Take Great Photos on your Motorcycle Trips

I want to take great photos on motorcycle trips. That’s always seemed like a goal an amateur, like me would never attain….so what to do?    I could never afford a great camera and multiple expensive lenses and filters, not to mention none of this would fit on our motorcycle.  It didn’t help when someone told me, “it’s not the camera, it’s the creative eye!”

I thought, oh great, I have about as much creativity as Mr. Spock from Star Trek.   I can’t draw a circle, I’m probably colorblind and even my deaf dog has asked me not to sing.  So with all that encouragement I had no choice but to forge ahead and buy a better camera.

I’m  not suggesting I’ve become a great photographer,  although I’ve improved techniques through many excellent free lessons found on the internet……creativity?     We’ll see.

After our first long motorcycle trip we realized we had far too few photos; and as you know, photos remain when memories fade.  We can remember last summer’s trips, but will we 5 years from now???  Not without lots of photos.  So we gathered some new gear and made a decision to stop more often and linger, rather than just slow down as we passed interesting sites.  Returning from that 1st long trip of 2015 to the National Parks of Utah, we had 1200 photos.

As a side note, this improved our experiences from start to finish.  When someone pulls up to a National Park sign, rolls down the window and snaps a photo before speeding off……..we say, “That’s how we used to be.”  Now we stop, we explore, we talk to more people (the best part of motorcycle travel) and we take lots more photos.

We choose a Nikon S9700, 16 megapixel point & shoot, over our other consideration the Canon SX 700.  The two are very close in features, almost identical, Canon lacked GPS for geo-tagging, which we thought we would use…..Amazon Link  $329

 

Nikon S9700

 

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The built in Wi-Fi has been one of the most used features for us, as we take so many photos of ourselves, and now instead of hitting the timer and running into the shot, we have an app.   So you get the shot mostly set using a tripod and framing one of us, and then the app controls zoom, but mostly just lets you see what the camera sees, so you can rearrange a little when needed.

 

The Nikon app allowed us to get every National Park entrance sign.

 

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Having 30X optical zoom is a total wow factor.  Without an eyepiece ( I miss that) you can’t always tell what you’re zoomed in on, until you get the photos onto a computer full sized.  As shown below in our Zion captures.

 

Nikon Coolpix S9700 - 3

 

For some reason, after we put the camera and tripod back in the saddlebag, I took binoculars and started scanning the hillside.  Now, look at the red circle at the top of the photo.  The next picture shows the power of the zoom and what we found.  Inside the red circle is the tree shown below.

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And then I just started shooting all over the face of the mountain, not knowing what I was getting.  The S9700 only has the screen, with no eyepiece and the screen just doesn’t carry the detail of full zoom.

 

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          Full manual mode allows shooting in most conditions.

 

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  Shot overhead, handheld from a pitch dark Slot Canyon.         Tripods were not allowed.

Waterfall

          Slightly longer exposure softens the falling water.

 

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A tripod is not an option if you’re going to zoom, camera shake will blur every shot you take.  Other shots can turn out OK when hand-held, but for the most part  I’ve taken to using a tripod for virtually all photos.   So we researched compact tripods, backpacking types work for motorcycle travel.

The Gorilla tripod comes in several sizes and we love our clingy little buddy, he will hang anywhere.   In the first year we were using a smaller camera and the Gorilla still works with our S9700, but we actually never got him out during the 2015 summer.  If you need to hang from a tree branch or some other odd place, this guy will not let you down.

 

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             Gorilla clinging to tree bark, but with a smaller camera.

 

This year we moved to a full-sized travel tripod, the Dolica  Ultra Compact Tripod.   Amazon Link$68

Tripod 3

                  12″ folded fits in a saddlebag — 57″ Maximum height

tripod

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It will go even lower, but this is about as low as my old body wants to get….handy though when you’re looking for the perspective of shooting up across the bike.

Anyone who has taken photos on a trip covering several days and locations knows the task of sorting once you get home.  It’s pure work, no fun and sometimes just gets forgotten.  We’re using a 32 GB card that will hold around 3500 photos, so the 1200 we took were no problem…..they look like……IMG0001, IMG0002 all the way to 1200.  I needed a solution to get them off the camera daily and with at least a rough sort.

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Expand the photo for a better view.  The Western Digital, “My Passport” wireless portable external hard drive.

This is the only batter powered external hard drive that has a card reader built in.  That means you don’t have to go through a computer to get photos/videos from the card to the drive.   We even put cards into the slot and let them transfer in the saddlebag as we rode. You can network to it using USB 3.0 or using it’s own wireless connection.   At 2 TB I find this nothing short of amazing, and it fit our needs perfectly.  There is now a newer version out called the, “Ultra” but this one lacks nothing that we need.  Here is an Amazon link$196.

Every night I could dump the days photos into a folder for that particular National Park, or however you would want to sort.  Transferring to a laptop is simple while maintaining your filing system.

SCR PRT Pictures folder

We’re also running a GoPro a lot of the time, using micro cards.  At 64 GB we can get 4 hours on a card, so we only have two and while one is in the camera the other is downloading in the saddlebag.  Over the summer we logged 550 video segments, from a few minutes up to 4 hours in length.  Again sorting is a labor, so the more often you can sort into a filing system, the less work awaits you this winter when it’s time to start editing.

The other handy little gadget you see in the above photo is a 6 port USB hub.  With only one wall outlet we can charge; both iPhones, both helmet intercoms, the wireless hard drive, GoPro batteries, Kindles…..well even with 6 ports we have to rotate some.  But I think you know the problem in motels when you need to plug in individual items to wall outlets……..Sure unplug the lamps, the TV, the Refer, and you still don’t have enough to charge everything.  This little hub was the score of the summer! Amazon Link. $18

Toast

A toast in front of the deepest lake in the United States (Crater Lake NP).  The Nikon S9700, a free app and a cheap tripod. 

We logged just over 15,000 miles this summer.  We saw indescribable beauty, ate incredible vegan food and met wonderful people whom we will never forget. 

Life is short, start living now !

Peace,

Don & Karla

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Random Dog Photo……..When your dogs have been gone all morning and you finally see them coming up the driveway…….what a relief !

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