Shooting a Marathon

It was a lazy, hazy Sunday that I was on a photo assignment shooting for Nigel Sia (check out his amazing video work here), the main videographer of the day. We were covering the Marathon event organized by TM, and alongside me I was partnered with Jason Lioh. There were many challenges that we faced in the shooting session, and of course, a lot other unexpected turn of events. 

We arrived at Dataran Merdeka at ungodly just after 6am in the morning, and it was before sun rise. As we reached the shooting location the area was already filled with runners warming up, registration in progress and the organizers busy setting up the place. It was a rather demanding event, our tasks include shooting the runners randomly on the filed posing with placards, shooting the invited celebrities (and any other random ones that decided to just show up), catching the start of the marathon, and the most difficult of all, running alongside runners and get them to pose for the camera. It was a rather physically challenging task to me since I am not exactly at my best shape at the moment (note to self: time to pay attention to fitness and do away with the chips). 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non SWD). 

Body art

Face Painting

KL Tower behind hazy sun, just before it rained. 

1) Continuous AutoFocus and Burst Shooting

I am a single Autofocus guy, and I shoot one frame at a time. I believe in one bullet for one bird. I was trained in the traditional ways of planning the shot ahead, pre-visualize, and then pre-focus/expose the image, making sure everything has been considered before making that shutter click happen, so that when it happens, you know you have nailed that image. I have also adhered to the "decisive moment" methods, much to do with street photography, where anticipating and waiting for the peak of the moment before firing the shot. 

However, in this shooting session, where you do not have that much window of opportunity to shoot, and you do not have the chance to redo anything, yet you cannot screw up, single AF and single shot for each frame technique wont be a very wise thing to do. I am starting to believe that I have got to be more open minded and really experiment with the camera's capabilities and how to control some of its settings, especially those that I do not usually practice. You have got to admit shooting runners, or any kind of sports, the continuous autofocusing and burst of multiple frames per second are rather important. I set the E-5 to continuous AF and yes, I engaged the 5 frames per second burst, and I allowed myself to just machine gun away. I needed very fast shots, I cannot afford to waste time thinking too much, and I just need to camera to do its job right there and then. 

Oh and all those panning exercises during my street shooting? It really paid off. 


Everything was well and beautiful, until suddenly, of all the days in the week, it started to rain like it never rained before on the very same morning. We were halfway through the event and the downpour happened. Things just got more difficult but the shooting must go on. This was one of the moments that I was so thankful the gear that I used was fully weather sealed. At that time I was using the DSLR E-5 with Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 and I took this opportunity to continue working the camera. Sometimes, shooting in the rain can give very interesting subjects.

Sometimes, I would like to think that I can do away without the weather sealing on my camera, and thought it was not necessary because I do not shoot in the rain anyway (which sane people would do such thing). After this marathon event, I was somehow feeling relieved that, even though I did not consciously made the choice to buy weather sealed equipment, anything from High Grade lenses onward from Olympus is weather sealed. That actually allowed me to continue shooting if I need to in the harsh weather. It is not hard to see how Olympus designed their cameras and lenses, they may not deliver the best image quality or performance, but when it comes to practicality and usability, it is almost impossible to find fault in Olympus cameras. They just work. And they work damned well. When I am shooting, I just need equipment that is reliable so that I do not have to worry about the gear and just concentrate on shooting. Olympus did the smart move in creating a weather sealed micro 4/3 camera, the OMD E-M5. Lets just hope more weather sealed lenses would be made for micro 4/3 system.

Everyone is wet

Looking for shelter

My first portrait shot in rain !!

Run for cover

Rain shyness

Rain happiness

even the kid was not afraid of the rain

And the rain finally stopped. 

3) Shooting in JPEG

All this time, even on my shutter therapy sessions where I shoot fully for myself, I have been shooting in RAW only, and did my JPEG conversion in post-processing stage. I have learned, especially through my wedding assignment that RAW can give you that insurance, in case you unintentionally screw up some shots. 
However, for this particular shooting assignment, we were expected to deliver our photographs on the same day. That left me no choice but to shoot in JPEG, since we are talking about possibly coming home with over 1000 photographs in one morning. There was no time provided for post processing, hence what we did was spending very little time to select and filter out the bad shots (blurred, badly exposed) and I trimmed my photographs down to about 650 shots for final delivery. 

I think after shooting in RAW for some time now, shooting JPEG is not something that I can confidently say I can do without any doubts or hesitation. Furthermore, not being able to post-process the photographs means you just have to get everything right, and you only have one chance: during the shooting session, in the camera. I know some photographers would prefer to just provide the untouched photographs straight from the camera without any post-processing, but I personally believe a little post processing can go a long way in ensuring better overall presentation. Just that slight tweak of colour and contrast can make a whole world of difference. Nonetheless, we had no such luxury, hence extra care had to be taken while shooting. All camera settings has to be spot on, and most important of all, composition, since no cropping allowed afterward. Not that a big issue, but this is the time when you just have to rely on the camera to do its job. Olympus has been known to produce great JPEG images out of the camera, and again, this is one of the moments I was really glad I was using Olympus. 

Thanks Nigel Sia for having me around. 

As usual, always great to shoot alongside a friend, Jason Lioh. 

In this entry I have selected the photographs which I personally like, not exactly the photographs that the organizers have officially assigned us to shoot. In the midst of an assignment, I did find some time to really see and capture some of the subjects that caught my personal attention. This would probably be one of the very few times you can see me out there in the heavy rain shooting with my gear. 

There is so much more to learn, and yes, I have much to improve on. But hey, I do think the photos did not come out all that bad either !!


  1. Nice!! Love the raining set a lot :)

    1. Thanks Scott !! I thought only Luke like that ahahah

  2. Hi Robin, thanks for sharing. I love your photographs and you always inspire me!

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  4. Robin,

    Your panning shots really do it !
    They suck one into the action and simultaneously capture the feeling of movement and speed.
    But at the highest level, having run, they really give a taste of what it's like being IN it.
    Great work on your coverage of the event !!

    An equipment Q : What brand and model is Nigel Sia's monopod ? Love the specific configuration of its stabilization feet, as well as the
    appearance of sturdiness. Have you used it so as to be able to give a quick evaluation ? Sometimes a mono can come in really handy.

    1. Hey Ben,
      He was using Manfrotto, but I am not sure what model. Will sure to ask him when I see him.
      Thanks for the kind compliments !!

    2. just ordered it. It's the Manfrotto 561B-1 with fluid head.

    3. Whoah, why is that manfrotto so popular?

  5. Oi, next time take half body shot enough. Haha. Damn ugly siut.

  6. Hey Robin, really nice and cool shot you got there, as always....great job!!

    1. Hey Ariffin,
      Thanks mate !! How is your OMD going so far?

  7. Excellent set Robin, I especially loved the rain set, very nicely done.

    1. Thanks Jorge !! Seldom shoot in rain, hence I just went all out !

  8. Agree with you about the weather sealing. I also didn't think it made any difference, until I found myself in rainy situation in Baguio. Instead of covering my camera or head for a dry shelter, I just instead stood where I was and shot fotos of people passing by. I remember how i used to cover my Nikon D50 with my hand every time it rained, and was less at taking fotos and more of worrying about my equipment. That time I was really happy I bought the 12-50mm with my E-M5 instead of buying the 12mm separately. Now, I just wait for weather sealed m.zuiko lenses to be announced. I am really hoping they will be introducing a weather sealed version of the 12mm, 45mm. Also hoping panasonic will be introducing weather sealed lenses as well.

    1. Love the rain shots too. Ever since i got the OMD, i was waiting for rain but it has not been raining in the last 2 weeks here.

      I think the new 75mm is weather sealed since it's considered HG lens, and i understand all HG and SHG lens from Olympus are weather sealed. Also, i think the upcoming 60mm f2.8 macro could also be a HG or SHG lens and probably weather sealed.

    2. Hey rcferraris,
      Shooting in the rain is fun, and people reveal a lot more expression too. I am just glad that my equipment is fully weather sealed, and when I need the camera to perform I do not need to worry that much. lets hope Olympus will plan the same thing for their micro 4/3 line of lenses. After all, what is the point of having a weather sealed camera body without weather sealed lenses?

      Hey calex,
      Thanks !
      I am afraid the 75mm is not weather sealed, or at least that was what the announcement mentioned. Also, the 60mm F2.8 macro should be weather sealed.

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  10. Hello Robin,
    Thank you for sharing your photography thoughts and awesome images.
    Sorry, I have to delete my earlier post as it has a few words missing from my sentences. I think my mind and my fingers were not working as a team at the time I wrote that comment.
    Love those images in the rain. They are really fresh and their facial expression are worth the captured. Your panning images which I admired looks great.
    Shoot in JPEG? I am almost panic in my last assignment when my friend wants the photos straight after dinner. I think you have help me alot in keeping me believing in myself, have fun and give my best. I thank you for the encouragement before the event.
    As weekend is approaching, may you have a great weekend. Happy shooting.