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Ready to ride! A rest stop in the Rocky Mountains on the way to Ontario.

Last month I rode my motorcycle from our home in Langley, BC to Ontario and back again, a little over 10 000 km. I’ve pulled together 30 of my favourite images from the trip to share with you.

Each day I had the task of putting about 700 km behind me. That takes a lot out of the day and keeping that pace is not easy. If I stopped too often to be a tourist, I would be late in joining my wife at her family cottage on Stony Lake, near Peterborough. We were looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of St. Peter’s on the Rock, the church where we were married 37 years ago. That’s a long way of saying this was not a photo trip. It was an excuse to go for a long ride. And I loved it.

Nevertheless, I made enough stops to photograph that I came home with about 1000 images. In fact, I gave myself a nickname as I rode: “Rubberneck Rider”. I was so determined to take in the beauty of our Canadian landscape that my eyes were constantly scanning from side to side, always ready to appreciate and photograph the next scene. It took me about eight days of travel to go in each direction and it was just me, the bike and the road. A few days before leaving home, a friend asked, “Won’t you be lonely?”

“Not a bit,” I answered, knowingly. In 2001, I made a similar trek, from Halifax to Vancouver. It was my first solitary ride and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. As I motored along the road, taking in the scenery, I was continually entertained by the changing landscapes, the challenge of meeting my goals and, in between, my thoughts.  A week on the road is a great time to reflect on what’s important and what needs to change. And, when things got a little too quiet, I always had my music. What a gift to plug the iPhone into the stereo and play my favourite tunes. That’s when I changed from Rubberneck Rider to Rock n Roll Rider! And yes, you really can hear the music over the rumble of the Harley.

I didn’t take any pictures in BC on this trip. And my Ontario pictures are in a previous post. So, as it turns out, a majority of these images are from my two crossings of our beautiful prairie provinces. They start in the Rocky Mountains and proceed eastward. You’ll know when I’m heading home when you see the westbound Trans Canada sign. right after the Terry Fox memorial.

I hope you enjoy my images from Twice Across the Prairies.

forest fire.
Upon riding through the Rockies and entering Alberta, I was confronted with a forest fire. Crews were hard at work and fortunately, the road was still open. As I rode through, I was close enough to the flames to feel the heat.
prairie scene
Being from the mountainous coast, I love to travel through the flat landscape with brightly coloured crops and forever skies.
stone barn
A rare stone barn in Manitoba.
The prairie scenery is even more beautiful with a motorcycle in it!

My fuel tank cover allows for a selfie, with forest fire smoke obscuring the sun.
Lacombe Alberta
I have great memories of visiting my grandmother in Lacombe, Alberta, as a child. I always stop in this small prairie town to explore when I’m in the area.

On my way home after a great visit at the family cottage, heading west through Ontario.
The Canadian Shield on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

heat wave
I hit a heat wave on the way home. Can you tell? It’s actually very unpleasant to ride in high temperatures, you just can’t get cool.

Of interest to Photographers

So, you’re planning a trip and one of the hardest questions to answer is how much photo gear to take. It’s tough to anticipate your needs but sometimes limitations are imposed that force your decision. In my case, it was the carrying capacity of the motorcycle. I could have squeezed a little more in but I like to challenge myself by carrying less. For other trips, it might be how much I am willing to carry, or how much I can pack onto the airplane. Lighter is definitely better.

For this trip, I took my Fuji X100S, an amazing mirrorless camera. This camera has a fixed lens, so there is no zooming and that is really its only limitation. But it also simplifies. I did not have to worry about changing lenses and zooming with my feet is not such a bad idea, especially after sitting on a motorcycle for hours. I only missed having a telephoto lens a couple of times and there is a solution to that. The image quality is so extraordinary from this camera that I have little hesitation in cropping fairly deeply to zoom in on the area I really want. Surprisingly, I did miss being able to shoot at a wider angle but there’s a solution for that too. The camera has a panoramic mode and, of course, it’s also possible to stitch a series of images together.

The camera has all of the features of my dSLRs and more. It’s easy to bracket for HDR photography. In low light, it sees in the dark! The image quality of this camera is very useable at 6400 ISO. I am completely confident that my image files will be more than acceptable when shooting at its highest ISO.

Before and After

Because I had a few questions about the image below when I posted it on Facebook, I will explain how this shot came to be. The idea came to me as I was riding one day, to show “the view from here”. The lens on my Fuji X100S would only go this wide so only a portion of my view is showing. The first consideration was whether I could do this safely.

I began by stopping on the side of the road and holding the camera to see what composition would be possible and how I should hold it while riding. I decided to hold the camera near my chin so my vision was not restricted by the camera. I also set the exposure and focus manually so I’d only have to press the shutter. Once I was happy with the settings, I started the bike and travelled at a slow speed of about 50 km/hr on a quiet road with no traffic, camera around my neck. It was important to show the movement in the road so I chose a shutter speed of 1/40th second. The best result after several trials is on the left. In hindsight, I wish I had included more of the speedometer (the large dial that is cut off) so you could see my speed.

Before taking the shot, I knew the scene reflected in the mirror would be mostly sky, because of how I was holding the camera. So, I also shot a road scene that I thought would make a good reflection and pasted this in, using Photoshop. When I noticed that my iPhone looked pretty blah, I had the idea of adding an image to that as well. Photoshop again allowed me to paste in a screen shot of one of my musical staples. Other than that, some adjustments to contrast, brightness and colour and the photos was done.

The work I did in Photoshop really does help to express in story form what I was actually seeing as I rode along for miles and miles. My friend Ed summed it up very well when he said, “What a shot of you on the Harley – the reflection in the mirror is hindsight, your view is ahead/the future, and, you’re listening to TEARS IN HEAVEN. It couldn’t be better!”

If you got this far, thanks for reading. Your comments are more than welcome.

before and after of motorcycle image
Before and After
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