Thursday, July 12, 2012

Get Great Pictures On Your Bike

Any adventure I've been on always ends the same:  I have to go home.  And when I get home there is always one thing I wish I would have done differently:  TAKE MORE PICTURES.

On the trips where I've taken plenty of pictures, I wished I would have taken better pictures.

After all is said and done, all you really have left after your adventures is memories--and pictures and videos are some of the strongest evokers of the memories of those adventures.  Smells are up there too, but... erm... well maybe it is best that there isn't a way to snapshot a smell.  In any case, you can rarely have too many pictures of you adventures.  Here are some tips to get great pictures from your bike:

Disposable Cameras Are
Not Reccomended
1 - Get a Good Camera.  You may be tempted to get something cheap and crappy because you are worried you might ruin it.  And you probably will.  But you will also probably ruin every single attempt at taking a decent photo.  Most modern digital cameras take video just fine, but I'm a little bit of a video snob, so if you are like me, maybe you would prefer something that has an emphasis on taking great video, but still does pictures too.  There are a lot of options out there that I will go into in a future post, but for now, suffice it to say, get a good camera to start with. 

2 - Get the Protection Plan.  I hate it when I go into Best Buy and they try to sell me the protection plan on every single thing I purchase--but when it comes to the camera and accessories you are going to have attached to a bike, do it.  Don't even hesitate.  Chances are, you are going to break something, so get it covered.

3 - Get Rugged.  This isn't a must, but it certainly is a big help.  A camera that can resist water, dust, and shock definitely goes a long way when you have it out on the road.  As soon as it starts raining, you'll wish you didn't have to pack your camera safely away in a zip-lock bag.  You also won't have a heart attack the first time you drop it on the pavement--and you probably will drop it at some point.

4 - Get Mounted.  Where should you put your camera on your bike?  The handlebars are always a great choice for general photography because you can easily access your camera while riding, and you can aim the camera where you want fairly easily, but I'd reccomend a mount that you can move to different parts of your bike if you need to.  There are many options available, but I prefer the Pedco UltraClamp for several reasons:  It comes on and off super easy, and holds on super tight.  It is ultra rugged, so you won't break it any time soon.  It has a little boom-arm with a swivel-ball head that holds rock solid when tightened, and won't flop around on bumpy road or sag with your heavy cameras.  You can clamp this to a wide variety of things--not just parts of your bike--which makes this an awesome compact stable platform for taking your pictures.

5 - Get Back-Up Power.  Especially on remote tours where you have very few opportunities to recharge anything, you don't want to have your camera die on you while trying to get the perfect shot.  We used to try to get only cameras that run on AA batteries, but those cameras are getting harder and harder to find.  Probably a better option is to get a camera that has a long battery life to start with, and then buy several back-up batteries.  I'd also reccomend looking into either a universal bike powered USB charging system , or going solar with something that really packs a punch like the Brunton 26 Watt Foldable Solar Array .  I've tried several solar products, and I learned from experience to go with something that charges directly, rather than going with a solar device that slowly charges an onboard battery.  It can take multiple DAYS of direct sunlight to fully charge those things, and then it is barely enough to even get a full charge on a smartphone.  Instead, get a charger that you can plug your electronics into and charge directly off of the sun just like plugging into a DC outlet in a car.

With good equipment in place, you can focus a lot more on getting the shot, rather than just getting a shot.  In the next post, I'll talk about skills and techniques to get great pictures from your bike.

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