BikeLife: Photo Rig

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I’m posting this today because people have been asking. One of the most challenging but intriguing aspects of my current creative life is how to merge cycling and photography. Most of you know me via photography, which makes sense. I’ve spent my entire life, from 1988 through the present time involved in photography, at least to some degree.

So colorful, so guapo.

The bulk of this time I worked full time as a photographer. There were interludes when I didn’t make my living by pressing the shutter. The four-year break for Kodak and the ongoing, ten-year break for Blurb. Oddly enough, I’ve made the bulk of my best work while NOT working full time as a photographer, which is an incredibly important point if you are thinking of throwing your hat in the professional ring.

During my “non-photography” interludes, I was still shooting, still doing occasional assignments but since the camera was not my primary means of survival I stopped calling myself a photographer. There is no way I will ever go back to being a photographer. It’s not that I couldn’t. I think I could but it would be incredibly difficult and would force me to do many things I do not want to do. And it would ensure my work would suffer.

Cycling feels like my future, but I would describe it as a very uncertain future at best. I envision myself as a polite, strategic activist. I want more butts on bikes and would like to find a way to make a living focusing on this idea. But I need to make images along the way. And the phone just isn’t cutting it. So, I’ve come to a quick solution I wanted to share. How do I ride and shoot?

I’ve decided to go the backpack route. My Cotopaxi Luzon Eighteen. Now, is this a photography backpack? No, not even close. This baby has ZERO padding and was never designed to be a camera bag. But, it weights NOTHING, and with the right insert will hold one body and two lenses. Inside the Luzon, I’m adding a waterproof bag liner, so no matter what New Mexico throws at me, I’m solid and I’m dry.

No, I’m not going to carry the booster. It’s just here for the geeks to enjoy.

Yes, using a pack means I have to stop, take it off, open it up, retrieve the camera, etc. That’s okay. There will be times when I ride with the camera around my body, and there will be days when I spend hours working a location, scene, story or person.

There are WAY better photography bags. My Atlas Athlete comes to mind. This is the bag I use when hiking, doing remote photography projects, traveling or working from my truck. The Atlas is awesome and will last the rest of my life, but for cycling, it’s just too big.

What I like about using a pack is that my body takes the abuse, not the camera. I could use a handlebar bag but Jesus the gear takes such abuse while bouncing around in these bags. Road riders, this is a good option, however.

How cool is it to use the word “sack?”

So, my plan is to use one XT2 body and both the 23mm and the 35mm. (35mm and 50mm equivalents) Now, there might be times when I use the 50-140mm as well but who knows where that baby is going to go. Helmet mount? I also have the 56mm 1.2 which is a solid portrait lens and very small.

My ultimate goal is to blend my documentary life with my cycling life. Not all the time, but when I get out on the bike I want to be able to make images that go beyond what I get with the phone.

Comments 14

  1. I think good photography starts with personal projects, so the problem about doing it for a living is that you’re making other people’s projects.

    That Fuji gear is great, I can fit everything I own in a small backpack. I have a tiny camera backpack I use when cycling which works great for me.

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      It depends on who you are. I know plenty of successful photographers who don’t want to shoot their own stuff. In fact, I know a few who have never done photography outside of assignments. But for people like you and me, we need the personal stuff.

    2. Yes, I should know better than say polarized statements, I’m usually the one asking questions when others do so. And you’re right, there are always some who thrive in work environment no matter the field. And you’re right again, it wouldn’t work for me.

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  2. I’ve been riding with my camera for years now. One small piece of advice when cycling with the camera over your shoulder and swinging behind your back – put something in your rear right jersey pocket (if you’re wearing a cycling jersey) and then adjust the length of the camera strap so that the camera hits whatever is in the pocket and doesn’t keep swinging around to your front.

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      That is the obscure yet precise kind of data I’m looking for. What happened last time I rode? My camera kept swinging around in front. Damnit!

  3. Also been “photo-cycling” for decades. My system is a camera around my neck with the lens end shoved into a small pouch, also around my neck but wrong way round so that the flap (open) is facing forward, protecting the camera. I don’t need to close the bag, so even my 5D (neck ache) can fit for short rides. Then most importantly, I fasten the wast band of my backpack over the camera strap, which stops the swinging and worse, “bobbing” on the climbs!

    This works for me on both bike and bicycle trips, 90% of which are off-road.

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      I am wearing a Cotopaxi day back with camera in pack, or sometimes around my neck. I use the chest strap to keep the camera from banging me in the face.

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  4. Hello everyone I have chosen another solution than wearing a backpack or a camera which could be dangerous for the cyclist and or the camera in case of a fall.
    I use a upper frame bag where I put my iphone to navigate and the camera with a small lens (a fast and practical access) and in for the others lenses I use a pouch which I put in my main frame bag.
    All the stuff are protected in case of rain, dust, mars attack , etc…….
    The bags are useful to carry a bottle of wine ,a salami and bread and cheese also……
    Cheers from Switzerland

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      I use a frame pack too but not for my gear. I find it too thin for what I’m carrying. I LOVE the frame and seat post packs however. But my gear still goes in a small backpack, for now anyway……

  5. Hi Daniel thanks for your opinion, I still have a question how to publish a picture with the text?
    Thanks for answering.

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