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Capture the Excitement of Dragon Boat Race

Dragon boat racing, once an ancient Chinese folk ritual to celebrate Tuen Ng Festival (aka Dragon Boat Festival), has transformed into a modern international sport in recent years. The exciting races with dragon boat athletes battling it out to the finish line and sounds of drum attract hundreds of thousands of local and tourist spectators. The annual Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races is just around the corner. Check out this article for some useful tips and skills for photographing dragon boat race so that you can record the event’s excitement as you soak up the festive atmosphere!

Pan Shots for a Sense of Speed

Title:《奮勇向前》 Club Canon Member:Leslie Chan
EOS 5D Mark III•EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM•1/25s•f/25•ISO 100
To capture the speed of the race, we can use a pan shot with a slow speed shutter. First, set the camera’s AF mode to “AI SERVO” and drive mode to “Continuous Shooting” or “High Speed Continuous Shooting”, and switch to Tv Mode or M Mode. Set the shutter speed to anywhere between 1/20s and 1/30s, and an appropriate ISO setting depending on the ambience.

Simply turn the camera to follow the dragon boat’s movement and pan horizontally, photo that captures a sharp subject with a blurred, flowing background can be created. With the flowing background adding a sense of direction and movement, the photo can highlight the sense of speed of the racing boats. To ensure image stability and a higher chance of success when shooting handheld, turn on the lens’ IS MODE 2 that is designed for panning. You can also use a monopod to make panning even easier.
To minimize the impact of camera shake during tele-shooting, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM) telephoto zoom lens with built-in optical Image Stabilizer (IS) offering shake compensation up to 4-stop shutter speed and an IS Mode 3 made for sports photography can make it easier to shoot in different scenes.
This pan shot captured the sense of speed of the race. The use of a slow speed shutter also highlighted the motion of the paddlers.

Title: 《齊齊發奮》 Club Canon member: David Chan
EOS 5D Mark III • EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM • 1/20s • f/4 • ISO500

Freeze the Splashes with a High Speed Shutter

Title: 《龍舟競渡》 Club Canon member: Tse Yung
EOS 5D Mark III • EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM • 1/2000s • f/5.6 • ISO 1250
To show the power of paddling, we can shoot with a high speed shutter to freeze the athletes’ action and the splashes as they paddle. For camera settings, Tv Mode is recommended. Set the shutter speed to approximately 1/1,000s or above and use the Auto ISO setting to ensure stable exposure. Spend some time to observe the rhythmical paddling action and you’ll see the time for the biggest splashes is the moment when the paddles leave the water and are about to enter again. You can also use the High Speed Continuous Shooting mode to ensure that the best moment is captured.
This photo captured an impressive moment by using a high speed shutter to freeze the splashes and the athletes’ action.

Title: 《力爭上遊》 Club Canon member: Yuen Wai Sum
EOS 7D • EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM • 1/1000s • f/4 • ISO 250
EOS 7D Mark II offers an incredible 10fps continuous shooting speed and a shutter release time lag of 55ms which is on par with EOS-1D X, allowing for a higher success rate to capture ultra-fast subjects.


Title: 《用盡全力,直到終點》 Club Canon member: Ryan
EOS 7D • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM • 1/400s • f/8 • ISO 500
The highlights of dragon boat racing go beyond the races itself – the athletes and the look on their faces as they fight for victory are also good photographic subjects. Pick a target subject before you shoot and set the camera’s AF Mode to “AI SERVO” for focus tracking on the subject. In general, the moment the athletes paddle gives the greatest sense of motion. Frame your shot so that the facial expressions and the muscles of their arms are included for more impressive result. As a telephoto lens is used and the action is swift, it is better that you use a fast shutter speed of approximately 1/800s.
You need to be focused and act fast to capture the split-second expressions of the athletes.

Title: 《龍舟競渡》 Club Canon member: Ryan
EOS 7D • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM • 1/500s • f/11 • ISO 500
To create feature shots or shots with greater sense of compression, you can consider using an extender such as Extender EF 1.4x III and Extender EF 2x III. The tele-end of EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM will reach 560mm after attaching Extender EF 1.4x III. But please bear in mind that the maximum aperture value will decrease by 1 stop and 2 stops respectively after Extender EF 1.4x III or Extender EF 2x III is attached.

Popular Dragon Boat Races

Starting from April till November, many dragon boat races will be held in different districts in Hong Kong. Below are some of the most popular races that will be held around Tuen Ng Festival on 20 June:

Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships

This year marks the 48th year of Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships. Being the largest single-day dragon boat racing event in Hong Kong and around the world, a total of 280 local and oversea teams comprising over 6,000 athletes will compete in the races. Be there and join in the fun with both locals and foreigners!
Date:20 June 2015
Time:8:00am to 5:00pm
Venue:Stanley Main Beach
Enquiry:2813 0564 / 2813 2586

Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race

Experience the Traditions
With over hundred years of history, the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race retains the Tanka culture and is a perfect event to experience the traditional lives in the fishing villages as you enjoy the races in the bamboo-canopied stand with the boat people spectators around you. The highlight of the event – the Big Dragon Boat Elite Gold Cup will see 10 big dragon boat teams each with 60 participants competing to the finish line. This is the most spectacular race with the highest specification.
Date:20 June 2015
Time:8:40am to 4:00pm
Venue:Aberdeen Promenade, Aberdeen Praya Road
Enquiry:8107 3488

Sha Tin Dragon Boat Race

The Best Viewing Angle
Organized by Shatin Sports Association, the Sha Tin Dragon Boat Race will take place at Shing Mun River from Banyan Bridge to Sand Martin Bridge. Spectators can cheer for the racing teams on both sides of the river. It is also a good place to take photographs at close range. So be there early!
Date:20 June 2015
Time:8:30am to 1:00pm
Venue:Shing Mun River, Sha Tin
Enquiry:852 2691 5657

Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Race and Carnival

Perfect for Families
The scale of dragon boat races at Discovery Bay may not be as big as those in the other districts, but visitors can join in the fun at the carnival held at the Discovery Bay Piazza with stage performances such as performances by the Hong Kong Disneyland Cheerleading Team as well as game booths. A perfect place for parents and kids alike to spend the day!
Date:20 June 2015
Time:8:00am to 4:30pm
Venue:Tai Pak Beach, Discovery Bay, Lantau Island
Enquiry:2238 3617 / 3651 2345
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