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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Try A Photo Bike-Tour


Explore a new location by bicycle for a more intimate connection with the landscape

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Hatcher
Dawn, who has been reported about previously in this column, is the former editor of the indie magazine Wig and has been a working photographer for the past 12 years. She’s a frequent contributor to National Geographic Adventure magazine.

None of us had ever biked through this country, and for Dawn and Gavin this was their first bike tour ever. We’d have no support vehicle, and because some of the rides around the remote Mavora Lakes required us to have a tent, we decided we’d camp the entire time during the ride. Each of us needed to pack rear panniers with summer/winter clothing, as well as camp supplies. This left little room for photography gear. My photo equipment for the nine-day trip included a Nikon D700 camera with a Nikon 24-120mm VR lens, plus four 8-gig and four 4-gig Lexar CF cards, a camera brush, chamois cloth, five fully charged camera batteries, a split-neutral-density filter and a Sealine waterproof bag to carry the camera with a lens and five large Ziploc® bags to carry the other camera gear. I carried the camera in an Osprey hydration pack to keep the camera in a place easy to reach and less exposed to the vibrations and knocks of riding in a bike-handlebar bag.

During the trip, we encountered every type of weather except snow. I rode with the camera out as much as possible, but when the wind started blowing dust on the trail, the camera would go into the water- and dustproof bag. On the ride from Walter Peak to Mavora Lakes, we had some of the worst weather we encountered on the trip. At times, wind-driven rain would blow horizontally across the road. Despite this I was able to make some of my best images of the entire trip. I learned again how important it is to constantly maintain your camera in the field and not wait for the end of the day. I tried to anticipate a potential photo so that I could keep my camera in the waterproof bag and not risk it getting drenched for no reason. Each time I took the camera out to get a shot it would get wet, so by the third time out of the bag it would be soaked. Despite this I kept the camera operational with a chamois and took time to dry it when possible.

During our worst rain day, when rain was a constant from morning until evening, my camera maintenance went like this: If the rain stopped for even a minute, I had my camera out of the dry bag, around my neck and drying in the air movement created on my moving bike. This did the trick.

Here’s a trick to drying a camera on a rainy day. You still can dry it by using the evaporative effects of air movement over the camera body. On a bike I could generate air movement anytime I wanted by pedaling. During our worst rain day, when rain was a constant from morning until evening, my camera maintenance went like this: If the rain stopped for even a minute, I had my camera out of the dry bag, around my neck and drying in the air movement created on my moving bike. This did the trick. In the critical moment in the middle of the day, during the worst of the rainstorm, my camera and lens that had been soaked from fog just 20 minutes earlier were dry and now ready to capture a photo of Gavin. In the image, he’s waiting in a patch of sunlight for us to catch up just as another wave of ominous rain clouds rushes up the pass. This is one of my favorite photos from our trip.

On my blog (billhatcher.typepad.com) you can read my April 3, 2009, entry that discusses the sequence of making this image. To view additional photos from the bike tour, go to the blog’s “Bike Across New Zealand” photo album.

Bill Hatcher travels the world in search of adventure and good stories. A regular contributor to National Geographic and Outside, his images have appeared on the cover of 40 magazines. Visit his website at www.billhatcher.com.

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