Maiden Voyage

If you cast your mind back to this and lived to see the other side of it, you’ll understand why I recently bought a couple of Drift Stealth cameras to make the filming process a little easier and a lot less stomach churning. The above was the maiden voyage and very much a learning exercise. I need to see what the hardware can do, what it can’t do and what I shouldn’t make it try to do before the ‘big holiday’ to the Alps in August. This was a routine trip from Dublin city down to Wicklow and back again. Thankfully back again that is, the low/no petrol light was taunting me for most of the ride back to Dublin.

With the included mounting hardware, I ended up with a camera on the engine bars (more on that later) and one on the side of my helmet. That still left me with oodles of spare hardware, velcro pads and elastic straps to play around with so I’m going to need to come up with a few more mounting locations. The helmet was the winner, video (shot at 720, 60p on both cameras) turned out smooth. The engine bar location, if I decide to reuse it, will need some work. Perhaps a kind of shock mount. Thankfully the cameras have standard tripod mount screws on them so I can spoil myself with the myriad of mounting options out there.

Things I learned
1. I don’t need to check that the camera is still on the side of my head every 5 minutes. The velcro is strong and all the bobbing around to look at the camera in the mirror just screws up the footage.
2. Nodding or generally acknowledging other bikers on the road leads to further footage foul ups. I think I’ll have to adopt the standard European leg waggle. Not that many bikers in Dublin return the salutation these days anyway.
3. Mounting on the engine bar is generally going to be a no-no. There are certain speeds it works beautifully at and if I continue to use that point I need to become aware of those speeds. Otherwise it’s a rolling shutter fest.
4. Syncing footage between two cameras is a bit harder than I previously imagined it would be.

Another interesting thing I learned is that the majority of car drivers behave a lot better when they spot a camera on the side of your head. Some even slowed down to stare.

A note on the music is perhaps required. When I go out on rides like this, I never fail to default to two albums. “Between Two Lungs” and “The House That Dirt Built”. It’s proven to be great back road riding music. So before I get takedown notices from and/or sued by Florence And The Machine and The Heavy I invite you to play the above at the appropriate volume.

Also and somewhat vitally, the above is standard definition but the footage is actually in 720p. I can’t currently do HD embeds from Vimeo because I haven’t paid my dues to them for a ‘plus’ account. ($60 seems a little overkill at the moment and I may just end up using Youtube). So if that kind of thing bothers you and you want to view it as I intended it to be watched, you can get the 720p version on the video page.

Next stop, Austria.

Shakycam is Go!

What was intended to be a mostly entertaining way for me to record and review my very limited off-road jaunts while in the UK in April has turned into a public service video on the effects of motion sickness and a case study on why people buy those expensive little helmet cameras. While I wasn’t expecting Steven Spielberg results, I imagined in what I now know was supreme, unwavering naivety that I might get something other than a dodgy late 1990’s horror movie.

This is a very cut down version of the full experience, I didn’t want to subject anyone to the full six minutes. My most sincere apologies to sufferers of motion sickness and indeed to those that contract acute motion sickness as a result of viewing the above. Next on the shopping list, a helmet camera and possibly an Adobe Premier manual.

Half way to Silver

After I bought the bike back in January, I began hearing about an event called “Photo Rally” on a few of the bike forums. The idea behind it is simple, there are 24 locations throughout the island of Ireland and you need to travel to as many as possible to earn a bronze, silver or gold award at the end of the year. It’s not a recent idea either. It began way back in 1975 with a Limerick man.

Looking especially uncomfortable for some reason. No, I don’t much like having my photo taken.

Photographing your steed with all 24 landmarks earns you gold, 18 gets you silver and 12 sorts you out with bronze. The idea behind it is to get out and have some fun on the roads, finding new places and meeting up with likeminded folks. I may only be 9 locations into the challenge, but I’ve managed to pack in all three so far.

It’s great riding out into the countryside to some off the beaten track landmark only to meet a perfect stranger and be able to chat at length about where we’ve both been so far, where’s next and where we don’t think we’re going to get to before the November 17th deadline. My God, the previous sentence almost makes me sound like an approachable, friendly sort. Maybe I can blame that on the photo rally too?

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All but one of my visited rally points have been wonderfully obscure. On the tops of hills, back country roads and some in villages I never knew existed. The Fermanagh/Tyrone point almost lived up to it’s ‘tricky’ status by throwing a short section of off road riding in the way. I can’t imagine too many guys on sports bikes are going to manage or even attempt that one. The photography so far has been quite simple. Although there is an incentive to be creative, I’ve found it quite difficult to do so with the criteria. It’s a simple case of ‘heres the shot, heres my bike in the shot. rally point complete’. Maybe as the summer comes in and the weather heats up a bit I’ll be more inclined to stretch my photo rally creative photography legs.

I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far and I hope to get as close to photographing all 24 points as possible. There was even talk on a popular UK bike forum about running a similar event in Scotland. As if I needed another excuse to jump on the ferry to the highlands for two weeks!

The Bubblegum Run

The Bubblegum Run
July 2004. Before taking the bus sized bike on the voyage to France, I hit upon the Bubblegum Run. It’s an annual event in Dublin’s biker calendar that (if I remember correctly as it was some years ago) starts at Mansion house in the city centre and makes it’s way out to Mondello park in Kildare. This was the first year I’d done it but with any bit of luck, it won’t be the last.