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Author Topic: Motorcycling with photo gear  (Read 5170 times)
alton
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« on: April 24, 2006, 06:21:01 PM »
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I'd like to take my Canon 30D, 10-22mm & 24-70 2.8L lens with me on motorcycle trips. Does a Pelican case (1520) with 5 inches foam(excluding the lid padding)provide enough shock protection? After removing enough foam to fit the camera and lens into the case, about 2.5 -3 inches will remain on the bottom to cushion the shocks. I will put the case into a large duffel bag and strap it to the back seat of my bike. The bike is relatively smooth riding (BMW GS).
   Does anybody have any experience or opinions with this kind of system - or any better ideas. Thanks.
   
   .
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jimhuber
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2006, 08:00:11 PM »
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Ah, now here's a topic I know something about. Motorcycling with camera gear is what I do for fun. My present motorcycle is a Honda ST1300, and my present camera gear is a Canon 5D and Rebel XT plus some lenses, the essentials being 17-40, 28-135, and 70-300DO. All of the lenses being roughly the same length, and short, makes storage easier.

Since my 700 pound beast rarely leaves the pavement, and then only for shallow gravel or really hard packed dirt, I have a Givi top case that holds my camera gear. The Givi case is an E460, a 46 liter hard plastic case that locks closed and locks to the mount with the same mechanism. Inside the Givi case I keep a CamelBak "Peak Bagger" backpack with 3 liter water bladder (though I don't keep the filled water bladder in the case with the camera gear). Inside the CamelBak backpack I slip the inside padded case I removed from a Quantaray (Ritz store brand) photo backpack.

Finding the room for everything isn't really a problem. Weight is the problem. The padded photo backpack "innards" will hold the 5D with one lens attached, the Rebel XT with one lens attached, both with Really Right Stuff 'L' brackets, and six other lenses. Typically I'll have along the Rebel XT wearing it's EF-S 17-85 lens plus the EF-S 10-22 lens, and the 5D is typically wearing either the 17-40 or the 70-300DO, with the other of those two lenses plus the 28-135 in the bag. If I add anything at all beyond the zooms, the next lens is always the macro: in my case the 100mm USM. Beyond that it's whatever I think I may need: flash or primes. My list of primes is 35 f/2, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8, 100 f/2.8 macro, 135 f/2, and 200 f/2.8 plus Sigma 1.4x and 2x teleconverters (no white lenses yet). I can't carry them all, of course.

You also need to have the other obligitory accessories: CF cards, spare batteries, polarizing filters, hot shoe levels, WhiBal, et cetera ad nauseum. I always weigh my bags to make sure I'm within the weight limit. I don't want $10k worth of camera gear bouncing down a mountainside.

After you get that mastered, there's the tripod. Don't skimp here, you'll regret it. You gotta have one, and on a motorcycle it's got to be especially durable and light, and preferably short, too. My main tripod is a Gitzo 1348 with Really Right Stuff 40mm ball head. My light tripod is a Gitzo 1128 with RRS 25mm ball head. The 1348+40 won't fit into a bag and has to be strapped on, but it's a fantastic tripod. The 1128+25 will fit in my saddle bags or top case (closed length of 21.5 in), but extends high enough that I don't have to stoop much (57.5 in). The 1348+40 weighs 5.8 lb total and is rated to hold 25.4 lb (I subtracted the ball head weight already). The 1128+25 weighs 3.0 lb total and is rated to hold 10.5 lb after subtracting the ball head weight. No camera + lens combination I presently own weighs anywhere near 10.5 lb, so I'm covered with the 1128+25, but the 1348+40 is much more stable so I find myself always strapping it on. But the 1128+25 is pretty solid if you want to go small and light.


Your Pelican case solution is plenty of protection, even for moderate off-road excursions and the accompanying light crashes/drops. A good friend of mine had a GS for a long while, so I'm pretty familiar with them. Pelican cases I'm very familiar with. If you have over 2" of foam around the gear, it's good for darn near anything you're likely to survive yourself... probably more. But weigh it all, because it may be too much.

If you want to carry a lot of gear and will be exclusively on pavement, you may consider something I've pondered repeatedly: a Uni-Go one-wheel trailer (www.uni-go.com) that's rated for 110 pounds of cargo. For two-up travel I'd consider the trailer essential gear. Fantastically handy, too: I've watched someone unhitch it in about 10 seconds, then wheel it right into the motel room as it fits through a door!


An accessory I should have but haven't coughed up the dough for yet is an Epson P2000 or one of the newer variants. It's very small and light, but essential backup. So far I haven't ever lost any data, but I know I should be more diligent about it. I don't have the space, weight capacity, or frankly the inclination to carry a laptop.


You've got an outstanding pair of lenses to start with. To add a telephoto zoom I would still make the same choice: 70-300 DO. But if you can afford the weight and space the 70-200 f/2.8 IS lens is, of course, a little better and two stops faster. I've been very pleased with my DO zoom, though.

An extra bit of padding for anything sensitive to vibration or bumps is the fleece bags offered by Aerostich (www.aerostich.com). They come in numerous sizes.


A bit off-topic, but I'm also an Iron Butt Association member: www.ironbutt.com. They have lots of great motorcycle traveling tips, links, and a great e-mail list (LDriders) if you're looking for information in that direction, too.

Hope this helps. Enjoy!

Jim
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jimhuber
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2006, 08:34:32 PM »
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Yeah, I got more for ya... the small tome I composed above didn't cover it all.

An important aspect to think about is how you're going to get to your camera to shoot. If it's too difficult or slow, you'll forego or miss shots you should be getting. With my Givi bag on the bike it's up near chest height with the bike parked, and it's a quick, single key to get at it. I can remove just one camera and leave the rest if it's going to be a brief shoot close to the bike - which happens often in many locations, such as National Parks.

Also, since the bag is both locked closed and locked to the bike, I don't worry about it on short hiking excursions or outside restaurants and such. Once I remove the backpack with the photo gear for a hike, the Givi bag will also hold my riding gear that I take off for hikes - an elegant exchange. BMW makes top cases similar to the Givi, or you can get a Givi mount for almost any motorcycle. The newer case similar to mine is now 52 liters.

My tripod is strapped across the rear seat in a bag that opens on the left side of the bike, so one quick zip and it slides right out. I can probably set up more quickly than someone in a car. If you have a flip-face helmet you MAY not have to remove it to shoot.

I sometimes also carry a Canon PowerShot S70 in my tank bag for quick shots. It's a tiny point-n-shoot, but it's 7 megapixels, will capture RAW format, and has a 28 - 100 mm (equivalent) lens. It got me some nice close-up shots of bison in Yellowstone that I couldn't have gotten otherwise. A sweet, inexpensive little spare camera. The S80 replacement can't capture RAW and uses SD cards instead of CF, but the S70 is still current production so you may be able to find one. My tank bag is an RKA magnetic-attachment bag, and so far it's never caused my cameras any problems, even being stored in it for days.


I hope this stuff helps. It took me a long time to work some of this out, so I thought I'd pass it along and save you the time and effort. Motorcycles and cameras together impose some unusual constraints on you, but they aren't insurmountable. I'm passionate about both photography and riding, so I'm determined to combine them well.


Again... Enjoy!

Jim
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2006, 11:14:37 PM »
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Jim, you are DEDICATED!   And very well equipped in both departments.

I write for a cycle mag and need good coverage if I expect to get paid.  I'm usually riding a borrowed "press bike", so I have to adapt to each situation.  I need to pare the equipment list to the absolute minimum.

I shoot with a D70 body, the kit lens and the 70-200 VR.  The long lens usually rides in a tank bag wrapped in a towel, the D70 body and 18-70 is usually slung over my shoulder, out in the slipstream.  If I go down, both the camera and me will regret it, that's for sure.

The tripod is bungeed across the seat or luggage rack if there is one and the rest of the support gear is distributed throughout whatever luggage I can cobble together for the ride.  I take a USB hard drive thing to dump my CF cards to, but with 8GB cards on the horizon, I might be able to leave it, its batteries and charger at home.  A cell phone, its charger and the camera batteries and their charger are trouble enough.

On my first trip with the D70, I didn't have time to test the new camera before I left so  I took a backup Pentax Spotmatic with a 24mm lens, just in case.  About halfway through the trip, I discovered the lens in about six pieces, rattling around in the tankbag.  Tiny screws everywhere! $#@@  Motorcycles are second only to helicopters in vibration production and it's critical to isolate delicate gear from the bike.  I wouldn't take a laptop, for instance,  unless I had the kind of luggage Jim has.

I do take plenty of large ziploc bags for total weather protection. There's no wet like motorcycle wet.

For all its problems, riding and shooting can be very rewarding.  A bike can take you to places that cage drivers can only dream about.  Just don't EVER succumb to the temptation to shoot and ride at the same time.  If you want travelling shots, let a passenger do the shooting.
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mats
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2006, 01:15:23 AM »
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I have done quiet a lot of touring on a bike with camera gear and would like to point you in a slightly different direction. Keep it simple and bring the minimum of gear.
I have always enjoyed it most when traveling as light as possible. My camera gear goes in a tank bag where I can access it almost instantly. One camera body and two or three lenses fit easily and can be padded for protection. The bag I use also snapps off and converts to a backpack. That way I can always take my gear with me, either up to a good vantage point for a foto or just to safeguard my valuables in a city.
I have been both on and off road (very off road!) in europe, australia, asia and africa and have so far not had any faliures. The gear has even survied a few nasty spills.
I even leave the tripod att home and only use a table tripod.
Keep it simple and light, if you are going to carry a ton of gear you are better of with a small car (convertible).
In fact I am taking my own advise and going on a road-trip by car in europe this summer.
But I am sure going to miss the freedom and flexibility offered by a motorbike.


Mats
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jimhuber
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2006, 12:39:29 PM »
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That's a great solution, mats. Small, lightweight, and quick access - sweet!

Yeah, for every trip the balance of riding versus shooting has to be considered. When I travel solo my schedule is whatever I want, and I tend to do a lot more shooting. That's especially true in areas I've been before. I could spend decades shooting in the "Grand Circle" area of Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante, ... In fact, I hope to spend decades returning to those places and shooting them again and again. But when I travel with other riders who aren't as passionate about photography, I know I'll shoot a lot less so I'll carry less gear.

Another aspect to consider is the exceptional quality of the small camera choices now. My S70 will produce very good prints up to letter size (8.5 x 11 inches), or even a bit bigger: 192 pixels per inch at 12 x 16 printed on 13x19 paper. A Rebel XT (350D) or 20D/30D will make exceptional prints up to letter size, and pretty darn good prints at 12x18 inches (192 ppi). An 8 megapixel dSLR with a 28-135 equivalent lens (like my Rebel XT with 17-85 IS zoom) will get darn near anything.

Going past that I feel that I'm just going for bigger prints with equal or better quality. I upgraded to a 5D very recently, but kept the Rebel XT I had been shooting with as a spare and a second camera. Most of the primes I really have for portraits and sports, but the quality is noticeably better than zooms for landscape when you start to print large. Not tremendously better, but noticeably better. Since I own them already, it's just a matter of carrying a couple of them with me if I think they'll be useful.


There was an article in the April/May 2006 issue of "Ride Texas" magazine(www.RideTexas.com) on combining motorcycling and photography. It might be worth ordering from the publisher.

Whatever balance you find between riding and shooting, if you aren't having fun you aren't doing it right. As Bugs Bunny says, "Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive."
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gryffyn
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2006, 12:52:08 PM »
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Like the others, I've done many 10's of thousands of miles with my Nikon gear.

Since I ride a Harley, vibration is a key issue.  I always make sure that everything is well padded and that different pieces of gear aren't touching, so they can't vibrate against each other.

Unlike some of the others, on a long trip I want all (or most) of my gear, since you never know what you'll want to photograph.  I usually pack the cameras/lenses/accessories in a WRP MP3 pack (great for airline travel as well).  This pack fits in the back of an Ultra Classic tour pack, so it works well.  For long trips, 2-up, I'll put the gear in the trailer we tow, since it will get vibrated less there than on the bike.  Tripod only comes with me when I have the trailer.

For quickie shots, I have a small Sony T1 camera in my jacket or shirt pocket.

Two of my favourite things:  riding and photographing!
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.....Andrzej
shootergirl
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2006, 01:13:52 PM »
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Welll... I hope I don't cause all the folks who responded to keel over from shock,    but I've carried my camera gear on my vibrating Harley for many years and many thousands of miles (nearly 100,000 on this bike alone). The last 10 years it's been in the tourpack. Usually in an unpadded shoulder bag with an old washcloth (of all things) wrapped around my 100-400L and nothing on the camera itself. Other times, the camera is laying loose on a sweatshirt in the tourpack so I can grab it quickly when the need arises. The cameras have never suffered any damage, the vibrations haven't somehow let the "magic" escape so the camera no longer worked, and it's been readily accessible. When I got the 5D I never even gave a thought as to somehow giving it padding and it has been riding around with me the same way. So, IMO, your system should work fine since it's infinitely more padded and secure.  

Donna
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gryffyn
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2006, 01:35:22 PM »
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Quote
Welll... I hope I don't cause all the folks who responded to keel over from shock,    but I've carried my camera gear on my vibrating Harley for many years and many thousands of miles (nearly 100,000 on this bike alone).

One thing I forgot to add....on a bike that vibrates, especially Harleys, if you are packing a laptop with your photo gear, I found that the keys can vibrate against the screen and permanently scuff the screen surface.

The solution for me was to put a clean bandana or other cloth (microfibre lens cloth would do double duty) between the screen and keys before you close up the laptop.
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.....Andrzej
Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2006, 07:35:39 AM »
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How about an easy access bag such as the Lowepro Slingshot 200? It would hold all your gear, is lighter and better fitting than any photo backpack I've ever used (I can almost forget it's there) and the compartments are well padded.
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matt4626
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2006, 02:14:32 PM »
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I have been using a BMW tank bag (RT1100) for several years. I keep the equipment light, one body and two lenses but they are always at the ready. No need to park the bike just to get out the photo gear. A small tripod goes in the top case on the rack behind the seat. FYI I cut foam to make a fitted insert in the tank bag.
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jimhuber
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2006, 07:25:23 PM »
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Here's how my ride looks in full solo photography mode.

     Jim

Jim's Honda ST1300
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jimhuber
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« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2006, 08:49:09 PM »
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Some ask why I ride and photograph... two words for ya:

Scenery

and

Swervery
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Raoul
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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2006, 02:16:00 PM »
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I have a Givi topcase as well, and just stuff the Nikon D70 + lens between T-shirts and reasonably clean underwear. No problems so far, after some 20k km of roads of all kinds.

Keep it simple...
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2006, 06:35:56 PM »
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Yah, scenery.  

How much betterit is  to ride through someplace than it is to drive past it. :0

[attachment=538:attachment]
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htbyron
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2006, 11:15:07 AM »
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Quote
Some ask why I ride and photograph... two words for ya:

Scenery

and

Swervery
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=64049\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Love both, especially the swervery!

I ride a BMW R1100RT with BMW hard cases & topcase.  I have two camera bags: a LowePro Minitrekker classic & a Crumpler 15-Love.  I usually take the Crumpler (with 20D and an assortment of lenses -- usually 17-40, 28-135 or 70-200, and a prime or 2 -- as well as CF cards, spare battery, CP filter(s), WhiBal card), and store it upright in a side case.  It seems less susceptible there to the vibration than if it were in the topcase (although I have used that on occasion).  The Crumpler has plenty of padding all around, and each item is isolated from others by dividers, pockets, etc.  I can also stuff my 'Stich riding suit in the case when I take out the camera bag.  If the side cases are full, or if I'll be stopping frequently to shoot, the Crumpler is small enough (& light enough) that I'm comfortable wearing it while riding, or strapping it down to the passenger seat with a bungee net.

Tom
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