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Joined: 15 Mar 2005
|Posted: 23:41 - 13 Apr 2014 Post subject: KLR's Guide To POV Riding Photos
|Before you all start throwing your cameras up the road please note that I do not take any responsibility for whatever may happen to your camera as a result of reading this thread. Always take care to have fail-safes in play when swinging cameras from around your bike, get some camera insurance and don't take any unnecessary risks with your riding or your camera!
Photo Exif Key
1/100th – Shutter Speed
F8 – Aperture
ISO100 – ISO Setting
18mm – Focal Length
TV/M – Camera Mode, either Shutter Speed Priority (TV) or Manual (M)
1/100th, f7.1, ISO200, 18mm, TV – This was my first day of attempting this style of photo.
Every thread that I put point-of-view riding photos in will always get someone asking how I do it so I'm putting this guide together to show you how I do it. This is by no means an exact science and there will no doubt be loads of different/better ways to do it than how I do it. Camera settings will need to be adjusted according to weather conditions, mounting and camera position will need to be changed depending on what style of bike you are riding and you will get a lot of rubbish photos when trying to figure it all out. Saying that, I definitely think it's worth experimenting with as it adds a lot of life to ride reports and rideout threads. Its all well and good telling us about the amazing twisties you found on your epic ride but I want to see them as well! Threads of your bike outside a load of laybys and pub stops get a bit boring unless there is some exceptional scenery or you have a very unusual bike (in my opinion anyway). Once you've got a bit of a handle on these techniques it doesn't take long to whip the camera out, snap a few shots and get the camera back in your bag so it won't interrupt the flow of your ride too much either.
1/100th, f20, ISO200, 18mm, TV – Dilyan shows me around the Peak District.
For sure the easiest and least hassle method for getting on bike riding shots is to take your action camera of choice and put it in photo mode, go for a ride and choose the best photos. My now dated GoPro Hero 2 takes 11mp photos so there's enough resolution there to crop creatively to fine tune your composition and they're not the worst files in the world to work with in photoshop for a bit of a tune up either. Obviously there are hundreds of options when it comes to mounting them to wherever you could possibly want to mount a camera on or around yourself and your bike and they're miles ahead of any homebrew fixes I can come up with for DSLRs. If they're just going up on forums/facebook/blogs/whatever then action cameras are easy, compact and a relatively risk free method of getting some cool POV riding shots especially with the ease of mounting them. At a push you can even take stills from video if you are desperate. The quality will suffer but it's an option to consider if you'd like a thumbnail or two from a video or just a photo to accompany a video post. The newer cameras that can film in 2k and 4k will be best for this as resolution will be your friend here but I have done a few from regular 1080HD here that were acceptable for facebook:
My GoPro in photo mode on a chest mount whilst riding my mountain bike.
GoPro video screengrab – Ghost gets his knee down at the Nurburgring.
GoPro video screengrab – A bit of a famous corner in Europe!
GoPro video screengrab – Ghost and I chase down the 911s and GT3s at the ring.
DSLRs are another ball game entirely however. They are unwieldy, hard to operate with bike gear on and are particularly susceptible to things being flicked up from the vehicle in front with their exposed bulbous front lens elements. As I said at the start of this thread, if your DSLR is your baby then this is probably not something you want to try. An action camera will be cheaper than buying a new lens to replace the one you just smashed trying this and getting it wrong so really think about if this is something you want to risk with your camera.
1/80th, f10, ISO400, 18mm, TV – Rob_Scott_92 leads the way to Aberystwyth on the A487
I am an idiot though so I will continue (Personally I think there's not much point having all of this fancy camera gear just to baby it and only take it out of the bag in perfect conditions. As this video demonstrates, even basic DSLRs are tough cameras!)
1/80th, f18, ISO400, 18mm, TV – Jamie Stokes, CHR15 and Woll head over the Crimea on the A470 towards Blaenau Ffestiniog
Before we start with the best way to hold/mount your camera we'll take a look at the camera itself. You don't need to spend thousands on an amazing DSLR to get great photos. Get yourself a good secondhand DSLR from about £100 (plenty on ebay or places like this) and a cheap kit lens for about £30-50 and you're good to go. In terms of lenses my best tip would be to go for the widest lens you can get your hands on. I prefer a fisheye lens mainly for the field of view but also for other reasons I will mention later. There's no need to spend thousands on one of those either. I have a Samyang 8mm fisheye which can be had from under £100 second hand to about £230 brand new from a UK stockist. They are very basic (no autofocus, manual aperture ring etc) but for the money it is an outstanding lens and is a great introduction to fisheye photography off the bike too. They come in most popular camera mounts so there should be an option for whatever DSLR you're using.
1/80th, f22, ISO400, 20mm, TV – CHR15, Woll and some other BCFers head up to Barmouth via the A493.
A typical 18-55mm kit lens will be ok for this kind of on-bike shot if you keep it at 18mm but if you can get your hands on a wider lens then go for it. An advantage over not using a fisheye would be that you can put a cheap UV filter or two on the lens to protect the front element. It's not usually possible to do this with fisheye lenses as the front elements protrude so far out in front of the lens so bear that in mind when dipping into your kit bag. The ultra wide lenses tend to be fairly expensive though so that's another advantage of the "cheap" Samyang fisheye.
1/80th, f16, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – I take a break from university work for a ride into the Peak District.
My preferred setup with on bike shots is my Canon 550D with the Samyang fisheye I mentioned above. I have nothing against any other brand so your Nikon/Sony/Pentax/Whatever will also be fine but I bought into Canon when I got into photography so that's what I'm shooting. The 550D is much smaller, lighter and generally more manageable than my full frame camera and the Samyang fisheye is APS-C sensor specific anyway (it does work on full frame camera bodies, you just have to crop a load in post). I also have a 15mm non-fisheye lens when I do take out my full frame body and this is also pretty good for this kind of photo.
1/80th, f11, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M - I take a break from university work for a ride into the Peak District.
As I mentioned previously, camera settings will vary depending on the weather conditions and where you are shooting. If it's a sunny cloudless day and you are shooting out in the open then your settings will be different to if it were cloudy and you were shooting on a road with a lot of tree coverage. I have included the settings of each photo in this post underneath the photo but do bear in mind these things when setting up your camera.
1/80th, f16, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – The A537/Cat and Fiddle.
A slow shutter speed will be best for this style of photo. You want to convey movement around the edges of your photo otherwise it will look like you've just parked up and snapped a photo on your bike in the middle of the road. I have had success with shutter speeds as low as 1/60th of a second but it's best to start at something like 1/200th and work your way down until your keeper rate is unacceptable. Your keeper rate will be very low anyway, it's in the nature of getting this kind of shot. I am generally happy with a 20% keeper rate as there are so many factors that can make the shot blurry but I am getting better as I do it more. You could put your camera in Tv/Shutter Speed Priority mode and have the camera take care of the rest of the settings but I like to shoot in manual mode because nothing is fun if it's too easy Also the metering is rubbish with the Samyang fisheye as it's so basic ergo it doesn't really work in Tv mode for me but other lenses will have better metering and give better results.
1/80th, f16, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M - The A537/Cat and Fiddle.
A high/narrow aperture will be what you want for this kind of photo. I'd recommend anything from f8 upwards would be a good starting point. The good thing about a fisheye/ultra wide angle lens is that if you focus to infinity and have an aperture of f8 or higher then everything in the photo will be in focus. This isn't really the time to be experimenting with narrow depth of field artsy type shots so a high/narrow aperture is best. You will find that you will need a high aperture anyway shooting in daylight with a slow shutter speed so go as high as you need to expose correctly for the shutter speed.
1/80th, f16, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – Route 207 between Essaouira and Marrakesh, Morocco.
ISO should be as low as you can keep it with a high aperture. On a sunny day you could be around ISO 100/200 easily but if you get into some shaded wood then you might have to bump it up a bit to keep the higher aperture. Most modern DSLRs are fine in high ISO situations now but you shouldn't really need to go up past ISO1600 unless you're riding through a tunnel or something.
1/80th, f13, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – The wife and I cruising down the N9 highway after a trip to the Ourika Valley just outside Marrakesh. She ran out of petrol despite having a fuel gauge about 3 miles after I took this photo!
I'd recommend putting the lens into manual focus for ease of shooting. You won't actually be looking through the viewfinder when you take the photo so if you have the camera in autofocus it will just hunt as you point it at things. Chances are if you have a high aperture on a wide lens and focus to infinity then everything will be in focus anyway so you won't need autofocus. Do check your focus before riding off though otherwise you might just end up with a load of useless photos.
1/80th, f11, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – The B5106 just outside of Betws Y Coed, North Wales.
If you have it then Image Stabilisation or Vibration Reduction would be a good idea. My fisheye doesn't have it and neither does my other wide angle lens so it's not critical, just something useful to have.
1/80th, f11, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – The B5106 between Llanrwst and Conwy, North Wales.
Shooting mode (single shot, burst, timer etc) will be up to you and will probably be determined by how you choose to actually take the photo.
When taking the photo there are a few techniques that I have tried with various successes. When I first started experimenting with this kind of photo I'd ride one handed with the camera strap around my neck and hold the camera under my chin with my clutch hand (awkwardly I might add as the shutter button is on the "wrong" side of the camera) and snap away like this:
You could have the camera in one shot or burst mode and snap away to your heart's content. The benefit of this technique is that you can actually point the camera in a specific direction and guess a little bit at some kind of composition. You can also take a photo of your riding buddy next to you if your lens is wide enough and you are comfortable riding one handed. Further, you can even take photos of the view if you don't want to stop:
1/80th, f22, ISO400, 18mm, TV – A view of Barmouth from the A493 at 60mph.
The obvious disadvantage is that you are riding one handed and it looks like you only have 1 arm in all of the photos. The 1 armed rider photo is good but in my opinion is not quite a great photo, it just looks a bit too odd for me.
1/80th, f7.1, ISO100, 15mm, M – The Hai Van Pass, Vietnam.
The second technique – and the one I favour when riding on my own – is to make the strap on your camera as short as it will go and hang it around your neck as in the previous technique. You're aiming to get it as close to your chin as you can otherwise the photo will consist mostly of your tank and clocks (which can look cool sometimes though). Then with your camera set to timer shooting (I have a useful 2 second timer option on my camera), press the button with either hand then re-grab the bars before the timer is up. I also have a mode on my camera where it will do timer burst so I can take a burst of 5 or so photos from one press of the button which is handy for cornering.
1/80th, f7.1, ISO100, 15mm, M – The Hai Van Pass, Vietnam.
I didn't think this method would work as you're not actually holding the camera and I thought it would move a lot but I was surprised to find that it worked and looked good as long as you can get the camera high enough. Bear in mind though that I ride a naked, upright seated position bike so the camera tends to rest on my chest and away from everything. If you are riding a drop bars sportsbike then the camera may swing around a bit and could potentially hit the top of your screen or worse. TAKE CARE!
1/100th, f11, ISO200, 8mm Fisheye, M – Ghost and I ride the A5 out of Betws Y Coed, North Wales.
The benefits of shooting in this way are that obviously both your hands are in the shot so it's a much more natural photo. You're also only riding one handed for however long it takes you to press the button so you could say it's marginally safer in that respect. Disadvantages are as you're not holding the camera it tends to swing around a bit more so you get less keepers and you have much less control over the composition of the photo. If you're shooting with a fisheye then it's not so bad, especially if you have a higher megapixel camera as you can crop a bit creatively for a bit of composition but less wide angle lenses may be a bit harder to get good results with this technique. Further obvious disadvantages include the camera possibly hitting the bike/distracting you and causing an incident, especially on a bike with clip-on bars and a high screen.
1/100th, f16, ISO200, 8mm Fisheye, M – Ghost and I ride the A5 towards Llyn Ogwen in North Wales.
The third technique is the easiest and probably the safest but it does require a pillion. As before, you want to put the camera around your neck but then your pillion can take hold of the camera and take the photos while you concentrate on riding. Most of the photos from my Asian travels were taken this way and it gave me more of a chance to get a good flow going and concentrate more on the ride.
1/80th, f8, ISO800, 15mm, M – Route 108 between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, Thailand.
Benefits to this technique include more control over the riding and you can control the composition a bit more if someone is actually holding the camera. Both hands will be in the shot and there is less of a distraction assuming you're used to riding with a pillion and all the associated pillion fidgeting that comes with it. Disadvantages are that you have to ride with a pillion which might not be great if it's not something you're into and it can also be a bit weird asking the pillion to basically put the camera under your chin to shoot as it's not a natural position for the rider or the pillion. It may take a little while for the pillion to get the camera in the right position as well, I've found that they rarely get it right first time.
1/80th, f8, ISO800, 15mm, M - Route 108 between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, Thailand.
I think that shooting landscape is better than shooting portrait as it gives you more of the cockpit area and looks a bit more natural for a POV shot. It also gives you a bit more wiggle room when you come to crop/edit photos.
Depending on what you're aiming for with the photo there are a few things to bear in mind when riding. This is not something that you want to be doing when you're riding on the limit or having a "fast" day. With the slower shutter speeds you can get photos with a good feel of motion as slow as 25mph and I've managed even slower on my mountain bike with fairly good results.
1/50th, f16, ISO100, 8mm Fisheye, M – Cycling to university in Manchester.
1/125th, f3.5, ISO100, 18mm, M – Notice how there isn't much movement past the front tyre and neither is much in focus past the handlebars. The shutter speed was too high for the slow cycling speed and the aperture was too low for the depth of field required.
It's not a case of the faster the better either. The faster you go the more the camera will move/swing around which will make the photos blurry all over instead of just adding a bit of motion blur around the edges. Not to mention that you don't want to be riding much over the NSL with a heavy camera swinging from your neck. The sensation of speed in the photo should come from the slow shutter speed and the surroundings. If you are riding on a fairly tight/narrow single lane road then you will be close to things that will blur at the edges of your photo yet if you are riding in the middle of a 3 lane motorway then everything in the distance will remain fairly static looking and blur free.
In my experience I've found that you still need a point to the photo. Just taking photos from a rider POV for the sake of it is pretty boring. I like to have another rider in front of me to add a bit of a rideout feel to photos. If you are planning on doing this then you need to trust the other rider as they will need to ride close for the photo to be good, especially if you are shooting with a fisheye. I have done a lot of this with Ghost and I trust him to ride pretty much in my pocket at NSL speeds as I know he won't do anything stupid and vice versa. Don't try this technique out with a load of unfamiliar riders unless you have a bit of a handle on what you are doing. Also don't forget that riders in front can and will flick road debris up from their wheels so take care. There's not much you can do to prevent a stone from chipping or smashing your lens apart from putting a few UV filters on the front if you can so really think about whether this is something you want to do.
1/80th, f8, ISO800, 15mm, M - Route 108 between Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang, Thailand.
I've also found that the photos that stand out are the ones deep into corners. Big lean angles and rider POV shots look really cool in my opinion. This does add a bit of complication to taking the photo though so it's best to practice on a straight road first and then gradually build up to either riding one handed around corners or mashing the button just as you enter corners. Remember that you don't need to be going super fast and that a nice long, smooth corner should give you plenty of time to set up and get a good photo.
Photos of riding around some housing estate probably won't look too good either. You should aim to get an interesting back drop in your photos and think about why you are taking the photo. I like to do it as it adds another element to ride stories and I have been lucky enough to live and ride through places with fantastic scenery. The saying goes that a photo speaks a thousand words which is useful for ride reports to save on writing I've yet to try it in a big city but I think there could be some cool photos to be had trying this out at night in a city with some famous landmarks or sights.
1/80th, f13, ISO100, 15mm, M – Riding down from the highest peak in Thailand. After having a laugh at my wife's expense with the fuel gauge in Morocco it was my turn to be embarrassed as we almost ran out of fuel on the way down the mountain despite having a fuel gauge!
Be prepared for lots of people to give you riding advice after seeing POV shots. I have had a lot of posts in my threads saying my line choice is rubbish but 9 times out of 10 I was on a road I was familiar with and knew that it was quiet not to mention that I won't have been going fast anyway as previously mentioned. It doesn't bother me but it might annoy you
That pretty much covers the basics and should be enough to get you started. There are other things that you could use to make this easier on yourself if you're determined to use a DSLR though and there are some other cool shots that you can try which I will show below.
You should definitely consider getting a remote shutter release or wireless trigger. They can be had very cheaply from ebay, I think I paid about £3 for my wired remote shutter release delivered from China. The obvious advantage there is that you don't have to take your hand off the handlebar at all to take the photo but then you need to try and route the cable where it won't get in the way/get caught on anything and hide the trigger/wireless trigger bit somewhere out of shot (unless you're not bothered with it being in the photo). You could probably tape it to the underside of your bars on the clutch side or even run the cable through the sleeve of your jacket if it is a long enough cable. Another advantage to using a remote shutter release is that you can mount your camera somewhere other than where you need to be able to reach it to press the button. The following photos of Ghost were taken with the camera on my back whilst he rode just behind and to the right of me. I had the shutter release in my clutch hand and twisted my body a bit to get a good composition.
1/100th, f11, ISO200, 8mm Fisheye, M – Ghost rides the A498 to Beddgelert, North Wales.
1/100th, f11, ISO200, 8mm Fisheye, M – Ghost rides the A498 to Beddgelert, North Wales.
You may want to experiment with some kind of camera mount. I haven't tried those tank mounts that bolt to the filler cap and I'm not sure I'd want to either really. All the action camera footage I've seen from then look super vibey and I'm not sure it'd be such a great viewpoint for a DSLR photo either. Some kind of chest mount/vest for a DSLR would be amazing and while there are a few homebrew things out there in the mountain bike world I have yet to see anything officially available to buy.
I don't think that a regular little point and shoot camera or even a bridge camera would be able to do this kind of photo. The key really is to get as wide a lens as you can on the camera. There may be some bridge cameras that go wide enough but really I'd say this kind of photo is ideally suited to DSLRs or action cameras. There's nothing from stopping you trying though!
1/80th, f13, ISO100, 15mm, M – My friend Daz on a moped adventure on the small island of Koh Rong just off the coast of mainland Cambodia. I shot this handheld from a similarly shonky moped and had Daz ride just off to my left.
I have no idea what the law would say if you were pulled over trying this out. I imagine it would depend on your attitude but I could see some angry copper slapping a Driving Without Due Care and Attention charge on you if they were feeling particularly grumpy or you were riding one handed dragging your knee with a big camera hanging around your neck. Do this at your own risk!
1/100th, f11, ISO200, 8mm Fisheye, M - Ghost rides the A498 to Beddgelert, North Wales.
Don't be afraid to get your photos into photoshop and spruce them up a bit. You could crop the photos for a bit of a compositional edge and you could sharpen up the clocks/tank/bike a bit fairly easily. I am going through a bit of a saturation overkill/being too easy with the highlight/shadow sliders in photoshop phase at the moment but you should edit your photos to reflect your own style. You could even take it a step further if you are looking to tell some stories with the photos. You could add a cool/blue filter to photos with stormy looking clouds to give it a bit of an edge or you could add a warm/orange filter to a photo with a great sunset or scenic view. There are plenty of photoshop guides online so I won't go into detail here.
1/80th, f13, ISO100, 15mm, M - Riding down from the highest peak in Thailand.
I shoot raw with my DSLRs as I like how much more you can do in post with raw files but the majority of photos I took in this post were shot JPEG in camera so there's no need to think that you need to be some advanced super photographer who knows everything to get photos like in this post.
You will get a lot of rubbish photos like this:
1/80th, f22, ISO400, 20mm, TV.
Persevere though and you will get it. It's not the easiest technique to nail but I think it's definitely worth the effort to get right. Don't forget to experiment with different ways to take photos and mount the cameras to your bike, report back here as I will have missed out a lot and not even realised other ways of doing this yet. It doesn't cost anything to take the photo as you're not buying and developing films so go nuts and try it out!
Here are some threads where I have used these techniques:
Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand
Hai Van Pass in Vietnam
Riding Around North Wales With Ghost
Riding Around The Peak District
Welsh BCF Meet
Please remember that I do not accept any responsibility for any actions that happen as a result of reading this thread. If you want to ride with an expensive, heavy and fairly delicate piece of electrical equipment dangling from around your neck then that is up to you and you alone! Always ensure that you are safe, careful and have fully understood the risks before attempting anything similar to this.
Any institutions, media outlets, websites, blogs or anything of that ilk – I am available for any and all photography/videography related assignments although I'd prefer stuff with wheels! I am currently based in Berlin, Germany but my passport is valid and Easyjet is cheap
Now: '00 Kawasaki ZRX1100R - Past: '84 Yamaha DT125, '89 Kawasaki KLR600, '97 Yamaha XJ600N
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Last edited by KLR600 on 15:27 - 12 Jul 2015; edited 3 times in total