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The Color Run 2015 in Paris: Tips on Photographing a Colorful Running Event

With the return of sunny days, each major city explodes with outdoor events, attracting not only thousands of participants, but also photographers, professional and amateur alike. After all, isn't it fun to do some event photography? This year, I decided to add more color into my photos and went to photograph The Color Run in Paris. This experience gave me some valuable insights that I would like to share, and hopefully they will inspire you to photograph The Color Run of your own.

The Color Run, also called "The Happiest 5K On The Planet", is a fun 5 km running (walking, crawling, jumping, etc.) un-timed marathon, where the participants in white T-shirts get sprinkled with color powder along the way and end their race at a giant party. With its growing popularity in the United States and worldwide, this event strives to promote health and happiness by bringing the community together in a colourful and exciting way.

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On the day of the run, the weather forecast promised beautiful sunshine, so I decided to give it a go and to capture some action in colour. A quick search on the internet provided all the necessary information about the locations, as well as the start and finish times of the race. I planned to go directly to the finish line, expecting to see most of the colorful participants there. In Paris, the race departed from Hôtel de Ville, continued along the Seine river and finished on Iéna bridge, in between Trocadero and the Eiffel tower. What a perfect setting!

My biggest concern, however, was camera safety. The powder used during the race is cornstarch mixed with food coloring, tasteless and harmless for people, but quite harmful for cameras and lenses. I looked through several photographers' blogs and saw images of cameras covered in colored powder... not the most exciting view! The cornstarch sticks very easily inside cameras and lenses, becomes very difficult to clean fully and can therefore damage the equipment irreparably. The last thing I wanted was to damage my camera, so I looked for ways to protect my gear.

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The best way to keep your camera intact is to use an underwater camera case: if it can protect from water, it will definitely protect from color dust. If you are not a fan of underwater photography, some rain protection will also do, coupled with a cheap UV filter to protect the lens. As a quick solution, ziplock bags may help (be sure to secure it with tape around the lens). Obviously, the less secure the protection, the further away you want to be from the color dust. I decided to go with a RainSleeve and my cheapest 50 mm lens that I rarely use, keeping in mind that if the colour clouds got too dense and dusty, I'd rather stay away completely than risk my camera.

On the day of the event I headed directly to the finish line on Iéna bridge in search of the most colorful participants. The Color Run is a paid event, so in order to be in the middle of the colorful crowd you need to be a participant yourself (with your best camera protection, of course!). As a spectator, I stayed behind the fence surrounding the event, not only looking for people to throw color in the air to capture it, but also so see the direction of the wind to avoid the color cloud. This is what it looked like:

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After spending some time around the finish line, I decided it was getting too risky for the camera and had a better idea: since the finish line of The Color Run was right next to the Eiffel tower, then the tower itself would be the best vantage point to photograph the event from the top and keeping the camera safe at the same time!

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The view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower was truly impressive and definitely worth it! With Trocadero and La Defense in the background, I could not have asked for a better setting. I took a few photos of the view and the shadow of the Tower itself, and then waited for the massive color outburst, announced every 15 minutes by the DJ on stage (a screen with a countdown timer on the stage announced exactly when to get ready) and I set the camera on Continuous shooting mode, as everything happens very quickly.

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Happy with the results, I ended my adventure with a good cup of coffee and a croissant in a nearby café.

Tips on photographing The Color Run in your city:

  • Safety above all! Make sure to protect your camera against the color powder: if your protection is not completely sealed, stay away from the color cloud and use a longer zoom lens.
  • Protect yourself by wearing sunglasses or even swimming goggles and a disposable respiratory mask if you plan to be in the middle of the events, along with darker clothes that you would not mind getting covered with a splash of color.
  • Think strategically for the best vantage point: from a high vista or in the middle of the crowd, depending on how well your camera is protected.
  • Notice the direction of the wind to avoid being caught in a color cloud.
  • Finally smile and enjoy the Happiest 5K On The Planet! It's all about color and fun!

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If you happen to photograph The Color Run in your city, share your photos with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.