Motorcycle Trip Photography & Video

The joy of motorcycle touring, is simply the experience of going, being in the, “now” and feeling every mile.  However, most of us are going to want to relive our past trips and there is no better way than through photography and videography.  That can be as simple and snapping a few memorable photos with your phone, and not even carrying a camera.

Of course there are those whose eye will not let them take less than professional level photos and will carry a camera and lens, etc.  The trade-off is in space, you can only carry so much and the more gear you need, well that means giving up somewhere else.  Once again, there is no right answer, only the right answer for you.

Photography Equipment

We started with what we had, Karla‘s point & shoot.  That was OK and we took a couple hundred photos that first summer of travel.  It lacked any significant zoom power and sometimes we’re pretty far away from our subject.  We set out to find the best compromise of, quality, size, zoom and cost.  That’s a lot of compromising to figure out.  We wrote a blog post about photography too.

What we found was the Nikon S9700.  It’s small, takes 16 MP photos and has a 30X optical zoom. I think it was around $300.  We now take thousands of photos every summer.  The compromises are many, and you have to figure out what fits you best.  For instance, the aperature range of this camera is; f3.7 – 6.4 which is pretty narrow.  I would love to have f22.

The 30X optical zoom is more than you should expect from a point & shoot, it’s amazing.  Hand-holding at that level of zoom is pretty much impossible, so it was time for a tripod.  Gear designed for backpacking fits in nicely on the bike.  If you can carry it in a backpack, surely it will fit on a motorcycle.

There are some minor drawbacks, the aperature I mentioned and lack of abilities to use filters, no viewfinder etc..  But the ZOOM, I have to show an example that blew my mind.  We were on the side of the road in Zion National Park, having stopped to take a few landscape photos.  After we had finished, for no particular reason, I got out the binoculars and started scanning the hillside…….I spotted a family of Big Horn Sheep, not visible to the naked eye.  I set the tripod up again, zoomed in and started taking photos all over the place.  Without a viewfinder, the LCD screen on the camera doesn’t let you see clearly.

We began with this selfie.  Now look closely at the top of the hill behind us.  At the very top, on the right side you see two knobs, follow that down to the first notch.  You may barely be able to see a tree.  Now look at the second photo.
Here you’re looking at that tree under 30X zoom. Mr. sheep is starting to emerge around the mountain.  The reddish bands on the rocks are the darker areas in the first photo.  Upon seeing the photos that evening on a computer screen, we found we had captured a whole family.  Hiding in plain sight.

Motorcycle Videography

Marketed as, “Action” cameras the GoPro is really a pretty versatile mini video camera.  While not too many things someone my age does would be considered, “action” we get great videos both from the fairing mount on the bike and from the, “selfie stick.”   When selfie sticks came out for cameras and cameras in phones, I laughed and ridiculed them…..so the day I thought about buying one…..oh yeah sometimes ya gotta eat crow.

Here is a little secret about getting the GoPro addiction……the camera is expensive enough at around $400……but wait for it……you will spend $800 before you have all the accessories you need (want) including housings and batteries, you need a lot of batteries.

Putting a GoPro camera on your bike or helmet and recording video is just the beginning. One challenge is to be able to sort and keep track of your videos, this is where the MyPassport wireless hard drive comes in.  Every evening I download all my days video segments onto the hard drive and with a laptop I sort and rename them.  The native file names are not going to tell you anything other than what day they were shot, and if you do a lot, it gets really confusing.

And then there is editing…..unedited video is not much fun to watch even for you, who shot it all.  Editing takes a tremendous amount of time and there is a steep learning curve depending of what software you choose.  The free package that comes with the GoPro is minimally adequate, but if you get into making videos for youtube and want people to watch you will need to get more advanced.