Many people had their own reasons for hoping that Saturday 16th June would be a sunny day: weddings, parties, open-air concerts, and, in the case of 400 of us, the 8th annual Cardiff Photomarathon. The day was wet. Very wet. This did not seem to have deterred the photographers, for the hall in the Wales Millennium Centre was full of people of all ages clutching cameras of all sizes when I arrived to enrol. I was determined not to be intimidated by the long lenses, because I knew that what we were all about to embark on was about a lot more than having a good camera.
Twelve photos on twelve different topics in twelve hours. It sounds easy, but the pictures have to be taken in sequence. So, for example, topic number three this year was ‘Friendship’. You could take as many photos as you liked depicting the subject, friendship, before choosing the one you wanted to submit. But once you’d moved onto topic number four, ‘City Life’, there was no going back to the previous one. You can’t cheat because, as everyone knows, the camera doesn’t lie, or at least the data on your photocard doesn’t.
The Photomarathon is well named. I found out that stamina and determination are as important to the day as technical skill. Topics are given out at four-hourly intervals in batches of four, so that by the time you pick up your final batch at 6 pm you are probably feeling rather tired and footsore. Not that the splendidly efficient organisers of the day didn’t do what they could to help. Free bus-passes were available and you could also get free local train travel by showing your competitor’s orange wristband.
I set off into the dull, windy, but at that moment, dry morning with my list of the first four topics and jumped on the first bus heading for the centre. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked at the number of the bus and it took me on a circuitous route. No matter. Time to think about how to tackle the first topic, which was a double: ‘My Entry Number – Celebrate’.
Adrenalin pumping as much as when I lined up to run the half-marathon in this very same city a few years back, I came up with an idea and headed off for one of Cardiff’s shopping arcades. Enlisting help from shop assistants, I had soon bagged my first three shots. On to ‘City Life’, but the rain had returned and getting 100 metres along the street, let along stopping to take a photograph, was a major challenge. I sheltered in a doorway and took a few shots of people under umbrellas. Not very inspiring. I found another indoor subject and dashed to a restaurant for lunch. The rain continued.
Back at base after the rain had finally abated, tweets from other participants were flashing up on a big screen, with mini-tales of woe and hope. Only a few had given up and the stoic majority were battling on. I found it a hugely rewarding battle, especially when I succeeded in getting exactly the shot I wanted. This didn’t happen with all twelve, but I wasn’t in it to win. As with running marathons, I think most people do it to see what they can achieve and if they compete it is with themselves, not others.
There will be winners though, and if you’d like to see them, their photographs and all the others submitted at the end of the day will be on display at Cardiff’s Story Museum from 21 July to 9 August.