Photography Baja Norte, BC Mexico

I find it amazing that we can process and share our photos during our travels, while we are actually on the road. But one of the nice things about coming back from a long trip is having the time to review your catalog of photographs with fresh eyes and to properly retouch the best photos.

I thought a slideshow photo essay would be an interesting way to present some of my favorite images from the northern part of the Baja peninsula in Mexico

I re-processed the photos in Lightroom, converted them to a warm, high-contrast black & white and brought out the details with dodging, burning and sharpening.

I was going for a moody, sinister look - more for fun than for journalistic accuracy! - I put together the soundtrack to match the mood (Bass, MS10, percussion and turntable for those who are into such things) 

Most of these photos were taken with the Panasonic LX2 compact camera while sitting astride the motorcycle, the rest were shot with the Nikon D200.

I've written before about moving the camera postion to adjust the composition of the image. I haven't though about it till now, but I tend to ride the motorcycle into place for the best composition  the same as I would on foot.
I'll ride slowly once I see an interesting landscape, than inch along the shoulder of the road until the elements of the landscape snap into position. I'll move until I see a nice "S"curve in the road, until the cactus sits in the perfect spot on the side of the frame, until the massive mountain perfectly balances a boulder in the foreground.

The slideshow was put together on an ancient and borrowed Mac with iMovie 4, which would not be so bad if it did not take 6 hours to export a two minute high-res video. Lots to learn yet!

Here are some hi-rez photos to compare - click for full size and feel free to use them as desktop backgrounds. 

This photo was taken with a Nikon D200, it dealt very well with a high contrast scene that would have been too much for the LX2 compact. Notice how the detail in the distance holds together.

And this one was taken with the LX2 compact. It did a respectable job, but you can see we loose detail in the far distance. But That's as nit-picky as I get. I believe content trumps pixel-peeping, and I'm happy with the photo! 

WorldRider Allan Karl interview

Allan Karl is a motorcycle traveler, writer, photographer, musician and public speaker.
In 2005 Allan packed up a few things on his BMW F650 and left behind his home in California. 
He rode north to Alaska to properly begin his ride the length of the Americas. From Brazil he crossed the Atlantic to traverse Africa before finally pausing in Istanbul. 

On this last trip Allan visited thirty-five countries and photographed the people, places, and experiences he found along the way.

I was inspired by Allan's WorldRider trip on ADVrider to take-up motorcycle travel, so I was really happy to catch-up with him to ask a few questions.

So when you first set out on this trip, did you have any travel experience from before?

I convinced my parents after graduating college that I wanted to move to California. I was always a fan of road trips and this cross-country cruise in a borrowed car ignited the travel bug that'll be with me until I die.

Just a few years later an older friend of mine was planning a trip to Indonesia. and asked if I'd like to go. That trip - when I was just 24 - lasted two months and involved cruising eight Indonesian Islands. On each island we rented motorcycles, small 125-175cc two-stroke Japanese bikes.

I made every effort to travel, by motorcycle when possible. Before I embarked on my WorldRider trip I had been to about fifteen countries and traveled to forty-five American states.
Travel had become more important to me than any material possession, except maybe my Mac and my camera!

WorldRider is the culmination of my dream to see the world. And I'm not done yet.

And how about the whole photography thing, was that something you were into before the trip, or was it the trip that sparked your interest?

Ocular Dominance for Photography

Everybody knows that you're either left or right handed. But do you know if you're left or right eyed?

You have one eye that's better at judging distance, focus and motion. Most people look through the viewfinder of an SLR with their right eye, but maybe it's not the best thing for you...

Here's a great little trick I learned  out in the country last summer, while target-shooting a .22 rifle with a friend.

He told me a story about when his wife was learning to shoot. She was having a hell-of-a-time hitting the targets they had set up. But their neighbour had a suggestion. He told her to look at the target with both eyes open and point directly at the target with her finger. Then he told her to close her left eye, than her right eye.

"Which eye sees the finger pointing straight at the target?"
"The left eye!" She said.

*Crack!, Crack!*
Sighting down the rifle with her left eye instead of her right, she was hitting the targets like a sniper! Her dominant eye was the left one.

In photography, determining which eye is dominant will help you to track moving objects, judge focus and better see the information displayed in the viewfinder. And it's just more comfortable. Try it out!

Which eye do you shoot your SLR camera with?


Speaking of which eye you might use with your camera, I've found an amusing article on the Luminous Landscape website entitled: Photographers Have Noses

Also, check the comments below for an alternate test if the pointing finger test isn't working for you.

Take control of autofocus with your SLR - AF-ON

I first heard Jason Odell and Rick Walker give this tip a few years back, on the excellent Image Doctors podcast. This is absolutely one of the best techniques for getting better performance out of the autofocus on your SLR.

Most modern cameras auto-focus by pressing the shutter button halfway, but this new camera set-up moves the autofocus off the shutter release, onto it's own button, giving you separate control of focus and shutter.

It's a bit like riding your motorcycle off-road; having separate controls for the front and rear brakes allows you to adapt to the situation as needed.

It takes a while to get used to the new camera setup, but I'll bet you never go back to the old way!

Check out Jason's video below and go to his blog post for the full explanation

This video and blog post are specific to Nikon cameras, but surely it's possible to do this with Canon or other brands. Let me know in the comments if you have any "how-to" links for other camera brands!

Canadian Motorcycle trip photos

About a year ago today, I bought a ferry ticket to take my KLR650 from Baja to mainland Mexico.
Today, I bought an avalanche shovel, to dig my way through the snow into my apartment! That's what you get for living so far north...

But Tim,  (Drunkwombat955)  fellow ADVrider from Australia says:
"Its getting feggin hot here in Australia again, and maybe looking at pictures of your country will help!"

Plenty of folks have chimed-in with some great photos and I've put up my contributions from my Canadian travels here:

Here are a few small samples, but check out all the large photos at the link above.




Way out West-2

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Way out West-1126

Vancouver Island-5509

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Vancouver Island-5270

Motorcycle Travel Photography E-books

Motojournalism Book One - The Foundation

Our motorcycles give us a unique ability to experience real adventure and authentic explorations. These agile vehicles allow us to get far out into the wild, cross borders and break the ice with people around the world. The variety of photo opportunities we encounter every day is incredible. We’ll see the sun crest a ridge in the morning, we’ll ride hundreds of miles over challenging and varied landscapes, discover a new town, meet interesting people, then watch the sun drop into the ocean in the evening - all in a single day.

We take pictures of our adventures to remember the challenges of the terrain and the beauty of the road, to share exciting stories with our friends. But sometimes we get back home, disappointed to find that the photos just aren't as good as when we were there.
How often have we heard “Sorry for the bad photo.” “It’s steeper than it looks.” or “The photo doesn’t do the place justice.”

Motojournalism Book One is about taking better photos of your adventures with the camera you have now. Written from a motorcycle travel perspective - but applicable to all overlanders - Book One teaches the foundational photographic techniques you need to come home with great photos of your travels.

This book is not about equipment. This book is about taking better photos with the camera you have now. The basic principals covered here will improve your photos whether you are using a $5000 digital SLR or the camera of your mobile phone. Knowing how to choose a subject and compose an image and choose the best photos will have the greatest impact on the success of your photography.

Book One - PDF E-Book 41 pages $10
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Through text and examples, each chapter describes the essential techniques for creating compelling images of your travel adventures.

Whether you are headed for Tierra del Fuego or Terre Haute Indiana,  these skills can be used right away with the camera you have now.

The book is divided into seven main sections
  • Keep it Simple
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Get Close
  • Background
  • Layered Landscape
  • People
  • The Edit

Motojournalism Book Two - The Tools

Motojournalism book two is all about how to choose the camera equipment for your overland travel, how to pack it securely, and how it all works. Though the book is written with the small luggage capacity of motorcycles in mind, all overland travelers can apply these extended travel techniques.
Through illustrations and hands-on examples, you will learn the photo essentials of manual mode, aperture, shutter-speed, ISO, exposure compensation, the histogram, and more.There's nothing quite like this out there.

  • Camera choice
  • Lens choice
  • Buying gear
  • Packing gear
  • Accessories
  • Shooting modes
  • ISO
  • Histogram
  • Exposure compensation
  • White balance
  • Backup on the road

Book Two - 49 hi-res, information packed pages $15.
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Compact cameras for travel photography

Many folks out there see people taking photographs with a great big "professional" SLR and think; "Well, If I had all that gear he has I could take good photos..."
Other people might spend thousands of dollars on "professional" equipment and wonder why there photographs aren't improving.

Having good equipment will let you get photos that you that you'd otherwise miss, but it won't make you a better photographer.

I really believe that the things that make the biggest difference to your photography - composition, subject, colour - can be learned with any camera.

But to be realistic, you have to work within the limitations of a compact camera. It's tiny digital sensor means you'll have a tough time getting a pocket-sized camera to work well in low-light or fast action situations. You're stuck with the lens that's attached to the camera, so you probably won't be able to get that shallow-focused soft background you see in some portraits.

A small camera will work great in good light with still or slow-moving subjects. Concentrate on the composition, the colours, the interesting subjects, and polish the photos up with some post-processing. 
After all - when we're talking about content - a good photo is a good photo whether it's taken with an iPhone or a Hassleblad.

 The secret to this photo was the fantastic natural light and a simple black and white conversion. The workshop of los hermanos Juarez in Antigua, Guatemala had the left side of the room completely open to the light, and sun pouring through windows on the right. I could not have set up studio-strobes better than the available light that day.

Simple straight-on compositions work well with any camera.

 My battered Lumix LX2 never leaves my side.

Where you stand - Camera position

When we see a subject we're interested in, our brain concentrates on the subject itself while ignoring everything else around it. We just don't see what's happening in the background while we are taking the picture. It takes a conscious effort to pay attention to what is going on behind the subject of the photo.

This is why you find many vacation photos with people that have trees "growing out" of their heads.

It's easy to ask our friends to move to a more photogenic location,  but how can we control the background with a less cooperative subject like this concrete monument?

*click to enlarge