Kanata parkrun has been going for just over a year now and in that time we’ve amassed over 1,000 photos from our events. In this blog I’ll tell you a little bit about our first year of photographing Kanata parkrun, how we do it and what we hope to achieve.
Parkrun happens every week, in the same place on the same course. That’s one of the special things about parkrun; it’s consistent, reliable and predictable. While this might sound a little dull and certainly repetitious, parkrun photographs reveal that it is anything but monotonous; the variety of runners who take part, their personal motivations and experiences provide an almost endless selection of unique moments that can be captured against the backdrop of the ever-changing Canadian landscape.
Here in Ottawa we experience a large climatic seesaw from -35°C to +35°C, with a corresponding change in scenery with each season. While it can make running and organizing parkruns a little harder, it provides a fantastic range of colours and lighting as the weather changes and the environment follows suit. We’re very lucky to have the Kanata parkrun at the Beaver Pond because it is such a beautiful location and provides so many different backdrops for our photos. The course consists of some wooded trails with a few ‘undulations’, as we call them, some tarmac path through an Arboretum, all around a small little lake populated by ducks, geese, loons, herons, cormorants and osprey, along with an assortment of deer, chipmunk and squirrels that are often found scampering across the course or watching our runners as they pass by.
However, despite the array of images that can be captured, plenty of thought and effort goes into taking photos, collecting them, processing them and then sharing them. Maybe you’ve taken a quick snap and posted it on the Facebook page of your home parkrun, maybe you’ve seen a volunteer photographer on your course and wondered where the pictures go, maybe you’ve seen yourself in a run report.
Whatever your level of involvement in parkrun photos, some things are the same for every parkrun and some things are different depending on the preferences and expertise among the volunteers at each particular parkrun. I think it’s important to point out that none of us at Kanata are professional photographers and we’re pretty new to this, so we’re learning as we go along and we’re really keen to hear from everyone else about how they photograph their events and what works for them. We always ensure that we’re following the parkrun guidelines on use of photos and social media, which you can read here and here and we regularly engage our runners, highlighting the use of photos and encouraging contributions, during our pre-run briefing.
So back to the basics, first of all, parkrun establishes a page on each course website for photos that is linked to a Flickr group set-up by the parkrun HQ. You can find a link to the page in the menu option on the home page, appropriately titled ‘photos’. Maybe you’ve never taken a look here. To be honest before I started volunteering at Kanata I’d usually head straight to the results page and had probably never looked at the photos page.
On the photos page, pictures that have been uploaded into the Flickr group automatically appear on the website. Your photos can appear here in just a few steps! To get them on the website create a Flickr account, once you’ve done that join the Flickr group for the parkrun where you want to share your photos (there is a link on each photos page to the respective Flickr group). Upload your photos to your Flickr photostream and then add them to the Flickr group.
Here at Kanata we focus on Facebook and some of our pictures get reposted there but all of them can be found on the website. Other parkruns have Twitter or Instagram accounts and do a great job posting photos there, hopefully, once we have a little bit more volunteer capacity we can setup accounts of our own and find someone to expand our social media sharing.
There are 21 members in the Kanata Flickr group and a total of 1,046 photos have been uploaded in just over a year, averaging about 20 photos a week. While we often encourage our parkrunners to contribute to this group the majority of photos are added by core team volunteers, I myself have uploaded 319 photos, Linda Newton has uploaded 250 and Keith Baldwin has 145. Taking the photos, editing and uploading them can be time consuming and some weeks we have had a dedicated photographer on our volunteer roster, usually Keith, to help manage the photography.
While Keith uses a DSLR Canon, Linda and I use Android smartphones. This means that the photos we capture can vary enormously in quality and style. The quality of Keith’s camera means that his photos are always clear and in focus, with great lighting and he rarely does much more than crop his shots, whereas I will almost always use a variety of post-photography editing tools to enhance the images, balancing out light levels, sharpening them and adding filters to really accentuate the colours. Keith can use his camera to capture fabulous shots of runners at distance as well close-ups of other parkrun activities, such as our one-year anniversary celebrations.
In comparison I’m always looking for new angles, creative shots and photos of our runners that they would be proud to post on their Instagram feeds, if they have them, in order to compensate for the lower quality camera. I try to bring my communications experience to bear when I’m taking pictures, finding ways to feature iconic parkrun imagery to contextualise images and capture moments that encapsulate a narrative within a single shot, whether that’s dynamic running images or simply someone having their barcode scanned by the smartphone app for the first time. In order to save time I use my phone’s editing tools and then add my photos to our Flickr group directly from my phone using the Flickr app.
The run reports
I usually write the Kanata parkrun reports and it’s important to me that I can use images that capture the effort and enjoyment of our runners. I also want to ensure that our use of images conveys the values of parkrun that I love so much, the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. I’ll always look through the photos in our Flickr photostream after our latest parkrun to find pictures that will capture that. Every week I’ll pick out the best pictures and then try to arrange them chronologically, featuring the prerun briefing, the start, the run and then finishers and sometimes the postrun coffee and results processing.
Sure it’s great to have people sprinting through the finish line, capturing the first few runners, and that’s no doubt what you tend to think of when you think about race photos, professional pictures often of the winners, arms raised with a broken ribbon stretched tight across their chest, but I also want to capture the walkers, the runners with dogs, the families running together, the parkrun tourists, the marshals standing in the cold.
Which brings me back to the ever-changing scenery. Here at Kanata we are very lucky to have an absolutely beautiful course, the pond and the trail reflect so many features of the changing seasons, with stunning red leaves in the fall, a frozen lake and snow in the winter and a vibrant spring as the trees come back to life. As the seasons and the temperature change so do our runners, from scorching hot summer days where some have been known to go topless and even run barefoot to the depths of winter when facemasks freeze, volunteers double glove and some runners may even strap on snowshoes.
These extremes combined with new faces from the many tourists who visit the Kanata parkrun and the new runners joining us each week, mean that with a little bit of effort there’s always something new to photograph each week.
Tristan Maclean, Kanata parkrun
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