesting episode was when the procession from the Senate House needed to cross the running track. The volunteers would shout, “Gap after the yellow shirt, two people.” and two robed gentlemen would shuffle across in the small gap before it closed again by another stream of runners. There were also plenty of people cheering on the runners. One group of four girls stood out as I was making my way through the town to the finishing line. They were encouraging the stragglers, giving them a bit of extra energy. There were also street musicians, I passed a group at the Round Church who were playing on make-shift instruments. It was a great day to be out photographing. To be honest, I felt like it would have been fun to be out in the tracks running myself.

The two girls on the left are added in from another frame, then I had to take a third frame to fill in a bit of the street that was missing on the right. By compositing multiple frames there is more for the viewer to look at. It also helped to stand in a big crowd of people, because that increased the odds that someone who knows one of the runners would call out and get their attention.
The first woman Vicky Knight passes King’s for her second lap to huge applauds. Before the early runners were motorbikes making a path for them. I kept moving down the street to try and get more and more of King’s in the shot. Also there was a nice transition from shadows to light a little bit earlier that I used for some of my other shots.
I wanted the iconic Chapel in at least one of my shots. Here the runners are passing from the sun into the shadow, so you need to catch them before they lose the light. Compare the left and right runner.
Jenneke on her second lap, looking like she has plenty of energy left. There were two kids hidden from view in this shot who were shouting out encouragements to the runners. Here the path came out of the shadows into the sunlight, so I got good light on the runners, and good contrast since the background was still in shadows.
The Senate House procession trying to get across the running track. It was pure comedy to watch. A few of them at a time would shuffle across the path, sometimes cutting it really close.
The four girls cheering on the last runners. There is a sequence where they high five one of the runners. I liked the text on the t-shirts to the left “Pain is temporary. Glory lasts forever.” This shot was quite dark, so had to lift the shadows, while reducing some of the highlights. All editing was done with camera RAW curves.


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