Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Get on your bike.

I got a new piece of photography kit recently

Well, I not exactly new since it has been sitting around in my shed for years. It's just recently I have come to appreciate how useful it is for photography.

Here it is...

No it's not some sort of re-configurable tripod, it's a bike. In fact quite an old bike, one I have used on and off(mainly off) for about 20 years.

So what has this got to do with photography?

Well, as I set out in my personal philosophy, I am a great believer that you don't have to travel the world to take great photos.

There are considerable advantages in taking photos in your local area. I find that as you get more into photography you start seeing potential photographs everywhere you go. However often you have to wait for the right light or just for the time to take it. Travel to an exotic destination and you have much less time to find the right location and wait for the right light.. Go, say to Venice, and the whole week maybe consist of continual drizzle. Stay at home and you will get another chance, 365 days a year.

However one of the big issues of local photography is transport.

Yes you can walk, but that limits you to about 5 miles from your home. However if you are time constrained, this can take 2 -3 hours, meaning you are more likely to do a mile or so on a good day.The plus however, is that by walking you get to a better appreciation of your local  environment..

Alternatively you can drive, which get's you further, but there are some problems with that.

Firstly, how many times have you been driving when you see a great scene in a perfect light?

It happens to me all the time(of course normally when I'm not carrying my camera.). However since you are in a car, you can't just stop and hop out. You need to pull over, find a safe parking spot, lock the car, and then often trek back to where you saw the shot. By then the light may of already been lost. (I'm thinking of creating some bumper stickers that say "Warning: Photographer on-board, may stop suddenly for sunsets")

The second problem is you will not believe how much you you miss when your driving. If you drive sensibly(as you should), then your eyes should be on the road, not scanning the horizon for that perfect sunset. Even at 30 m.p.h it is amazing how fast the landscape whizzes by before you have chance to take it in. Just think about today's journey to work.  How much can you remember of it?

The bike is the perfect compromise for this. On a bike you can easily do 12-15 miles in an hour. At the same time you are not cocooned in a air-conditioned glass shell, so you are more attuned to your environment. Stopping is as easy as pulling over, resting your bike against the wall and you are good to go

I discovered this recently when I was persuaded to do a charity bike ride, and thought it would be a good idea to do some training. The first time I went light, without my camera and cursed continually as I saw loads of great photos. At the same time I found myself finding new local spots I hadn't even realized existed. I found two lakes, which I had been driving past for years, a new route to the river and a place where the sunsets play over water. Even if I did not take any photo's at the time, they are know noted, someday to return.These are places I would never of found in a car.

A rapeseed at sunset

M&S distribution center

Of course there are downsides. Weather is a much bigger factor when you are on a bike. On a calm, summer day there is nothing nicer. Add some rain and wind, and the the desire to go out quickly diminishes.

Another issue is the equipment you can carry. Tripods are out, unless it's very light. Also since you are going under your own steam, weighing yourself down with lenses and camera bodies can be a problem.

One of the biggest problems, is the time to get the camera ready to use.

One thing I have noticed on a bike is that because it is fast and relatively quiet, you can easily catch the local birdlife unaware. However when you stop to take a picture, by the time you have got the camera out, the bird has caught on and flown off. Often I pass a local Buzzard sitting on a fence, but as soon as I stop, they go. Unfortunately you cannot really ride with a camera strapped round your neck.

But these are minor issues. The big plus is that you get to take great photo's of your local area. The bonus is you are getting fitter at the same time. A classic win-win.

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