Two weeks ago I was invited to photograph OTR. In their own words, OTR (Out to Ride)…
“… is a riding club that was founded in 2007, with the vision to bring together people who have a love and passion for motorcycles. We are based around the Greater Toronto Area. We are not-for-profit, don’t keep any proceeds and support local businesses. We are a diverse group of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions. We share a strong bond, with deep roots in family, unity, friendship, support, and respect. Out To Ride continues to grow, staying true to these roots. As a family we always support and uplift each other, bringing a positive energy.”
The plan for the day was to meet up with them in Scarborough and follow them to a charity car wash event in support of The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation for cancer research. Throughout the year OTR take part in and support many charities. They believe in the importance of improving public awareness and opinions of motorcycle culture within their community. That is a very important and commendable activity.
I was the first to arrive at the meeting spot. Being that they are a sportbike club I was unsure how I would be received driving my Harley. Being a photographer you have to gain the trust of your subjects quickly if you want to have a successful shoot. If any of them had bad feelings towards Harley riders I would be in for a long day. In my last blog post I wrote about the “us versus them” attitude many people have that I hate so much. If there were bad feelings I wanted to make sure I came across positively not only as a photographer but as a Harley rider.
Luckily for me, as each one of them arrived, I did not get that feeling at all. I was welcomed with open arms and a lot of the riders showed interest in my bike. One of them asked me how many kilometres I had put on it this year and when I said just over 8000km (now creeping on 9000), I got a big smile and a fist bump. That’s what matters to these guys. Not what bike you ride, what your background is or the colour of your skin. My kind of people. OTR is comprised of a wide variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds. What unites them is a love of motorcycles, and in turn each other. I should have known better then to be worried. I guess it’s second nature.
I was immediately struck at the level of camaraderie and brotherhood within the club. There was a definite sense of belonging and brotherhood I had never seen in other motorcycle groups and gatherings. I can see how this would be attractive to someone wanting to join. There were a few prospects coming along for the ride that day that were close to being accepted into the club.
Once everyone arrived we all mounted up for the short rip down the 401 to Mississauga where the event was taking place. Photography aside, I was really pumped as this was going to be the first time I rode with so many bikes at once. Speed wise I was at a disadvantage but I was able to keep up well. I was having a ton of fun shooting as bikes flew by and all around me. Then things got interesting. The picture below could have very well been my last without quick reflexes and a little creative biting…let me explain.Read More»
You can get jaded pretty fast reading motorcycle forums. There is always an air of us versus them, me versus you. In this case, I am referring more specifically to Harley versus Sportbike riders. I was reading a thread today on GTAmotorcycle.com about the potential of Burlington passing a law banning loud bikes. The thread quickly turned into a hate-fest with each side pointing fingers at the other camp. This is nothing new and happens all the time with a wide range of topics. The fact of the matter is this- there are douchbags everywhere. Some have sport bikes and some have Harley/cruisers. I never did understand how people can be so ignorant as to stereotype an entire group.
I come from the little camp where people don’t care what you ride or what you look like. Two weekends ago I went on a nice ride with a mix of Harleys, a chopped Honda and sport bikes. One guy I have been friends with most of my life, one for a few month and the rest I met for the first time. Everyone on that ride was cool and had a true appreciation of everything with two wheels. I love connecting with new people with a shut-up and ride attitude; it’s the right attitude to have.
The contraband run is a ride from the GTA to Rice Lake stopping at the Trading Post in Alderville. The Trading Post has to be one of the coolest stores. First off, you expect to walk into a little convenience store but the place is huge. It was like walking into Doctor Who’s Tardis. While it looked small from the outside, it was big on the inside. It has a little of everything; part cheap Indian smoke shop, convenience store, super market, camping supplies, paintball supplies, fishing supplies, clothing store. There was even a four wheeler for sale and medieval armor near the entrance. That was just the first floor. On the second floor was an antique shop filled with old furniture, clothing and old technologies. I have never seen anything like it. There was even a guy sleeping in one of the old beds. I was so awestruck by the men behind the counter sporting mullets and smoking cigarettes, I forgot to take pictures.
After grabbing some cheap smokes, gas and some refreshments we hit the road in search of some good eats. We ended up at the Rhinos Roadhouse in Bewdley, which was a cool spot with a beautiful view of Rice Lake. Turns out it’s quite the biker stop over. There were hundreds of bikers there taking a break having food and drink. It was a really good atmosphere and the food was pretty good too.
With the sun starting to lower in the west it was time to make our way back. Motorcycling just seems to get better and better as I meet more like minded folk who enjoy the open road and a face full of wind. Shame another season is fast coming to an end.
Near the end of winter I decided I wanted to photograph more motorcycles. I did a bit last spring and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I always had to borrow a car or get a ride which made things tough. I always had to go by someone else’s schedule. If I was going to do it I needed my own transportation to move my gear around. I already owned a 1978 Honda CB750 and started thinking how I could transport my gear on it. Since I live in the city I really didn’t want a car. How to strap all my gear to a motorcycle really wasn’t obvious but there was a more pressing problem with that idea: the bike wasn’t running. It had been sitting in my girlfriend’s parents garage for two full riding seasons collecting dust.
Three years ago, I had kept the CB over the winter at a friend’s garage. Spring came and I went over to grab the bike. I was making my way home on a beautiful warm day so excited motorcycle season was back in Toronto. I had made it to Wellesley St and Yonge St, heading east, when I felt something strange in the back end: a slight wobble. Before I could think what it might be something suddenly broke and I was struggling for control. The rear end swung side to side, over and over. Luckily, I didn’t go down and I was able to come to a stop. My heart was pounding and when I got off the bike to take a look I noticed almost all the spokes in the rim had snapped.
I eventually got the bike to a shop to get the wheel rethreaded. Upon closer inspection all the little holes in the rim had worn into bigger holes. It was an issue that the mechanic had never seen. It’s an old bike with many owners and who knows what the bike had been through. Regardless, it needed a whole new wheel and finding a wheel proved to be very difficult. It took all summer to find a suitable wheel and it was now late fall. Before the wheel issue the bike was already starting to run rough. The bike was leaking oil at the gaskets, one of the valves wasn’t seated right and the throttle was sticky. It really needed a rebuild. The bike was falling apart and without a budget, it sat there all summer. I wish I could do the work myself but I know nothing of engine repair, welding or painting. This is something I would like to learn. One day, when I have my own garage, I will take the time to learn how to rebuild an engine. All said and done, the CB750 wasn’t an option. I needed something now.
I was starting to think maybe a car was the only solution. A car is convenient but motorcycling is a close knit community and without one you’re just another cager. Without a bike I no longer felt part of the community, nor did I think anyone would take me seriously as a motorcycle photographer. What was I supposed to do, as I could only afford one. Without a car, how do I get my photo gear to a location? Without a motorcycle, how would I be taken seriously? Those summers without the bike were the hardest summers of my life. Ever since I started riding motorcross with my cousin in my late twenties it’s been a part of me. I didn’t feel like myself without a bike. It was like I had lost an arm or a leg. It’s a feeling only a motorcyclist can understand.
I realized I could not go another summer without a bike. I just had to figure out a way to make it work on a bike. It had to be everything, a daily rider and be able to get me and my gear to a photo shoot. I started looking at everything, used and new, trying to figure out how to attach enough camera and lighting gear to a bike. The camera and lenses were no big deal, I could use a back pack for that. It was the lighting, modifier and stand that was the issue. They were so long and I didn’t know where to place them. I thought of making tubes and attaching them to the backside of a saddle bag. Maybe that would work? The other problem was the saddle bags aren’t meant for gear and that would need to be modified. I was starting to think my idea needed too many mods and money. Just when I thought I wouldn’t find a solution, Harley came to the rescue and announced two new mid year 2012 models in February: the Fatboy slim and a Sportster called the “72″.
The XL1200V “72″ struck a cord with me right away. It was the most beautiful modern Harley-Davidson I had ever seen. It was styled just like older 70′s choppers: skinny front end, peanut tank and some apes. Choppers from that era were already my favourite style of bike and it was love at first sight. A modern bike with old school styling. While I loved the bike it was the same issue: where do I put the gear? Then I saw the picture of the bike with a sissybar and that’s when it hit me. Not only did it look cool, I could use a sissybar bag and even strap the lighting stand to it across the top. That was it, that was the solution, so simple. I felt stupid for not thinking of it before. I went straight to Harley, put a deposit on the bike and a month later I took delivery. It’s an awesome bike and I have been riding it every day since. I’m already closing in on 5500 km.
It took a few more months to find the right bag and sissybar combo but here she is, ready to go, finally.
What’s in the bag?
- Nikon D7000
- MB-D11 (3x batteries)
- 50mm f1.8D
- 16-35mm f4G
- 70-200mm f2.8 VR2
- PCB Einstein 640w/s
- PCB Vagabond mini
- PCB 64″ silver PLM with diffusion
- 3x pocket wizard + backup cables
- Sekonic L-758C
- Color Checker Passport
- tripod and stand
A few months back I started using Pinterest and through repining discovered a great site run by Alicia Mariah Elfving, aka The Motolady. I started visiting Ms Moto’s website daily as part of my morning blog reading routine. She’s the real deal and Pipeburn just posted a great interview on Alicia. I have the upmost respect for ladies that ride their own bikes. When I lived in Joliette, QC years back their were a lot of female riders. Quebec women have always been more progressive. Now back in Toronto I am seeing more and more women giving up the passenger seat and riding on their own. I usually see a girl or two everyday now, which is great. Scooters have become extremely popular in Toronto over the past few years and a lot of women are riding scooters. I hope to see it become a stepping stone for more women to pick up bigger bikes. I wish my girlfriend could ride her own bike but I have seen her ride a bicycle and we both agree she’s better off behind me. It’s not for everyone, male or female, but the more the merrier.
As I start doing more motorcycle photography I have been eyeing the Nikon 10.5 fisheye. I want it for capturing shots while riding. It’s such a wide lens and basically has infinite depth of field so it works great for this application. No need to focus or look through the view finder, just point and shoot. Well that was the idea I had in my head. Before dropping cash on it, I decided to rent it for the weekend. For this test I wanted to strap the camera to my chest and get a rider’s perspective. I spent so much time trying to figure out a way to strap it to my chest but I ended up just cinching the regular camera strap as much as I could. So with the lens in hand I called up my buddy to go for a ride. We met at Davies Harley.
Already I love the lens after this shot. When I used to shoot with my Canon 5d and 17-40mm I loved that wide vertical look. Haven’t been able to do that since switching to the Nikon D7000 even though I have a 16-35mm for it. It’s just not the same on the cropped sensor. Even though this has way more distortion I still like it. On the other hand, it doesn’t make for the greatest portrait lens unless you’re really looking for an exaggerated look. Sorry Reza.
With that we headed north. If you’re wondering how I triggered the camera while I had my hands on the bars…it’s a trade secret. Sorry.
I’m only kidding. I’ll let you know. I used the timer. Not only that, an awesome feature on the Nikon is you can set the timer on the camera and have it repeat up to 9 times. I set my aperture and shutter. Preset and left the focus on manual to stop the camera trying to focus on all the moving objects. Hit the button once, place my hands on the bars and the camera shoots 9 shots without me doing anything. Awesome. I tried two shutter speeds on the day: 1/125th and 1/80th. Both worked well. The bike was sharp 70% of the time. Camera movement or bumps would shake the camera the rest of the time. Both settings give me enough motion blur to give a sense of speed. Next time I want to try it a little slower and see what happens. First problem I had with these shots is that the camera was too low. The speedo was getting in the way of the horizon and I wanted to be able to see that far point on the horizon. I had no way to fix it now that I was already on the road so I tried my best to sit up as much as I could when the camera was going off.
Got a few more decent shots.
I think I like the last one the best. This was just a test though. Next time I’ll be looking for better lighting. Also now that I am sitting up I loose that part of the tank. That kind of sucks. I’ll have to figure out how to bring the camera up and tilt it down a bit. That’s next time.
Having done this on Saturday and having reviewed the pics, I set out to fix the problem of the camera being too low. It’s amazing what you can do with duct tape. On Sunday I got the idea of doing this at night and getting light trails.
This is the result.
How I did this shot will have to wait for another post. I really like the lens and the possibilities it gives me. I’ll be picking one up for sure one day.
Well the new alexulleri.com site is basically finished. Time to start bloggin’ again.
I love road trips. So much so I was a long-haul trucker for 3 years. I haven’t had the chance to do to many long trips on the bike but this list is a good starting point for planning over the boarder trips.