Rene Cormier Presentation and motorcycle video production

Plenty going on lately, time for an update!

On the road and through the cornfields to Ontario...

A few weeks back, I went to a great presentation by Rene Cromier at BMW Moto Internationale in Montreal.

Rene took a five-year, 41-country, 154 000km (95 000 mile) trip, all the way around the world. The amazing stories are endless and he had much practical advice for everybody considering a similar voyage.

What I admire most is how he's taken his experience and turned it into a career that works for him.
Between book tours and leading adventure motorcycle trips in Africa he's able to live life on his own terms.

His book The University of Gravel Roads is a great read, with plenty of photos and thoughts on the way we and others live. It certainly deserves a spot on your motorcycle bookshelf among Jupiter's Travels and Lois on the Loose.

Rene, holding his breath in the South-Atlantic

The front fender of Rene's BMW F650. It was decorated in Pakistan, with layers of reflective vinyl material, cut freehand with a razor.

My next project is a collaboration with a colleague of mine, we'll be shooting a short documentary video in September. I can't give away the plot, but it will revolve around a couple of particularly well-heeled motorcycle riders we know.

I've been absolutely devouring information about shooting and editing video. It's learning from the ground up about video formats and frame rates and codecs, and all that nonsense, but really it's just taking the audio production I already know and combining it with my photo editing skills. I know exactly what I want to do, I just have to learn how the cameras and software do it!

It's a real soup-from-a-stone production - we're borrowing nearly all the equipment required.
We've got an old Panasonic DVX100A video camera for action shots and audio recording, an Sennheiser md421 microphone to record interviews, A brand new Nikon D7000 to shoot gorgeous HD video, and as many GoPro helmet cameras as we can get our hands on. And it will all be put together with an obsolete copy of Final Cut Pro on a G5 Mac that I got for free from an office.
I sure do enjoy the challenge of making something from nothing, but money for food, gas and video tape will have to come from somewhere...

Panasonic DVX100A - Great camera, but only shoots in standard definition
There's a lot of the same skills used in photography and video, but the big difference seems to be that video needs a story, or a change, or something to move it along.

A photograph can stand on it's own as an interesting image. Photography is pure image-making - the composition of, shape, line, texture, colour.

You could make a compelling photo of a motorcycle tire, but a video of a motorcycle tire?
There's so much more you'd need to add to make it worth watching.

Ontario enduro rides

Lately, we've seen so much beautiful footage with SLR cameras that shoot video. The images are gorgeous, but often the videos are devoid of story.
After the ohh, ahhh, has worn off there's nothing there. An empty shell.

The short documentary we're working on is going to be very much character driven. The subjects are lively and interesting people. There's already a thousand stories there, the challenge will be choosing what to focus on. It will be a compelling story first and visually interesting on top of that story.

Here's a clip of the footage we shot to test the equipment. Still some technical kinks to be ironed-out but it was enough to convince us that we can do a great job on the real shoot.

I'll keep you all posted on the progress!

Baja Revisited - Post processing for a vintage look

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain...

One of the amazing aspects of modern photography is the range of creative possibilities that digital post processing offers. We have the entire history of photography to pull inspiration from. Daguerreotype to Polaroid, Kodachrome to HDR.

With this series of photos from Baja Mexico, I'm drawing on old album covers, dusty basement collections of National Geographic, antique shop photographs, 1980's Robby Müller movies. A haze of nostalgia to mask the cinical clarity of an unprocessed digital image.


The first experiment was to restrict myself to a square 1:1 crop ratio. The photos were not taken with a square crop in mind, so it took a bit of work to find photos that worked well with this ratio.

I use Lightroom 3  to process all my images, and here I used a mix of the basic exposure tools, the tone curve, split toning, and the effects panel to achieve the vintage look.

I used quite a bit of fill light and much less contrast than usual to give a faded appearance, and adjusted the colour temperature towards yellow for a warm tone.
The tone curve was used to gently bring back a bit of the lost contrast, and the split toning was used to bring a coloured tone to the shadows - another characteristic copied from the imperfection of vintage photos.



The surprisingly good film grain filter built-in to Lightroom takes the edge off the digital clarity and adds to the old look at stronger settings. 

After the photos were exported from Lightroom, I used Photoshop to apply a black frame from the Flickr Noise and dust through the viewfinder pool with a multiply layer.

I recommend John Arnold's excellent Photo Walkthrough website for tutorials on the finer details of Lightroom and Photoshop.

You can find the full gallery with larger images here