Mountain Bike Photography

Taking Pictures of fast moving objects in the woods has its challenges.  We have been trying to improve the quality of pictures posted on bikerag over the years and have learned a couple things about digital photography, tips and tricks.. My latest Cameras are a FUJI E900 & F30.

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR ORIGINAL DIGITAL PICTURE FILES IN A SEPARATE DIRECTORY BEFORE EDITING!!  Once you edit a picture and save it, the process cant be "undone".  Keep your source files safe..

1.   Most common problem, BLURRY PICTURES:  Your new digital camera thinks its so smart, the Scene:  Late afternoon photo shoot, in the woods, tall trees, action shot...  Your camera adjusts the shutter based on the amount of available light, so if its dark, it leaves the shutter open longer, hence blurry mountain biker, or if you have a reall steady hand and follow the biker, you get a blurry background..

Solution: If your camera has a good flash, use it, use it any time your in the woods, it cant hurt..  Using the flash also forces the shutter speed to a faster setting..  Your camera may have manual mode, this is what I use in addition to the Flash.  Depending on how dark it is, I use manual to adjust the shutter to between say 1/250 to about 1/600 of a second..  Take some test shots before the stunt, huck or pose picture, preview it and make a judgement on shutter speed..

TIP - Sometimes your camera doesn't have that manual setting, and like I said the sports scene is usually Use-Free..  If your in the woods and you at least have bright sky above you, you can pre-focus on the sky above that will force the shutter speed to a faster setting..  This doesn't always work, but give it a shot, worked for me several times..  You can usually tell

2.   Dark Pictures - Now that you have tricked the camera and forced the shutter speed your pictures are DARK..  Very freakin dark..  Sometimes black even..  Don't throw them in the recycle bin and curse me!!  Use a photo editor like Photoshop, or Coreldraw or some graphics program to edit them..  I use thumbs-plus which used to be shareware, think you have to buy it now..  In any case, first step is increasing the gamma in the editor.  It works much better than brightening the photos and tends to wash out the pictures less.  After you increase the gamma, then try to add a little saturation.

Update 2006

3.  My latest success for taking clear pictures in less than optimal conditions is using a camera that has a good high ISO setting.. High ISO settings tend to make pictures more Grainy, BUT better than missing the picture entirely..  FUJI has put all its eggs in one basket and is focusing on high ISO in lieu of image stabilization..  Image stabilization is great for taking pictures of still objects but doesnt do a dam thing for moving objects..  The E900 has a pretty good useable iso up to 800..  Using the natural light mode automatically raises the ISO, but manual is always best for results..  The F30 has an ISO up to 3200, which might make it the best small mountain biking camera on the market..  The F30 also takes nice movies at 640x480 30 Frames per second.


Editing video is a royal pain, just to get your 5 second clip right, I used to use FIVE 100$ programs that all sucked in there own special way.  Thanks to Nebraska - he found the best free program that is great for simple editing.  One program does it all.  Here is the link and suggestions on how to make a decent SWF file for reducing file size.  Play around with it, not so user friendly but once you get used to it, its BUTTER..

Install program, open program

Project - Add media files - browse to cedar movie you wish to transform.
The video and audio will come up separately under wax!!

Drag the video portion down to main editing area. Slide the little grey arrow indicators at the top of frame to select start and finish. Slide the blue thingy to preview where to start and stop..

Select project settings -
Change frame to 480x360
Options compression quality 25
File type macromedia swf
File name - also select macromedia swf and name the file cedar??.swf
that parts kind of wierd, some times you have to go back and forth or just rename the file to .swf if it focks it up..

NOW, finally to create the file, go to project RENDER.. It will work for a while, then your file is done.. Although it doesnt tell you..

GOod luck, seems like a pain, but I guarentee you this is the best program for video - I used to have to use 5 programs to get the vids down to reasonalbe size..

You can brighten with wax TOO, save that lesson for nother day.