Week 23: Movement

Not for the first time in this Project52, I’ve found that the subject has coincided rather well with some event which would perfectly meet the requirements. Obviously some of these will have been planned by the person I purloined the schedule off, but the person in question is an American blogger. How and why would she have possibly predicted and factored into the schedule events as…well, un-American, I guess…as Songkran and the 11th Laguna Phuket International Marathon 2016?

For reasons I am still attempting to fathom, I decided to actually run the half-marathon of this particular event. Regular readers will know that I am quite a lazy person by nature, so suddenly going and running 21.1 km is quite a significant deviation from my usual routine. Despite appearances, however, I do actually quite enjoy a number of active pursuits, running included.

Preparing for my first half-marathon in Phuket, Thailand

A half-marathon is obviously not that much of a challenge, which is why there were thousands of other people doing the same event, including tons of people both significantly older and even much younger than I. I am not saying that what I did was anything special. In spite of that, I’m am still actually quite amazed that I finished. Before I set off, I posted a selfie with a caption paraphrasing what the gladiators in the Colosseum used to say to Caesar prior to their bouts: “Those who are about to die salute you!”

The reason for me fatalistic pessimism is that I have never previous run 21 km. The last time I even travelled that distance on foot would have been when I was backpacking in France, nearly a decade ago. I have certainly never previously run 21 km in temperatures around the 32°C mark.

Laguna Marathon 2016 in Phuket, Thailand

My training for this run was woefully inadequate. I did maybe a dozen 8-km runs and a single 14-km run, most of which was about a month before the race. I then had three consecutive weeks where I was mostly travelling around followed by one week of dreadful weather when I was unable to run. Then came the race. Suffice it to say, I felt completely unprepared for what was to come.

I did finish, though, to my own astonishment. My time was a rather pitiful 3 hours, 10 minutes and 58 seconds – Philippides I most certainly am not! For a first run with such poor preparation, it is adequate. I am happy enough, even having finished 100th out of 139 in my age and gender category. I can always improve on that next year.

At the end of the Phuket Marathon

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the Project52 shot. That’s effectively just my write-up of this rather significant event. The day prior to the half- and full-marathon was the day for the shorter events – 2 km, 5 km and 10 km. Mostly, I had gone to watch a friend do the 5 km but, as I was there, I decided to take a few photos.

The effect I wanted was of motion blur – the background sweeping past while the runners and mostly sharp, with perhaps a little blur in their legs and arms. It’s simple enough to achieve. You just track the runners fast enough and use a slow enough shutter speed. I was shooting into the sun, which was pretty stupid, but the background was nicer in that direction. That made autofocus a little tricky at times and obviously put the subjects in a bit of shadow, but one was fixed with persistence and the other with post-processing. From hundreds of photos, the one I picked really popped out at me.

Runners sprinting in Phuket, Thailand

Laguna Resorts, Bangtao, Phuket, Thailand – 04/06/16 @ 17:46:08.
Canon EOS 7D w/. Tamron 17-50mm lens
Focal length: 50mm. Exposure: 1/400th @ f/2.8. ISO 100

The background did not blur as much as I would have liked, but they’re only running, to be fair. They’re not sports cars! The shadows were not too dark, fortunately, since the sun was blocked by a row of trees along the bank of the lagoon which gives the area (Laguna) its name. I did get the desired motion blur in the legs, though, which really does give it that sensation of “movement”, as the theme demanded.

It would have been easier for me to shoot if I had a zoom lens, but my best one – a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 – is extremely heavy and the autofocus motor burned out ages ago. I haven’t had the chance to get it repaired, so I’ve had to get a couple of cheap stand-ins for action shoots like this, where AF is essential. It is fortunate that the event organisers were so bad at keeping people behind the barriers. At one point, there were so many people getting in the way that the road was about half as wide (for the runners) as it was supposed to be! Of course, the advantage of using a DSLR is that everyone assumes you’re supposed to be there, so you never get asked to step back!

When it comes to events photography, size really does matter!

Project52 Schedule
Credit: Amy Dingler /
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Ben has been an expatriate since he was 21, a writer since he was about 10 and a photographer since he was 12. Degema Travel is the culmination of that experience.

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