As a photographer we all have problems relating to the traveling with camera gear. Is it light enough? Compact enough? Do I need this? What about that lens? And the list goes on and on. I am presented almost daily with this challenge, but on a new level!
I am a cycling photographer, “and….?” I hear you say? Well I don’t mean a touring bike with 15kg of saddle bags and panniers. I am a very passionate road cyclist, which means I ride with the absolute bare minimum on board as comfort over long distances is of highest priority, as my rides can range between 4 and 6 hours.
Finding the balance between carrying good photography gear and achieving the above mentioned ideals, presents a very interesting challenge. I haven’t managed to connect with many people who fit into this genre of photography on an everyday/regular basis – they instead prefer to undertake devoted and specific photography road trips. So I’m always thinking of new ideas to help keep my camera gear light while cycling while not compromising the quality of the photos.
Cycling with Camera Gear
I started off researching mobile photography, and while this type of technology is amazing and continues to produce better results every year, I soon realized the limitations that come with shooting photos with your phone. Still, I thought this was worth a shot. I first went about researching what phone had flexibility, a good camera, a strong battery life, and was also structurally strong. “Just get an iPhone mate…?!” nope! Not enough adaptability and customization from a phone perspective for my needs.
Finally, I took the plunge after hearing everything and anything about them and got a Huawei P9 Plus. This is a fantastic phone and offers a lot of customization and personalization. Now the key feature of this phone and it’s main marketing hype is all to do with it’s Dual Lens System – made by Leica. This offers fantastic imagery and I have since upgraded the internals and software in the camera department to the changes the P10 Plus brought.
I highly recommend the Huawei P10 Plus to anyone looking for an excellent camera phone. For shooting images, I use the Adobe Lightroom mobile app and it’s in-house camera. This also has a widget where you can replace the default camera on the phone with the Lightroom Camera. This offers RAW capture and complete manual adjustment of Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, white balance, and a handy on-the-fly exposure compensation slider.
As I keep coming back to my phone on a lot of performance focused rides – I do utilize this a lot but find myself in situations where I long for a decent camera with some quality glass. You can view my best mobile shots in 2017 in this article on EXPOSURE: www.blackapturphotography.co.nz/2017-from-the-saddle/
The first thing I tried was grabbing an older and almost unused camera of mine, a Sony RX10 Mark II and simply buying an adjustable and comfortable strap. This worked well… for about 10 minutes! While the RX10 is a lot smaller and lighter than a DSLR, it’s still a bulky item to have on your back and with no support aside from the strap. The second I took off from the traffic lights, it started slipping around and soon become extremely annoying – not to mention when I started climbing.
Next up, I started researching cheap mirrorless cameras that still captured good images and gave me that quality difference that I was looking for. As this was experimental, I was therefore not willing to invest much money in a mirrorless camera at this stage, which is why I settled on the YI Mirrorless camera. This camera for the price I paid – is outstanding! I really was having my doubts and having used flagship Sony Mirrorless cameras, I truly was amazed. Excellent camera, until it met the world cycling, or more particularly, the sweat which goes with it.
Having initially purchased this camera during the winter season, the thought of moisture did not cross my mind! Cycling, being subject to the elements, is primarily a fair-weather occupation – although on days when the weather was more inclement it was behind a rainproof layer.
With the onset of summer, the ballgame changed once again. On an 85-90F day with an hour long climb, you can imagine the moisture created in a back pocket of a thin cycling jersey is rather abundant! I found when I got to the top that the lens was affected. The auto-focus was all over the place and simply would not work, then the camera itself started flashing various errors and generally going haywire – it was very wet, and that was certainly the end of that.
The only thing that has actually worked thus far – barring the phone – is a TOPEAK Compact handlebar bag. This clamps on to my handlebars and is able to fit my Nikon D750 with a 24-85 on it. Sadly, it’s not that simple, the bag is cumbersome and affects the balance of the entire front end of my bike – extremely noticeable when descending at high speeds. This product also looks ghastly on my bike, and creates a lot of clutter on my bike cockpit. So really, it still hasn’t worked ideally, at least for me.
My next port of call is going to be Peak Designs ‘Capture Clip’ system this extremely innovative and really cool design looks as though it might just be the ticket (I’ll soon find out) – I just need to figure out how the attachment process is going to work and in what way.
“Capture keeps your camera instantly accessible with the click of a button. Includes 2 components: a metal clip that clamps to any backpack strap, belt, or bag, and an Arca tripod-compatible plate that screws into the bottom of your camera. Your camera locks into the clip, where it is held rigidly and securely. Press the lockable quick-release button to remove. Holds well over 200 lbs. (90kg), making it strong enough for the heaviest of pro camera/lens combinations.” – Peak Design
These are just a few of the ideas and solutions that I’ve tried while riding my bike with my photography gear. Please reach out if you have any tips, solutions, or creative ways that have worked for you when carrying camera gear while biking – and I welcome any examples of how you attach the capture clips also!
You can contact me with suggestions via my website, www.blackapturphotography.co.nz.
– Findley Watt