Bike, camera, and Autumn

An excellent combination, I think. One thing my Canon G9 compact camera does well is capture colour, and Autumn is the time for colour, this year especially, as late summer was warmer and wetter than usual. October is my favourite month, not just because of the gorgeous foliage but also the sense of darkness creeping over the landscape, but it isn't dark yet. That comes during November, my least favourite month. So I've been out on my bike with my camera, cycling the lanes and tracks around where I live, near Chorley in Lancashire.

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The first signs of Autumn near Waterman's Cottage, Anglezarke, Lancashire

My photos are in the Autumnal set on Flickr. I make no claims for my personal photography, and the photos are pictures of roads, tracks, and trees, with leaves fallen on the grass. So nothing special, but they express the season and how the colours of the trees changed from green to yellow and gold in just a few weeks. I like how meandering country lanes curve and plunge into tunnels of bronze with gloomy grey shadows. These few weeks weren't especially sunny and that is how I prefer the Autumn. Let the sunshine come in Winter.

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Windless Autumn on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, Limbrick, Lancashire

I quite fancy a new camera. My Canon G9 was given to me by one of my sons so I can't complain about that, but it's a compact camera with the usual limitations. Image 'noise' increases noticeably where there is less light, and on an overcast day it tends to expose either for the sky or the land, but not both. I could use a filter but that means slower exposures and even more noise.

Excessive noise in low light scenes is a drawback of the small sensors in compact cameras. The Micro Four Thirds cameras introduced in 2009 are compacts with a bigger sensor, nearer to those in a digital SLR. The sensor in my G9 is bigger than a normal compact's but still five times smaller than the Micro Four Thirds. So I'm looking at a Panasonic GF-1. This is a 4/3 compact come down to a reasonable price since last year. A bulky SLR is no use for cyclists – too big to slip into a pocket, so the GF-1 looks promising. With a 'pancake' lens it's only slightly larger than my Canon compact. The lenses are interchangeable, like on an SLR. With a zoom lens it will be bulkier, but still easier to carry on a bike.

The Panasonic GF-1 also has 'intelligent exposure' which "increases the exposure only in under-exposed areas by detecting the brightness level part-by-part in the image. If the background includes sky, which tends to be easily washed out, the camera automatically adjusts the aperture and shutter speed to keep the setting slightly under-exposed to prevent wash-out while brightening the darkened area by increasing the ISO only in that area." (quoted text from Panasonic website)

Landscape photographer David Clapp seems impressed.

10 comments on “Bike, camera, and Autumn”

  1. Garry wrote:

    If you carry a handlebar bag, you have more options. I always have one. I have a Canon S90 which is my smallest camera and it's great as such cameras go. However, a better option than that is the Panasonic G1 of which I have two bodies. I use these as cycle-touring cameras and each is fitted with one of the two zooms, standard and telephoto. An advantage of these over the GF series is the viewfinder.
    I sometimes take a full-fat SLR in my bag and have even toured a few times with medium format, a Mamiya 6 system. This makes you think about your shots and you take no poor ones at all.
    To me, cycling and photography are intimately linked!
    I love your photos, especially the ones with water in them!

  2. Hilary wrote:

    Some lovely photos Patrick. I'm afraid I'm a 'point and shoot' type myself – the technicalities of photography are quite beyond me! :)

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks both.

    The GF-1 is based on the G1, but it's smaller. I can't fit a bar bag on either of my bikes so my camera usually goes in a pocket. Yes, cycling and photography are perfect partners but you have to be cycling on your own to make the most of it. A prime lens like the pancake lens makes you think about your shots as well.

    Digital cameras and computers have made photography more complex but more accessible, especially colour. Your 'point and shoot' pictures look fine to me Hilary!

  4. Mary wrote:

    Im with Hilary on this, but my own camera is on its last legs. Its had just 5 jolts too many and some times the battery pack falls out all by its self which is irritating to say the least when you need the camera to work. I have read with great interest your blog and the comments too from Garry. Not wanting to go down the megga expensive route though, well maybe not for the next 6 years or so (kids in Uni). But might look for a second hand good camera all the same.

    Your pictures are always stunning, and yours too Garry. Nice to see what equipment you are using to get them.

  5. Alan wrote:

    Lovely photos, and a good way with words: "I like how meandering country lanes curve and plunge into tunnels of bronze with gloomy grey shadows."

    Digital photography is great, but the cameras keep getting better and cheaper, so I never know when to buy (without spending a fortune every year). I think I'll dig out my 5×4 SLR. Yes, it does have massive mirror that scores 5.3 on the Richter scale when it bounces up and down.

  6. Kern wrote:

    Very nice photos, Patrick – they give a real feel for the countryside.

    We tour with two point-and-shoot cameras: I use an Olympus C-750 which has a large (i.e. wide) lens and a 10x optical zoom. The light-gathering capability combined with the mechanical zoom work for me. Mary uses a smaller Canon G7 with anti-shake which does very well in low light.

    My daughter ran off with my old Pentax SP-1, which will one day return. It has great sentimental value from my student days, but I know exactly how many rolls of film I would take today if it was my only camera.

  7. Patrick wrote:

    I still have a Pentax SP-500 from 1973, which has a max shutter speed of 1/500 marked on the shutter speed dial. It's a so-called budget version of the Pentax Spotmatic SPII (max speed 1/1000) but is in fact exactly the same camera except for the dial. You can still turn the dial to set a speed of 1/1000 but the speed isn't marked on it. Very strange. I also have a Pentax MX, and a darkroom in the attic, not used since 12 years ago at least. Happy days!

    My Canon G9 is poor in low light, as this photo shows. Grainy. A better camera is needed for those situations, or a tripod.

  8. Mary wrote:

    Poor in low light – still takes a good pic in my opinion. I can remember the very first digital cameras. My hubby is a graphic designer and so uses all the new high tech stuff, and he was disgusted at the quality of the first digital cameras. But he did predict the end of film though, as he was aware that good things were as yet to come along.

    I did an O level in photography all those years back, all in black and white and we used a dark room. But for me, line up the shot, take it, and bin it if its rubbish is the way to go. Do you remember how expensive it used to be getting film developed? I used to post mine off to a company and so much of my hard earned pocket money went on film development. How we are spoilt in that direction today.

  9. Chris wrote:

    Lovely pictures, Patrick. When I saw your photographs going in to the Autumnal Flickr set I thought they were Kern's. The ones taken over the water in particular looked as though they were from another country, not just a different county.

    I don't always get a sharp enough contrast with my digital camera. I'd love a new one, but I would struggle to justify the expense right now.

    I still think autumn is my favourite season, even though I seem to feel the cold much more these days :sad:

  10. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks Chris.

    I feel the cold too. I'm currently cycling with 5-6 layers and 3/4 length bib tights, with thick waterproof gloves. Temperature about 6°. The hills help me keep warm.

    Your photos look fine to me, although I agree sometimes they could be a little sharper when displayed in a web page. It's worth noting that Flickr sharpens up photos when a large one (eg: the original off the camera) is uploaded then a reduced size version is pasted into a post. Flickr does this very well.

    I couldn't resist the Panasonic GF-1 any longer. The GF-2 is out in January and I don't want the touch-screen feature they're bringing out (plus it will be much more expensive), so I decided the time is now. I have the 20mm prime pancake lens (not zoom) which is the same focal length equivalent as the 40mm pancake lens on my old Pentax MX. Perfect I reckon, and sod the expense. I'll be taking photos as RAW, not jpeg, processing them with the software supplied with the camera. Whether anyone but me will notice any difference remains to be seen!

    Incidentally, watching the Remembrance Day coverage on TV I see the leaves on the trees in Whitehall are still green. Further south, less wind, and also probably the heat from buildings.

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