Berlin Fotomarathon 2010: one day later.

How did the contest come out, Luke?

The Berlin Fotomarathon? I had a lot of fun, but now my body aches all over. I was cycling for about 14 hours. Not constantly, but when I wasn’t cycling I was laying or crouching or standing or leaning over to take photos. At about 10:30pm I got cramp in my toe, and then later in my calf.

About 400 people took part, and each person enters 24 photos. The judges have a lot to look through! There is an exhibition of all the photos in July, and the top 10 winners are announced then. I won’t be about in July to see the exhibition, but I think they put all the photos on the internet. I didn’t enter to win, but now that it’s over I’m curious to see if I win a prize. I know all my photos were technically very good, and I explored the main theme of “Time Travel Berlin” very well. As for the 24 individual themes for the photos, that you receive as you go along, I got really lucky with some, and completely copped out on others.

I started with zero inspiration, and nothing prepared. All I knew was that I wanted to do something different with my photography during the Fotomarathon, and not just go with my normal style. You’ve seen my photography… I just take photos of things I see. It’s not often I have a theme or a plan. I mean, I knew I wanted to take photos of swans the other day, but my favourite photo from that trip was the dog in front of the hospital, and that was the one photo I took that I didn’t plan!

So, the theme of the first photo was “Witnesses”, and it also had to include the paper with your number, so your photos can be identified from the first one. I was thinking “Maybe a security camera…” The next theme was “No man’s land” and I thought “Maybe the door of the ladies WC…” but knew those ideas were completely uninspired, and said nothing about the overall theme of time travel. Then I rode past a flea market, and spotted these two wooden dwarfs. They had funny eyes, looking off to the side, as though doing something naughty. I took a photo.

The photo looked a bit like this:

Then I thought, “Fuck it, I’m going to buy these right now, and they can be my models for the rest of the day.” I looked at the themes, and worked out a rough story that I could tell with the two dwarfs. It involved one killing the other, then going back in time to correct his mistake. Thankfully the later, unknown themes worked well with this. The last three were “One the edge of time”, “Nightowls” and “Berlin 2020”, so after they make friends again, I knew they would do a final time jump forward to 2010. Of course, I could only plan this after I found out at 9pm.

At some parts in the story the dwarfs had to look at photos of themselves in the past, so I took a photo of the back of my DSLR with my iPhone, zoomed in a bit on the iPhone screen, and showed them looking at that. Here is an image I used when one dwarf was showing the other how he teleported through time and space:

I chatted to some other marathoners along the way, saying “I’ve got to have a dwarf travel through time, and I don’t have a time machine! A phone booth would be good, but they don’t exist any more. Maybe I’ll create some kind of special effect on the spot.” Later on, I remembered the special effect above. You do it in camera. Hold the zoom lens, and make sure the eye is in the middle of the frame. Make sure you have a 1/30 exposure. Hit the shutter and turn the camera, not the lens, at the same time. Result: swirly time travel scene! The photo above isn’t the one I used for the final image, but it was the one that looked best on the the iPhone screen.

The favourite parts of the day, and the story, was when something happened spontaneously, and I made it part of the story. For example, at one point the red dwarf was going to spot the green dwarf across a fountain, after the red dwarf chasing the other through time to meet find him. The theme was “I spy with my little eye.” But a tourist turned the green dwarf round, for her husband to take a photo of her standing next to it in front of the fountain. First I thought “Damn tourist! Can’t you see I’m taking photos here?” Of course she couldn’t, as I was laying on the ground in on the other side of the fountain, trying to get to the same eye-level as the dwarfs. I was waiting for her to finish, when I realised the story would be better this way. Red would see green, but green wouldn’t see red. That way red could follow green for a while (the next theme was “moving”) and they could meet in a more personal way.

Also, on the second to last photo, I dropped one of the dwarfs for the first time. This resulted in a completely different ending to the story than I imagined. Better or worse, I can’t say, but certainly more abrupt than I imagined.

Overall, I had a really good day. I found out new things about photography, and about creativity, and about myself. Who knows, maybe I’ll do more of this kind of photography?


2 comments to this article

  1. berlin turismo

    on 2011/01/15 at 19:25 -

    Hi Luke – sounds like you had a great day in the photomarathon. Also sounds like you did a lot of cycling to get there! Just wanted to drop in and say I love the pictures you took, displayed above and hope you won some prizes! Really love the idea of the “witnesses” and the pic too… one day perhaps I will venture myself and take part… all the best!

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