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.

Some suggestions:

  • 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!

Do you have any rally photo advice to share?


Rachael is the whimsical writer behind the 20+ year old Girlie Motorcycle Blog. As a freelance blogger, she is on a mission to inspire laughter, self-examination, curiosity, and human connection. Girlie Motorcycle Blog can be found on several Best Motorcycle Blog lists.

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7 Responses

  1. No one wants to RTFM. I consider it a personal failure to find myself there.
    Excellent post. I’ve been working on a similar one. I’ll have to file it away now.

    I have to say I really like the new look and functionality of your blog. Especially in regard to commenting — so much easier now.

    All good stuff.

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      😀 A personal failure? 😆 If i need it, its usually for something specific. Its probably more a failure on the part of the manufacturer that their menu systems aren’t obvious or intuitive.

      Oh lordy. I dont know bugger all about photography. I just know i need to make X happen to collect points in a rally. I feeeeeeel like you’re safe posting your post. Please post it.

      Thanks!i just moved over to a base theme and dropped jetpack comments. They were supposed to expand capability but apparently made life more challenging. go figure. K.I.S.S. 🙂

  2. Shybiker says:

    Thanks for posting valuable information about one of my other favorite hobbies!

  3. Ted Kettler says:

    As part of my considering this years rally part of my riding schedule this year (including a Saddlesore 1000), your posts about the rally has kicked a pet peeve of mine into action. I have always hated using my smartphone as a camera. Sure it’s nice in certain situations but it can get out of control, as it did with me. The result is me transferring nearly 1200 pictures off my smartphone onto my desktop computer and looking for my trusty digital camera…. which cannot be found. All I found was an old 4 mgp Kodak that was given to me a few years ago, not the 12 mgp one that I bought 2 years ago. For now, the old one will have to do, but should I elect to do the Void this year, I may have to invest in one with better quality and more flash and lighting features.
    Since it is likely you will be riding the Void in the dark this year. Consider putting a Daymaker headlight on your bike of choice. I have them on my bike and trust me when I tell you they don’t call them “Daymakers” for nothing.
    RTFM… Ride the F-ing Motorcycle?? LOL.

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      I really hope you decide to throw your hat in the ring. I’ll buy you a beer at the finish line. 🙂

      By the by… Scott the Rallymaster of the Void is quite an interesting and colorful gent. Perhaps an interesting call-in on the ‘cast.

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      i usually have both my point-n-shoot and my iphone with me. well, always my iphone. I use the phone 90% of the time for all of my pics. you cant beat the ease and convenience and the pics are good enough for my blog. i’m not a photographer so i dont have much of a discerning eye. when i get into situations where i need to zoom or have low light conditions, you can beat the PnS.

      usually, i just dump my pics up to smugmug with their iphone app. that way i can delete my pics off my phone without worry. makes my life easy.

      RTFM – read the f’n manual. But i like your way better. 😉

  4. Chuck says:

    I have a small camera mount that is nothing more than the threaded end for the camera attached to a flexible rubber material shaped to fit over a bottle cap. You can use any standard pop bottle or water bottle then as a tripod. I think Amazon or EBay was where I found it.

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