At The Back Stage Of Canon Marathon 2017

© Ha Dao

After Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh city,the 12th Canon PhotoMarathon 2017 finishes in Hanoi, 5th November 2017. From 6 AM to 9 PM, every corner of the capital becomes the studio for photography enthusiasts aspiring to capture “Hanoian Smiles”, “Minimalism” and “Life On Pavements”. The topics are not new, but taking creative and beautiful pictures is participants’ biigest challenge.

© Ha Dao
© Ha Dao

While participants are running all over the streets looking out for winning moments, the atmosphere in the judges’ room is no less exciting. What makes a photo stand out from thousands of others? Let’s sneak into the room and see how the three judges Hai Thanh, Hai Dong and Justin Mott deliberate their final decisions.

© Ha Dao

Photographer Hai Thanh
To me, this is a very objective contest as we as judges are open to share our own opinions. The deliberating process is tense yet extremely interesting. Through it, I, Hai Dong and Justin have a chance to voice our thoughts about particular photos. We have a lot of debates but until now I think we click really well.

What is discussed most is the content in photos, as outstanding ones must have interesting content besides attractive composition. I especially care about it and always try to fight for it. There are photos which I know will surely please the crowd because they look likeable, but as a judge, I cannot pick those that I don’t personally appreciate. There are times when my choice is totally different from Justin’s, then we try to convince one another and end up compromising by voting. Photos that get 2/3 votes of the judges will make it.

There are no photo contest as crowded as Canon Marathon, this is also a gathering, like a festival. Do relax and enjoy, but like in any contest, you have to respect the rules. First and foremost your photos have to be attractive to look at, nobody can deny the importance of techniques. After that, think about how to take a photo that speaks. It is much more difficult and requires a lot of practice. After all, photos are meant to tell stories. Only after you’re able to do so can your photography be meaningful.

© Ha Dao

Photographer Justin Mott
I feel extremely excited when I get the honor of judging a competition like this. It’s fun to see such enthusiasm for photography and the varieties of ways people interpret a theme.

We go through the first round pretty quickly, leaving out photos that don’t fit the theme and don’t have the aesthetic. My advice is don’t go with your instinct. Some people hear a topic, they have an idea right away and end up taking the same photo as everybody else’s. If you can look past that idea and delve a bit deeper, that’s how you’re gonna win. Also I’ve seen people getting really lazy, they don’t get out of the arena or just take pictures of their friends. My advice is try to leave the location and go for something natural. Because what’s natural is what most people don’t have and if you get a great moment, you’re gonna win. Setting up is the easy way to do but the result is really cliched and the judges are gonna know right away. Be patient, push yourself.

The judges are often from all sorts of background and we have different ideas what should go into a photograph, so we argue all the time. The fun part is how the audience debate about the final results. I love that people are having a discussion.

© Ha Dao

Photographer Hai Dong
Photos are projected on a screen for all the judges to see. There is only 5 seconds to look at each, so often photos that have impressive composition, light and many layers catch our attention quickly. Of course we have different tastes but we can all agree on works that suit the topic, are visually beautiful and contain stories.

It is actually tough to capture a good image in two hours. Putting ourselves in the participants’ shoes, I’m not sure we can even make it. Compared to the last years, this year participants are much more hardworking and willing to explore. There are photos that don’t look so attractive but have a moving story. It’s a shame that some works with very good stories have a plastic bag right in the foreground, ruining the composition. I and Justin joke that let’s just crop out the plastic bag and give the award to that picture. Sometimes, you just need a clean, carefully shot picture in order to make it in the next round, so do pay attention to details.

Now let’s look back at some winning photos at Canon Marathon 2017 with Matca!