Photo Impressionism at the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival

The 24th Tim Hortons® Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival is on this weekend at Centre Island. A great venue for photography with lots of colour, and the ability to be proximate to the action.

The event is a real exercise in hurry up and wait. Races last just over 2 minutes but in reality you only have about 30 seconds of good shooting depending on your location. Then there is a pause while the next race sets up. Personally I couldn’t do it without my iPod and a selection of good pod casts.

I attended yesterday with the intention of working on my impressionist photography portfolio including dragged shutter and multiple exposure technique. I also thought I would try a little infra red black and white. All in all I was happy with my images. Here’s what I learned.

Shooting Location

The action takes place on the Long Pond at Centre Island. Races run from west to east.

You are much closer to the action if you perch on the south shore but be aware that at that location you are shooting into the sun.

Lenses

I brought a 70-200 and a 500 mm lens and a FX camera. My infrared camera is a DX. The 500 was marginally okay for shots looking directly down the course. The 70-200 was great for passing shots. If I had a 300 mm I would likely have used it.

Other Equipment

Wheels! It’s a long walk from the ferry so a wheeled camera bag is a great idea.

Tripod vs mono pod. I would bring both. The boats move quite quickly and there is a lot of action to choose from so I regretted not bringing a mono pod. The tripod of course is must at 500 mm as is a remote trigger.

Neutral density filters. You can’t slow down your shutter without them. I have been using a variable ND filter which I really like. The draw back being you can’t use a lens hood.

Food and water. There are lots of concession stands but the races run every 7 minutes on average so buying food will cost you 2-3 photo opportunities. I used a cooler bag and half frozen water bottles to keep it cold at a minimum weight.

Technique

To further my impressionist photography project I tried various shutter speeds and shutter intervals. It’s hard to tell at this point what worked and what didn’t but I will post my results as I see them. But on a preliminary basis it seemed to me that multiple exposures worked best at slower speeds eg 60th and dragged shuttled seemed best at about 1/2 a second.

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