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  1. #1
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    Taking photos of me riding solo

    Looking for a setup that I can take photos of myself riding solo. Ideally I would set it up 20-40 feet before a feature, turn it on, and session the feature until I get a good shot. This means the camera will have to shoot by itself.

    One option is to shoot a video and then take stills from it at home on a computer, but I assume the quality will not be nearly as good as a real stills photo.

    Is there a camera or a setup that does that? Something that when I get into the lens, the camera will sense that and start sports shots (a few a second) until I get out of it. Maybe some kind of motion sensor.

    I assume I can focus it manually as part of the setup of the camera on the trail. I assume that when I move towards the camera it will be hard for it to find what to focus on. The camera will need fast shutter speed and ability to shoot a bunch of photos rapidly, since it will probably shoot many photos before and after the feature.

    Does something like this exist?

  2. #2
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    There are many DSLRs which you can use to shoot videos from which you can later extract frames to use as photos. I own the Nikon D800/e and have also used the Canon 5D MkIII. Both are solid performers for shooting videos @ 1920 x 1080 resolution. They are so good that many film makers use them.

    If you also want to take still shots in addition to video, well this is what these cameras were made for. Make sure you check out the latest D810 which can shoot stills at 5FPS up to 7FPS whilst still offering the whopping 36 mega pixel resolution. It also has a built in interval timer which you can program to start shooting at a specified FPS for a specified duration after a specified delay. It means you can setup the camera, start the timer, ride off to the starting position, wait, then start your run knowing the camera will start rapid shooting for N seconds capturing the whole run. If you need more FPS, check out the Nikon D4s which can shoot at 10FPS but at much less resolution but I honestly think D810 will be the best for the 36Mpixels. If you don't get the shot you want first time, try again and again until you do

    In terms of programming, these cameras can be setup in anyway you like. You can leave it in Auto mode or set it up manually. Virtually every function/parameter can be set which is also quite overwhelming if you've never used a DSLR so do make sure you read up on the basics beforehand

    As the actual cameras and lenses cost alot of money to buy, I would suggest you hire the gear for when you need it.

    Btw, what kind of shots do you want to take ?

    I am guessing you want to shoot an action portrait with you jumping through in the air. You also want your body/bike to be perfectly in focus whilst having some nice bokeh/blur in the background with bits of dirt captured flying up off the ground ?

    If that's the shot you want, check out the Nikon D810 or the D4/s with a 70-200 F2.8 lens. Using this lense at F2.8 200mm will allow you to use a very fast shutter speed and give fantastic background compression. It's one lense every sports photographer has.

    Of course, you can also look at the Canon equivalents which are as good if not better.

    If you just want to experiment, perhaps use an IPhone using Slow-Mo. Apparently this also produces good results but you wont be able to shoot with bokeh

  3. #3
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    I can provide instructions on how to setup the camera/lense if you require them. However, if you decide to hire the gear, the shop should be able to run through everything with you for free ( if they are not greedy )

  4. #4
    offroader
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    Gopro + remote + joby tripod.

    Here's a solo ride a took a few years back

  5. #5
    offroader
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    One more


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by c8stom View Post
    I am guessing you want to shoot an action portrait with you jumping through in the air. You also want your body/bike to be perfectly in focus whilst having some nice bokeh/blur in the background with bits of dirt captured flying up off the ground ?
    Good guess
    It does not have to be perfect with bokeh, for a start it should focus on me and shoot fast enough so I don't come out blurry.

    A couple of questions:
    Is there a way for the camera to start shooting without a timer? I don't know if I can time my riding and the camera perfectly. Also in a place like a dirt jump park where I do the same jumps again and again ideally I can leave it for an hour without setting the timer on every lap.

    How does it focus? Can I trust auto focus to know what to focus on? Or do I have to set it manually?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CupOfJava View Post
    Gopro + remote + joby tripod.

    Here's a solo ride a took a few years back
    Nice, is the quality of the video high enough to make stills from it? And how does the camera move left to right in some of your shots? Is it done in editing, or do you program the camera to move?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post

    A couple of questions:
    Is there a way for the camera to start shooting without a timer?

    You could always try a wireless remote. You could set the camera, maybe mark a tree or create some reference points to signal when you're to actuate the camera. I can't think of any other way you could ride by and start the camera. The caveat is what you asked below.

    How does it focus? Can I trust auto focus to know what to focus on?

    I'm not sure you can. Perhaps, you could do some rough maths and figure out what settings you'd need to get the shot you want as you came flying by w/ the remote. Trial and error (and therefore practicing a section of the trail a bazillion times) will be your best bet.

    And how does the camera move left to right in some of your shots? Is it done in editing, or do you program the camera to move?

    Some video editors have a 'zoom and pan' effect you can insert during certain sections. That's what it looks like in the video, but obviously, he'd know better. They also sell these little contraptions that pan the camera on rails for that effect minus the zoom. No idea what it's called though...


    The easiest way to get a shot like what you're describing would probably be to make a camera savvy friend or enter a race where photographers are present. The motion-blur-background and crystal clear subject (you) is going to be hard to get by yourself... as you're finding out.

    You can grab stills from videos, but they'll rarely ever be as clear as still that are purposefully taken, you know?
    Do Fun Stuff

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Good guess
    It does not have to be perfect with bokeh, for a start it should focus on me and shoot fast enough so I don't come out blurry.
    I think F2.8 to F4 would give a nice bokeh but I suspect 2.8's depth of field may be too shallow. It's something you need to try. Shutterwise, you'll need at least 1/250 in daylight but make sure it's NOT a sunny day. Sunshine can really spoil portraits unless you use flashes

    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Good guess
    A couple of questions:
    Is there a way for the camera to start shooting without a timer? I don't know if I can time my riding and the camera
    perfectly. Also in a place like a dirt jump park where I do the same jumps again and again ideally I can leave it for an hour without setting the timer on every lap.
    You can get it to shoot without a timer using a wireless remote trigger but you'll have to press it as you ride which will probably affect your riding as the triggers I have seen are not small.

    With the inbuilt timer, you can set the following :
    1. Duration to delay shooting
    2. Number of photos to shoot before stopping
    3. interval between each shot

    As an example, you might set 30 second delay, shoot 100 photos at 5 photos per second which means 20 seconds of pictures.

    If you left the camera on for 1 hour at 5 photos per second, thats a hell of alot of photos ~ 18,000. You'll need alot of memory to store it and will only be able to shoot jpg, not RAW. Raws are massive files.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    How does it focus? Can I trust auto focus to know what to focus on? Or do I have to set it manually?
    As you will likely be travelling towards the camera at a fair speed, I would not rely on the AutoFocus. It would be worth trying it for a few runs as the Nikon center AF is very good good especially if you are wearing a contrasty outfit.

    To be extra safe though, switch the camera to manual focus mode, setup the lens making sure you focus on on an object at the same distance where you plan to be and away you go

    That said, I agree with the other poster that having a friend who knows how to shoot will save you alot of experimentation

    If you are happy with video quality stills, GoPro or even IPhone would be worth trying. If you want really crispy hi res magazine cover quality shots, you'll need some capable gear.

  10. #10
    offroader
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Nice, is the quality of the video high enough to make stills from it? And how does the camera move left to right in some of your shots? Is it done in editing, or do you program the camera to move?
    The captures are ok quality but nothing I would make a print from. The panning is done in my video editor.

    If you want something similar using a dslr you can buy a remote trigger and a little bigger joby. I'm actually thinking about getting this myself. I already have the Joby gorillapod focus. You would have to prefocus during setup I would imagine.

    Vello FreeWave Plus Wireless Remote Shutter Release RWII-C B&H

    Joby Gorillapod Focus/Ballhead X Bundle (Black/Gray) JB00158 B&H

  11. #11
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    Forgot to ask, what is your budget ?

  12. #12
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    GoPro is the easy answer

    The GoPro Hero 3 or 4 works well to pull stills from, and you won't need to go through the deal of getting a radio remote (which I also like for my dslr, but it's a more involved set up when riding solo).

    The GoPro has a phone app you can use to start/stop the video from a distance. If you shoot in 2k or 4k, you get pretty decent resolution, and it will shoot at 24 frames per second in 2k, and I think 12 or 15 frames per second in 4k. If you use the "cine" mode, you get a much flatter looking image, but they develop well in Adobe Lightroom. Plus with the GoPro, you get a wide angle view that you can get very close to the bike/rider for some pretty dynamic images.

    These are few still frames from recent rides...

    Taking photos of me riding solo-gopr9252-1-1-.jpg

    Taking photos of me riding solo-gopr9250-2.jpg

    Taking photos of me riding solo-sequence-01.still002-2.jpg
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  13. #13
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    By the way, effectively shooting with a remote mounted to one's bar or elsewhere is a bit tricky. Can be done, of course, but if you're hitting a feature and trying to release the shutter at the same time... more stuff to deal with. However, you can always set the camera to self timer, and then fire the remote while you're far away, and then you'll have time to get to the feature as the camera fires. I've done this, it takes practice, but you can get great shots. Just a trial and error thing!

    The GoPro is cool because you'll have a ton of frames to choose from, it's super easy and fast to set up, and the quality is not bad, especially if you don't crop too much. Plus, you'll have video too!

    Of course, it doesn't have all the image adjustments like a dslr will have, or lens options. But that can be a LOT to deal with when out on the trail, unless you're taking specific journeys just to grab an image.

    I think Danny Way (pro skateborder and snowboarder) used a shutter release you can actually put in your mouth, and either bite or use tongue pressure to fire the shutter. Its been a while, but you can google it if it sounds interesting.
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  14. #14
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    My gut feeling is the GoPro will be your best choice. If you have no experience with a DSLR, then you might be overwhelmed and disappointed by the results. Although the shots from a DSLR can blow everything else out of the water, they can also look equally as unimpressive if not setup correctly.

    Costwise, you could probably buy a GoPro for the cost of hiring a D810, 70-200 F2.8, tripod, remote trigger & flash unit.

    Give the GoPro a go first.

    Where I live, there are a number photography groups for amateurs keen to develop their photography through practical experience. If you have the same in your part of the world, would be worth contacting them as one or two may volunteer to photograph you for free. That way, you get your photograph and they gain experience shooting MTBing. The only thing you need to be clear on is the copyright agreement. Who owns what and who can use it etc. Overall, it's a win win.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for all the tips. Looks like the gopro is a good option.

    Does anyone have examples of photos taken from a gopro video?
    Does the gopro have manual focus?

  16. #16
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    Gopro is fixed focus, depth of field is huge, you won't be getting any bokeh effects.
    70-200 seems a bit long to me for self portrait action, I'd go more toward wide angle.
    I think in the video forum someone posted a tracking device that goes on a tripod and homes in on a transmitter you wear.
    I know there was some pretty nifty Canon firmware hacks for their P&s cams that could do motion detect through the camera sensor.
    With enough work I'm sure someone could make a sound activated shutter release. I think some people have done this for gun/bullet pics. Make it voice recognize your yell!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by root View Post
    Gopro is fixed focus, depth of field is huge, you won't be getting any bokeh effects.
    70-200 seems a bit long to me for self portrait action, I'd go more toward wide angle.
    I think in the video forum someone posted a tracking device that goes on a tripod and homes in on a transmitter you wear.
    I know there was some pretty nifty Canon firmware hacks for their P&s cams that could do motion detect through the camera sensor.
    With enough work I'm sure someone could make a sound activated shutter release. I think some people have done this for gun/bullet pics. Make it voice recognize your yell!
    70 200 at 2.8 can give amazing portraits where the entire body is in focus with background compression which makes the subject pop even more. When I shoot rugby, tennis, ice hockey, this is my preferred lens. 24 70 would also be fine for the mtb shot. That's my main lens for weddings.

    Wide angle won't offer anywhere near as much bokeh and you could have distortion which can ruin a nice shot unless you have smart software to correct

    That's my opinion

  18. #18
    Airborne Flight Crew
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Thanks for all the tips. Looks like the gopro is a good option.

    Does anyone have examples of photos taken from a gopro video?
    Does the gopro have manual focus?
    My post above - those are go pro video stills. It Is fixed focus, large area in focus

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  19. #19
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    Thanks. Are those photos 2K or 4K? Which go pro version?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    Thanks. Are those photos 2K or 4K? Which go pro version?
    It's a Hero 3 black, and the images were recorded in 2k, in cini/pro mode. This gives greater latitude for editing. I like 2k because the frame rate is faster and has a smaller file size. I haven't used 4k very much, but 99% of my photos end up not being printed anyhow, at least within the realm of this conversation.



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  21. #21
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    This looks like the best option so far, Hero 4 + remote in burst mode.


  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrozCountry View Post
    This looks like the best option so far, Hero 4 + remote in burst mode.
    It's a good option, but not always ideal when riding. If you're just cruising a corner or bombing straight singletrack, then yes, it's fairly easy to hit the button on the remote, assuming it's mounted to your bar or place you can reach it. The only really somewhat tricky thing is timing. With the 3 second burst, you have pretty decent window though.

    For jumps or features, things get tricky - that's when pulling stills from high-res video really comes in handy.

    Either way, probably the most versatile option for self portraiture when riding. The DSLR set ups are probably the highest quality, but also the most $$$ once you invest in lenses, decent remotes (not the $25-$50 remotes on ebay )

    Be sure to post up once you get your rig going! Thanks for posting that video too, didn't know about those. Going to zip through them and see what I can learn.
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  23. #23
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    An option that I have used a few times on the GoPro 4 is the Video+Photo. It will record your video like normal but also snap pictures at a set interval. I believe that the pictures when snapped will be what you set in photo settings and not the settings of the video. So your video will record say 1080 and the photos will snap at 4k. Photo capture intervals will follow what you set in time lapse.

    Most of the time I just use video and pull stills like this one.

    Taking photos of me riding solo-nohander.jpg

  24. #24
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    What you're describing is a trail camera, used by wildlife enthusiasts to capture images of wildlife. They're cheap now, but if you have any friends that hunt they may have one to loan you. Good luck!

  25. #25
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    Can the trail cameras shoot fast burst like the gopro? The 30 images in 3 seconds of the go pro sounds like a guaranteed way to get at least one good shot from every jump that went well.

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