Showing posts sorted by relevance for query photography. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query photography. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, 8 April 2019

Spring Riding On-Bike Photography

A Sunday in the teens (Celsius) meant that riding was inevitable.  The Tiger had been sitting in the garage as it hailed and snowed outside this past week, but once again we get a break in the neverending Canadian winter, so off I go.

In the fall I got a Ricoh Theta V, so this was the first go at on-bike photography with it.  Using the mount I made last year, I attached the new camera (same form factor and similar size to the SC I'd used before) and off I went for the first ride over to The Forks of the Credit and Higher Ground.

The ThetaV has better processing power for video than the older model, but the camera is similar spec, so still photos, where I like to work, weren't likely to change.  Once nice thing about the V is that it processes way faster, so can do a photo every 4 seconds instead of the old camera's one every eight.  Having twice the chance of catching a good corner was no bad thing and resulted in a number of good shots as I rode up and down The Forks, usually behind confused people driving beige minivans as slowly as they possibly could.  I waited for a gap on the return ride and got a bit luckier with space, though it was pretty busy on the first sunny Sunday of the year.


Winter run-off everywhere meant a cautious line, but the Tiger on Michelins is always sure footed whether it's on snow runoff or piles of sand left over from winter.


I guess someone missed the switchback - bet it was a fast and furious type...


Stuck behind that tool in a big maroon mini-van again, so I'm waiting for a gap.  Nothing more frustrating than riding for an hour to find some curves only to be stuck behind a yobbo in a mini-van.









Quality of photo is similar between the ThetaSC and the ThetaV, but the V takes way more photos quickly, so you're more likely to capture a good moment.





Parked up at Higher Ground in Belfountain. Don't order a specialty coffee if it's busy - the regular brew is good and you get it right away.
As capable as the V is, it suddenly flashed out on me when I went to ride home and wouldn't start.  This was a bit of a surprise as all previous Thetas have been astonishingly tough.  The Theta V seems to have magically fixed itself today, but now I'm wondering if it's up to the job.

In the meantime they've come out with the Theta Z1, a higher resolution 360 camera with a faster lens and even faster processing performance, including in-camera stitching of images together.  It looks very nice, but if my first upgrade won't take photos when I need it to after it's first real weekend of use, I'm second guessing a bigger, more expensive step further.

In another meanwhile, GoPro has the Fusion 360 camera, which is tough and offers similar high resolution imaging.  It's a bit of a brick, so the Theta still seems like a more aerodynamic and logical choice for on-bike photography, but not if it doesn't work.  More to come.  Hopefully this in-and-out Theta V was a one time thing.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Lean Angle and Capturing the Dynamics of Riding a Motorcycle

Since starting the 360° camera-on-a-motorcycle experiment last year I've tried dozens of different locations and angles.  My favourite shots to date are ones that emphasize the speed and feeling of exhilaration I get while riding.  A bike in a straight line is a lovely thing with the wind and feeling of openness all around you, but when you lean into a corner the magic is suddenly amplified.  That thrill of leaning into a corner is something most people never get to experience.


The first weekend I ever rode a bike on tarmac (at the training course at Conestoga College in Kitchener) way back in 2013 I discovered this magic while working through a beginner's gymkhana style obstacle course.  After shooting through the cones a few times at faster and faster speeds I said to the instructor, "I could do that all day!"  He just laughed.  I wasn't kidding, I could happily spend all day leaning a motorbike into corners.  Each time I do it the complexity of what's going on is fascinating as hundreds of pounds of machine and me lean out into space, all suspended on two tiny tire contact patches.  It's when I'm most likely to forget where I end and the bike begins.

Lean angle in corners is an artform that many motorcyclists (but not bikers so much) practice.  Being able to use your tire effectively means you aren't the proud owner of chicken strips.  Underused tires tend to show a lack of experience and an unwillingness to explore lean.  There are exceptions (knobblies on off road focused tires, anything made in North America) that aren't about lean angle on tarmac, but it is a way to analyze your cornering comfort level.


Mounting the 360° camera on the bike is one of the only ways I've been able to catch the feeling of this complex dynamic in an intimate way.  MotoGP makes extensive use of 360 camera technology for on-bike photography and video, but they tend to be rear mounted.  Using a front mount means you get to see the rider's face in the shot.  It would be fascinating to watch the rider/machine interface from a 360 camera mounted out front of the bike while various riders do their thing on track.


I've got good road tires (Michelin Pilots) and a tall adventure bike, so it's not exactly ideal for exploring lean, though I think I do OK considering the weight and shape of the bike - the Tiger is surprisingly frisky in the corners.  But I'd love to get my hands on a sports bike and see just how more dynamic and exciting the on-bike 360° photography could be on a machine built solely for tarmac.








Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Evolution Of On-Bike 360° Photography

The evolution of on-bike photography from hand
held push button shutter to mounted, hands-free

and distraction-free autofiring shutter.  The photos now
show a rider riding instead of a rider being distracted.
The 360° on motorcycle photographic experiment continues.  At this point I think I've got it down to a science.  What was once an awkward hand held process has evolved into a consistently effective, hands-free automatic process that I could easily set up on just about any bike and get shots with no action needed from the rider.

Initially I just popped the 360 camera into my pocket and went for a ride.  When I saw a nice scene I took it out and pressed the shutter.  The downside was that my arm was in every shot.  Another issue was that I didn't look like I was into the ride because the camera was a distraction, which it was.  All this busy work meant not being able to get photos of the best bits, like bending the bike into a corner.

My first attempts at attaching the camera to the bike highlighted a number of issues.  Out of the various 360 cameras I'd tried, only the Ricoh Theta offered a timed shot option, taking a photo automatically every 8-60 seconds depending on how you set it.  The Samsung Gear 360 and the 360Fly both only offered stop motion video at much lower resolutions and quality.  The Theta is also light weight and low profile, so it works well in the wind, unlike heavier, blockier designs from other manufacturers.

I initially tried suction pad mounts, but I never trusted them in the rough and tumble and windy on-bike environment.  I eventually migrated to a flexible tripod, but my first choice started falling apart right after I got it.  When it let go while we were riding down the road and killed the camera I was ready to give up on that kind of mount, but I went up market and got a Lammcou model that has been durable, strong and perfect for the job.

Now that I've worked my way through testing all the kit, it's so well sorted out that I think I could set it all up on any bike and start the photos going.  When the rider returned I could download all the captured images and see what we got.  Ideally I'd have a camera that takes a photo automatically every couple of seconds, but such a thing doesn't seem to exist.  At the eight second delay on the Theta I don't get every shot I want, but after a ride I get an awful lot of choice and there are always some gems in there.

I'd really like to try this process on something a bit more extreme, like track day riding or off road riding.  As long as the rider keeps the bike rubber side down, I think this resilient setup produces unique shots impossible to get otherwise.  When people see these shots they ask if I was using a drone or was from another bike dangerously close, but the process is much safer and cheaper than either of those things.  I'm surprised that no motorcycle magazine wants to give this a go.  The shots it produces are exciting, original and show riding from a very intimate point of view.  The ThetaV takes very high resolution photos that would work well online and even in print.

Putting together a kit that will do this is fairly straightforward.  The list on the left is all the parts you need to be taking 360° photos easily and well on your bike.  If you already have a smartphone you can skip over half of the costs listed for the ipod.  The camera and tripod are only about $300 Canadian ($225USD).  Getting the photos off the camera is easy enough and the Ricoh Theta software is by far the most stable and easiest to use out of all the manufacturers that I've tried.  Ricoh also offers a pile of accessories including a weather resistant hard case that has easily fended off rain while on the motorcycle.  There is also a new fully waterproof case if you wanted to get some action shots of your next river crossing.


The process for shooting 360 on-bike photographs is straightforward:

  • Wirelessly connect the Theta 360 camera to your device and remotely set it over wifi to fire every 8 seconds (maximum shot speed).  Once this is set you never have to do it again -the camera remembers.
  • Just before the rider sets off start the shutter firing by hitting the start shooting button on the ipod or your smartphone.  Have the rider drop the ipod or whatever device you're using into a pocket and off they go.
  • When they get back you can stop the camera auto-firing and collect up the ipod/smartphone, Ricoh Theta and tripod.
  • Plug in the Theta to your PC or Mac using the supplied USB micro cable and copy the photos over to it.
  • Open up the Theta software and drop each picture into it.  You can move around within the pictures.  If it looks like it might make a good tiny planet photo, then upload it to the Theta360 website and use the online editor to quickly and easily (one button push) make a tiny planet out of the photo.
  • You can screen grab any photo angles that look good.  If you have a typical 1080p monitor these images will be well detailed for online presentation.  Get yourself a high resolution monitor to screen grab high resolution images suitable for printing on paper.  The ThetaV takes the equivalent of 14 megapixel images that display spectacularly on a high resolution monitor.  I use a 4k monitor for print images and they come out sharp and detailed.  Dell's 8k monitor is on my wishlist.
  • Once you've grabbed the angles and images you need you can sort them out in Adobe Photoshop to meet the look you're going for.  The Theta shoots dark but has a lot of detail in the shadows.  An HDR (high dynamic range) filter tool does wonders to pull details out of dark images.
Like anything else digital, experiment with it for best results.  I've attached the camera to my windshield extender, rear view mirrors and tail luggage rack, but if you're adventurous (and have that protective case), why not try wrapping it around your frame in various locations.  Since it's set and forget, you can just go for a nice ride and then see what you caught when you get back.

The red thing just below and left of my head is the top of the flexible tripod holding the camera onto the rear view mirror.  It's triple wrapped around the stalk and doesn't move even at triple figure speeds.  The other two arms of the tripod are arranged to help brace the tripod and still leave 70% of the mirror unobstructed, so even the rear view is still good (the Tiger has nice, big, and not buzzy mirrors).  The nature of the 360 camera forces perspective back around the base, so I usually angle the camera away, which also uses the length of the Theta to push the lenses even further away.  The result is a an image you couldn't get any other way. 


A 'tiny planet' photo done using the online Theta360 website.  It's the easiest way to get this effect I've found.  Again, a unique perspective you would find hard to duplicate any other way.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

To Sell or Not to Sell

That'd get back what I've put into it and mean I've
put 15,000kms on it for free!
I put the Concours ZG1K project bike up for sale just to see how it would do.  I didn't expect a reply but got someone who is smitten with it and immediately offered me a trade worth about $2000 (a Phantom3 drone with a pile of expensive peripherals).  I took a drone training course last year and have been looking for a way to get some flight time in accordance with the Transport Canada flight planning we practiced in the course.  This would do that and also let me explore the aerial photography market first hand.  This is a trade that could end up paying for itself many times over.

Finding a trade that fits this well seems too good to be true.  In my experience, something that is too good to be true usually is.

I'm fighting that skepticism, but what I'm also fighting is some classism, morality and loyalty.  The young guy interested in the bike has the kind of online profile that makes you roll your eyes.  Every photo of him is half dressed and flipping the bird.  Which leads me to the moral quandary.  Handing this bike off to some yobbo who is likely to kill himself on it isn't something I can wash my hands of.  Then there is the loyalty.  I brought the Concours back from the dead.  We've done many long trips, including a once in a lifetime ride down the back straight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Had the carbs not shit the bed on the worst possible day (the first day of a new riding season after a long winter off), I would have still been happily riding it today.  Had they died the autumn before, I'd have had the winter to sort them out.  Bygones, but I love that my hands brought this old thing back to life.


So here I am, with a great opportunity to make some space in the garage while pursuing a trade that could end up being quite lucrative.  That space could be filled with a new project bike and I'd be back doing aerial photography again.  There is a lot to recommend moving on this, but I've got some issues to work through first.

The classism I can get past, but the selling a weapon to someone without the sense to handle it is nagging at me.  I'd feel responsible if something happened.  As heavy as that is, what really bugs me is feeling like I'm sending Connie on to an unworthy home where she'll be abused, broken and forgotten.  The mechanical sympathy that I apply to technical work often breaks out into full on mechanical empathy.  This is one of those times.  Maybe now isn't the right time to pass on the Concours.  Maybe what I should be doing is re-energizing this project and finishing it to the point where I can eventually pass it on to a more deserving home.  (Hmm, the classism crept back in again).

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Todd Blubaugh's Too Far Gone

It took me almost a month to slowly work my way through this complex piece of media.  I originally came across an excerpt from it in Bike Magazine and it was so moving that I immediately purchased it.  I'm generally not a fan of coffee table books.  I've always thought of them as flash over substance and a decoration for yuppies to strategically place in their perfect living rooms to impress guests.  It took some powerful writing in that excerpt to overpower my prejudice about this format, and I'm glad it did.

Writing is only a small part of this 'book', and calling it a book isn't really fair to it.  This is a piece of art; it feels more like you're walking through an emotionally powerful art exhibit.  The author, Todd Blubaugh, was a photographer by trade, so this all starts to make sense as you fall into his aesthetic.  Between the pages of powerful and technically complex photography you find short pieces of narrative text that pin down the corners of Todd's six month quest for meaning after his parent's unexpected death in a car accident.


If you've lost a parent in unexpected circumstances with things left unsaid, Todd's meditative ride around the continental U.S. will raise a lot of your own ghosts.  This was one of the reasons I savoured it so slowly.  After reading each emotional upper cut, you're immersed in several pages of photography of life on the road.  Working in black and white on a film camera, Todd's images tend toward startlingly frank personal portraits of the people that he meets on his travels.  Todd must be a particularly disarming fellow as he's able to catch people with almost animal like honesty - were I able to do this, I'd be much more interested in human portraiture.  As it is, it's a joy to see a master like this at work.

As you travel with Todd further into his trajectory away from the things that anchor most people to their lives (job, family), he surprises you with artifacts from his parent's lives.  At moments like this the book feels more like a scrapbook or family album, with news articles about his Dad's tour in Vietnam and his mother's paintings offering you further insight into the scope of his loss.  The letter from his Dad at the end of the book had me in tears.

Todd tells two entwined and complex stories in Too Far Gone.  His disassociation from the habitual, stationary life that most people live reaches a climax in a conversation with an old sailor that will leave you, along with Todd himself, staring into the abyss.  Free from the responsibilities most of us labour under, Todd is able to focus on his loss with such a startling clarity that it will shake you.

This book pressed a lot of buttons for me.  As a photographer I greatly enjoyed Todd's eye, even (and especially because?) it is so different from my own.  Todd's relationship with motorcycling (old Harleys and biker culture) is also about as different from mine as can be, yet the sense of brotherhood still felt strong because Todd is never once preachy or superior about his infatuation.  Instead, his honest love of motorbikes comes across loudly, and that is something we share.

As someone who lost a parent and experienced that same phone call out of the blue, Todd's experience is something that cuts me deep.  In coming to understand Todd's relationship with his dad I can't help but reflect on my own difficult and distant relationship with my father.  I lost the parent that I most identified with and have a challenging relationship with the other one, but Todd's parent's were still together and he lost both at once.  It's the things left unsaid that gnaw at you afterwards, and losing both parents together while they are still paragons in your life is something I can only imagine.

We all lose our parents eventually.  If you haven't yet, this book will give you an emotionally powerful idea of how it feels, and how someone has worked through the scars of that experience.  If they're already gone, your sympathy will create powerful echoes.

There are a few motorcycling themed books that plumb philosophical depths.  Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Shop Class As Soulcraft in particular have spoken intelligently and deeply about the meditative nature of motorcycling.  Too Far Gone is a multi-media, large format book that takes you to the same place through different mediums, but it does it while also offering an emotional intelligence that is hard to find anywhere else.  Immerse yourself in this book, you won't be disappointed.


What you need and nothing else.  After six months on the road Todd looks as homeless as he is, and has to make a decision...

Friday, 27 May 2016

Wanderlust: A Travel Motorcycle Production Company

I'm at it again.  Wanderlust, but with my trusty production crew this time.

North and West and then back again with the least amount of same roads:


I must have some kind of strange OCD, but I really enjoyed putting this together:
With scheduled production crew meetups and travelling together from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island and back to Vancouver, it turns into a 41 day ride schedule with a 36 day production schedule.  The production team (Max & Alanna) have 8 flights spread over the 36 days they are on the road.

This would be an opportunity to collect video and develop a cross Canada story from a lot of different angles.  The production team would collect stock footage of the various regions we're in and save footage and data off the bike at meetups.  They'll then backup all data including footage and keep it safe.  I also hope they'd maybe develop their own stories in the process.

The goal of the production will to use the latest in digital tools to record the trip, eventually producing a variety of media out of it.  My goal would be a written story of a long distance, cross Canada, endurance motorcycle ride with photography to support a book.  I'd also then look to turn the ride into an episodic travel TV show.


Tools We'd be using



A 360° camera for experiential video.

I used a Ricoh Theta 360° camera a few weeks ago and was impressed with the results.  I'm not sure how we'd integrate this video into a media piece, but it would open the door to exploring virtual reality, which feels like the next big thing.  The lack of a single point of view makes for challenging post production, as does the huge amount of data it collects.  ThetaS: $450  The 360fly could be another choice.


Contour action camera on the bike.

I used this last fall and found its small profile ideal for collecting video from a motorcycle.  The upper scale model allows memory and battery swap-outs, making it ideal for shooting on long days.  I'd have one wired in to the bike so it could keep shooting for footage we could use in high speed video.  When things get really rough up north, this will keep collecting footage when others fail.  Conour+2: $430
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker might be an interesting alternative.

I'm partial to Olympus Cameras.  In addition to the video camera on the bike, I'd also carry an Olympus OM-D E-M1 DSLR for photography.  It's weatherproof and tough, takes a wide variety of lenses (I'd carry a tele-zoom, 2x teleconverter and super wide angle with me).

Backup batteries and memory cards mean it'll keep going all day.  Olympus OM-D E-M1: body & lenses $2800


The production team would carry a pro-quality DSLR camera for shooting highest quality video.  The Canon EOS 70D is generally considered the top DSLR for video.  With proper video LED lighting, tripod and on camera and interview mics this kit would collect top quality video and sound.  Multiple battery and memory cards mean it can keep shooting on long days.

Multiple microphones (on camera and clip on interview), a teleconverter and a wide angle lens along with the 18-135mm lens would cover pretty much every eventuality.

Canon EOS 70D with accessories:  $1700



Another leading edge tool for this trip would be an aerial drone to take fantastic establishing shots.  The DJI Phantom 4 is a Canadian made aerial camera platform that produces astonishing video footage.  Its 28 minute flight time mean it could be used on multiple flights and recharged in the camera truck between flights.
Phantom4 with spare batteries & case: $2300

$30k seems like a good price for generating a wide variety of footage that could eventually be made into multiple cross country stories of epic proportions!

Now to find a producer and some corporate support.  My logo-ed dream team would be: