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  1. #1
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Bicycle touring photography: picture taking techniques

    Since MichaelW asked in another post, I'll provide.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Do we need a few general photography threads. They usually crop up as a result of "what camera do I take" .
    I figure three should do the job.
    1. Photography: kit
    2. Photography: techniques
    3. Photography: admin and management

    1 is for all the stuff you might want to take or leave, reviews of particularly fine (and available) kit.
    2 is for your actual picture taking tips relevant to cycle touring*
    3 is for file management, power management, care, cleaning, storage, security, insurance, travel tips, extreme environments etc.

    If we need to include photos to illustrate techniques, could they be as small as possible. Extra large photos seem to expand the text to fit, making it harder to read all the other entries on the page.

    * Solo touring pics, including the bike, pics from a moving bike, panoramics, wildlife, whatever...

    Whaddyaallthinkofthis.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  2. #2
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    For the solo rider, getting pics with yourself in can be tricky, esp if you have family at home who demand to see you.
    Take a small mini tripod. If you select a camera with a rotating LCD screen you can see to position yourself in the frame. If not you have to take a few to guage when your head is cut off.
    I prefer my self portraits to be chest+head with an interesting background or a typical campsite. If you want this, use a wider angle and sit closer to the camera.
    For a classic portrait with no particular background, use a zoom lens at telephoto setting and stand further away.
    Dont take a self portrait of you standing far in the background unless you mean to.
    On most small compact cameras there is no use in manipulating the depth of field (using a wide aperture setting) to isolate the subject. This only works on larger sized sensors eg DSLR models.

    Tuck your shirt in, brush your hair and wipe that chocolate from your face.
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    When bad things happen, the first reaction is to grab the first aid kit or bike repair kit.
    STOP
    THINK
    Will this make a good picture. Before you stem the flow of blood, try and get a few dramatic pictures of the damage but be warned, copious blood can cause damage to sensitive electronics and optical systems.

  4. #4
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    I love close up shots. I used to carry a macro lens on my old 35mm SLR (OM2) but my compact digital camera has a macro setting. I prefer manual focus for macro, you move the camera to the correct distance.
    Keep an eye out for the small as well as the large. There can be lots of roadside wildlife that becomes background matter after a few days. Try and capture some of the plants and flowers when they still stand out.
    The big animals will be too quick to capture on film. The most exciting sighting I've had on a bike was a wild wolf (one of about 15 in Norway). It was gone in a flash but stupid me didnt stop to photograph the paw prints which would have confirmed the sighting.

  5. #5
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    Dont forget that your camera is a photocopier. You can record information on plaques, noticeboards, maps, timetables.
    I have navigated over mountains on a picture of a map which was larger scale than my touring map.
    Note Jacob A Riis was the worlds first photojournalist and worked in New York taking street scenes and pictures of poor people
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  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    When bad things happen, the first reaction is to grab the first aid kit or bike repair kit.
    STOP
    THINK
    Will this make a good picture. Before you stem the flow of blood, try and get a few dramatic pictures of the damage but be warned, copious blood can cause damage to sensitive electronics and optical systems.
    That can get you in real trouble...especially with the spouse

    We were bombing down the Katy Trail with my wife drafting off me. We were going in and out of the shade all day with sticks laying in the middle of the trail. I swung around on large one that was laying across most of the trail only to look down and see a very large, very blue snake. I yelled 'Snake!' and skidded to a stop and grabbed my camera...because I don't see very large, very blue snakes everyday. My wife, right on my wheel, looked down, said 'Cool', and ran right into the back of me

    She crashed to the ground, skinning her knee and started to cry. I ran over to her and consoled her for about 2 seconds and then said 'Snake. Great big, blue snake. Come on you got to get up before it moves.' She was not amused.

    Got the picture.



    and even used her for scale

    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  7. #7
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    There is not really bike touring picture techniques. If you know anything about photography, composition, and lighting then you will come away with good photos. Having some knowledge of landscape photography can help as I find most of my pics are of the landscapes I pass through. As for taking pictures of yourself I like the face timer setting on new cameras. Set up the camera, put it on face time, and set yourself up in the composition. On my camera you can select the number of photos the camera will take after it recognizes a face in the frame, great for action shots!

    +1 to taking photos of maps and things, really helpful in any travel situation.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    When bad things happen, the first reaction is to grab the first aid kit or bike repair kit.
    STOP
    THINK
    Will this make a good picture. Before you stem the flow of blood, try and get a few dramatic pictures of the damage but be warned, copious blood can cause damage to sensitive electronics and optical systems.
    Not only damage to electronics and optical systems, but more importantly to friendships and relationships. I think it is to my credit that the camera didn't occur to me when my good friend Lauren was injured and laying in the road south of Dubois.

  9. #9
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    1) A Canon S90. I wanted more control than most P&S could offer, but couldn't afford the cost or size of a dSLR. I can keep the camera in a Lowepro Rezo 15 pouch on the bike or my hip for quick access. For me, on tour, being able to take my smaller camera everywhere means better photos than if I had a bulky dSLR.

    I don't use a tripod because I always find or make something to balance the camera on. I also set the camera timer to 1 or 2 seconds for longer exposure shots to reduce blur from pressing the shutter button.

    2) What Zoltani said - study landscape photography, composition, lighting. I'm an amateur at best, but I try to pay close attention to the artistry of my images. Many touring photos I see are too busy, with a muddled composition. The images would be better if the photographer got closer and focused more on a definite subject.

    Perhaps a more helpful technique: http://www.photoscape.org/ Photoscape is a free program, similar to Adobe Lightroom, which allows the photographer to make many adjustments to their photos.

    +1 also to using the camera as a photocopier, note-taker, and map-maker

    3) I have a designated folder on my netbook for each trip. Before transferring images over from the camera, I go through the camera and delete any obvious worthless images. This saves time. I take between 20-200 images per day and usually go only a day or two before transferring images. To speed searching of my tour photo folder, I create nested archive folders of older images. I upload pictures to CGOAB frequently so I feel that if my netbook was destroyed I wouldn't loose all my pictures.
    Fun Fact: Over my last 6 month tour, I took 9,000+ images, deleted 3000 outright, and uploaded about 1000 to CGOAB.
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/springforward

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Tuck your shirt in, brush your hair and wipe that chocolate from your face.
    And zip up your jersey.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Over my last 6 month tour, I took 9,000+ images, deleted 3000 outright, and uploaded about 1000 to CGOAB.
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/springforward
    I was intrigued to see your photos because we both use the Canon S90, so I checked them out on CGOAB. VERY nice shots! Do you do much post processing? You seem to have better color saturation than I tend to get straight out of the camera, but that could, of course, just be due to different subjects. In any event, I loved the photos I saw!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    For the solo rider, getting pics with yourself in can be tricky, esp if you have family at home who demand to see you.
    Excellent tips, thanks!

    On my last tour I made a game out of taking self portraits with the camera held at arm's length. It takes some trial and error for both composition and exposure, but with patience (and usually a fill flash) I got some decent results. Here's my favorite (near Grinnell Glacier in Glacier NP):

  13. #13
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    ^^Excellent pic!
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  14. #14
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    "but more importantly to friendships and relationships."

    Still a good point about shooting the film. Years later the story will still survive, but there won't be any pictures. Meanwhile there will be that great shot of the drinking fountain. It's another one of those personality things. I remember seeing this doc about this gaunt, grey, war zone photographer who had some kind of intense humility about him where people never felt exploited by his appearance on the scene. But many others would just not have that ability. One has to know one's limitations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Derailed View Post
    I was intrigued to see your photos because we both use the Canon S90, so I checked them out on CGOAB. VERY nice shots! Do you do much post processing? You seem to have better color saturation than I tend to get straight out of the camera, but that could, of course, just be due to different subjects. In any event, I loved the photos I saw!
    Thank you! I used PhotoScape to post process about 200 of the 1088 photos on CGOAB. For night shots I also use Imagenomic's free Noiseware Community Edition to reduce ISO noise. http://www.imagenomic.com/

    Check out http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/s90/users-guide.htm for great tips on set up tips to get the most out of your camera. I mostly shoot in Program mode with Vivid, iContrast, AWB +A3, and -1/3 exposure compensation. This combination provides warm, colorful images in most conditions. If I switch from AWB to Cloudy, I dial back the trim to A1.

  16. #16
    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    I shoot tons off my bike. My most important technique: Edit. Throw away almost everything. Less is more.

    What I tell my students:
    • Get closer, then get closer again.
    • Don't jiggle
    • Know why your making the photo
    WANTED: Not a darn thing. I've got it all. Life is good.
    Website at curtis.corlew.com Bicycle blog at ccorlew.blogspot.com

  17. #17
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    I use the Canon SX100IS, for the price it has proven to be very good and durable.
    These are just two of the few thousand we took on our 5 month Euro tour this year.
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  18. #18
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    The National Geographic photo constest winners are worth looking at for inspiration.
    It does include one Take Photo first, Apply First Aid next.

  19. #19
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    For composition: learn and apply the rule of thirds. And when you elect not to use it, understand why.

  20. #20
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    Some cameras have gridlines you can switch on. I leave them on the whole time. They are useful as a 1/3 guide for classic landscape proportions but also good for aligning verticals and horizons.

    The landscape below is yer typical rule of thirds composition but it looks nice. The Potato Wall Of Fame was on a potato processing factory. Not every touring pic needs to be about the grandeur of nature.
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  21. #21
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    Photography is only a medium so make sure the subject or idea you want to convey is supported by the technical aspects of composition, rule of thirds, symmetry or asymmetry, light and etc. Shoot a lot, keep only a few. You don't need a DSLR with a huge bag of lenses to snap awesome shots if you're thoughtful. Lastly regarding the P&S - it's better to have the camera than to say something like "i wish i had a DSLR or my other lenses" i get sick of hearing that.

  22. #22
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I take a few self portraits on every tour. It seems obligatory for the folks back home. I use the arms-length technique sometimes, and I have a Gorillapod for other situations. However, I need help. CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW TO NOT LOOK LIKE A DORK IN MY SELF PORTRAITS? (These smileys look better than I do!)

  23. #23
    djb
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    blue, thats funny, as a fellow dorkmeister, all I can say is that over all the years of doing this, going back to the film days, its tricky. The subject (our probably not Cary Grant pusses) to camera distance is pretty close, 3 ft max. We are concentrating on getting the camera angle right, the background in the shot not too crooked etc. Add to that the fact that the lens is usually at least a 35mm lens or wider (in 35 film terms) which is not flattering at that distance unless carefully framed, angles or if one does have a Cary Grant puss.....

    boy, does digital make things easier though! I've done among other things, press type jobs etc, for over 20 years, and back in the day would sometime do "guess" shots, stomach level, or high up shots and got reasonably proficient at them, but even then, you had to cover your keester as often they were too crooked etc.

  24. #24
    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW TO NOT LOOK LIKE A DORK IN MY SELF PORTRAITS?
    If you are not actually a dork, this might help.
    Don't "square up" to the camera. You'll look like a police mug. Aim your body away slightly, then look at the camera.
    I try to stand behind my wife so no one sees me.
    WANTED: Not a darn thing. I've got it all. Life is good.
    Website at curtis.corlew.com Bicycle blog at ccorlew.blogspot.com

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    Ive been reading up on travel self portraits and one tip is to use an extender to place the camera further from you when holding at arms length.
    We really don't need to take more kit but we could re-purpose some bike tool, to wit the Bicycle Pump.
    Take your Zephal HPX, hack a mini tripod head to the barrel. Hold, Smile, Take.

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