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How to use Strava as a photographer

May 1, 2019

Strava has changed riding, running, and pretty much every other endurance sport forever. As a training tool, a social network for athletes and even the competition for KOM’s/QOM’s has shifted the way athletes are using technology as a part of their training.

I use Strava not only to keep track of my training to ensure I’m fit enough to keep up with the athletes I’m shooting with, but also to keep track of things like altitude gained and descended and routes for feature stories I’ve written.

However, it was only recently while location scouting for a MTB shoot at Nerang National forest that I realized the full extent Strava’s utility for photographers.

Strava KOM hunter

For those who may not be familiar with Strava, one of the main draws to the platform is the ‘segments’ where whoever has the fastest time on a particular stretch of road or trail is awarded the KOM/QOM. The majority of these are out of reach for us mere mortals, and former world tour pro cyclist Phil Gaimon has embarked to be the worst at retiring and steal many of them from dopers.

Just about everywhere you go be it a trail, road, or mountaintop there is more than likely a corresponding geotagged segment which can be viewed and can be ‘starred’ in the Strava app.

Through a feature called Strava Live Segments, these starred segments can then be synced with your enabled watch or head unit and you’ll get an alert as you approach the segment and again when you start it – you will need a Strava Summit subscription for this feature to work.

Why are you telling me this?

There is nothing worse than spending time location scouting, only to forget about a banger spot you found and ride right past it. While I always keep a list with a photo of each spot I’ve picked on my phone sometimes you’ll miss one, and not remember it until you get to the trailhead.

At Nerang in particular, there are hundreds of trails the majority of which are not marked. On a ride, you will come across four-way trail junctions, that h look almost identical, and after riding there for over a year I still get lost sometimes. Being that’s its a forest and you’re traveling at speed, it’s also pretty easy to miss landmarks that let you know you’re close to the spot that you want to shoot – maybe I’m just forgetful, who knows.

Using Strava Live Segments provided you’ve got phone service when you stop to take a couple of test shots you can essentially geotag each spot as you go. Then, on your shoot, your computer will light up and let you know you’re approaching your next spot.

But wait there’s more, you can also build routes in Strava too either from past activities i.e. the ride you went on to scout or from scratch. This is particularly useful for large trail networks where it’s quite easy to get lost or unfamiliar places. Many of the head units and watches allow for these routes to be synced with the device and will give show your route.

It’s worth noting that routes in Strava won’t offer turn by turn directions, only a breadcrumb trail for you’re to follow if you’re after turn by turn directions you’ll need to create a route in Komoots.

How do you to set this up?

First, you’ll need a Strava Summit account, next you’ll need a compatible device.

There are quite a lot of devices that support this functionality not and for the most part, it’s a simple as enabling Strava sync in your devices companion app, starring segments, and making sure to sync your device before you head out. Then, you will automatically get notifications not only as you approach, and get to the start of your saved segments.

Have you got another useful Strava trick? Are there any other apps or devices you’ve found useful for your photography? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Heck, now with Strava’s Athlete Posts you can hit me up on Strava too!

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MindShift Gear BackLight 26L review

April 20, 2019

MindShift Gear is the sister brand to ThinkThank Photo and is the brand behind the Rotation 180 series of bags. With a focus on outdoor and adventure photographers and the BackLight series of bags is the latest addition to their line up, also the brands first back panel access pack.


There are three main ways camera backpacks are set up (well actually four if you include Mindshift’s Rotation system); front panel access, side panel access, and rear panel access. Each has its pros and cons, but the main advantage of back panel access bags is that when you need to put your pack down to pull out your camera, the straps don’t touch the ground. This especially important if you’re shooting in a location where the ground is wet or muddy, ie outside.

Also, because the camera access is on the rear of the bag it leaves the front open for storage laptops, tablets, extra layers, food, hydration bladders, etc.

Unfortunately, there are negatives to this system the main one being that given there is a hole on the rear of the bag, it makes it pretty difficult for adjustable harness systems so if the bag doesn’t fit you well, you’re out of luck.

Rear panel access also makes it impractical for suspended mesh venting systems, and their carry capacity is a touch smaller than front access packs because the zipper needs to pass under the shoulder straps.

Backlight 26L

With 26L of carrying capacity, there is a surprising amount of room for gear inside the BackLight, and it happily engulfs my Canon 5DMKiii with a 100-400 MKii lens attached, five additional short lenses and various other gear. It’s not designed for pro-level bodies like the 1DX or Nikon D5 and might just be deep enough for a 5D or 7D with a battery grip.

My goto shooting kit is the 5D MK iii, Canon 28-40 2.8L, Canon  100-400 MKii, and Canon 8-15 Fisheye. With this inside the bag, there is still room a filter wallet, cleaning gear, a small organizer filled with spare memory cards and batteries as well as for two speedlights and triggers with spare batteries or and drone and remote.

There is also a cavernous front pocket with dedicated sleeves for a 15in laptop and tablet. This pocket is seriously gigantic and will fit heaps of layers, food, and even big a bivy if you pack carefully.

There’s also an additional smaller pocket on the front which is great for wet layers and a very tight zippered pocket on the top of the bag which isn’t particularly useful.

I have travelled quite a bit with this bag, and most recently I took it on an assignment for Australian Mountain Bike Magazine to the Victorian Alps. This trip was seven days riding in Bright, Mount Beauty, Falls Creek and Mount Buller, averaging about 6-hours a day on the bike. The Backlight 26L is one of my ideal riding packs because the pads on the waist strap are comparably longer than many photos bags allowing the weight to sit comfortably on your waist. It also lacks an internal frame; with bigger packs that do have frames, they often stick up above the shoulder straps, and the top of the bag will smack you in the back of the head when you get behind the saddle to negotiate steep obstacles and drops.


By the end of the trip, the green pack was a shade darker from all the dust, a had picked up a musty smell from being continually drenched in sweat and caked in dirt, but beyond that, it was the perfect companion. With the small size it holds the weight close to your back so it doesn’t mess with your centre of gravity on the bike too much, and after hours of riding it didn’t leave me with a sore neck and shoulders.

This pack easily fits underneath an airline seat and does not grab the attention of flight attendants who’d like to weigh your carryon the way bigger camera packs often do.

Its got compression straps on the sides, daisy chains on the front, attachment points ice axes or trekking poles and water bottle pocket on either side too.

The insert is fixed with customizable padded dividers, and empty the bag tipped my scales a 1.74kg / 3.84lbs.

As with all MindShift, bags the BackLight 26L has the hidden tripod cup, which sees a small pocket for the legs and a top strap which tucks into a small pocket in the top of the bag. You can also utilize one of the water bottle sleeves and the compression straps on the side of the bag too. I’m not a fan of the rear tripod mount, as it puts the center of gravity out behind the bag, and in turn puts more weight on the shoulder straps rather than the waist belt — were possible I always put the tripod on the side of the bag.

Mindshift has opted for a great waistbelt on this pack, with the pads long enough to reach past the tops of your hip bones, which allows for the majority of the weight to be supported here, not on your shoulders.

The Backlight 26L also features an elastic strap on the inside of the back panel, the idea behind is so you can hang the bag off your waist and get to your gear without having to actually put the bag down, and put the strap around your neck so you can use both your hands inside the bag. I’m not sure Mindshift thought this through completely, as you can do this with any rear access backpack with a waist belt, but nobody does for a reason — it’s quite an awkward motion, and the bag isn’t all the stable hanging off your waist. 

Whenever I zipped or unzipped the rear panel, the cord, or webbing which attaches the cord to the bag would get caught in the zipper and I cut it off after a week of using the bag.

I took the Mindshift Firstlight 26L on a two-week trip to New Zealand. It’s just about the perfect day pack

Over all the Backlight 26L is a fantastic pack for getting out and shooting outside. It’s perfect for day hiking and a pretty good size for shooting from the bike too. For a bag with such a small form factor, it really holds a ton of gear and supports the load quite well. The only place I can really mark this bag down is for the weird neck strap, as it really only gets in the way when you need to get in and out of your back quickly.

Where to Buy

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Mindshift Gear rotation180° Professional 38L review

March 22, 2019

Shooting action and adventure sports I spend a lot of time wearing camera backpacks. While there are plenty of carry and camera access options out there, you’ll find that back panel access bags dominate the market, and for good reason they are arguably the best way to tote camera gear into the backcountry – until now.


MindShift, the outdoor branch of ThinkTank mixed everything up when they introduced the Rotation 180 series of bags to the market. By incorporating a camera insert into the waist strap of the pack they’ve created a clever system where gear can be quickly accessed without the need to remove your pack.

I’ve previously taken a look at the Rotation 180 Horizon pack, and while there’s only room for a body with lens attached and a small zoom or prime lens, it’s probably my most used bag for shooting from the bike.

The Rotation 180 Professional is the Horizon’s slightly larger, and much more technical cousin. I’ve had this bag for a few months now, however, I’m still calling this a first ride review because there is so much to talk about here. I’ve also chosen this pack to accompany me on a 12-month around the world trip, so be sure to check back as I’m going to update this review as I continue to spend a ton of quality time with this bag.

The 180 Professional combines a wider stouter profile and utilizes both the rotation hip pack, but also back panel access with the optional Professional insert.

Spin to win

In the hip pack, there is enough room for my Canon 5DMKiii with the 100-400 ii attached and not much else, or a body with a Canon 24-70 2.8 attached and two small zoom or prime lenses, with a bit of space to squeeze in a spare battery or other small accessories.

With the insert in the rear of the pack, there is ample room for large zoom lenses, flash gear, drones and whatever else you may be hauling. There is also a sizable zippered pocket on the front, perfect for rain layers, or avalanche gear.

The bag itself is quite bulky, and I’ve had plenty of comments about its size, but, MindShift has made it carryon friendly, much to the dismay of the flight attendant who was sure it was too big for the bag size checker they have at the airport – it’s a good thing she didn’t weigh it.

This is one of the few camera packs I’ve come across where the harness is size adjustable, a welcome addition. However, I do question the sizing itself, as for me to make the shoulder straps fit properly I have them both cinched all the way up. For reference, I stand 5 ft 9in tall, with a 32in waist and in big frame packs I wear a small in a Gregory branded packs and right on the line of a small and medium in Osprey.

Speaking of the straps, Mindshift has filled them with luxurious memory foam, and they are some of the most comfortable I have come across. However, they are a bit hot and soak up sweat like a sponge, so when you take a break mid-hike and take your pack off for a few minutes you can almost wring the straps out.

The straps also have pockets perfect for walkie-talkies, sunglasses, snacks, or even those weird soft sided water bottles ultra runners use.

Supporting the load

Unfortunately, the waist strap is not quite as comfortable. The pads which are supposed to support the weight of the pack on your hip bones are undersized and do not wrap far enough around. So, if you have a decent load in the bag they tend to slip down and place the weight on your shoulders.

Obviously, there is some limitation to how big and wide they can be because of the rotation action, however, I don’t know why MindShift doesn’t offer the hip pack in small, medium, and large seized hip pads, given it can be easily swapped out.

I’ve posed this question to MindShift, and they’ve said they’ll consider something like this, however, I can only imagine the nightmare this would make for the warehousing staff.

MindShift offers a ton of accessories for this bag, ranging from lids to straps and tripod suspension systems though these only come with the ‘deluxe’ version of the pack. I’ve got all of these accessories on hand the Top Pocket lid and attachment straps haven’t left the bag.

The lid has a couple of zippered pockets on the top an bottom for small accessories, but the real utility comes with the ability to throw your rain jacket or a light layer under the lid without putting it inside the bag. Not only does this mean you’re not putting a wet or sweaty jacket next to your camera gear, it’s also super quick to access them in this arrangement. I’ve even been using the tripod sling to carry layers as well and it’s been super usefull for those shoulder season ‘cold in the shade hot in the sun’ hikes.

MindShift also includes a rain cover with the bag, and it’s been cleverly adapted to play nice with the rotation system. The hip insert also has its own rain cover which is included.

One thing noticeably missing from the Rotation 180 Pro is a dedicated laptop sleeve. That said, provided you’ve got a low profile laptop (like the 13in MacBook Pro I use) with the Professional insert in the top of the pack you can slide the computer between the insert and the back panel. Anything bigger than 13in probably won’t fit, and if you’re not planning to use the Professional insert you may want to find a different solution.

This feature is a double-edged sword in that if you want a laptop sleeve, quite often it comes at the expense of something else, and it adds weight too. Given this pack isn’t particularly light empty its a feature I’m happy to miss out on.

As with most Mindshift packs there a dedicated tripod carry system which can be hidden away when not in use. It places the tripod on the back of the pack, however, I found when using this system because if places weight so far back on the outside of the bag it pulls the centre of gravity of the pack backwards and more of the weight ends up on your shoulders.

The solution is to throw the tripod on the side of the pack, placing two of the legs in the water bottle pocket. Even in this arrangement, there is still enough room for a full-sized Nalgene here.

Final thoughts

Despite its quirks, the Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional has served me well, both in a professional capacity as well as a travel companion over the last few months. The quick camera access is second to none, and more moderate loads it’s an extremely comfortable pack to wear all day.

As I mentioned at the top, I’ve picked this pack to join me on a year-long trip around the world, be sure to check back for updates on my review

Where to buy

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Peak Design Clutch review

July 17, 2018

I am a big fan of Peak Design camera straps. They are comfortable to wear, but the real drawcard for me is their customizability with the quick release system.


Using the brand’s Anchor Links you can swap out camera straps or attach them to different parts of the camera quickly yet securely. They are light, small and tough, and I literally have them attached to everything.

The Clutch isn’t a traditional strap per say, but more of a hand strap which utilizes this system.

There are situations where a camera strap is a boon, but sometimes they just get in the way, and especially with one of my most used bags the MindShift rotation 180 Horizon. When I use this bag, I often run strapless, but I am always terrified I’m going to drop my camera, especially when scrambling up a rocky hillside or onto a fallen log to find a vantage point. The Clutch all but alleviates that fear.

I’ve been using Peak Designs nifty hand strap for a few months now and it literally has not left my camera body since.

No drops

First and foremost the Clutch allows you to ditch the strap and provides a sure grip at all times. If you cinch it right down over your hand you don’t even really have to wrap your fingers around the camera.

In use, I prefer the Clutch to be a bit loose as when I cinch it down I struggle to reach the AF-ON button on my 5DMKiii with my thumb. When not shooting you can also use the Clutch as a handle to carry the camera with.

The only real complaint I can muster for the Clutch is that it takes up the attachment point on the right side of the camera, and doesn’t utilize the Anchor Links. When I do use a strap I prefer to have it attached to the top camera anchors, bar when I’m using a long lens, and with the Clutch attached there is no room on for an Anchor Link.

So with this to use the Clutch, I have to remove the Anchor Links from the left attachment point on the body, and replace it in the situations I want to use a strap. While the way the clutch attaches to the body is robust, I can’t help but wonder Peak Design wouldn’t incorporate the Anchor Links here, especially given the bottom of the strap does.

I’ll admit this is a nitpick given that the Clutch also utilizes the Capture plate that’s always on my camera anyway, where a shoulder strap can be attached.

The build quality is top notch and the Clutch’s exterior is made from the same material as whitewater rafts and the hardware is made from Aluminium. It’s survived mud, volcanic dust, rain, snow and plenty of bumps scrapes and still looks exactly the same as the day I pulled it out of the box.

Where to buy



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MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L – long term review

October 13, 2017

The MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L camera pack has been in rotation among my stable of packs for 8-months now and it has seen use everywhere from the mountain bike trails of Nerang to the Main Range Backcountry near Thredbo.

Through that period of time, the fast camera access has been a boon, while at other times the whole rotation system complicates actually getting to your gear.

You spin me right round baby right round

First and foremost the rotation system is without a doubt one of the fastest and most secure ways to carry your gear. The only other option might be a touch faster is Peak Design’s Capture Pro, but for me personally having a body and lens flapping around on my chest as I descend single track on a MTB shoot, or skiing chasing athletes is unnerving.

The rotation system, on the other hand, offers some piece of mind that your gear is zipped safely into a padded insert on your back. The camera insert doesn’t hold a whole lot of gear, with only enough room for a Canon 5DMKiii with a lens attached, a spare short zoom or prime and maybe a small card or filter wallet if you’re particularly skilled at Tetris.

The whole idea of the rotation system is to allow you to access your gear without putting your bag on the ground, and I found this particularly useful location scouting and when shooting from the bike.

Particularly for location scouting, it allows you to roll up to a potential location and have a look around, take a few test photos with different lenses, zip everything up and head to your next spot much faster than with a standard rear entry bag. The other big advantage to the rotation system is if it’s wet or muddy, you don’t need to put your bag down to get to your gear.

However, when you do put your bag down, the rotation system becomes problematic. For example, if you’re using a tripod, you have to take the tripod off the bag, and finagle the insert completely out of the bag to get to your camera.

The insert itself is completely separate to the pack and beyond a small last resort tether, can be used as a hip pack. I’ve also used it travelling as a small carry on bag.

However, because the waist belt and camera insert are not actually connected to the rest of the bag if you are carrying a decent amount of weight no matter how tight you hip belt, your shoulders still end up carrying a good portion of the load. I do wish the shoulder straps were a bit thicker to better distribute the weight.

What about the rest of the bag?

The top of the bag is cavernous, with plenty of room for spare layers, tools, a bivy and whatever else you may need on an adventure. There is a small mesh pocket, which I would use to keep track of smaller items like food, a small first aid kit and power banks.

Should you want to to take a telephoto zoom lens or other gear that won’t fit in the waist belt, the top compartment is perfectly sized to fit one of MindShift’s Panorama insert. I don’t actually have one of these, but the removable insert from my Thule Perspektiv Daypack which is roughly the same size fits like a glove. 

The top pocket is perfect for things like your phone, GPS/Beacon, and has a key keeper too. I do wish there was a mesh pocket similar to the one in the main compartment in the lid so that things aren’t free to roam around inside the pocket.

On the front of the pack, there is a large pocket which is great for storing things like rain layers and there is a sturdy nylon daisy chain on the front of the bag for attaching other accessories.

The bag has compression straps on either side and a clever system for attaching a tripod. At the top, there is a quick release strap and a small cup that supports the legs to that it’s not swinging all over the place as you walk. Even better when not in use there are small velcro pockets that hide each component so they don’t catch on things.

Tripods can also be mounted to the side of the bag using the water bottle pocket to wrangle the legs.

Speaking of water, there are provisions to carry a bottle, something large like a Nalgene or Yeti Rambler 36oz, but there is also a pocket for a 3L hydration bladder complete with a velcro to hang the bladder as well as routing for the hose.

Final thoughts

This bag fell into an interesting space in my arsenal and was really useful on projects where I didn’t need to tote a whole lot of gear along with me. When I needed to haul a lot of gear I would still rely on something like my F-Stop Tilopa BC, but for travelling light, the Horizon suited me well.

Every time I went location scouting this was my go-to bag, and even a few commercial assignments for cycling brands where I could get away with only taking short lenses it was perfect.

Same with when I would go out to shoot personal stuff or wanted to have my camera handy on a day hike. Even with the ability to stow more gear in the top using a separate insert, it’s not a feature I really used as I felt like it complicated things.

Over the past eight months, I have abused this bag, dragging it through bushes, rain and snow and it’s even seen a few plane trips too and so far, it’s showing no signs of wear.

This pack offers ample room for gear, even on a professional level depending on the job. If you’re shooting on something from Canon’s 1D series, or need big glass this isn’t the bag for you, but for those shooting on smaller gear, and mirrorless systems I think Mindshift have hit a home run with this bag.

Priced at US$260, it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to always have quick access to your gear, but also have it well protected no matter what adventure you’re on!

Where to Buy

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How I Got the Shot: Crash Bang Boom Lightning Strom

January 23, 2017

Lightning is a frustrating beast, mostly because capturing a decent photo almost complete luck. Not only do you need to have the shutter open at the right time, but also have the camera pointed in the right direction. On top of that, if your including any foreground features you have to hope that the lighting will work with your composition.

Further, quite often when there is lightning it’s raining and a wet camera is no good to anyone. Also, getting struck by lighting would be a pretty terrible way to end a shoot.

How I got the shot


In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had some pretty fantastic storms here on the Gold Coast. For this shot, I was actually able to set up a camp chair on my balcony and sit with my camera completely protected from the storm, and it was pouring let me tell you.

There were actually two storms and as it always seems to go, when I would set up facing one, the other would offer a wild electrical display, and when I would move it would swap.

So, the planets and stars aligned and I managed to catch the perfect bolt. Here’s the details


You may be wondering why I’m using wireless flash triggers for a shot that clearly does not use any off camera lights, nor artificial lights for that matter. A while back I worked out how to hack my Phottix Odin Triggers to serve as a shutter release. It’s proved to be super reliable and a great way to eliminate camera shake on long exposures, without having to actually purchase a shutter release.



Post Processing:


I’m not one to over engineer or manipulate photos, and the overall edit for this was pretty simple. As with every image, the first think I did was a few basic contrast corrections.

There is a bit of junk at the bottom of the frame, that I had planned to remove. I wanted the lower cloud shelf to create a ‘floor’ for the image, so rather than taking the time to remove all of that I just darkened the whole bottom of the frame with the graduated filter. Not only does it draw your eye up, it gets rid of all the distractions and cleans up the image.

After that, I used the radial filter to darken the corners a bit to emphasize the brightness and contrast of the lightning bolts.

Back to the cloud floor, there is some fantastic texture in the clouds, so with the adjustment brush, I painted in a bit of Dehaze to bring out some of the detail.


Another fantastic lighting storm came through, and I snagged another banger. This time is was mostly heat lightning, with only a few bolts striking the ground.

Heat lightning definitely makes the process easier because the clouds are always alight. Check out the result!


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Super skunked by the super moon

November 16, 2016

The Supermoon has been all over the news this week and it seems everyone on earth was excited for it, except Neil Degras Tyson.

As a photographer, the opportunity to capture something that may not happen again for another decade is what I live for, and so I went the whole nine yards. I came prepared and spent almost an entire day scouting  to find the perfect location.

The Moon

The moon is a tough one to shoot because this time of year (in Australia) it doesn’t actually cross the entire sky, it rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. The other difficulty with shooting the moon is you need to capture it near the horizon to create a sense of scale, rather than just a blurry spotlight in the sky.

So my plan was to find a spot where it looked like the moon was going to graze the top of Mt Warning. In trying to find this perfect location I drove almost a full lap around the mountain to find a spot where everything lined up perfectly and I could make the image I had in my head.
After I’d done all of the scouting in passing I’d joke, “I bet it will be cloudy” – I would end up eating those words. The entire day the sky was clear on the Gold Coast, but about an hour before the moon rise clouds rolled over the horizon, and of course they blocked the moon.

Having spent so much time scouting for the first location, I didn’t put together a contingency plan to capture the moon set, facing the other direction. I drove around for a bit trying to find a somewhere to come back to in the morning, but location scouting in the dark usually doesn’t work so well. Lesson learned, don’t forget about plan B!

There is a bright side, I did get a nice sunset!


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Behind the Shoot: Oceanway Ride

November 7, 2016

It’s been a hectic couple of months for me, and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. If you’ve been following me on social media (shameless plug please follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) you’ll have seen I shot the Oceanway Ride, a new charity ride here on the Gold Coast to raise money for the local surf lifesaving clubs. Starting for Surfers Paradise it followed the Darren Smith Memorial Route, a 55km out and back ride mostly along the coast.

Also making an appearance was the one and only Phil Ligget, the voice of cycling who MC’d and mingled with the riders through out the day. As a cycling fan, I was a bit star-struck, to say the least

The Promo


Even though it was only a quick shoot I’m stoked on the images I got for the promo shoot. I had plans to organize a dawn shoot at a great spot here on the Gold Coast, but that went out the window when the events organizer called me in a panic saying she needed images in two days time to meet a deadline.

Not having organized riders I frantically began searching for someone to help me out, and luckily Peter Spencer of GC Bike Fit stepped up to the plate! The morning of the shoot it looked like it was going to be a gray miserable day, but the clouds broke and it was bluebird!

The shoot went off without a hitch and I was able to deliver the images by five o’clock that afternoon. That’s gotta be a record for planning, executing and delivering in three days.

The Ride


As it always seems to work with cycling events they start well before dawn, and the Oceanway ride was no exception.

The plan was to chase the riders down the coast stopping at a few key locations to capture the riders as they passed by. Usually, that would mean the organizers have a photo-moto and driver to shuttle you up and down the course, however, that was not the case.

Lucky for me a friend was happy to drive me up and down the coast in exchange for a case of beer and man I’m glad I had him. If I would have had to stop and park the car every time I wanted to take a photo it would have been a more stressful morning than it already was.

If was fast and furious run and gun shooting, and when I say run and gun I was leaning out of the windows of the car literally running full sprint to the spots I wanted to shoot from as to not miss riders go past.

The Gear


My gear for the day was my trusty Canon 5DMkiii, Canon 24-104 f/4L, Canon 100-400 f/5.6-6.5L, Canon 8-15 Fisheye f/4L and a new addition to my bag the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. I was amazed how much I used the 35mm, on the day and it has proved to be an extremely useful addition to my bag!

Also, a godsend on the day were my Hoya Circular Polarizers. The ability to cut out any glare on the water as well as from the road surface made a huge difference for quite a few of my images.

Check out a few of my favorite images from the day, or click here to see my full gallery from the day!

[envira-gallery id=”1891″]

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Behind the Shoot: Pittwater Council

April 18, 2016

For those of you who’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know I just was down in Sydney working on a project for Pittwater Council.

The council contacted me just after I moved to the Gold Coast wanting photos of people riding bikes in recognisable areas of Pittwater, specifically large hero images to be used throughout an upcoming council document.

As Pittwater is one of my favorite areas of Sydney I jumped at the offer and immediately began wrangling riders and scouting locations to shoot.

With this being a fly-in-fly-out assignment I was worried about inclement weather, but lucky for me my rain jacket stayed in my bag the entire weekend.

The Kit

The project involved everything from action landscapes to very setup portraits and required a large kit. I’d organized an assistant for the longest day of shooting, but I still didn’t want to lug big strobes and battery packs around, so instead I opted for every speedlight I owned and plenty rechargeable AA batteries.


See I wasn’t kidding about the batteries


The Shoot



After I picked up my bags and grabbed the rental car I headed straight out to do some scouting. I had most of the day to scout, but had scheduled my first shoot of the trip for that afternoon.

They say, ‘never shoot with kids or animals, because you won’t be able to direct either of them.’ Having worked as a Ski Instructor I know how much fun it can be to work with kids, but I also know how difficult it can be to get them to do anything – I was pretty worried about this part of the shoot

Same as skiing, if you put a bike under a kid and tell them to ride around for a while they’re stoked until they get tired, and then they cry.

Lucky for me the bike stoke lasted until we were packing up, and the kids only started crying as their parents tried to wrangle them home.

It was quite grey throughout this shoot, and some of the photos were pretty dull and lifeless. Remember all of those speedlights and batteries I packed? This is exactly why, a couple of strategically placed flashes can be the difference between a muddy boring photo to one that is full of life and contrast.

The Roadies


As part of the brief Pittwater Council wanted large format hero images, so basically ‘bike landscapes’ – big scene little rider.

We had two locations to cover, Whale Beach and Chruch Point. The plan was hit Whale Beach at dawn to catch the sun coming up over the ocean, and then run over to Chruch Point while the light was still good.

These are the photo’s I was the most excited for, what respectable photographer doesn’t get excited for a dawn shoot?

I’d organized a group of riders from the Manly Warringah Cycling Club to help me out, and they were awesome doing as many hill repeats as I asked. It was fast paced and a little bit stressful as we only had so much time while the light was good.

From a technical standpoint this section of the shoot was pretty simple, with the focus being on composition and a quick shutter. I did use flashes for some fill on a couple of occasions, but for the most part I didn’t need to mess with lights.

Special thanks to my assistant Zacc for chasing me around with heavy gear and driving the rental car as I hung out the back.

The Family


After we finished with the roadies, Phil from Pittwater Council brought his wife Lara and their cute baby daughter Ashley to be my ‘utility riders’ and ‘happy family on bikes.’

The light was still quite harsh and this is where the speedlights came in handy. In almost every shot from this section of the shoot, I was shooting into the sun and using one LumoPro speedlight, with a flash disc on the end of a 10ft light stand, held directly above the subject(s) just out of frame as a fill. This provided a flattering soft light and awesome results.

The Kids Part 2


By this time in the shoot Zacc and I had been going for about 14 hours. The council had organized some teenagers to shoot with around Avalon Beach.

Having no idea what I was in for, when some surf groms showed up on bikes I was stoked. The light was becoming glowy, golden and getting better by the minuet. This section of the shoot was a breeze, the teenagers were awesome models and hardly required any direction to get the shots we were after.

The Commuters


I got to catch up with my friends Kath and Fiona as they were my ‘fast commuter’ and ‘slow commuter.’ Pretty straight forward, I’ve shot both of these gals before so they know how I like to run things, and other than saying, ‘again’ don’t need much direction to get the shots.

The Take Away

Every shoot I do I learn something, and this shoot was a challenge. Not because the weather conditions, or because I had a precious model who was a pain to deal with, or even that the shooting was that difficult.

The hardest thing was the logistics of coordinating all these separate groups of people, some of whom I didn’t meet until the day of the shoot – it’s actually pretty scary to depend on people you’ve never met.


Photo: Phil Gray

It was a stressful weekend, but just about everybody was on the ball. As the way things often happen one of my subjects had something come up last minute, and couldn’t make it to the shoot leaving me unable to fill their slot on such short notice. Fortunately I gotten plenty of great images from the rest of the shoot, and wasn’t stressed for images.

Overall the shoot was a massive success, and we came up with some fantastic images. Massive thank you’s to Pittwater Council, Phil Gray and family,  Alexis Kaless, Brad Ward, Evan Snow, Peter Mcnamara from Manly Warringah Cycling Club, Dave Musgrove and Cell Bikes, Kath Bicknell, Fiona Dick, and Zacc Larkin; I couldn’t have pulled off this shoot without each and every one you.

Check out my favorite shots from my weekend with Pittwater Council

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