A WINNING EXPERIENCE AT CANON PHOTOMARATHON: MARK ANTHONY LIM

Mark Anthony Lim was the winner of Canon PhotoMarathon XIV in 2016. He wowed judges with his lively perspectives and spirited captures. In light of the upcoming Canon PhotoMarathon on 23rd September, we find out about his competition experience and his takeaways.

Winner of Canon PhotoMarathon Mark Anthony Lim at Oarai Isosaki Shrine, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan during the CPM Asian Championship this May, 2017.

What was your experience with CPM like? Can you walk us through the process from start to finish?

I started joining CPM in the Philippines back in 2011 Vigan, Ilocos Sur, when I was a year-old hobbyist photographer. The Regional Canon PhotoMarathon is a fun-filled, full-day photography challenge competition where we go through a 6-hour long journey to create the best captures for three mysterious themes unveiled only on the day itself.

A briefing will be conducted at the chosen site before the first theme is revealed with a two-hour time limit for participants to go around the location, think of an idea to show their creativity, and finally submit a photo that best depicts the theme, before the next theme is announced.

It’s not only a day of exploration, but interaction and learning, as there are testing areas demonstrating the quality and high precision of Canon products, free photo prints, equipment cleaning, and as the results are judged, participants can even learn tips from Canon Professional Photographers and Ambassadors.

“Kawaii” | Kairaku-en Garden, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/1.8 | 1/80s | ISO 160

With the Asian Championship, 18 contestants from different countries around Asia (all Grand Prize Winners from the Regional Canon Photomarathon) gather for an all-expense paid trip to Japan to vie for the prestigious title of “Asia Champion”. The 9-day trip to Japan, specifically to Ibaraki and Tokyo, includes a mentorship with Japanese Professional Landscape Photographer, Goto Aki, who followed us throughout the trip.

Having a mentor helped us learn more about photography and we returned to our countries with new knowledge and skills that made us better.

After arrival, our packed itinerary had us visiting locations such as Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a Guinness-Book-of-World-Records tallest Buddha statue was; events like the sunrise in Oarai Isosaki Shrine; as well as places like the Nakaminato Fish Market, Hitachi Seaside Park, Fukuroda Falls, Yokohama Chinatown, Cup Noodle Museum, Tsukiji Market and J-League Soccer at Nissan Stadium.

“Ibaraki Way of Living” | Nakaminato Fish Market, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/4 | 1/500s | ISO 125

The last theme challenge was held at Asakusa District in Tokyo where all of us challenged ourselves to take the best photo of the Sanja Matsuri Festival – one of the great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. The award ceremonies were held later in the evening that day.

The Canon PhotoMarathon Asian Championship (CPMAC) 2017 didn’t just include three themes, but six! Two were revealed earlier while the other four were on-the-spot. Special themes like the Ibaraki Challenge had participants submitting their best photos depicting the beauty of Ibaraki, while on-the-spot challenges included “Lights and Lines” at the Kawasaki Factory Nightscape, “Happiness” at Tsukiji Market, and “Power and Exposure” during the Sanja Matsuri Festival in Tokyo. Those had 2-hour limits while participants could take their best picture for the two main pre-released challenges through the entire trip.

The trip wasn’t all about the competition as we ended our journey with a big smile when we visited the happiest place on earth – Disneyland!

CPMAC opened doors for all of us as we shared each other’s experiences and knowledge on how we could improve our creativity. At the end of the day, all of us were winners.

What was your daily routine  during the competition?

Before the start of the CPMAC, no one knew what to expect. The itinerary  as only given to us during the meet-up, with the schedule loaded with places to visit. After arriving at each location, we had a tour guide and bus deliver us through our strict timeline.

My daily routine would include a power breakfast before heading to different locations with ample time to complete our theme challenges, with meal breaks and the day ending with a photo review by our mentor, Goto Aki. We got different call-times to start the day, and although it sounds like the trip was very tiring, it was truly filled with funny and amazing moments.

“Daily Life in Yokohama” | Yokohama Tokyo, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/5.6 | 1/200s | ISO 100

What were some of the most memorable moments in Japan?

We had to wake up at 2 am for our second day to capture the sunrise at Oarai Isosaki Shrine. It was very memorable as we had limited rest time prior, but our excitement eclipsed that. We arrived at our location at 4 am and we needed to move fast as sunrise was early, while preparing our gears and battling the cold weather. It was very windy and I thought at first that I wouldn’t get a sharp shot because my whole body was shaking from the cold! Nonetheless we managed to get some amazing photos.

“Oarai Isosaki Shrine” | Oarai, Isohamacho, Higashiibaraki District, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/22 | 20s | ISO 100

What sort of prep work did you do for the competition?

For almost 6 years, I was an APS-C DSLR user and it was my first time joining a competition with a full-frame camera. Although the functions are quite comparable, switching cameras was a little tricky because of its weight and number of new physical buttons. However, I realised that there’s no easy way to a new experience. After that, I made sure that whenever I had some spare time, I’ll always go out with my full frame to test the different functions and uses.

I watched a lot of videos about how I can fully utilise my new gear, and since I only have EF-S lenses and it doesn’t fit my full frame camera, I tried to save up to get my own EF lenses. I also prepared myself physically to make sure that my body is ready for all the activities that we had to go through during the 9 competition days.

“Sanja Matsuri Festival” |Asakusa District, Tokyo, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/14 | 1/30s | ISO 100

“Dinagyang Warrior” | Iloilo City, Philippines
Canon EOS 500D | f/4 | 1/500s | ISO 100

We understand you had a Canon EOS 70D before this. After switching, what are your first impressions of the full-frame camera?

I was very shocked but excited when I finally got my own full-frame camera. Aside from its physical differences from APS-C, one thing I found difficult at first were the professional functions. But after I learned the basics, I was amazed. I thought I had a camera with the best quality previously but shifting to full frame proved to me that it was way better than the APS-C.

“Kalivungan Smile” | Cotabato City, Philippines
Canon EOS 70D | f/1.8 | 1/250s | ISO 100

What other positive experiences have you noticed after some time of use? 

I noticed a lot of big improvements, especially with the quality it produced. The most visible difference is the field of view. It is indeed wider than APS-C and perfect for creating a great story.

Another benefit is that it lets my photos become more dynamic by having high ISO performance with lesser noise, which is better in low light situations. With the advanced focusing system, high dynamic system and greater number of AF points, I was able to produce sharp, crisp and true-to-life photos that I have never experienced before.

“Matain Ruins” | Zambales, Philippines
Canon EOS 70D | f/22 | 1/50s | ISO 100

How did a full-frame camera help, both for your own shoots and during the competition?

With its high dynamic system, I became more interested in exploring the beauty of photography. I can attest to the superb quality of the photos produced as I do lesser post-processing on the PC nowadays. The high quality of images in terms of colour, sharpness and fine details is the key to a perfect shot.

With its additional in-camera editing system and creative multiple functions, it also improved my skill in creating a story through photography.

“Boracay Sunset” | Aklan, Philippines
Canon EOS 70D | f/14 | 1/400s | ISO 400

What are some of the strengths of a full frame that you find helped you achieve a shot otherwise not possible with a regular DSLR?

One perk of using a full frame camera is its ability to use lenses at their designated focal length. For example, a 50mm will be equivalent to a 75mm when used on an APS-C but stay 50mm on a full frame.

Another advantage would be that it has the ability to make less image noise, by means of larger photo pixels that collects more light that decreases image noise. It is very useful in low light situations like long exposure photography, which I always do whenever possible.

“Candle Light Festival” | Oriental Mindoro, Philippines
Canon EOS 500D | f/7.1 | 1.3s | ISO 400

Given the tight timeline, how did you operate under pressure?

I am very comfortable working under pressure and it stretches my mind. I personally always made sure to keep calm in critical situations with tight timelines, so this benefitted me a lot and was the strategy I used during the Canon PhotoMarathon Singapore (CPMSG) XIV last year and this year’s CPMAC.

“Marina Bay” | Singapore
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/22 | 30s | ISO 100

What was your thought process as you went around accumulating shots, and how did you determine “winning” shots?

I always think of the possibilities of the winning shot before going around. It’s like having a Plan A, B and C. I’ll move from plan to plan if the previous doesn’t work out and consider accumulating different ideas. With tight timelines, I stick to only one or two ideas. Aside from the composition and technicalities, to create an impactful image that is creative and dynamic, that differs among the rest of the participants, are the keys to winning.

“Silk Weaver” | Bangkok, Thailand
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/22 | 1/8s | ISO 500

What do you think judges are looking for this year?

I think what judges will look for this year is an image that will tell how a photographer approached his passion, by means of showing how they learn to see things through extensive exploring and figuring out an interesting story that will matter not only to themselves but to anyone else.

“Supertrees Reflection” | Singapore
Canon EOS 70D | f/4.5 | 1/500s | ISO 100

How do you think a competition like this helps to promote photography, or what are some of the effects the competition has had on yourself and friends around you?

By gathering all photography enthusiasts in one event with a common goal of winning the competition, everyone finds out new things during the competition and learns in the process. It definitely makes the public become more aware about photography, which is why there’s a lot of people are picking up photography.

As I always join photo contests, the Canon PhotoMarathon boosts my creativity in producing an interesting story that will matter to the public, and by learning from my mistakes, I become more experienced. The truly meaningful thing about being a photographer is by sharing. I always feel good when my audience enjoys the way I interpret a story.

“iLight Singapore” | Singapore
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/22 | 61s | ISO 100

What was the most rewarding takeaway from this competition experience?

The most rewarding takeaway from this competition wasn’t just the prizes but also the experience of a lifetime. Knowing each other’s life stories and learning from those experiences are key reward examples. I think that the camaraderie we built with each other will last forever.

“Batu Caves” | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Canon EOS 70D | f/4.5 | 1/250s | ISO 2000

What would be your own advice to budding enthusiasts who are keen to take part in the competition?

Things in this world are difficult before they become easy. They are meant to rouse and not to discourage. For those enthusiasts who are keen to take part – enjoy the whole competition and be yourself.

Don’t tire of developing your artistic skills and don’t be afraid to compete against the others as this contributes to your success. As the saying goes, “try and try until you succeed”.

“Amazed” | Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f/4 | 1/640| 100

In the end, all of us have one thing in common, and that is to show the world how beautiful it is, how amazing life is and to share those life experiences through our passion in photography.

To see more of Mark Anthony Lim’s work, check out his Instagram and blog.

First published: Canon EOS World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: