Tools For Motorcycle Travel Photography
Back in 1996, when left on my first self-guided motorcycle tour through the Swiss Alps, I said goodbye to family and friends and told them I’d write. “Take lots of photos” they said, as excited to see the dramatic mountain scenery as I. The trip was nearly two weeks long, but I packed light – other than typical riding gear, I had just three things: a good book, a Sony Minidisk player (remember those?) and a tiny Canon Elph APS film camera (with a few 36 exposure cartridges). The camera was the perfect size for a jacket pocket, and quick roadside snapshots.
I sent plenty of postcards on that trip, and took plenty of photos on that trip, which of course being on film, I needed to bring home and drop for development. Looking back, it seems positively archaic. When we do tours these days, I am uploading photographs and videos to to Flickr, Youtube and our Facebook page every day, often while we stop for fuel or a meal. Customers love this because their friends and families back home can follow along as the trip is happening. Of course, we have a few favorite gadgets to help us get this done, which I’ve listed below.
1) Apple iPhone: We’re huge Mac heads at The Lost Adventure, and next to our Macbook Pro laptops, the iPhone is our most essential bit of kit. The built in camera is usable for both still photography and HD video, but what makes the iPhone really powerful are the Apps. We can upload directly to Flickr, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter from the phone, without having to go to the laptop. It’s a treat to have the phone working away while we’re having a burger at a roadside stop (as long as we’ve got a 3G connection). Additionally – and this is huge for a motorcycle touring – you can set the phone to geo-tag the pictures and video you take so you know exactly where it was taken. When you’re on the road for two or three weeks, it can be quite a task remembering where everything was! So we always geo-tag our iPhone pictures.
The current iPhone’s resolution, combined with the various Apps, there is even less of a need to bring along a dedicated compact camera for point and shoot photos. Of course, lots of high end smartphones have similar capabilities to the iPhone, we just find Apple products a bit easier to use than Android products.
2) Flickr/Youtube/Twitter/Facebook: we’ll never be as excited about social media as we are about riding, but that being said: all these tools allow you to share the ride with the people you care about. And they don’t cost anything, which really is mindblowing if you think about it – the ability to share your photos, videos and stories in moments with the whole world, and all you have to do is suffer through a few adverts. We use all these sites and have the Apps for all of them loaded onto our iPhones.
3) Nikon D4 Pro-DSLR: OK, this is a REALLY expensive camera (the body alone is $5000 and you still need to buy lenses), it’s heavy and imposing, but the photos you can take with it are incredible, especially in low light. Most of the photos on our website were taken with a Nikon D2X which I used for 5 years, and it was a great camera especially in good light. But at anything above 800 ISO, the noise was pretty bad, and you needed to do a lot of post-processing trickery to remove it. Not so with the D4 – there’s almost no noise at up to 12,800 ISO! With the D4, you can take great photos with only moonlight, or even candlelight. And it shoots 1080P HD video – with the interchangeable lenses the quality looks like something from the cinema. Of course, you don’t need a monster DSLR for simple motorcycle travel photos – you don’t need a Suzuki Hayabusa either, but it’s nice to have the horsepower!
4) Macbook Pro and Apple Aperture 3: OK, like we said we’re a bit Apple-obsessed. But we spent years of using PCs, and for our purposes, we like the Apple ecosystem. We’re not always thrilled with Apple’s aspirations for world domination, where they require you to play within their walled garden, but their stuff works well together. For editing our photos, we use Aperture, Apple’s professional image editing program. It’s a very powerful program but really easy to use once you get the hang of it, and you can upload to Facebook and Flickr directly from Aperture. It even picks up all the geo-tags from your iPhone. I used Adobe Lightroom for a couple of years, because the early versions of Aperture were slow and buggy, but with version 3, Apple really nailed it. I don’t really like Adobe image editing products, they feel like PC software ported to Mac.
5) A Creative Eye: It’s been said a million times, so this makes a million and one – it’s the photographer that takes the picture, the camera is just a tool. Developing a creative vision is something that takes time, and the more you shoot, the better you get. Picking up one of the many books on photographic technique can help shorten the learning curve. There aren’t too many books about motorcycle travel photography specifically, but we really like Motojournalism Book One – The Foundation. It’s written by a guy from Canada who travels a lot by bike and takes superb photos, and has a very well done blog on motorcycle travel photography. It’s an e-book, only ten dollars, and is available here. The book is laid out really nicely with great photographs, tips on everything from gear to photographic technique, and it’s quite well written. For ten dollars we can’t think of a better buy if you’re looking for tips to improve your motorcycle travel photography.
Soon, we’ll be off on a tour across America. Be sure to follow us on The Lost Adventure’s Facebook page, where we’ll be posting updates on our trips, and check out our photos on The Lost Adventure Flickr page. Thanks for visiting and we welcome your comments below.
Tools For Motorcycle Travel Photography