I’ve taken probably literally hundreds of them. We all have. After awhile you struggle to come up with new ways to be creative. Bikes laying down. Bikes propped up with sticks. Propped up with helmets under the pedals. Done ‘em all.
At some point I started trying to get myself in shots more. 90% of the time either because I’m a loner or because I’m riding in weather conditions that others find ridiculous to ride a bike in, I find myself riding alone. It seemed to me that getting a person in the shot was the key to creating something infinitely more interesting. Experimenting with point-and-shoot cameras and timers was mildly entertaining.
- Set up camera on a tripod/Gorilla pod/top of a rock/fencepost.
- Center bike in the shot within sprinting distance.
- Hit the shutter.
Most cameras max out at a 10 to 15 second timer. That’s not a lot of time. You get some decent shots, but you also end up with a lot of pictures of you running to your bike. Or in the process of climbing onto it. Rarely do you actually look like you’re riding.
iPhones are great, and there are apps that give you the benefit of extending the timer, in some cases up to a minute or more. But you still have to get on the bike and ride it, and then, are you still in the frame? Are you at the point you wanted to be at for the photo? Additionally I’ve struggled with getting iPhones to accurately capture scenes, particularly weirdly lit ones. Below are some examples of the same setup I shot with a bunch of different presets/and or ‘slider jockeying’ on the iPhone. Though some are nice, none of ‘em are completely capture the details and lighting that were there like I saw it. Some post-processing might help, but I find more often than not that once you start down that road, things just start looking weird, or forced.
Recently I stumbled on the Instagram and Flickr of Marc McShane who has been taking some great ‘selfies’ – for lack of a better word – of himself and the bike. I hate the word ‘selfie’ as it seems to imply an arms-length shot of someone ducklipping at the camera. These are self-portraits in the traditional, artistic sense. Marc’s shots impressed me because they’re art. They are stunning.
I knew he was triggering the camera remotely somehow probably vs. using a timer but I didn’t know how. There’s some gadgets that let you trigger an iPhone remotely, but they are usually bluetooth or infrared and therefore pretty limited in distance. You’re only going to get maybe 10 feet from the camera. After asking him, Marc told me his secret – hope he’s not pissed I’m revealing it here – he uses a radio transmitter flash remote. Says he’s triggered from up to 100 yards away. He commented that you can get iPhone apps that will trigger a DSLR from aways, but as he says, “then you just end up with pictures of you holding your phone.” The radio transmitter is small and easily hidden or mounted to a handlebar even.
When I was in middle school, my parents gifted me a SLR camera for my birthday. I took tons of pictures with it, through high school and even took a high school photography class and developed my own film. In a classic case of youthful indiscretion, at some point I sold it – probably for something that at the time seemed very worthwhile (beer money), but in hindsight was just stupid. Wouldn’t be the last time.
So now I’ve begun the search for a new tool to update my selfie game. I’ve started looking at used DSLRS – a mind bogglingly deep pool of various brands, years/models/makes and features. Asking photographers what they shoot with is akin to speaking to someone about religion or politics. Brands of camera are a highly polarizing topic amongst shutter geeks. It’s been suggested I check out the smaller 4/3 cameras – which somewhat appeal to me, as the bulk of carrying a full blown DSLR on a bike is not appealing, yet the 4/3 cameras still have the option of interchangeable lenses. Marc also mentioned cameras like the Canon G16 which, though really technically still a point-and-shoot, have better zoom options, more features, and the all important flash shoe, which is required for a radio transmitter.
So the quest begins. Hoping to generate more photos of a person on bikes in the future vs. just some of them leaning against things.