The 12X12 from a Marathoner’s Perspective

Posted by on December 16, 2009 at 10:53 pm.

Once everyone had a chance to recuperate from last Saturday’s 12 hour marathon of the mind and body, we sent out an email to thank all of our wonderful participants for spending a truly amazing day with us. We took this opportunity to also request for some stories from the experience, hoping to entice some to offer a few words to share with everyone who took part. Based on the conversations we had with marathoners throughout the day, we knew there were many memorable and often hilarious moments worth reminiscing (or wincing) about. Imagine our thrill when we received this entry from one of our most enthusiastic marathoners!

This individual personifies everything that this marathon was meant to achieve. We wanted everyone to have fun – she was never without her winning smile. We wanted to challenge people’s creativity – oh, her brain was on overdrive alright. We strove to build a family from many different communities – we can’t imagine anyone not gravitating to her positive energy. And we wanted to make everyone famous! Ok, maybe not Annie Leibovitz famous, but gosh darn it, we’re going to work our fingers to the bone to give everyone a grand showcase to beat all showcases!

Now this is worth taking a break for guys, so grab a cup of something deliciously warm, sit back, and enjoy an inspiring and adventurous tale told by Marathoner #43: Elizabeth (Eli) Peña, and her equally wonderful sister Diana.

12x12 boardI do not consider myself a photographer as much as a life student and enthusiast of it. Well, The Province had a feature on the marathon and without much hesitation I decided to enter. Luckily I did not hesitate too much as the event sold out in no time. Well, I was borrowing a camera from my sister but would not get it until Thursday evening. I had three options and soon selected the Pentax ME and I spent most of the day Friday getting comfortable with the camera and the optional lenses.  I headed off to Kerrisdale Camera and spoke to Oliver, who gave me lots of help and can you believe it, a used manual. I was feeling stoked but life had to burst my cocky confidence. By the evening, there was a mishap during cleaning of the lenses and panic set in. I did have two other options for cameras but also many components that did not work. I barely slept and woke up at 4:30am and was feeling calm but yet defeated. I thought about withdrawing from the event but I soon remembered why I entered, to have fun and enjoy an experience. I even thought of using my Nikon zoom but although it takes film, I thought it was somewhat ‘cheating’ since it had many auto aspects about it. Then again, most cameras have an ‘auto’ feature but I did not want to use it because part of the fun was using a classic camera. My partner in crime, my sister, decided to call our parents at this god forsaken hour as there was another possible camera to borrow. Fortunately I decided to try the Nikon FG without any idea if it would work as I did not purchase any batteries for this ‘back-up’ camera.

We headed off to the designated meeting site: Blenz Coffee in Yaletown. My sister was coming for support and as my caddy.  Once there, we befriended two nice photographers, Andrew and  Peter, who gave us some great help with shops to consider for the batteries.  My sister being the kind hearted person she is, gave both gentlemen some hand heat warmers as a thank-you.  I was feeling okay once I heard some co-marathoners asking others ‘how to put the film in’ but soon the bubble burst when Morten mentioned that this event was to bring ‘photographers together’ and by the armour that some had and the fact that some had websites, I was feeling under qualified. But my sister and I made a conscious decision to have fun!!!!!!!!!!! And fun we had.

Well, we headed off with the first theme and knowing we could not take any pictures, we decided to check out Leo’s on Granville and soon discovered much to our horror that it did not open until 10:00am.  That would mean we would be really in a disadvantage but we were going to have an adventure nevertheless.  We soon realized that there was this silence and calm among the streets of downtown Vancouver, it was almost eerie. With much anticipation and wonder, we decided to take the bus down to the beach. We headed to Kitsilano Beach and we set the ‘stage’ for the first theme: ‘My entry number’. We headed back to the headquarters knowing that we were at least two themes behind now. I brought a notebook to write ideas, areas to take pics of, themes, and important numbers like transit information. Once back at Blenz, we received the following themes, 2: ‘High hope’ and announcement of the third: ‘Nosy’.

Knowing we were now three themes behind and bursting with ideas, we headed off to Leo’s with much hope that the camera would work.  I like creativity and hoped that I could translate this into film. We soon discovered that the camera worked!!!!!! Yipee!!!! We dashed off to the bus stop and headed off to our first theme spot on the beach, talking about theme 2 and 3 along the way. Many ideas and brainstorming sessions spurted and grew as we made our way back to Kits. I think I took 20 minutes to finally commit to the taking of picture 1, angling it just so as I said a little prayer.  Before the 20 minutes, my eyes were watery, not from tears of happiness but from focusing.  Diana was able to take some pictures on her cell phone and she noticed a curious, nosy (theme 3) crow nearby. She mentioned my butt would hurt later on since I was squatting to take that first picture. No word of a lie, I think I still have butt cheeks hurting till this day.  As soon as theme 1 was shot, we went to theme 2: High Hope and wouldn’t you know it, I looked up at the tree nearby and noticed a kite nestled in the tree branches. I could not recall seeing it earlier on. Unfortunately, I only had one lens option and could not zoom in much. I tried many angles until I committed to lying down on the bench and took the picture looking up but in an angle. Did I mention the kite was an airplane!!!!

Theme 3 would have originally been the crow but as soon as we tried getting close to it, it took off. After a pit stop at the ladies room, we headed off to the off-leash dog beach. We thought about a picture of dog noses as a picture of human nostrils did not appeal to me. A dog was a more pleasing thought. Scanning the area for ideas since I did not have a dog treat on me, how was I going to make this happen when the subjects are quick and demanding. I thought about heading off to my parents for a picture of our sweet Conan, an original English bulldog, he can steal any heart.  It soon became clear what the picture was going to be. There was a little French Bulldog, so cute, running with a piece of driftwood bigger than its head.  Bean as she is known, was then grabbed up by her Master and put on her back atop of Master’s thighs while he sat and tugged at her driftwood prize tightly clenched in her mouth.  During her growling both Bean and Master touched noses – Nosy then came to be. Both Bean and Master were such great sports and I hope I captured their second nosy moment. Now, on a high, my sister and I headed off to lunch then back to headquarters.

Once back, we were now two themes behind, and in a few minutes, three. 4th theme was Blank, 5th: Loud and 6th: Wild Goose Chase. Again, we brainstormed and wrote a few things down. We left Blenz with some great ideas. After looking at the phonebook for some business numbers, we called one, explained what the idea was and were told that someone had already been to the store. Wow, great minds think alike.  As we waited for the bus to head to Burrard and 5th , we noticed a LOUD commotion on the street ahead and realized it was some sort of protest. The protesters looked naked from where we were standing but we could not take a picture since we still had to shoot the 4th theme. Oh yeah, we stood at the wrong bus stop for at least 20minutes or so – just great! Laughing all the way to the right stop, we just missed our bus but soon discovered that the one that was approaching was the better choice.

Once at the store, we were trying to convey what our idea was for a picture, but as it turned out, I was using the wrong terminology and got a quick education on proper terms for describing what I wanted to achieve with the items that I wanted to use.  We were more than grateful for the opportunity to take the picture. I just hope it worked. We soon headed back downtown for theme five.  To know what this idea was and how it turned out (hoping it does), you’ll just have to check out the pics 😉

Diana headed back to headquarters as theme 7 was soon to be announced. We were still three behind and daylight was running out on us. I headed to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see if I could find the protesters but I knew I had a million to one chance, but nevertheless I attempted the impossible. With no luck, I was having a hard time. Soon, Diana and I met up again and we finally found the inspiration for theme 5: Loud. Now, because it was literally loud, we could not hear one another and I did a dramatic mistake that hopefully will not show on the photograph. Still hung up on the mishap, Diana tried to shake me into focusing my creative idea on theme six.

Interestingly enough the inspiration came to us during brainstorming but the irony of it all, it came from right under our noses. Inspired but crunched for time, we were frantically looking for a specific sign and wouldn’t you know it, we found it but we had to export some items from the ground to the site and then of course clean it.

Theme 7 was tough since our ideas would require a lot of work and unfortunately we had little time, remember we were always three themes behind. Then, it came to us and we used another ‘nature’ to assist. It took some time but sis brought some of my rice cakes to assist with the extras during the shoot.

We then headed to headquarters for theme 8: Tie, this was one of the simplest because as we brainstormed and headed to a destination, we realized we were in a mine field of opportunities just as we passed it.  We approached some guys and a lady and they were more than accommodating. It required some kneeling on our parts, no, not the begging type but to get the scene set up. It took less than a few minutes and all of a sudden we were caught up. Hooray!!!! To Blenz we headed off to once again. Once there, we were able to warm up and relax a little, sweetness to goodness, we had finally caught up. It was also an opportunity to talk to other marathoners. It was a nice socializing time.

Theme 9: Perform, was announced sooner than we realized.  We decided to now continue to stay close to headquarters as there were only three more themes remaining and I could not afford to be behind again. Off to the streets we were for some inspiration. We found it but unfortunately, I could not capture it the way I needed to because the sun had now set. We came across another window idea and before we knew it we had our picture. It was not my ideal picture since it did not have as much creativity for me, but in retrospect, it was perfect.  We had some time to pick-up dinner on the go.

Theme 10: Flash. After much discussion during the brainstorming, I asked Diana to stay behind and call me with the next theme while I searched for my inspiration. Diana left me with some ideas but I felt mine was funny and creative.  As I walked the streets, I did feel a sense of panic since it was getting darker and the time was ticking. I could not afford a delay. Disappointed with myself I chose to go with Diana’s idea but wouldn’t you know it I was approached by a man raising funds for a charity and standing in front of me was the person I was looking for. After explaining my situation, the gentleman agreed to the picture and the flash theme took place. But let me assure you that the man in the picture was in ‘character’. Once you see it, you will understand. Feeling delighted with myself, I headed back to meet Diana.  Once I told her what happened she beamed a wondrous smile.

Theme 11: Nickel and dime. We headed back to the streets and by this time, up the hill and down the hill, the amount of walking was starting to show/feel it in our feet and bodies. It wasn’t called a Marathon for nothing. I felt that we were on the ‘Amazing race’ and only two more themes remained.  We were everywhere in such a short time and no luck. At the final hour, we had another idea and the hostel that we approached was more than accommodating. We were still in the race. We rushed back to Blenz for the final theme.

Theme 12: Panhandle. This was tough as I wanted something creative rather than the obvious. It all of a sudden came to me. Take a picture of handles of pans. We went to the hot dog stands as usually they have a pan that gets used for the onions but the two that we checked out were so busy and tightly closed in.  Diana thought of Salvation Army Christmas volunteers and their donation ball (a different and unexpected version of panhandling), but I objected. We rushed to restaurants nearby but at this time, it was their rush hour. We had less than 30 minutes now and I did not want to be disqualified. The one gentleman who drew a picture of us for funds did not want his picture taken so after a donation, we moved on. I took the obvious picture of Emma, a literal panhandler, and I am proud of it.  After the picture was taken, a friend of hers wanted to borrow $3 from her donation cap, but I had already taken the picture and only had less than 14minutes to get back to Blenz.  I only wished that I could have taken a picture of me ‘panhandling’ all day. As we rushed back to headquarters, we realized that we did not have to go as far as there were so many restaurants nearby. For that matter, we could have gone home and taken a picture of my pan handles and returned in no time.  Oh well, it was all part of the experience. As we headed back, we selected the Canada Line so we would not be disqualified.

After rewinding the film, I could not tell if it did since there was not a lot of resistance that I could feel. So I headed to the bathroom for darkness so I could open the camera without risking exposing the film too badly. By this time, our feet felt like they were two larger sizes. We were still smiling and wanted to meet at the Yaletown Brewing Co. Pub afterwards but after this marathon, these two ladies were done. We headed back home and we both massaged each other’s feet and legs, and then crashed on the sofa, all the while “It’s a Wonderful Life” played on tv.

Eli and Diana

Eli and Diana

What can I say about the experience? I was pleasantly surprised that my sister and I worked so well together and our creative ideas were amazing. I just hope that the photographs captured the ideas. Heck, I’ll be just as happy that they are in focus. The weather could not have been better! I am already designing a frame for the pictures in my head so I can display them with pride. Yes, even if they are bad. We were not expecting the great treatment from all involved.  Blenz was a great headquarters and the staff were amazing. The 12×12 Photo Marathon committee deserve our ‘hats off’. They were no less than outstanding, Angela came around and asked us for our feedback and was approachable. The endless hours of preparations, website designing, email reminders, getting sponsors, etc… is invaluable and I am sure, it was all done on their spare time. We were surprised to receive a gift card from Blenz, a bag from London Drugs, a 25% off coupon for Opus Framing, a free day pass to the Vancouver Lookout, etc… and all the door prizes. I would have been fine to even meet at someone’s driveway, let alone being offered things to entice me. As Angela put it in her email, “The one and only goal from the start was to bring people from different communities together for a social day of artistic fun and we hope we’ve been able to achieve that with the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon. We loved meeting each and every one of you and hope that you’ve created lasting friendships and have shared a spark of creativity with your fellow marathoners”  sums up the experience.  We realize that the initial entry cost does not cover much, the experience is priceless and I am thrilled to hear that this event will be on next year and possibly more than once. We are looking forward to the grand exhibit in January 2010.  And happy to report that next year my sister will also be entering the marathon and I hope to too unless she needs me as her caddy (‘bitch’) for the day!

Entry from Diana:
I think sis summed it up (in five pages ;o ) reasonably well.  Hope to see you all next year and yeah I think sis can take that ‘bitch’ title next year.  Love to all and THANK YOU to the Organizing Committee and Sponsors – You Rock Hard!  Much appreciated.

To view Eli’s photo set, click here.

Thank you Eli & Diana, for taking the time to write to us about your experience and unique perspective in such great detail. We look forward to seeing you and everyone else at the grand showcase on Saturday January 16th, 2010, the details of which will be in a press release going out later this week. Don’t forget to mark your calendars!

To everyone else that took part, if you’d like to share your own stories with us, leave us a comment below!

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