Wednesday 18 August 2021

More Free Download Events - inc Winchester, Southampton, Basingstoke, Brentwood, Cambridge 2021

listening carefully for the good news

Well we all need a bit of upside and good news, mainly because summer seems to have cancelled itself for August in a moment of madness (making training conditions IDEAL at the moment!), and frankly I don't want to be in a camping queue to Cornwall either. Nandos has run out (but strangely not in Northern Ireland or Ireland, so it's not a supply issue in Mainland Europe), and the Olympics are over, the Japanese Grand Prix is cancelled (how coincidentally), we brace ourselves for the start of October and the beginning of Brexit proper (when all the excuses for European companies not having to register for UK product standards end, and they decide they just can't be bothered to sell in the UK). On the upside - I'm not fleeing for my life from a highly intelligent, well armed religious extremist enemy either, nor begging for help after leaving all my worldly possessions behind. The only thing that separates ourselves from that is luck itself, and these days that's getting a bit thin on the ground too with Covid deaths actually higher than they were this time last year and we had eat out to get caught out.
But - enough about all that for now...

Are we at the Pit Stop yet ?

I'm sure this is just a hiatus in a school summer holidays that haven't quite happened as what I really needed a chance to rest and recover from the successful Mighty Hikes from July. My kids haven't really thanked me for the travel to many far and distant wonderful places to sit and watch the world go by - but Colchester Zoo was a high point !

Battle Unicorns at Colchester Zoo

So tell me (you cry) - what is the actual good news ?

ALL of these events listed below are now free images for the participants - with some significant fun to be had for many of you. It remains our goal to "make people happy (through sport photography)" and we continue being able to deliver all our 2021 and future events with free images. Suggestions on how we could make you even happier ? - always welcomed !

If there is one thing that we are seeing right now is "Covid Entry Anxiety" - many races are reporting slower than normal takeup and that in turn is affecting their pre-race budget planning. Perhaps you are waiting until the last minute to ensure their race entries are not dashed by the Goverment Covid plans, and then something else comes along anyway, or you're fine with your training motivation - because you've reset your running habits and you're happy with that ? Or just avoiding crowds is something you prefer right now ?

Choose the right event to avoid the crowds and get motivated

But remember there is nothing like a goal to motivate - many of these races are in the next few months - so a short term goal to get you back out there and plan those last four to five weeks properly (or indeed - badly) !! All the events are outside - and you should be able to make your own safe space when waiting prior to the race, or indeed - also wear a mask until you get running. 

So - what are you waiting for ?

Enter through the websites linked below !

Date Event Event Website
Sat-28/08/2021 Mighty Hike - Rob Roy
Sun-29/08/2021 Arundel 10k
Sat-04/09/2021 Mighty Hike - Jurassic Coast
Sat-04/09/2021 Mighty Hike - Lake District
Sat-04/09/2021 UltraX Summer Trail Series
Sun-05/09/2021 Southampton Marathon, Half and 10k
Sun-05/09/2021 Mighty Hike - Jurassic Coast
Sat-11/09/2021 Mighty Hike - Wye Valley
Sat-11/09/2021 REP Adur swim
Sun-19/09/2021 Winchester Half Marathon
Sun-19/09/2021 REP Worthing Aquathlon
Sun-03/10/2021 Clarendon Marathon
Sun-03/10/2021 Basingstoke Half and 10k
Sun-10/10/2021 aCR Islington 1 hour
Sat-16/10/2021 Cambridge Town and Gown 10k
Sun-17/10/2021 Cambridge Half Marathon

Entries for Brentwood 2022 only open in September - so you'll just have to be patient !

I'd like a race please...

Quality coverage

So what makes for good free photo coverage ? Just a finish line picture ?, or something on the course ?
We believe from our 17 years of experience that it means the following:
  • Enough locations to tell a story
  • A sequence of photos from each location
  • Context in the shots for the story
  • Got to get the finish !
  • A good gallery search facility that is 100% accurate
  • Well framed and aesthetically pleasing shots (and exposed correctly!)
  • Easy download to any device
I could go into more detail about this and how to do it - but I'd be giving away a load of company knowledge - gained through hard work over the years - if I did that here. Suffice to say a handful of a few hundred photos taken by some volunteers and posted onto facebook for you to surf through - isn't what you as a runner want, and nor is it going to make you happy if that race is advertised as "Free race photos" !

As more races claim "free race photos" - I'm sure to be explaining what that means for many years to come - so get with it sooner and make sure you see a known brand behind the races you enter ! (or ask the race if you don't know who they intend to do the work !!)

AI image tagging - does it work ?

AI or not AI tagging ?
I had the joy of being approached by an AI tagging company the other day too. A quick test of their system on their example gallery with a few random runner numbers showed up a runner with 20 photos from a recent event. Awesome ! but not. 4 of those photos were someone completely different. that's a 20% error rate for the runner. Not only that - those four photos won't get seen by the runner who IS in the photo. SO it's really more like a 40% error rate. The errors mess up the results for two sets of people - and it's a complete waste of the photographers time because unless it's magically re-tagged - it will never get seen. And who is going to re-tag it ? (I won't even start with being tagged as an out of focus background dude - which nobody needs in their official race photo packs).
AI basically does a statistical probability guess on the number, and there you go - it's "good enough" if you think someone only seeing 80% of their race photos is your aim !

But this is the thing - AI and face recognition software does "a" job, but not to my mind a "good enough" job, but then I've spent 17 years doing tagging. I know the errors and catch outs. I can read a number based on one corner of a digit, I know when to expect four digits instead of three, and I know when I can't see the last digit (yes leg number wearers - that's you that is). And I know when I have a sequence of shots - that the probability of the number being the one from the similar frames each side are the same number - or not. Or putting a whole number together from bits from several different frames. Or simply recognising them from earlier when we had figured out their number and now they've put a coat on. Software engineers working on visual recognition systems (or computational imagery) rarely even refer to the previous or next images in a sequence - which for the flapping arm or sheet of bib number - can make all the difference to you getting your race photos.

It's really a Galaxian, this is my favourite pic2go barcode

This is why we use the bespoke pic2go barcodes - because when they work - they are 100% right. and if it's not sure - it doesn't make a guess like AI or estimate like face recognition - it just serves up a "don't know" - and it leaves it for us to figure out. Obviously if people put pins and stickers onto their barcodes - then they won't work and then we end up getting more into the manual quality control - but that just proves the point even more - pic2go barcodes (or pictags as they are sometimes called) - work ! Having a computer guess statistically for you with 80% confidence levels - means you get 80% results. Not good enough if you're serious about supplying images to customers !!

Next time:
Free photos, race entries, quality coverage and accurate results ! what more do you want ? Live photos on the day ? Video snippets ? Yes we can do that too - with Pic2go technology - live photos on the day, and I can tell you more about that another time. Roll on having 5G everywhere though!!

Until then - make sure you have your final entries in for the Arundel 10k ( at the end of the month and we will see you there !

The Arundel 10k - which also runs through the Castle Gate set of Wonder Woman...

until next time, stay safe, train well !


Friday 6 August 2021

Dedham Vale - Macmillan Mighty Hike 2021 - now live

 It's been a busy month of July with 5 Macmillan Mighty Hikes - and the last gallery of the season before the Summer break is now live and online.

The most recent has been Dedham Vale - a lovely walk along the flood plains and rolling hills along the edge of the river Stour that makes the border between Suffolk and Essex - ending practically next to the famous pond that Constable painted called the Hay Wain -

Location of the Hay Wain - the water is a bit deeper now

For Dedham Vale - The free pic2go shareable gallery with the official Macmillan branding can be registered for here: and the backup gallery with the ability to purchase upgrades to high resolution files is here: 

We continue to see the event industry pushing towards digital downloads being included in the race package for participants - with the London Landmarks Half Marathon last weekend also providing them - this time taken by Marathon Photos - but it clearly indicates that the good events understand the logic for sponsors, marketing, event value and of course participants !

Soon you will only have to put up with me explaining the joys of a galleries accurate photo search, "good" race photography, and the quantity of images and locations provided as part of a comprehensive image service - suffice to say if you're scrolling through an "official" few albums on an events facebook page taken by one person at a couple of locations - you're not going to be looking at a comprehensive 25,000+ image gallery that has been catalogued accurately or provided for the participants best interests at heart !

Talking of accurate photo search, I've had about three different companies come to me extolling the benefits of their AI number recognition this month and the joys of "selfie search". Great - when nothing else will work, ok I get that face stuff if you don't actually have a number, or after doing the numbers you have the 5% of people who's demographic can't put a number on the front of a shirt properly (yes - leg numbers I'm looking at you). So - I picked one random number (709 in this case) and looked at their sample gallery. Out of 20 images - 4 of them were not them - that's a 20% error for the person I was looking at - but also - for those showing in the wrong gallery - they will never find their images. So remind me again - why should I pay for a more expensive system that is 20% wrong and worse than our current system and doesn't tag my master images ? It doesn't make sense does it ! (And don't start me on the GDPR for selfie searches...) As a competitor I don't want to see pictures of random people, and I trust that you don't either !

So in the meantime - get your entry in for the Southampton Marathon, Half Marathon or 10k - because they have free race photos and it's a great course !

Additionally - we have now introduced a new "upgrade" price point for the High Resolution files for events where there are free downloads (and we have backdated that for all the events we have ever done with free downloads - from 2013) - which means we will only charge the incremental price for the significantly better resolution which is good enough for you to make A3 prints from. Also we have reduced the price of prints - which also use the high resolution file data - to be an incremental price above the screen resolution free downloads. The only thing we can't change is the postage and packing costs of the printing suppliers - so it may be better to just purchase the high resolution upgrade and get them printed at your shop of choice !

Last Mighty Hike of July

Here's a few pictures from Dedham Vale - just checking the map, I didn't realise the source of the Stour was just up from a village I lived in when I was a kid - in a place called Brinkley. Anything north of here goes to the Cam, and the Wash and everything to the south goes to the Stour and the North Sea Suffolk Coast.

all good at the 7miles

views out over the Stour Valley and river plain

They had special water bottles

Excellent Tutus

It's a team effort

Hard work pays off

Cheers for the memories !

Constables house is ok

dragged along the last bit

it seemed all good at the start

off they went !

cheers !

that hill at 6miles

That hill at 13 miles !

long views back over the fields of sugar beet to the river behind at 13 miles

Olympics fun

We have all probably seen a bit of the Olympics. Seb who used to work with us in the office was out there covering the Irish Rowing team for a Dublin based news media agency Sportsfile - he has two weeks trapped in a room or at an event, with only 15 minutes outside time to get food or necessaries - it's a massive challenge - for the photographers as well as the athletes. 

Talking of which - here's a few photos of our fabulous silver medal winning 19 year old 800m runner Keely Hodgkinson. She came 5th at the U17 National Cross Country Championships in 2018 #211 - - for those of an athletics history bent - have a read of who came third too that year !

Always good to see an olympian in the making ! One of the perks of this job...

Leading from the front at the famous Parliament Hill Start

Grinding up the hill on the return

Into the final corner

Final Sprint in - took that place !

Catching them at the last

So, enjoy the last few days of the Olympics, have a great August off (because nobody is organising events during a Covid summer holiday - because 6 months ago in January/February we were in a pretty awful place nationally and nobody (sensibly) was going to risk it).

Please keep careful out there and safe - a friend who is double jabbed still was bedridden for two weeks with Covid - so goodness knows how bad it might have been otherwise - so please please get your vaccinations and where possible - wear a mask.

I had so so many people ask if I could use their phones to take photos of them at the mighty hike medal shots - and the simple answer is no - because what happens if someone has given me an infected phone, and then I touch all the other phones ? - and why do you think I'm stood here wearing an FFP3 mask ? I don't want to be the super spreader, or the super-vector for this thing - and neither should you. And remember - you don't know that you have it until it's too late... so prevention is better than cure.

So until next time - which is the end of the month - have a great Summer