Photography – Top 10 tips for Adventure Motorcycling Photography

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The first step of telling a great motorcycling story is to make sure you’ve captured your ride’s best moments on camera. Here, Simon Thomas shares 10 rules he lives by to ensure he gets the photos that matter.

There are thousands of different elements that you might consider when you’re looking to capture an epic image, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But there are just a few key points that are really worth focusing on if you want to guarantee capturing exceptional images on your next trip.

So, here’s a round-up of my top 10 tips to help you on your way to your next hero shot.

Tip 1. Back to School

This first tip is not rocket science and, to be honest, it’s about as exciting as stationary drills on your bike. Here it comes… Learn how your camera operates. Yep, that means digging around, finding the manual and flipping the pages. If that’s too much hassle, a quick search on YouTube will get the job done. However, you need to know what the buttons and dials do on your chosen device. If you don’t, you’re less likely to capture boast-worthy images.

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Volcano Hill Climb

Tip 2. Angle of the Dangle

Everything we see through life is at eye level, so a great way to get and hold a viewer’s attention is to show them something different by shooting your images from an unconventional angle. Shoot from an elevated angle as your friend speeds toward you up that twisty hill, or lie down at ground level and shoot as they lean in toward the apex of that glorious curve. Just don’t stand upright and point and click. You’re better than that, so just be creative and delete what doesn’t work.

Tip 3. Fix Your Flash

Don’t wait until nightfall to get busy with your camera’s flash. Most people think that flash is just for shooting at night… Wrong! If you’re shooting into the sun, either during the day or at sunset, use ‘fill flash’ as an effective and powerful way of ensuring that your foreground is properly lit. It might be your mate, your bike or a rider speeding past you, but having them lit properly is a game-changer and moves your photography up a level. It’s how the pros do it.

Tip 4. Do, when you don’t

Many of the most memorable adventure motorcycling images are powerful because the rider is dealing with some type of dramatic geographical challenge or extreme weather. These types of shots, make us feel something because we imagine ourselves as the rider in that snowy mountain pass or thunderstorm or sun-bleached desert.

The impressive part of this process is often overlooked. It takes incredible presence of mind, sheer will and impressive discipline to ride through a dangerous climate or intimidating landscape and pull out the camera, set up the tripod and actually record the moment. So, if you want epic, pull out the camera at the exact moment that you least actually want to. It’s going to be tough, but that’s what it takes. Are you up to it?

Tip 5. Focus

I wrote an entire piece about this a few articles back. Before you press the button and click the lens, work out why you’re taking the photo. What’s the story you’re trying to tell? What is it about the subject, the landscape, the bike or the moment that is important enough to you to want to share? Decide and then fill your lens with just that.

Shoot only what’s important to you. If the sky is bland and blah, then shoot the foreground as your mate speeds through with a grin smeared across his face. If it’s just one element of a special custom bike build that has flair, then fill the frame with that part.

If it’s the overwhelming scale of the landscape that you’re about to ride into then tripod up and shoot wide to capture the scale. Don’t try to be overly artsy. Just remember to have fun by shooting what you like and your photography will improve. Always include a bit more in your frame than you really want as you can always crop, but you can never create more of the scene you didn’t capture.

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Eagle Hunter

Tip 6. Location, location, location

In order to capture that dream ride into an extreme or remote location, you’ll need to plan ahead if you have any hope of capturing the stunning image that you have imagined. Research what’s photo-worthy in the regions ahead. What are the expected temperatures? How cold is it going to get and how will those temps affect you and your gear? If you’re riding into arid regions, consider how much time you have in that location to capture the shots you want before your water runs out. A little internet research will keep you safer and waste less of your precious time on-site, giving you a greater opportunity to capture a few truly inspiring images.

Tip 7. Tripod up

Yeah, it’s not exciting but much of what goes into creating some of the world’s most stunning images isn’t exciting and often much of the effort that goes into the creative process is rarely shared. But, strapping a small tripod to your bike means you’re prepared. A tripod will give you room to breathe creatively if you aim to photograph yourself or your group on that next trip abroad. It also gives you the best chance of riding home with magazine cover-worthy images. No one is impressed by a blurry photograph.

Tip 8. The Universe is Yelling

Some of Lisa’s and my favourite images weren’t planned. When the universe gives you biblically stunning light, or a jaw-dropping landscape ahead, then heed the call, pull out your camera and get shooting. It doesn’t happen often and NO, it probably won’t get better around the next bend. Remember, ‘A good picture taken now, is better than a perfectly planned photo NOT captured tomorrow.’

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Baja East Coast Sunset

Tip 9. Weird?

One of the greatest aspects of travelling around the world is the sheer amount of truly weird stuff we get to see. Some of it we just couldn’t make up and would be impossible to explain had we not captured a few photos. The next time you see something that looks weird or special in some way on your next ride, pull out the camera and capture it. Sounds simple, right? The challenge is it is always easier to not take the photo than to take it. You are guaranteed to always regret the great images you forgot or chose not to take.

Tip 10. Take your time

Photography should be fun, rewarding and creative. So, do yourself a favour and take your time, to work out why you want to take the photograph. Consider the composition of the shot and remember my advice about using the rule of thirds which I wrote about a few issues back.

Shoot more images than you think you need and play around with the buttons and settings on your camera. Alter the light settings, increase and decrease the ISO levels and, if you have the option, throw on a few different lenses rather than just sticking with the one already on the camera. Essential; if you have a beer nearby, then crack the bottle, take a sip and enjoy the process. Have fun and make sure you share your results with us at www.facebook.com/2ridetheworld.