If you have been for a group bike ride, you get to cafe or a bar, you all park your bikes and eventually someone pulls out the phone and you take a group selfie or a they take a picture of the group and maybe even some of the bikes. You know the picture; they are actually quite fun. Photographically they are not much of an achievement.
You then go on the next ride and the same thing happens and if it’s the same ride it happens in the same place.
Let’s take a different approach, lets show your friends where you have gone for a ride and what an interesting activity it is. Let’s take good photos.
The best camera to take a photo is the one you have with you. Generally, that is the mobile phone and if you are lucky enough to have one that is a couple of years old, they are terrific. To become better at photography and to to tell the story of your ride, I suggest you set a small target of how many photographs you want to take on a trip. Five photographs should be sufficient. Stop five times and take a great shot, maybe try and squeeze your bike into the frame or include a picture of the path that you are riding on. Now only post 1-3 of those photos and look at the others and decide why is one better than the others. If you record a ride in Strava or RideWithGPS, this is a great place to put those three photos.
Mobile phones take great photos but they are really clumsy for using whist you are riding a bike. So clumsy that it is statistically impossible that you won’t drop the phone at some stage. Occasionally I have used voice control but generally that is tricky as well. Simply put, only take a mobile phone photo when you are stopped. Small cameras, that is a different thing. I can pull my camera from my handlebar pouch, take a photo and replace it in the pouch without having to think too much. You learn where the shutter button and the on/off button is. I always slow down to take these photos but I don’t stop that much (taking photos in groups whist riding close to each other is pretty much a bad idea so don’t bother). The portable cameras can have a zoom lens or they can have a really high precision sensor. I have used both and prefer the high-quality image sensor. One thing you cannot do is with a portable camera is mount it on the handlebar. Sorry, they generally get shaken to bits. The difference in quality between mobile and portable is marginal but with the portable being more available to use whilst riding, it is a way to improve your photography. If your camera shoots raw shots, you can recover a lot of photographs to extract a great image.
For a long time, I used to ride and have my action camera on the handlebar take a photo every 30 seconds. I took some terrific shots but generally I did not enjoy looking at 300 photographs to find a good one. This had to happen on the desktop as action cameras have a very small screen and are not good for deleting. The latest go pro and related devices are starting to take good photographs now and no doubt voice control will make these easier to use. I have not used one of these for about 2 years, I didn’t find the photography interesting, it was just high volume, little skill. I suggest that action camera video also falls into the high volume, little interest photography but if you happen to catch that really great crash on the mountain bike trail, everyone except the victim will love the video. I intend to experiment more in this area soon.
DSLR and Mirror Cameras:
These wonderful tools of photography are going to sit in your bag on the back of the bike. You will stop, unzip the bag, remove the lens cap and take a great shot. If this is your thing, your photographs will always be up there with even the best new Iphone or Pixel and miles better on zoom shots. Make sure you have a great carry bag and ride and take great photographs.
Lets look at the different types of shots you can take on a bike ride.
The sun everywhere but in front of you:
If you can avoid it, don’t take a photo into the sun. When you ride into a photographic area, just look around away from the sun. There you will find your photo.
Photo into the sun:
Sometimes you have to shoot into the sun. I simply like to find a piece of shade and take the photo from there. In this photo of the bridge, I stopped under the last tree. I know from experience that shooting after that spot never works.
Photo of a trail:
The best photos of trails are where the track curves. They are more interesting. As I like to show cyclists what a trail looks like, I photograph the bendy bits.
Include cyclists on a trail:
A trail looks like a cycling trail if there is a cyclist on it. This can be really difficult if the trail isn’t busy so if you see a cyclist in the distance, this might be your chance. In this photo I show that the trail is for road cyclists and its really spectacular.
Always include your bike somewhere in the photo:
If you want to promote cycling, include your bike somewhere in the photo.
I cannot overstate the best way to improve your photos is to simply take more photos and learn as you go. Maybe rather than going for a ride, think of an interesting place and go there and take a lot of photos whilst riding around on your bike. Dawn and dusk are the best times as you very quickly learn what works. I take most of my photos now with a FujiFilm XF10. It is a street camera. Another camera I like is the Ricoh GR and it is smaller. Photography is one of my cycling hobbies. See BikeTrail.Blog for more or https://www.facebook.com/groups/letsgocycling
Picture credits: Garry Robinson
You might also like to read WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
Author: Garry Robinson, Australia