Canon PhotoMarathon Singapore XV 2017: A Fruitful Day of Challenges for Photography Enthusiasts2017-10-26 2018-06-11
Held on 23 September 2017 (Saturday), the Singapore portion of the 2017 edition of the region’s largest annual photography competition, the Canon PhotoMarathon XV, attracted approximately 1500 photography enthusiasts of all ages and varying levels of experience. We take a look what transpired at the event.
Prepping to start
Held at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on Saturday, 23 September 2017, the 15th edition of the Canon PhotoMarathon Singapore attracted photography enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds, ranging from teams of school students accompanied by teachers, to families, to young and older adults. The 32 registration counters saw a constant stream of participants file in all the way until around 8.30am when the Competition Brief started.
Participants waiting for their turn (left) and signing up (right) at the on-site registration counters.
Trying out Canon cameras and lenses at the Canon Village (above). Among the products on display were super telephoto lenses such as the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender EF 1.4xIII and EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, and cameras such as the new EOS M100, EOS 6D Mark II, and the top-of-the-line EOS-1D X Mark II (right). Some participants even purchased cameras on the spot, at special event prices.
Participants seeking inspiration from the wall of works by last year’s Canon PhotoMarathon winners.
As with previous years, participants had three hours per theme to capture and submit their shots. In-camera editing was allowed but not the use of editing software, and the images were judged on their relevance to the theme, how creatively the theme was interpreted, as well as on techniques such as the use of colours, light and shadows, and composition.
Theme 1: Tilt
Perhaps due to the rain, many participants could be seen taking their first shots in the immediate vicinity. The Suntec City and Marina Square area was populated with photographers at work, exploring different angles and poses.
The works that stood out to the judges were the ones that went beyond tilting the image horizon, incorporating the skilful use of lighting, shadows, and as judge Goto Aki put it, “the elements of chance that defines a photo”. Some participants had even used the reflections resulting from the rain in their photographs.
Participants in action—shooting from different angles.
EOS 750D/ EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 55mm (88mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Dex Ngiam Chao Yi (1st prize, Theme 1 - Tilt, Student category)
PowerShot G7 X/ FL: 9mm (14.4mm equivalent)/ (f/2, 1/1250 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Goh Si Hui (3rd prize, Theme 1 – Tilt, Open category)
Theme 2: Celebration
Theme 2, “Celebration”, announced at noon, saw the sun back in the sky and participants dispersing further afield. While some looked for joyous occasions filled with energy, such as weddings and sporting victories, others found their ideal shots in intimate, heart-warming celebrations right at home—or even in the tiny world right at their feet.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF50mm f/1.4 USM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/2, 1/125 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 640/ WB: Manual – Colour Temperature (5300K)
Photo by: Chew Kay Ching Edmund (1st prize, Theme 2 – Celebration, Open category)
FL: 105mm/ Manual exposure (f/20, 1/320 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 2500/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Wong Chek Poh (2nd prize, Theme 2 – Celebration, Open category)
After submitting their entries for Theme 2, many participants took the opportunity to get their camera and lens cleaned for free, forming a long queue at the EOS Cleaning Station staffed by eight professional lens and camera cleaners.
Theme 3: Mysterious
With cameras and lenses all cleaned up, participants were now ready to tackle the third and final theme, “Mysterious”. It was around 3pm, and there would be broad daylight all the way until the 6pm deadline. But as the submissions showed, you do not need the night to shroud your image with an air of mystery.
EOS 80D/ EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/100 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 320/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Miko Pang Yun Xuan (1st prize, Theme 3 – Mysterious, Student category)
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 70mm/ Manual exposure (f/22, 5 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Lersom Loungpon (1st prize, Theme 3 – Mysterious, Open category)
With all submissions in, the participants were now free to explore the many interesting booths at the venue at their own time and pace. A long queue formed at the complimentary printout booth, where 10 PIXMA printers and event staff were on hand to help users print their favourite work in A4 or 4R size. Participants also had fun at the Japan-themed photobooth sets, and the 360° photobooth, which featured thirty EOS 1300D cameras.
Shutterbugs happily fired away at the photobooths provided by Canon and its partners.
Canon staff helping participants prepare images for printing at the complementary printout booth.
Participants watch with keen interest as submissions are displayed on large LCD screens.
Judging: Good photos will always share certain key elements
Meanwhile, in the judges room, the three PhotoMarathon judges, Eddie Sung, Goto Aki, and Justin Mott, raced against time to judge close to 4500 entries each. The judges might have come from different backgrounds—Sung is a fine art music photographer, Goto focuses on natural landcapes, and Mott’s background is in photojournalism—but the idea of what makes a “good” photograph proved to be quite universal, at least for this PhotoMarathon.
“It was all pretty clear about the winners in each category and the overall winners… You’d think we’d argue more, but I think when you boil down to it, there are a certain few key elements that make a good picture, and certain key elements that we judged on, so there wasn’t as much debate as I thought there would be,” Mott shared.
Goto concurred, observing that apart from creativity, the images with high average scores tended to share common features such as beautiful lighting, good use of lines and well-balanced compositions.
Sung sums it up nicely, “The images [that we chose] spoke to us. All of us were different, but we could tell which images were top choice.”
Best of Show – Student Category: Luong Ngoc Thanh Thao, LaSalle College of Arts
One EOS 60D, one lens, and a good story
When we caught up with her after the prizes were announced, Thao was still in shock over at her unexpected win. “I didn’t think I could achieve it…so many people had professional cameras. I only had an EOS 60D camera and one prime lens, so I didn’t have a lot of confidence,” she admitted.
But as her win proved, skills matter just as much—and perhaps, just a bit of luck in encountering the right subject at the right time. Coming across the construction workers working on the F1 seating gallery, she had been drawn by the story of teamwork amid long hours of hard work under the hot sun and went across the road to observe further. That encounter, combined with her eye for aesthetics and skill with the camera, resulted in the shot that won her the 2nd prize in the Student category for the “Tilt” theme.
Luonh Ngoc Thanh Thao, Best of Show—Student Category winner
“Tilt”. 2nd prize, Student category
EOS 60D/ FL: 50mm (78.6mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/4.5, 1/2500 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Manual – Colour Temperature (6800K)
Photo by: Luong Ngoc Thanh Thao
Best of Show – Open Category: Jirawat Saiwuttinon
Detailed analysis and conceptualization
Having a story behind each photo was also very important to Jirawat, who comes from Thailand. This was his first time in Singapore, and he admitted to finding the themes a bit harder than previous PhotoMarathons he had participated in in Bangkok. Not having had much time to recce locations in Singapore before the event, his submissions for this PhotoMarathon were taken nearby, including in his hotel room.
Jirawat shared that instead of shooting many pictures nonstop, he preferred to focus his efforts on analysing the theme, conceptualising the ideal shot and then planning how to achieve it. “When they announce the theme, I will first write it down. Then, I will draw [the shot that I envision] on paper, and then plan what to do and where to go to capture the story in my picture.” While a marked contrast from the journalistic approach of Student Category winner Thao, this is perhaps a reflection of the good balance in shooting approaches that the judges observed in the submissions.
Jirawat Saiwuttinon, Best of Show—Open Category winner
“Tilt”. 1st prize, Open Category.
EOS 6D Mark II/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 59mm/ Manual exposure (f/7.1, 1/160 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 1000/ WB: Manual – Colour Temperature (2500K)
Photo by: Jirawat Saiwuttinon
The Best of Show prize winners win an all-expenses-paid chance to participate in the 2018 Canon PhotoMarathon Asia Championship, among a host of other prizes.
Team Challenge Winner: GYMN
Balancing teamwork and individuality
The Team Challenge category was a new addition to the Canon PhotoMarathon. The winning team was determined based on the total points awarded to the entries by each individual team member.
This year’s winning team was GYMN, whose team name was generated from the members’ names. While it was their first time participating in the PhotoMarathon together, the members regularly gather to photograph fireworks. They were initially “stunned” by the themes when they were first announced, but participating together certainly came with its benefits. Member Chua Yao Jun told us about how they brainstormed and shared photo ideas with each other, and then “[went] to one place and try out different concepts”. They would also help each other to hold equipment or even stand in as models. Indeed, the team’s camaraderie was clear throughout the interview, even as they teased each other and shared anecdotes of their experience.
Did GYMN have any advice for those thinking of participating in next year’s Canon PhotoMarathon? Just one: “Hang in there!” Indeed, the event was a long one, but with a passion for photography and just the right company to keep you going, all you need to do is hang in there and give it your best shot.
The members of GYMN (from left): Mark Ong, Chua Yao Jun, Gin Tay, and Nikki Chiang
EOS 6D/ EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ FL: 100mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/400 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 320/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Chiang Yeo Chyi (Nikki)
GYMN member Nikki Chiang won the Open Category 3rd prize for Theme 3, “Mysterious” with this image, which her team members said was “shot sitting alone in a dark corner”
Summing up: What we learned from the Canon PhotoMarathon XV Singapore 2017
1. Don’t wait till the day itself to seek inspiration
Many participants we spoke to lamented their lack of inspiration and creativity. The winners, as well as many experienced photographers, shared that they often and consistently look at a variety of works by other photographers, and study how the shot was taken. Some would even draw ideas from fine art and graphics design. This is a good way to build up a pool of ideas and inspiration, even before the event itself.
2. If you are shooting with your friends, make it a point to ensure your shots don’t look too similar
As observed by the judges, having the same subjects, being in the same location, and sharing ideas with each other often results in friends submitting shots that look very similar. For shots that are more unique, make it a point to explore a different angle, or a different concept from your friends.
3. It’s also a great event for bonding and making new friends
For many participants, the event doubles as an opportunity for a family outing or a meetup with friends. Some groups even told us that they had met through previous PhotoMarathons! Tacking those mind-boggling themes is great for bonding, and everyone there shares a love for photography, so it is not hard to see why you might just gain new photography buddies along the way.
For more images of the winning shots, and more information about Canon PhotoMarathons in other parts of Asia, head to the Canon PhotoMarathon site at
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