Archive for November, 2010
This image from my recent ride along the Bolinas Ridge captures the specific time of the evening — civil twilight — when ambient light takes on a lovely bluish hue prized by painters and photographers.
But twilight (both morning and evening) is divided, more scientifically, into civil, nautical, and astronomical segments based upon the number of degrees the center of the sun is below the horizon (6, 6-to-12, and 12-to-18 degrees respectively).
Evening nautical twilight (nautical dusk) is said to end once sea navigation via the horizon line is no longer possible. Evening astronomical twilight (astronomical dusk) ends once the dimmest celestial objects (e.g. galaxies and nebulae) become properly visible to astronomical observation.
Commentary: in the context of the virtual world of Texting, Tweeting, and Tagging (from which I claim no exception) it feels palpably iconoclastic (if not downright subversive) to patiently witness our solar system’s sun disappearing ever so gently beyond the planet’s watery horizon.
Featured Comment by Shoeless Joe: “There is a biological connection, too, as the rods and cones in our eyes perceive light differently at twilight. It is called the Purkinje Shift (or Purkinje Effect). Wikipedia has a good article on it. One of the beauties of cycling is that it affords many opportunities to “patiently witness” the world around us in a way that is unique to the sport.”
I somehow got it into my mind that I needed to see the Pacific Ocean.
The solution was a 25 mile loop — from Fairfax up to and along Bolinas Ridge offering winding roads; steep climbs; fast descents; water and commanding Pacific Ocean views; relatively few cars; redwood forests; oak-studded grasslands; colorful autumn foliage; and, a smattering of wild life (I saw a coyote on top of the ridge and several deer on the way down).
In other words: there’s a bit of everything on this ride.
I departed around 3:30 pm (it’s getting dark by 5:30 pm) so I attached a headlight that I bought for my Brompton folding bike on the Guerciotti. I packed a persimmon and a wool turtleneck in my handlebar bag and wore a wool t-shirt and wool knickers. The weather, however, was unseasonably warm and I was comfortable for most of the ride in just the t-shirt. (Toward the end of the ride, I draped the sweater around my shoulders and tied the sleeves in a loose knot to keep it from slipping.)
I spent most of this ride chasing the sun. I’d catch it, then it would dip behind a ridge. This continued until I got to the final, long climb with the sun well hidden behind the ridge. But as I slowly pedaled up the road — and the 1000′ vertical feet of switch-backs — I realized that at the very top the sun would make a final appearance.
As the image shows, I caught the sun for the final time as I rode atop the ridge.
So what about the bicyclist in the picture?
I passed him about 6 miles earlier, but since I’m always on-and-off my bike making photographs he caught up with me (think of the tortoise and the hare). When I noticed him climbing up the ridge about 100 yards behind me I set-up for this photo.
As the tortoise passed me, I exclaimed, “That’s a beautiful picture!” The tortoise turned briefly toward the sunset and replied, “it’s not real”.
At first I thought he was referring to the almost hyper-real colors (you know how sometimes nature reveals scenes — especially cloud formations and sunsets — that would be unbelievable had you not witnessed them with your own eyes?).
But on further reflection, maybe he was referring to photography itself and the philosophically problematic nature of attempting to reproduce reality with a machine!
Anyhow, I lingered on the ridge for 10-15 minutes and watched the sun dip below the horizon. Mosquitoes bit my arms and legs. I devoured a persimmon then turned on my headlight and rode home.
Part of the fun of having a bike equipped with a handlebar bag is how easy it becomes to carry whatever strikes your fancy. I’ll often pack bread, cheese, nuts — sometimes even a small amount of wine!
But the extras for this trip consisted of an extremely light merino wool turtleneck (for after sunset) and a persimmon — a sweet, refreshing bit of energy to consume at the turnaround point.
Roads like this are a big reason why I always recommend wider tires (28mm and above) at lower pressures (50-80psi).
Riding over rough roads on hard, skinny, racing tires (which 95% of bikes seem to have) doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Jan Heine, publisher of Bicycle Quarterly, who I consider an authority on the subject, has done extensive testing of tires at different widths and at different pressures and concluded that wider tires, at lower pressure, can outperform skinny racing tires.
My Guerciotti uses 28mm tires, my Ebisu uses 38mm tires, and I hope to design a future bike around 42mm tires.
(Note: The image was made on the climb through the redwoods up to Ridgecrest Blvd. on way to catch a glimpse of the ocean).
Northern California just had a glorious little heat wave. This last gasp of Indian Summer resulted in hot sunny weather with temperatures in the 70′s, and even 80′s, over the week-end.
And for some reason, I got it into my mind late Sunday afternoon that I had to ride until I could get a view of the Pacific Ocean.
The easiest way to accomplish this goal was a 25 mile round-trip with about 2,600′ of vertical climbing.
Here’s a route map and a one-way elevation profile from the ride:
The spit of land in the above image (just past the line of trees) comprises the town of Bolinas and the Pt. Reyes pennisula.
More pictures and a short ride report to follow.
His images remind me of the quirky Camper Bike.
I also posted my own contribution to this genre a while back.
Here are some notes about the Totem series as only a French Photography Historian could write them (the full test is available on Alain Delormes’s website):
“The vertiginous height of the piles echoes the incessant expansion of the city itself. By updating the proposition of the Becher, Alain Delorme seems to create a parallel between these manufactured totems and the buildings in the background, which have become themselves contemporary sculptures. The urban space is permanently under construction, developing relentlessly. The skyscrapers invade the city and rise always higher, such as new totems, always more remarkable, always more impressing. Stratum by stratum, traditional China rubs shoulders with the contemporary industrial superpower. The race here is not only the one of the men in the city, but also the one of the city towards its future.”
I said, in Part I of this post, that I’d share my general approach for practicing photography while out rambling around by bike. Here’s an example from a recent ride:
Something on the side of the road catches my eye. A prominent fern; some pine needles…
…I lay my bike down…
…and I make some quick images, but I’m not too thrilled with the result (see below).
But now I’m off the bicycle, in a landscape I might never stumble upon otherwise, and I notice one of my favorite trees — a Madrone. I make this close-up image of its bark, which really pleases me.
Ride. Look around. Stop. Shoot. Look around. Ride some more. That’s about it, but here are a few specific suggestions:
1. Don’t aim for perfection: If a subject interests you take numerous shots from different angles and focal lengths — explore the scene with the camera. Working this way, I think less, get into a more creative zone, and avoid the pressure of having to make one perfect image. (Despite this advice, I’m often struck by how often my first composition is the most pleasing.)
2. Be willing to stop and follow your senses: I can’t prove it, but I believe that sense perceptions are much higher when traveling by bicycle then when traveling by foot or by automobile (everything else being equal).
But if you intend to make a photograph (and blog about it) you need to stop and get off the bike. Stopping can be a hassle — you lose your rhythm and momentum, you delay getting to your destination (if you have one), and there are safety issues to consider.
It’s easy just to keep riding — but when you stop and look around all kinds of happy accidents take place.
3. Occasionally, leave the camera at home.
4. Ride with (or without) a purpose. There are three possibilities on any given ride:
- Set-off for a destination and commit to it — unwavering in your goal;
- Set-off for a destination — but be open to changes as you go;
- Set-off with no destination.
I tend to err on the side of spontaneity and the rewards it creates.
Since I began publishing this blog a year-and-a-half ago, I haven’t talked much about behind-the-scenes stuff.
So I’m changing things up today.
In this post (Part I), I’m outlining some of the tools and equipment I find most useful as a Velo-Geo-Photo-blogger. Then, in the next installment (Part II), I plan to talk about my general process for making photographs and observing my surroundings while out on a ride.
First, the tools of the trade:
A camera: When riding, I almost always bring along a Panasonic LX3 with its Leica branded 24-60mm lens. I’m a big fan of Panasonic/Lumix cameras. I had the LX1 before this and also own the less known L1. At 60mm, the LX3 is a bit lacking on the long-end of its zoom range (I think the updated LX5 zooms to around 90mm), but it is very compact and fits perfectly in the pocket of my handlebar bag.
A gps logger: My AMOD 3080 is critical for determining the GPS coordinates of a photo or location. I can record individual points of interest by pressing a button during the ride. After the ride, I can also time sync the gpx file of the data logger with the photo files in order to determine the precise location of each photo. (Note: a more elegant and time saving solution would be to carry a camera with built-in GPS capabilities which writes geo-data automatically to the photo’s metadata. Then I would only need one gadget on board, not two.)
A front rack and handlebar bag: My old Guerciotti has neither cantilever brake mounts on the forks nor eyelets on the front dropouts so my rack choices are limited. I ended up installing the versatile Mark’s Rack from Rivendell and use a classic TA bag I bought on eBay many years ago. I don’t have a decaleur so the bag flops around a bit when I ride. Some plastic stiffeners would help I just haven’t gotten around to addressing this problem yet.
Photo processing software: I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Bridge (which acts as a digital light table for viewing and sorting images) on an older Mac G5 and Apple cinema display.
For making images and posting them to the web I usually follow these steps:
- First, create a composition to best capture the subject matter (this can take several attempts and may require careful cropping of the image).
- Make creative changes as needed (e.g., adjustments to contrast, color, or luminosity) so the image expresses the feeling of the scene as it was experienced. This is critical. Remember what Ansel Adams said: “The negative [read: digital raw image] is the score; the print is the performance”.
- Re-size the image (in my case to around 650 pixels wide) and down sample the resolution (to around 100 ppi) so it properly fits the intended space and so the file doesn’t take up too much memory.
- Lastly, sharpen the photo while viewing it at the final size and resolution. This is very important and a reason many images do not look very good is that they are not optimized for viewing on the web at the actual size they are displayed.
A blogging platform: I use WordPress.org and a heavily modified version of the Black Letterhead theme. I also use various WordPress plug-ins. The most indispensable is Geo Mashup. It’s fantastic. One of its most useful features is the ability to display each post’s image on a main map page. I also use XML Google Maps, WP-prettyPhoto, and WordPress Video Plug-in.
A bicycle: Often it’s a steel-framed Guerciotti that I’ve owned since high school outfitted with mostly Campy components, a recently added 12-28 suntour 6-speed freewheel, a Brooks titanium rail saddle, and Grand Bois 28mm tires!
Made a quick ride over to my polling station (the Woman’s Club in Fairfax) to vote. Some of the ballot highlights:
- Nostalgia candidates — Jerry Brown (governor) and Frank Egger (water district) .
- Prop 19 — a statewide initiative to regulate and tax marijuana.
- Measure B — a county transportation initiative.
- Measure S and Measure T — a competing (and confusing) set of local measures over how, when, and if, Marin can begin to study and build a water desalinization plant.