an Article by @livingstone_moto
This past year I had the fun idea to combine my love for motorcycles with my skills as a professional photographer. I decided to start intentionally bringing my camera equipment with me on as many rides as possible so that I could capture authentic moments. There have been many ups and downs as I figured out what does and doesn’t work for me as a photographer on a motorcycle, and I have learned a lot about both myself as a motorcyclist and the gear that I use.
Right off the bat, one of the biggest obstacles that I face each ride is the space limitations. As much as I want to bring all three cameras and ten lenses with me, riding has really forced me to reevaluate what is “must-have” gear. I start every photography motorcycle ride with the intention of capturing the best quality content possible. I want my gear to serve multiple purposes. In the case of a something breaking down, I always carry a multitool and a set of Allen keys in the storage area under my seat. Thankfully riding my BMW, almost any part can be adjusted or taken apart using a set of Allen keys. Other lightweight pieces of gear like my simple RAM mount for my iPhone and lightweight, but solid ATLAS Throttle Lock are always beneficial. These pieces of kit take up hardly any space on the motorcycle, while adding very much appreciated functionality to the bike. You’d think a shorter ride would mean less photography equipment. However, if I am riding for just an hour or two, I can afford to pack my camera backpack, and Pelican Case hard side luggage with almost exclusively camera gear from tripods to lens. A cheap bungie cargo net works great to hold a tripod on top of the pillion seat. If on the other hand I am planning a day or more of riding, the reality is most of my luggage will be spare motorcycle gear and food. These are the times when I find out exactly what my “must-haves” really are. If you are like me and find yourself scrolling through photos online taken by motorcycle photographers, you may be pressured into feeling like you can only shoot quality content if you have all of the most expensive gear, both attached to your motorcycle, and in your camera bag. The reality is that some of the best imagery can be captured from a tiny foldable tripod with a mount for your phone and its built in timer. I always try to capture the best content possible, just keep in mind that shooting a “perfect” photo is never worth ruining an otherwise fun ride.
After the first few months of motorcycle rides, when I was shooting photos every couple days, I began to find myself returning to the same places multiple times because I knew they were easy locations to shoot in. I viewed this as both convenient and a habit I wanted to break. I began to ride with my GPS turned off and with no destination in mind, lowering the pressure of taking photos during every trip. Some of the most memorable locations and photos I’ve shot have come out of this new approach to my riding. There is one location in particular that I stumbled upon that was an old walking path right beside one of Canada’s busiest sections of highway. I decided to see what was on the other end of this path, and I came across the perfect secluded location for a photoshoot. One thought that had crossed my mind with starting to photograph my rides was the fact that I only currently have the one motorcycle, and I chose early on to only feature my own motorcycle in my photos. This led me to really focus in on different ways to keep my images looking unique when they’re posted one after the other. I quickly found that intentionally changing up the angles of the bike and switching between close ups and wide angle shots to be really beneficial. Each time I find a great location to put my bike’s kickstand down, I make sure to try photographing it from all different angles (low angles looking up at a motorcycle are never a bad choice), but I also make sure to take lots of detail shots of my bike and gear to give more variety. My LS2 Pioneer Helmet has always been a great subject for my photos because of the details it has, but anything from a close up of the BMW gas tank emblem to a sunset light showing through the spokes of my wheels are always a welcome sight. I try my best to not worry about what others think of my photos, and just focus on what is most exciting for me to capture in the moment while I’m enjoying my rides. When I am looking for inspiration, I lean towards some of the really solid motorcycle Instagram accounts out there that do a good job of telling a story instead of always showing repetitive photos of an expensive bike. Motorcycle Photographers such as Ricki Phoolka (@ricki.phoolka) and Gorm Taube (@gorm_moto) come to mind as a great starting point for inspiration.
I’ve found that striking a decent balance between photography and motorcycling can be difficult at times. Some evenings I arrive back from an afternoon trip only to realize that I was focusing so much on finding the perfect photo location, that I didn’t end up enjoying the ride. On the other hand, I can spend hours riding all over the place seeing amazing moments pass me by without having the opportunity to take out a camera. I believe that it comes down to not forgetting why I started riding in the first place. It is a freeing experience unlike anything else that makes all of the stress from the day disappear for a while and replaces that stress with the ability to explore new locations and nature in an amazing way. Last riding season, I mainly focused on honing in my riding skills on dirt roads and trails. This included a full day of off-road training on Yamaha dirt bikes and a BMW GS at SMART Training in Horseshoe Valley, ON which I would highly recommend! For the upcoming season, I am currently planning some longer rides both solo and with friends to take advantage of the beautiful scenery Canada has to offer. Like I said before, it may not be practical for me to take my Nikon Full Frame camera with me on every one of these trips, but you can be sure that I will have some way to capture photos of me and my motorcycle no matter where I am off to next!
If you want to hear more about my motorcycle photography adventures, follow me at @livingstone_moto on Instagram.