A photographer chases down his subject.

“What was that?” I notice just about every motorcycle that goes by but I did a double take when I saw a bearded rider with a sidecar rumble by me. In the sidecar was a dog wearing a helmet and a pair of goggles. “I’ve GOT to photograph this!” I hollered to myself as I followed the Harley rider, determined to catch up and make a connection. Eventually, the motorcycle pulled into a mall and I quickly parked my car and introduced myself.

man and motorcycle with dog
George and Iris, enjoying their ride on an autumn afternoon.

Being a motorcyclist myself, I knew we could find lots to talk about but quickly got to the point. “I’m a photographer and I’d love to make a picture of you and your dog when you’re riding,” I blurted.

“Not a problem,” replied George with a friendly voice as we parted company with a promise to get together. And that connection finally happened a few weeks ago.

George introduced me to Iris, his mixed breed constant companion. Iris is a rescue dog and, apparently, was tied up with a collar and chain for the first few years of her life. Ever since then, George has never used a collar or any means of tying Iris up. Iris checked me out the way dogs do and then seemed to relax. But I soon found out how to get a rise out of Iris.

I asked George to sit on one of his motorcycles for a portrait shot. It so happened this was the bike without the sidecar and Iris concluded that George and I would be leaving without her. She wasn’t going to have any of that so protested by jumping and barking all around between us and then came over and gave me a bite on the leg! It was just a nip, didn’t hurt but definitely a surprise. After that, all photos included Iris!

George repairs vintage motorcycles and told me that Iris is quite a challenge when he wants to take a client’s motorcycle out for a road test. Nothing will hold her back so the only solution is to let her run along beside the motorcycle. I was really getting the sense of a strong connection between these two. And that George is her King.

I had scoped out a route for our photo session and George was most cooperative as we travelled around it, which included roads with little traffic where I could set up and have them ride by me a few times. I expected to get shots of Iris looking straight ahead but no, with every pass, she had her watchful eye on me. By the way, Iris no longer wears her goggles. She developed an eye infection so they had to go.

We ended our visit with a cup of coffee and a few stories about motorcycles and Iris, who by now was my friend. As George tells me, “I’m 71 years old this year and Iris isn’t too young herself. We’ll be sharing the same hole in the ground one of these days.”

With thanks to George and his best friend, here are a few photos from our shoot together.

While George patiently allowed me to get a few shots, Iris was very concerned about him sitting on a bike without a sidecar.
While George patiently allowed me to get a few shots, Iris was very concerned about him sitting on a bike without a sidecar.
Iris, look where you are going! Not at the photographer!
Iris, look where you are going! Not at the photographer!
What a October afternoon we enjoyed together .
What a perfect October afternoon we enjoyed together .
Can you say cheese, Iris?
Can you say cheese, Iris?
Easy Rider!
Easy Rider!
Iris gets all the conveniences of any hard core motorcyclist!
Iris gets all the comforts of any hard core motorcyclist!
OK, George, it's time to go now!
OK, George, it’s time to go now!
Inseparable Friends.
Inseparable Friends.

For Photographers

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that some times you just have to go out there and make it happen. I knew when I saw George that I really wanted to photograph him so didn’t even think twice about chasing him down. There have been other times when I think to myself, “I’d really like to photograph that person” but don’t do it. Usually, I regret it later. What’s the worst thing they can say? Nine times out of ten, I find that people say yes.

The funny part about this story was that I had to chase George twice. After our first meeting, he called me and left a message. I heard it and then accidentally deleted it. I had no way of getting his number back. So I watched and waited and sure enough, about a year later, I saw him again. This time, I followed him right into his driveway.

One thing I always teach my introductory photography students is how to pan (as I did in the third shot above). Why? Because you never know when you might need it. Panning is when you follow the subject, keeping them sharp, and allowing the background to blur as you move the camera. It adds a great sense of motion to the image. I’m so glad I was ready to make a few pan shots of my granddaughter when she rode her bike for the very first time. Here are a few steps to creating an effective pan shot.

The joy of riding for the first time!
The joy of riding for the first time!
  • Hand hold your camera. A tripod is possible but restricts your movement.
  • Your shutter speed varies with the speed of the subject. The faster the subject, the faster the shutter speed.  My usual starting point is 1/40 sec and then I adjust from there.
  • Position yourself so that the action is moving across in front of you (left to right or right to left) instead of coming toward you.
  • Use shutter priority or manual mode (best) for panning.
  • Your autofocus mode should be set for continuous so that the camera will keep the subject in focus as it moves across your frame.
  • Set your focus indicator where you want the subject’s face to be. Then try to keep the focus indicator on your subject’s face as you follow the action.
  • Follow through with your motion as you shoot. Try to keep your body still as you rotate from your feet and ankles.
  • Remember that with panning, 1 or 2 keepers out of ten shots is just fine. A lot of my pan shots get deleted.
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