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Let's Go Moto Photo - Part 1

Are your group photos gritty, moving shots muddled, or your landscapes lacking? If you're having trouble getting good shots while you're out riding, here's a short lesson in photography basics as it relates to you, your motorcycle and the people you ride with.

Jerry just e-mailed over a few pictures from his clubs recent ride. "These are some pictures of our ride around Mt. Rainier the other day" he wrote. The images include photos of a few guys standing around talking and a few guys standing around buying gas. Then there were the photos of Mt. Rainier, which were shot in the lowest possible resolution from the north side with the lens pointed into the sun, only picking up the outline of the mountain. It may have been a glorious ride, unfortunately the pictures don't tell half the story.

Today's automatic film and inexpensive digital cameras offer us all a license to be photographers, but for most, we miss the essentials to taking good photos. This series is directed at the motorcyclist who takes a great ride and wants to make it a memorable one by bringing home some great pictures.

In part one we will discuss 5 basics to better photos.

Getting that Group Shot 

It's common for someone to think they're getting a group shot when everyone stops for gas or coffee and is moving around putting gas in their tanks or socializing and sipping on coffee. These aren't really group shots, they aren't memories of the ride the way you want to look back at them months or years later (see lower left).

Take an extra five minutes out of the ride and gather the group together for a posed shot that will make it memorable and that you can e-mail out to all the riders later on. Which shot do you like better, the one on the left or the one taken on the right after the group was gathered together (see lower right)?

Remember when taking a shot like this, to come in tight with your camera so you can capture the whole group in the lens and not include other distractions such as parked cars or useless surroundings.

Working with Natural Light 

One of the most common errors I see in amateur photos is the use of light. The relationship of where the sun is to your photo can make it a great one, or just plain lousy. When you're photographing a group of individuals outside in sunlight, look for shots that light them. The rule of thumb here is to have the sun at your back.

Example 2: The photo on the left missed the riders altogether. The one on the right captures the rider and Mt. Rainier in the back. Note it is also framed with the tree on the right.

The other consideration in a typical group photo is the shadow placements. If all the shadows are directly behind the individuals, or slightly to one side or the other, you're doing a great job of capturing the group and the local surroundings without mucking the image up with a lot of black lines.

When to Flash 

Sometimes it's not easy to capture a shot where the subjects are lit up because of the fact of where you are. In that case give yourself 5-10 feet between you and the subjects and force your camera into the flash mode. Even with the sun sneaking straight into your lens you can capture the subjects' faces. This can also provide a nice silhouette effect on the landscape behind you. Such a technique can help shots like the one on the right in example 2.

Put a Frame Around 

You can enhance a great shot and show some depth at the same time by framing the shot with a tree or other surrounding object. While everyone is socializing together take a moment to plot out a nice framing setup and then have your riders gather into that area. See the shot on the right of example 2.

Follow That Rider 

Taking pictures of people in your group moving is a great way to capture the essence of speed. One of my favorite tricks is to leave my group from a gas stop before everyone else, get up the road a few minutes, find a picturesque spot, pull over and setup. As the riders approach I can get suitable for framing photos of them as they roll down the highway.

But one secret to this type of photo is to follow the rider with your camera as you pick them up in your lens and ultimately snap the shutter.  

The photo above demonstrates this technique. By following the rider the subject is tight and in focus, but the rest of the road and landscape are just a blur. SR!

TM/Spring 02


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