Quad bikes & Speedlights

On June 6, 2012 by Simon Fleming

On a recent photographic jaunt in Tasmania I went quad biking in Freycinet National Park with All4adventure run by Sam Jaeschke – a fellow South Aussie, from the Barossa. I’ve done my fair share of four wheel driving over the years but had never been on a quad bike before, so during our inital training and orientation I was mixed with a blend of “yeah bring it on!” and “oh shit where’s the steering wheel and the accelerator pedal?”

The outing was part of a four day tour in Tasmania with Joe McNally whom Tourism Australia / Tasmania had contracted to do a shoot – namely prominent local identities in beautiful, and typically Tasmanian scenes. Sam and his company were the subject of this shoot, which unfortunately involved riding the quads through the pristine Tasmanian wilderness for about an hour to get to a magnifecent deserted bay on the other side of the peninsula – the things you have to do hey? (Simon make joke)

The day began early (as did all days spent with Joe) in order to be on location at the best time for light, and also to allow for our mandatory training and safety rundown on the quads prior to departing. We all had our own quads, whilst Sam drove a 6 wheel drive beast to carry all the gear we needed, as well as chaueffeur our Tourism Tasmanian fixer/guide/awesome lady Di Hollister.

Drew Gurian riding - The Hazard Mountains beckoning

Drew Gurian riding – The Hazard Mountains beckoning

Training over, ready for action

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I decided to strap my camera on for the ride to see what I could come up with. I’m glad I did but it wasn’t easy – essentially to shoot with my right hand (as is required by the camera layout) I had to release the throttle which was also on the right – not the end of the world but it did make keeping up with the other riders (without crashing) difficult. After a few minutes of figuring out my balance on the undulating ground I got pretty good at steering & controlling the throttle with my left arm and hand crossed over my body so I could shoot with my right…  sorry Sam if you’re reading this – probably not good for OH&S. The way to go would definitely be with a camera mounted to either myself or the bike, with a remote trigger on the handle bars but I didn’t have that, and I’m not one to shy away from ‘having a crack’ with what you’ve got.

I shot some reasonable images on the first trip in the beautiful early morning light – definitely worth the effort. On the return trip I decided to mix things up a little and clamp/strap on a couple of SB-900’s to my quad to see what sort of results I could get with some flash and blur technique. To be perfectly honest, I think being in close proximity to Joe McNally for a couple of days was starting to stir my inner ‘lets do something crazy with these speed lights’ demon. When I first asked the group to bear with me for a few minutes so I could clamp my two SB-900’s to my quad they just stared back blankly, waiting for a punchline I think. Then when they realised I wasn’t joking Joe gave me a funny look and said “Simon, you know you’re never gonna see those SB’s again?” I interpreted the look and his question as a cleverly camouflaged “That’s the spirit! Right on brother!” so as not to be linked to me should anything go wrong. He and Drew, based on their own vast experiences, suggested I use a shit load lot of gaffers tape as well as the Manfrotto Justin Clamps to hold those (expensive) suckers on. It was all my own personal gear, and I’m sure some of the other guys may have thought I was being a little stupid, but I buy my gear to use it – plain and simple. You ain’t going to get the shot unless you try. And sometimes (expensive) mistakes are made but they are an important part of the learning process in my opinion.

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It was even tougher trying to get the shot I had envisioned using strobes, and it really wasn’t until we were almost back to civilisation before I was starting to get the combination of camera settings, flash direction and quad bike speed all in the ball park… another hour or so on the bikes and I would have had THE shot I’m sure. My results were pretty crappy to be honest BUT I learned a hell of a lot about what I would need to do/change next time round. And the real bonus was both the SB-900’s remained on the quad, as did I (just).

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One Response to “Quad bikes & Speedlights”

  • So that’s what you mean when you say you have to go away for a few days but you will be working hard?

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