Traveling is always also about “storytelling”.
Landscapes, people, emotions, fatigue and beauty become words and, today, often thanks to the ease that smartphones allow us, even images. However, making authentic and original photographs is not easy; even from a practical point of view, if you want to bring the necessary equipment for photography with you, you need a little forethought and clear ideas.
We asked for advice to some photographers who have made reportage on two wheels one of their passions.
The first contribution is by PAOLO CIABERTA.
I was born in Turin in 1972. I started working as a professional photographer in 2000 on the theater stages. Over the years I have developed a particular attention to reportage, which I transfer to all the works I do, from journalistic reports to the backstage of theatrical performances, from sports articles to bicycle trips. I have been collaborating for years with Rouleur magazine.
There are those who travel to pedal and those who pedal to travel, I’m certainly into the second category, I have always loved traveling, I do not mean the holiday, but the movement in space, often also in time. Of all the means of transport, the bike is the one I prefer, a slow and essential means that gives me the time necessary to observe the world around and to think about how to tell it. Slowness also gives time to observe one’s own inner world and sometimes that too can be the theme of the story.
Lately I have been dedicated a lot to bikepacking, which undoubtedly offers many advantages but which also raises several questions about the transport of photographic equipment. In general, the rule that I follow after years of attempts is that of lightness and practicality, I happened to travel with the reflex in tow and maybe 2 lenses but for size and weight it was not a good choice, in recent years the technology has come to meet us with the birth of the so-called mirrorless, that is machines that offer the same potential as reflex cameras but in small dimensions so as to be able to put them in the bag of the top tube; in my opinion the best place because the machine is not affected by vibrations against the frame and because it is very practical when I have to put it away or take it to shoot.
Sometimes it can be useful in reportage to be ready to shoot quickly, so I pedal with the camera around my neck but I don’t feel like recommending it because in the event of any fall the first thing that would hit would be the camera, in any case, a special belt is useful to keep the machine stationary because the risk is that it will start to move annoyingly or that it may hit the frame or the fork steerer.
Regarding the bags if I can I choose the water resistant but not waterproof ones, the bags completely insulated from the outside create condensation, excessive heat and relative humidity, all things that are not good for the equipment, rather I carry plastic bags to protect the machine leaving however, some cracks that allow the air to pass and keep the environment dry. When traveling by bike (but not only) the things to avoid for the equipment are vibrations, dust, condensation and water (in case the car is not waterproof). The choice of the so-called tropicalized machines certainly helps.
Currently my equipment is composed as follows:
1) Sony RX100, a compact but good optical quality camera that offers the same manual options as reflex cameras. It has the big advantage of being really small enough to fit comfortably in the back pocket of the jersey, or stored in any bag on the bike.
2) Sony alpha 7 + lens 24-70 2.8 – definitely bigger, heavier and less practical to carry but undoubtedly it offers excellent image quality and I prefer it for the most important jobs and when I am sure that the images will be printed for a publication. The best place to store it is the handlebar bag, sometimes wrapping it in a towel to protect it from any vibrations.
3) In the past I have also used the Olympus Pen F which used with a fixed lens is a good compromise between size and quality.
The optics are important, sometimes more than the camera body, I prefer bright optics and with a minimum of zoom in order to have to carry only one lens. Even the fixed lens can be valid but in this everyone has his own way of shooting.
I always carry at least 2 batteries and several memory cards with me. I have never used portable hard drives, they are certainly useful for very long journeys but up to a week 10 days I was able to get enough cards that have now reached really huge capacities. In the evening I make a quick selection of the photos to throw away so I recover more space but generally the more experience is accumulated and the less shots are taken.
In support of this I carry some wipes for cleaning the lenses, the small silicon or salt bags to absorb the humidity when they are stored in the bags, and of course the charger. Everything related to the equipment (battery cables etc ..) I put it in a single bag so that it is practical to recover what I need.
A small tripod can be useful as long as it is compact and light, it is always important to check the weight it can support.
However, I believe that to take good travel photographs, even before focusing on the equipment and all the technical aspects, you need good ‘shoes’ (in this case a good bike), the right dose of patience and last but not least to have something to say. If you have something to say then the cell phone camera can be fine too (with all due respect given the quality achieved by the latest models).
Have a good trip to all, Paolo Ciaberta