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Thread: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

  1. #1
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hi all,
    I wasn't entirely sure which forum to place this question in...
    Does anyone have experience touring on a motorcycle with their camera, lens(es) and a tripod? I'm hoping to be in the US in July for two weeks of riding. We'll be touring in a picturesque part of the country so want to also immerse myself some in some landscape photography while there.

    I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations with respect to carrying their gear on the bike. It isn't my bike, so I'm limited on changes I can make to the setup. There is no topbox or hard cases installed. I will have the pillion seat, sissy bar, and leather paniers for space.

    I was wondering if a tank bag would work for the camera or if the vibrations there are going to be detrimental. Also worried about weather proofing with whichever option I select. I'm usually pretty good at travelling light on a bike; but have to say that my camera backpack that I usually do day hikes with is probably bigger than what I'd normally take for 2 weeks of riding

    I have done weekenders on the bike with my camera, but have always stayed in a hotel or similar so just took my camera in my backpack with a couple of changes of essential clothes. This time I'll be camping, so the bike will also need to carry a tent, bedding, etc.

    Next question is lenses... last year it would have been an easy decision- the 18-200mm on the D90. Now with the D600 I don't have a "jack of all trades"; the 16-35 is my choice for the landscapes, but I also want to capture people riding which would mean adding the 70-200 too. Both fairly large and heavy

    Any insights or advice welcomed.

  2. #2
    Harpo's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hi Trace-

    Im a motorcyclist with a camera too… I currently ride a Victory Cross Country touring bike and have graduated from just riding for the joy of it to also riding with photographic destinations in mind. I usually put my padded camera bag in my rear trunk. If I am camping for a longer time- its either in a padded waterproof bag strapped to the passenger seat or if with my wife, it goes in the trailer. When I rode a cruiser without a top rack in the past, Ive used a tank bag for the camera. A tank bag does not really fit on my current motorcycle, so I don't use one now. What kind of bike are you going to be riding? Sounds from your description it will be a similar set up to my previous Valkyrie.

    The photo below was from a two week camping trip around the country in 2001 primarily in the western US, this one in Colorado. I had a tank bag that had my camera in it (a p&s, before I got serious about photography), a T-bag with the bulk of my stuff and the waterproof bag on the rear with all the tall camping stuff. Heavier stuff in the saddlebags. Both bags were strapped to the passenger backrest.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod
    Valkyrie in Colorado by MikePhoto63, on Flickr

    Generally, the point on the bike with the least amount of shake is a tank bag where the camera is accessible to pull out and shoot as you ride. They have tank bags with waterproof covers. Ive been able to fit a Canon Rebel with a 18-135mm lens in it. If I still could use a tank bag on my current bike, my larger 5D3 & 24-105 mm lens would not fit as well. Some bikes allow larger tank bags. So again, that depends on what you are riding and the handlebar clearance. This is why most motorcycle campers who want to take better photos than a p&s bring a mirror less camera. But they typically are more in it for the riding than photography.

    As for a tripod, depending on the length- it can be lashed along with the tent or thermarest pad if they are long. How its attached to the bike depends on the set up- A passenger backrest offers many connecting points like in the pic above. Others with out a backrest usually lash it to the passenger seat across the seat.

    If you're going to be on an adventure touring type bike, riding dirt roads, then most people use pelican cases strapped on either the rear rack or passenger seat (if no top box is available) for the camera and lenses. Some people carry their camera stuff in a backpack on their back because thats where the least amount of shake will be- but its generally not as comfortable nor safe.

    Does that give you a pretty good idea to help with your trip planning?
    Last edited by Harpo; 18th April 2013 at 01:11 PM.

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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hi Trace,

    For stowing gear, both shockproof/waterproof, I suggest use a plastic food container ( like a tupperware ) lined with bubble-wrap and/or foam. If you want more waterproofing, place the box inside ziplock type plastic bags. You can put your boxes inside your backpack which can be tied-down on your bike whenever you feel like it.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    I used this setup traveling the rough/tough mountain roads of the Philippines and found it practical and convenient. ( My ride there is a lightweight Honda XR200 )

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    I carry a camera around a lot on a bike. I use this

    http://digital-photography-school.co...-aw-bag-review

    which is half camera bag and half rucksack. It has been around the arctic circle at -35 C and Borneo at +35 C, with a Canon 5DIII in it. Access is easy and protection is good.

    If you have no top box or pannier access, a proper rucksack is the only real solution. You can keep all your everyday stuff in the top half. You can comfortably use it all day on and off the bike.

    I would aim to travel light with whatever gear I own: body, one lens, spare battery and charger. Lenses are heavy and changing them is a hassle. I use a 24-105L usually for walk-around and rely on cropping or walking closer! I leave all my other gear at home. I would not take a tripod unless I was doing night skies or lots of macro. Too bulky and basically a nuisance on a bike.
    Last edited by Adrian; 20th April 2013 at 02:27 PM.

  5. #5
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Thanks for the replies guys. I'll be borrowing a Sportster; I have had the good fortune of having borrowed it previously for a similar trip. Writing this prompted me to go look again at the setup last time I borrowed it. Looking back I see that I had the pillion seat free on that trip, so more room than I recalled. I could probably go with a camera backpack. Though am still attracted to the idea of the tankbag if I can find one the right size. Though on the other hand I'm always a little concerned about scratching the paint on somebody else's tank too

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    I was content to use a compact then that stayed in my jacket pocket. I'm afraid to say I'm no longer content with that even though my compact is an S90 that gives me full-manual control. It'll stil be in my pocket but want my DSLR along too. It is as much about the photography as it is about the ride and the roads. I too, see the benefit of the mirrorless, and may consider that direction one day. In terms of lenses I have considered renting a 28-300mm but haven't found one to rent in Australia. I will extend my search to the US.

    Thanks for the idea of the lunchboxes... that may work out quite well if I can find something the perfect size. When I've travelled with my camera at home in the past couple of years, I haven't been camping so have just kept my gear in a watertight sack inside my backpack... a lunchbox may well work better. I tend to keep everything in ziplocks or watertight sacks as I've had problems keeping external waterproof covers on the bag; they seem to have a tendency to believe in freedom and flying with the wind But the sacks and ziplocks get fussy when trying to reach the camera.

    Though for a camping set up, really happy with the pelicans when touring- they provide versatility and protection. When organised right would have room for camera, lenses, chargers and a laptop. Ideal IMHO, at least for the style of touring I do. I stay on-road; and while camping, it is at campsites. While I love the idea of truly roughing it and getting off-road to reach the untouched places, I'm afraid it is not my reality.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

  6. #6
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    I thought I'd follow up the thread with the option I ended up using and how that fared for me.

    Setup
    After much deliberation I ended up purchasing a Kata KT DL-N-5 Nimble-5 DL Compact Satchel Bag as I decided I wanted to keep all my gear together for when I wanted to just grab and hike. That strategy worked quite well for me. The satchel held my 70-200 and my 16-35 with the D600. I didn't have a tablet along so used that padded area for my Lee filters and holder. There was also room for a small flash, a battery charger, spare battery and cards. The quick draw positioning of the camera made it easy to get the camera in and out of the bag. It also made lens changes simple and straightforward. The split shoulder strap also worked extremely well at keeping the bag comfortably balanced and secured as I was climbing back up steep enbankments from the base of waterfalls. It's water-resistant outer fabric also came in handy around waterfall spray. Overall very happy with the performance of this bag for my purposes on this particular trip. I also took along my fold flat benro travel tripod matched to the RRS BH40.

    When travelling the tripod and satchel stayed in a 1560 pelican case. They fitted easily in the case along with two weeks of clothes, toiletries and electronics. The pelican case was lockable when left unattended on the bike. The rollers and extendable handle on the case were also great for the flight over and the few times we had hotel stays. When we were set up at a camp for a few days I would leave the pelican case behind and the satchel would go in the hard saddlebag instead. It was a tight fit in the saddlebag, so I would leave behind the charger and spares, but that worked for a day on the bike. I would bungee the tripod to the pillion seat behind me.

    Reflection
    Mostly I was satisfied with this setup, though here at home I'm going to trial using a tank bag with a padded removable basket for the camera with lens attached. There were numerous times I would have taken a photo if my camera had been "right there". I still took those pics with my compact S90, but well... lets just say the dynamic range of the DSLRs has spoiled me.

    I didn't use a tank bag on this trip for three reasons- worried it would scratch the paint on a borrowed bike; having to take it with me whenever I was out of sight of the bike; no stores local to me carried a tankbag that the camera would fit within.

    Photos of Setup
    I didn't think to take a photo of the Kata satchel all loaded. However the image from the Kata website does demonstrate it pretty well. Click here for the link to the Kata website.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Nor did I think to take a photo of the satchel in the pelican case. So only outer shell gear photos I'm afraid. This photo is the bike fully loaded; gear in Kata satchel in the Pelican case. Photo taken with S90 as this was a "get ya wets on" stop.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Day trip setup while camped... pelican case came off and satchel is in the saddlebag. You can see the tripod strapped to the pillion seat. Photocredit to 129slayer.com

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

  7. #7

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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    It's not a motorcycle but it does get me around the local area with my heavy stuff just laying
    in the basket. I do not drive around with the camera mounted on the video head.
    Those sidewalk cracks would probably jar the innards out of the rig.
    Shown with one of my daughters as a model...

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hey...it works for me...got these the other day.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod
    .

  8. #8
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    I have not had any experience touring with a camera on a motorcycle but, in my younger days I did quite a bit of touring on a bicycle. While, the two means of transport are certainly not identical, there are some similarities. The gear that you need to take might be predicated on one major parameter which could influence the amount of camera gear you will be able to carry.

    Do you plan to camp or to stay in motels/hotels on your trip? Obviously, if you camp, you will need to carry more gear to support that camping and if you decide to utilize motel-type accommodations, you may not need as much gear but, you might be restricted as to where you might spend the night...

    Keeping your camera and lens/lenses safe is a two edged sword. Obviously, we want our gear as safe as possible but, stashing it away deep in your kit is not really practical either because there will be many spots along your travels that will lend themselves to photography. Having the camera/lens packed away will result in (at least it would for me) deciding that the shot is not worth unpacking the camera to get.

    Realistically, your mode of transportation will limit your choice of equipment, as will your demands for photographic quality. At one end of the spectrum is the way I usually equip myself for a travel venue, two 1.6x cameras and at least two lenses, IMO this would be too heavy and cumbersome. The other end of the spectrum would be a really nice bridge camera (such as the Canon SX-50). A mid-point compromise would be a 1.6x camera with a wide range zoom lens. I usually don't recommend that type of lens but, I think that you might need to make compromises regarding your equipment because of your mode of transportation. However, I would suggest that you have a back-up camera, even if it is only a nice P&S.

    You will also need to make another compromise in the area of what tripod you select. The type of tripod you select will be predicated on the weight of camera/lens you plan to use and the length of that tripod when it is folded down. A really good lightweight tripod is quite expensive.

    I found an old and tiny German made Culliman tripod at a rummage sale which has a surprising capability in that it weighs less than .5 kilograms and is about .3 meters long when folded. Obviously, this is not an all around tripod but, it a tripod of this type could work when you cannot carry a larger or heavier tripod. This tiny tripod is surprisingly sturdy for its weight and size...

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod
    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    A monopod and/or a bean-bag might be another thought. When I travel without a tripod and only have a monopod, I will carry two lengths of double faced Velcro material and/or small Bungee cords to secure the monopod to a fence, tree etc. Not the most versatile arrangement but (depending on what you find to secure the pod to) it can sometimes work quite well.

    Coming from the Land of Oz, I don't have to remind you (as I do with many European tourists) that the distances in the USA are very great and there is frequently lots of travel required between any Point A and Point B. Take that into consideration when you plan your journey...

    I'd also need to mention that the Western USA is experiencing some devastating wildfires. This will only get worse as the fire season matures.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/n...gency/2694837/

    Please take that into consideration during your travels. I would suggest that you have some type of radio (on your bike or a small transistor type) so you can keep updated regarding fires...

    Have fun on your trip...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 24th August 2013 at 02:35 PM.

  9. #9

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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoByTrace View Post
    I thought I'd follow up the thread with the option I ended up using and how that fared for me.

    Setup
    After much deliberation I ended up purchasing a Kata KT DL-N-5 Nimble-5 DL Compact Satchel Bag as I decided I wanted to keep all my gear together for when I wanted to just grab and hike. That strategy worked quite well for me. The satchel held my 70-200 and my 16-35 with the D600. I didn't have a tablet along so used that padded area for my Lee filters and holder. There was also room for a small flash, a battery charger, spare battery and cards. The quick draw positioning of the camera made it easy to get the camera in and out of the bag. It also made lens changes simple and straightforward. The split shoulder strap also worked extremely well at keeping the bag comfortably balanced and secured as I was climbing back up steep enbankments from the base of waterfalls. It's water-resistant outer fabric also came in handy around waterfall spray. Overall very happy with the performance of this bag for my purposes on this particular trip. I also took along my fold flat benro travel tripod matched to the RRS BH40.

    When travelling the tripod and satchel stayed in a 1560 pelican case. They fitted easily in the case along with two weeks of clothes, toiletries and electronics. The pelican case was lockable when left unattended on the bike. The rollers and extendable handle on the case were also great for the flight over and the few times we had hotel stays. When we were set up at a camp for a few days I would leave the pelican case behind and the satchel would go in the hard saddlebag instead. It was a tight fit in the saddlebag, so I would leave behind the charger and spares, but that worked for a day on the bike. I would bungee the tripod to the pillion seat behind me.

    Reflection
    Mostly I was satisfied with this setup, though here at home I'm going to trial using a tank bag with a padded removable basket for the camera with lens attached. There were numerous times I would have taken a photo if my camera had been "right there". I still took those pics with my compact S90, but well... lets just say the dynamic range of the DSLRs has spoiled me.

    I didn't use a tank bag on this trip for three reasons- worried it would scratch the paint on a borrowed bike; having to take it with me whenever I was out of sight of the bike; no stores local to me carried a tankbag that the camera would fit within.

    Photos of Setup
    I didn't think to take a photo of the Kata satchel all loaded. However the image from the Kata website does demonstrate it pretty well. Click here for the link to the Kata website.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Nor did I think to take a photo of the satchel in the pelican case. So only outer shell gear photos I'm afraid. This photo is the bike fully loaded; gear in Kata satchel in the Pelican case. Photo taken with S90 as this was a "get ya wets on" stop.

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Day trip setup while camped... pelican case came off and satchel is in the saddlebag. You can see the tripod strapped to the pillion seat. Photocredit to 129slayer.com

    Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod
    Hey, like wow! Scraping the road....................!

    Awaiting your pictures.

  10. #10
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for the input. Much of what you've said was a consideration for me pre-trip in trying to find the best setup.

    I have returned from the trip now. I was on East Coast through the Appalachians. The setup I used for the trip itself worked pretty well, but as I've said I am going to look into a tank bag solution so that I can have my camera always easily within reach for the rest stops and "OMG look at that view" stops on the roadside. Then when intending to hike a trail I'll just swap out the tankbag for the Kata satchel in the pelican case.

  11. #11
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by nimitzbenedicto View Post
    Hey, like wow! Scraping the road....................!

    Awaiting your pictures.
    Hi Victor, yes, scraping, but just on well-kept bitumen! Not the wet potholed windy roads that your adventures frequent... I am envious by the way. Love your latest set of pics.
    The photos from my trip are within my Project 52 thread.
    Last edited by PhotoByTrace; 24th August 2013 at 10:47 PM. Reason: added link

  12. #12
    PhotoByTrace's Avatar
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    Re: Motorcycle touring with DSLR and Tripod

    Chauncey, that looks like an excellent setup for more mobility around town. Which lens do you have hanging on there?

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