Monday, July 24, 2017

Cameras

As I start planning for my new trip I have to look back at my last big trip and re-examine everything I did.  My trip to Alaska in 2012 was only 34 days, this new trip will last much longer and involve much more diverse terrain.
Getting weather predictions for a 34 day ride to Alaska in the summer is pretty easy.  There was only one country border to cross, even though I crossed the Canadian border a few times, and it is pretty easy for American citizens.  On my new trip I will be crossing lots of borders with various degrees of difficulties and requirements.


As I keep reflecting back on my trip, one of the issues that keeps popping up is how much I carried and what I will need to carry this time.  The selection of what to include as part of my kit is made more difficult due to the changes in weather, altitude, terrain and the duration of the trip.  The "how to" pack everything on a motorcycle also complicates things, as everyone knows, space on a motorcycle is limited. Another major issue is the carrying capacity of the motorcycle while at the same time keeping in mind that weight is a killer when adventuring off road.  Below is my Yamaha Super Tenere when I rode to Alaska.


I definitely do not want to be like the riders below.



As the start date counts down I will be making a series of post discussing my preparation and the various pieces of equipment I will be taking.  On this post I will be talking about cameras and supporting equipment.

During my Alaska trip I carried a Canon T3i 35mm DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) with two lens for the camera and a small Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 point and shoot camera in my tank bag.  Sometimes I would hang the small camera around my neck and inside my jacket so I could pull it out fast and photograph something even while riding like the photos below.  I know, it's not safe but I only do it when I'm alone on the road.  I did manage to break the Sony's back screen and even though I could still use it, I discarded the camera after the trip.





For high-quality photos, there’s no substitute for a DSLR camera. The biggest problem with DSLR's is they are susceptible to being damaged due to vibration and dust specially while changing the lens, and the bulky size makes them difficult to store on the bike. I have been spending a lot of time researching cameras to find out what would be the best compromise between quality and weight.

I'm a photographer and for my photography business I use two Canon 7D's, a full frame Canon 6D and my trusty Canon T3i that I took to Alaska.  For last year's trip to Alaska with my wife in an RV I bought a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS because of the 65x telephoto lens which is equivalent to 21-1365mm SLR lens.


The SX60 is a great camera when you need to take photos from very far as the photos below show.  The sequence of photos below were taken from the top of a mountain in the Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, Alaska.  I believe on the last photo I actually used 2x digital zoom combined with the 65x telephoto zoom.



Having a great zoom range is not very important when you want to take photos of landscapes as it compacts the image, in fact a wide angle lens is much more useful to expand the surrounding landscape.  The long telephoto lens only comes in handy when you have wildlife to photograph or you can't get near a location but you still want a closeup.  A long telephoto lens is also useful when you want to take candid photos of people without them knowing.

You might be asking yourself now, why am I mentioning all these specs? and that's because I wish one camera could do everything, unfortunately that's never the case, there's always compromises.  The 7D is a very rugged camera used by professional photographers and I'm sure it would be able to withstand the trip and the harsh conditions but it weighs 860 g (1.90 lb) without a lens.

Below is the weight of the Canon cameras I own:
EOS 7D 860 g (1.90 lb) Body only
EOS 6D 770 g (1.70 lb) Body only
XS60 650 g (1.43 lb) with 65x lens
T3i 570 g (1.26 lb) Body only

These are two new Canon cameras I'm considering:
SL2 453 g (1.00 lb) Body only
M6 343 g (0.76 lb) Body only

Since weight is very important as mentioned at the top, I'm now considering two new cameras.  The SL2 is probably the smallest and lightest Canon SLR on the market and the M6 is one of the lightest mirrorless cameras.  The SL2 is almost half the weight of the 7D and the M6 is even lighter.  All these cameras accept the EF-S lens format except for the 6D and the XS60.  Since I own quite a few EF-S lens I will stay with Canon, if I were to buy from a different manufacturer it would entail buying all new lens.  So it all comes down to weight and lenses.  I'm leaning into buying the M6 and pairing it with my 10-22mm lens, a great wide-angle lens allowing me to capture landscapes like the ones below.





I am considering taking the XS60 for the amazing 65x zoom but it's heavy and bulky, would probably take too much space in my tank bag and definitely could not be hung around my neck.  It's also not waterproof but I envision needing a camera for when it's raining or for the occasional dip in the ocean. I might take one of my telephoto lens for whatever camera I end up buying but that means swapping lens, not the ideal when you need to get something fast and certainly not good when in dusty conditions.  The ideal would be a small waterproof camera with a very good telephoto to complement the DSLR I will end up taking but I don't think that camera has been invented.

Camera equipment can be very expensive and the more you carry the greater the risk of damage and theft, however with a little bit of planning these challenges can be overcome.  A DSLR will reward you with stunning photos, much better than anything a point and shoot camera can capture.  Hopefully I will find a solution to these issues because one of my main objectives on this trip is to carry as little and be as light as possible but still be able to capture the stunning scenery I plan to ride.

More to follow as I continue to research.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step


2016 was not a good year for me as far as motorcycle riding and 2017 is not looking good either.  I didn't do any long rides and I think I only ventured outside of New Jersey on my motorcycle a couple of times last year. It seems every year I hope the following year will be good for long distance motorcycle adventures but life has other ideas.  The lack of vacation time, work schedule, lack of money or family issues always conspire to change my plans.  I made one post at the beginning of 2016 and that was it for my blog. I started 2016 with great expectation but the year quickly turned into a bad year when my mom go very sick.

My beautiful mom in good health a few years ago and with me on Mother's Day 2016, just months before she found out she was sick.

   

In June 2016 I went to Portugal with my dad to take care of a few important things and returned on July 4th, Independence Day landing in Newark at 3.30pm, unfortunately I was one hour too late, my mom had passed away at 2.30pm, at home with my wife and my brother at her side.  I knew she was very sick when we left but never expected to turn so bad so quickly, it was a shock which I'm still recovering from.  I have always been very closed when it comes to showing my feelings, I keep them bottled up to myself but it does have a detrimental effect on my life and I'm sure it affects the way I interact with family and friends.  It has now been a little over a year, my mom is now resting in peace in Portugal with her sister and mom.


It has been a long sad road but life goes on, I'm still here, in good health, working and planning future motorcycle trips.  I have been planning for a major trip for over a year all the while trying to save as much money as possible.  I rarely go out on the motorcycle with friends because after adding up gas and food I always end up spending thirty to fifty bucks on a weekend and that will equal a day or two on the road of my future adventure.  Unlike a lot of adventurers that sell everything before embarking on long distance trips, I have to think about my family and a way to keep my home life going.  Property taxes are not cheap in New Jersey, for every month I plan on spending on the road I will have to keep aside almost $1000 for my property taxes.  Then there's the other expenses, water, electricity, gas and insurance to name a few and someone will have to take care of the lawn and the pool.  There's also college expenses from my son and for my daughter which will be a junior in college this year.  I'm driving an old SUV in order to save money and it will have to do until at least next year.  My wife is driving a nine year old car and I'm glad she can wait until later for a new car.  I would love to buy another motorcycle, maybe a Yamaha R1, the motorcycle I have always dreamed of, but that will just have to wait, life in NJ is expensive.


Too may obstacles along the way, I could just give up on my plans and settle for a mediocre life but that has never been me. I enjoy a good challenge and taking careful and planned risks to overcome any obstacle.  The calculator in my brain has been running into overdrive lately trying to put everything in place but I believe where there's a will there will be a way.  I have always loved this quote:

"There's nothing like a dream to create a future - Victor Hugo"
Why can't I do what I really, really want to do? Why settle when I can challenge myself to an amazing adventure and live an extraordinary life?

That first step has been taken and plans are underway for a much longer trip outside of the USA. I will continue this blog for my USA trips but I have created a new blog since it will no longer be about Riding The USA only. New Facebook page and Instagram account have been created. The countdown counter on the new blog started with almost 500 days to go but is already showing less than 365 days to go.

Soon I will announce my plans and my new blog.  I will put a link on this blog to the new blog and I hope you will follow me there. I thank you for your support and patience, I promise it will be worthwhile.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step - Lao Tzu"


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