12×12 Vancouver Photo marathon

I completed my third marathon yesterday.

The 12×12 Vancouver Photo marathon. What is it?

“Each participant is handed a roll of film with only 12 exposures and in the course of 12 hours, is given 12 themes that have to be interpreted and photographed in the sequence that they are given. All participants must have their own 35mm camera. The 12 themes are made public at the top of every new hour so that the photographers have to check in every hour to receive their next theme. It is left to the photographer to decide when, where and how he/she wants to make the exposures and how to interpret the themes. All participants have to hand in their film before the end of the 12th hour and only those with all 12 exposures will qualify for judging.”

Every year, I learn a little more about how to handle the day of insanity. This year I learnt that no matter just how well prepared you think you are – you aren’t. There is always at least one theme that leaves you with that look on your face that usually only happens when you’re  drunk out of your mind and asked “dude..what’s 9 times 73”.


This time, I turned up with a note pad and an underlying theme I wanted to follow.  Previous years I had winged it and hoped for the best. NOT this year. I was SMRTer this time around.


The last theme about to be announced.

Go deep.
Having an underlying theme helped me to brain storm my creative process for each shot. It helps to align all your images and lets your creative thoughts run deep into places you wouldn’t normally think to venture to. At the same time gives you a sense of comfort that you have a “base” to work from.

I would do a brain dump and consider all options such as emotions, human, object, place, smell, sight, colours, sizes and then push each of those “branches” further using simply key words or thoughts that popped up from my conscious.

I would also disregrd the first 3 cliche ideas that would come to mind – chances are, 3 other people had already thought of them

Each hour, I would take a few minutes to sit quietly (sometimes with the help of some Tiesto in my ears) with a lovely cup of Sencha green tea from the wonderful JJ Bean Coffee house and simply let my 9×73 face be my cover for the neurons being unleashed to wander freely in my mind.


This works well until around hour 6. When you hit the wall. You try sugar, you try caffeine. With no luck. It’s then you realize. You (I) need booze.

I swear, it helps. 1 beer at the start of the hour, with your note pad and some friendly faces can really help fire a few key words, thoughts or visions that can help create an idea. A small disclaimer this only works when you don’t get distracted and order a second round.

When you finally have your shot in mind. You have to have confidence to follow through. Ignore people’s glares and simply get into what you need to do. Any true creative at heart will understand this – art is what you make of it. Be critical of art but don’t let others critique (usually meant with best intentions) take the wind out of your sails (use it, wisely).



I have learnt over the years, never, ever simply just take a shot because its the first one that comes to mind or because you have no other ideas. It’s art. Not signing paper work for a mortage.

This year, my only disapointment with myself was that my timing was slightly off for one shot.  Other than that, I had taken my time, focussed on what I wanted and waited for the shot to happen when it was meant to.

I find the newbies to the event panic about time limits for each shot- this is a normal reaction when given a time limit- its ok!. I planned to have each shot taken before 45 mins. This gave me 15 mins of back up time.



It’s all in the details.
This year I kept a record of my shots stats. On average it took me 32 minutes to get each shot and shot mainly around 1000/sec and averaged at f5.6 (ISO 400 film). Knowing my stats helpedme to remain calm when the clock was ticking. I only once had one shot roll over to the next hour (damn second round *hic*).

This year, I didn’t snap at Sam either. How?! – We simply just worked on our own projects and asked for help when we needed it. Instead of simply both losing our minds trying to direct each others shots with no real direction in mind. See! Having a plan helps saves relationships too!

Although, trying to get to sleep when Sam was bouncing off the walls at 11pm after FINALLY winning a free caffinated sugar loaded drink tested my patience.


Part of something amazing.
The 12×12 events have grown into a highly coveted event yet has remained humble and connected to its community. The organizers are those types of folks you always want at your parties because they rock. Morten, Angela and their trusty team of helpers – Cynthia (I missed you this time wonderwoman!), Benjamin Luk (awesome photographer) and  everyone else, who I can’t remember the names of (my bad, sorry!).

Every year they blow me away with their attention to detail, the level of proffessionalism and the event follow through. Really, you are all fantastic. Thank you. I feel part of the 12×12 family, especially when you’re welcomed back with your 12th shot with cheerleading pom poms!


The sponsors  and gift bearers this year are to be thanked from the bottom of my heart. Without them the event wouldn’t happen.

Opus // Kerrisdale Cameras // Pink and Yellow Media // LensPen // The Scotiabank Dance Centre // Strap Buddy // Clipsnap

Did I say thank you?

Whats next?

We have to be patient, while the lovely Angela and Morten ramp up for the RAW Talent 2013 exhibition event on October 12 6pm at the Scotiabank Dance centre. 

It’s then, our images are revealed and on display for all to see and judge for prizes. Us competitors aren’t able to see our images until then.

I’d love it if you came along, the more the merrier !

My images from the day can be seen here : Flickr