Rally Riding: Know Your Camera and Learn To Take Pictures In the Dark
Have you decided to throw your hat into the ring and ride in your first bonus location rally? On the surface, the premise is pretty straight forward – ride around, take pictures, log your location details, arrive safely at the rally end point. The devil, of course, is always in the details.
Knowing your tools long before you set off on your ride will be one less stress point while you’re on the rally clock. Next to your motorcycle, your camera is the most important arrow in your quiver. No pictures? No points. Knowing your camera well – how to use it’s menus, features and how to operate it in variable light conditions is important.
If you are riding in a rally that spans 24 hours or more, you will need to know how to take photos in low-light situations.
Sometimes simply using your camera’s flash will work against you. The light from the flash may not reach far enough. Parts of the image may be overexposed or reflecting, while others are in complete blackness. Practice taking photos without using the flash so that you can quickly do it in a rally setting.
- Learn how to turn off your camera’s flash
- Learn how to use your camera’s timer
- Get a small tripod
- Does your camera have a night shooting mode? Know how it works
If you’re going to turn off your camera’s flash and use a longer shutter, keeping the camera steady is key. Otherwise your image will turn out blurry. A small cheap tripod can help with that. A Gorillapod or some other articulated tripod can wrap around things like mirrors stalks, etc. Resting your camera somewhere on your motorcycle like a topbox or seat can also do the trick and it’s free.
Have a portable light source
During the course of a rally you may find yourself in a dark area without any ambient light. Depending on the parking situation or the position of the bonus, you may not be able to use the headlights of your bike to illuminate the area. Having a flashlight will help.
Some riders carry 50-bajillion candlepower flashlights in their bags. Me? I’ve got a simple and small LED number that I got as a giveaway. I keep it clipped into to my front pocket. Even a small amount of light can make a big difference when shooting in low light. It could be the difference between keeping and losing points.
Example: No Flash, Small Light Source
In the above scenario using the flash created too much reflection off of my white rally flag and the bonus sign. The fix was shining my little flashlight on the sign and turning off my camera’s flash. The result was a clear photo and earned points.
During my first 24 hour rally, I asked a sheriff to shine his cruiser spotlight on a bonus that was on a rooftop. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful 🙂
Other Important Camera Considerations
I hate to say it, but: RTFM
- Know how to set your camera’s date and time
- Know how to set your camera’s photo resolution and maximum image size
Rally rules usually dictate: that your photos must be within a specific dimension, under a certain number of megapixels, and should have a correct date and timestamp in their EXIF data. Not adhering to these guidelines means you will not earn points for all the awesome riding you did and you will be sad. Knowing where these setting are on your camera is key.
Oh. And don’t forget to charge your battery!