The Art of the Ride Report - Planning, Tips, Opinions, Discussion

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by dave6253, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Do you want to learn how to make your Ride Reports better? I do.

    Regardless of how pretentious the title of this thread is, I'm no expert. I am a huge fan of Ride Reports and have written a few short ones. In an effort to improve my abilities I have studied what seems to work and what doesn't. I've asked myself, what makes a Ride Report really good and what skills can I improve upon to make my reports more interesting to readers?:dunno

    I've found that other inmates also want to learn. I frequently get questions from inmates on this subject both in my reports and by PM in response to my reports. Last week an inmate told me he was planning a big trip this fall and really wanted to learn how to document it. While I like to answer these questions I wished there was a thread somewhere to discuss these subjects more in depth than in an impromptu reply.

    I plan to write about several subjects based on my observations, experience and the questions I've received. I encourage anyone wishing to do so to jump in with their own advice or questions. I'm sure there any many differrent opinions. I welcome them all, just keep it civil.

    These are the subjects I'm considering of so far:

    Rule 1; Bring the Passion
    Planning and Practice
    Basic Photography
    Do I need an expensive DSLR?
    How do you get those moving shots?
    Post-Processing Photos
    Writing Skills
    Videography
    Sharing GPS Tracks
    Creating Route Maps w/ Bing or Google Maps



    Rule 1: Bring the Passion

    Most of us are on this forum because we are passionate about motorcycle travel. Yet some ride reporters are better at expressing that passion in their reports. If you simply post a few average snapshots and a short blurb about where you went, your report will likely not generate much response. If on the other hand you are able to express your passion for motorcycling the readers will likely pick up on this.

    Most reports are made up of some storytelling/details of the trip and photographs. The best reports generally have great writing AND good photographs. Many are also starting to include video and at least one inmate has included sound (tsiklonaut). I say generally because some of the absolute best reports have great writing and bad photos (example, Vermin) or great photos and almost no story (example, Frank likes to ride). These two reports demonstrate that being really good at one skill can overcome the lack of the others. Both of these reports reveal a passion for motorcycle travel and makes the reader remember why they love to ride. Is there any doubt when reading a larryboy report that he means it when he says "I would sell my soul to feel this passion".? My personal favorite report that has it ALL: Angola, it's not like they said.

    I read alot of comments from inmates that they prefer reports from locations they want to ride, on the type of terrain they prefer, and on the exact make and model of bike they prefer. :loco If this is true then why do reports like this or this go absolutely viral? Personality, Writing, and Passion. Improve your writing and/or photography and readers will enjoy your report regardless of trip duration, terrain, or motorcycle model.

    Try to express your passion for motorcycle travel a little better in your next report.


    I placed this thread in Trip Planning because the Ride Report is something we should plan for before the big ride.


    Planning and Practice

    Ride Reports require some forethought. There's alot to think about. What equipment to bring, cameras, video recorders, notebooks, voice recorders? How am I going to remember the details of each day? How often should you plan to stop for photos? What sort of photos do I need to tell the story?

    I would really recommend practicing by writing a few short reports before you take off on your first long trip. This is especially true if you plan to report from the road (Something I don't even want to consider). Writing a ride report is rewarding, but is much time-consuming work.

    Someday I'm gonna take off on a long adventerous journey. I will be prepared to tell the story well, because I've practiced on my little 3-10 day rides.

    I am routinely thinking of the Ride Report while out on the ride. I am constantly wondering how to describe what I just experienced and Oh, I really need to get a photo of that for the report. I would be the worst riding partner, because I stop so often for photos. You can never come home with too many pics, but try telling the story when you rode 500 miles and took 3 photos.:dunno You'd better have some good writing skills. Out here in the West the scenery probably changed entirely 500 times in that 500 miles.



    I realized my creative writing skills are never going to be great. Therefore I have worked hard recently to learn how to improve my photographs. I am not, and never will be, a professional photographer. The hard work has paid off and I've started getting the most feedback regarding the subject of photography. Next up I'll try to explain some simple tips to improve your shots for documenting the ride.

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. header

    header Chris

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    Sweet thread :thumb

    Having written a few reports myself and tried to make them better each time I know how much effort and hard work it can be, having said that I know this thread is going to take a BUNCH of work. Thank you very much for doing something like this, if should help a lot of people myself included.
    #2
  3. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    Dave,
    This could become a good thread. I understand your interest.
    You have Passion first on your long list.
    Without passion the emotion will never come through to others.
    You mentioned larryboy and some of his stuff. What you read with larryboy is he himself, and that's rare.
    Correct spaling isn't even needed, if the person can expose their expeience to others in a real and raw manner - what it really is.
    Some riders enjoy writing, while many others feel like it's a trip to the dentist.
    Truthful experiences, as seen thru that rider's mind, is what I enjoy. Self promotion and obvious exaggeration is...obvious.
    As far as writing styles go, the campfire method, telling a good story to others at a campfire, seems to work well. Just letting it out as you would tell your good tale to somebody.

    For some, it may have been a dark and stormy night.....but for one soul it could've been sucking the last juices from a can of Vienna sausages while living under a small tarp during a relentless downpour. I want to know if he cut his tongue on the lip of the can, and it if was regular or cajun flavored.
    #3
  4. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Thanks header. Yes I'm afraid it may become lots of work, but I'm glad to hear someone is interested. I'm hoping to learn some from you guys as well.
    #4
  5. header

    header Chris

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    Your welcome, I doubt I can help much right now but if you would like to see a different take on a ride report take a look at my most recent trip.

    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=582630

    I wanted to try something different and I think it turned out ok but nothing great.
    #5
  6. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Now that's using your head header.:lol3 Creative Writing! I missed this one. I'll have to consume the rest later today.:thumb


    Okay, Lone Rider is here, I don't have to teach the photography section anymore.:smile6
    #6
  7. header

    header Chris

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    Alright, lets see it then :lurk
    #7
  8. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    Another writing style I enjoy is the straight facts, ger er done, what happened style.
    While Jeff Munn may not tell you how he felt when while experiencing a case of loose bowels in some weird place, his writings come through very clear.
    Stuff you can take to the bank, and very useful.
    #8
  9. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Ride Reports is a busy thread. There are tons of reports to read. No one can read them all. Believe me, I try.:lol3 (Well okay, except for Gadget Boy) I usually try to make a determination early on whether or not a report is worth my time.

    How do you get your report noticed? A unique or catchy report name is a start. Just make sure your report lives up to the name. I remember one report that went viral based on the title alone. 15 pages later when the crappy report actually started, many of us were disappointed. It was a mess. This happens alot when writers start their reports before the ride and the details of the planned ride sound good. I don't have to worry about this because I'm not creative enough to think up a catchy title.:lol2

    I always do my reports after the fact. I like to select a few of my favorite photos from the trip and include them in the first post as "Teaser Photos". I try to select photos that are attention grabbing and maybe show the bike and terrain. This lets the reader know the report is one worth subscribing to. Rarely is the first day of the ride exciting enough to grab everyones' attention. :dunno

    On my last report I only felt the need to use two "Teaser Photos":

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    #9
  10. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Remember that old ad campaign for basketball shoes? They would show some BB Player doing some superhuman feat then claim, "It's the shoes"! Wasn't it NIKE? The reality is the shoes probably made almost no difference.

    Well, I have worked HARD to improve my photographs. I still have much to learn. Now I get comments and questions about how great my CAMERA is. Everyone wants to know, What kinda camera is that? I have news for you. It wasn't about the SHOES and it's not about the camera. It's a result of my desire to take better photographs and my willingness to learn. I actually take those questions and comments about the camera as a compliment, but wanted to point out the distinction here. You probably don't need a new camera.

    Most modern point-n-shoot cameras can take excellent photos, AUTOMATICALLY. Especially in daylight when most of our rides take place. You don't need to become a professional photographer with professional gear. It really comes down to pointing the camera in the right direction. This is called composition. Google the term "Rule of Thirds". Following the rule of thirds can greatly improve your pics. My point-n-shoot camera will display a tic-tac-toe grid on the screen to assist you composing the shot based on the rule of thirds. See if your camera has this feature.

    There are far too many reports where the photos do a better job of documenting the stops, and not the rides. Maybe we should call them stop reports?:lol3 Photos of gas stations, restaurants, and motels have their place, but if that's all you've got it becomes a stop report. Don't forget to include photos of the ride, the roads, the trails, the scenery, your bike, the people you meet, and anything else that tells the story of the motorcycle journey. This is one reason I've started shooting while on the move, but that's another subject. Not everyone wants to handle a camera while riding. Be more willing to stop for a quick photo. Leaving the camera where you can quickly access it and snap a shot without dismounting helps. A couple weeks ago my bike needed a jump start from a nearby camper. I forgot to get a photo of the actual event and had to settle for a shot of the jumper cables after the fact. On the same ride I spent half a day riding in a snow storm. I failed to get any photos of the snowy roads... in the AFTERNOON... in ARIZONA... in JUNE! Who's gonna believe me now?:loco

    There are many online tutorials, books, forums, and other information that you should seek out to learn more about photography. Here are some of my favorite sites:

    http://motojournalism.blogspot.com/ I highly recommend Antontrax's eBook:thumb
    www.dgrin.com A site similar to advrider for photographers.
    www.dpreview.com Camera reviews, forums, news
    #10
  11. tricepilot

    tricepilot El Gran Payaso

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    Raoul Duke did a nice ride report to Alaska. Stunning photos. I contacted him. What camera did you use? He replied he carried a nice DSLR and a Canon point-and-shoot. The DSLR stayed in the tank bag: too bulky and too difficult to get out for spur of the moment pics. The Canon took virtually all of his stunning photos.

    To be honest, I do appreciate fine photography in ride reports. I love a good story and those epic rides. That said, I appreciate the first timer, the guy/gal who is not afraid to post up a ride report along side of Metaljockey. The ride report with someone's first bike and a trip to some state park. It's all part of the Awakening. The discovery of motos and motojournalism.

    Probably the best thing you are saying and has been said by Antontrax and others, is just use whatever camera you have and think about how you point it and how you set it. The key thing to keep pushing is to keep encouraging folks just to take the pics and post them up, I wish they knew how much we (or at least I) appreciate their efforts and their get-off-your-ass-and-get-out-there chutzpah.

    Another thing: in the end, ride reports aren't really for other people. They all fade away. The cool thing is that you can go back and re-read them, and realize how much you've grown. To do a ride report, you have to travel. And in the end, those are the days you remember.
    #11
  12. LittleWan

    LittleWan You can do it!

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    On Wednesday, BigWan and I are leaving for a 5-6 week, multi-state (9?) ride and I could really use some ride report inspiration.

    I don't have much experience, but here are two humble recommendations for ride reporters:
    1) keep a old fashioned pen and paper journal. I couldn't have remembered all the details without my trusty journal. Every night, I wrote down where we were, where we had gone, how many miles we rode, and as many details about the day as I could. I also drew something - usually the floorplan of our motel room (drawings of campsites work, too). I find that drawing helps etch things into my brain. It makes me remember not only what I'm drawing, but also the things around me. Tons of memories and details come flooding back when I see an old drawing. Make little notes about your neighbors, the weather, the view... all those things jog your memory as well. And, remember -the crappier the day, the more fun it is to re-live later!

    2) once you start posting your report, use a program like Appleworks or Word to compose the entry, then cut and paste the final version into the "reply to thread" box. There is nothing more frustrating (heartbreaking!) than wasting hours writing a post and then having it lost in the black void.
    I didn't figure this one out until I had lost several posts :doh


    Thanks, dave6253 - I'm going to try and absorb as much of this thread as I can before we leave. I'm not a natural photographer. It's just not my thing. I'd much rather enjoy the ride and take it all in - without having to look through the lens (especially when we're blasting through the dirt:raabia). But, once the ride is over and we're home again, I always wish I had taken more photos. We just dropped the 990 for the first time (snow and mud) and I totally blew my chance for a photo because I wasn't thinking "ride report." damn.

    (*edited - too much talky-talky)

    P.S. Tricepilot - love this.
    #12
  13. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    #13
  14. thetourist

    thetourist Just passing thru

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    Well said Tricepilot.

    I write my reports mostly for myself. I get to relive the journey.

    I noticed when Antontrax broke his SLR the quality of his pics didn't decline.

    I have carried a camera while fighting forest fires, thru Vietnam, on the dash of my rally car, and now on my cycle. Have that camera at the ready, not buried in luggage.

    I'm still learning this digi stuff, but I can take so many pics. It's just nuts. I'm shooting hundreds a day sometimes. I'm getting good at dynamite stops and third gear take-offs.
    #14
  15. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil

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    Excellent point! :thumb

    Having lived in, and traveled throughout, Alaska for over 50 years I'm afraid that I have grown a little accustomed to the scenes that present themselves up here virtually endlessly. But when experiencing them through the photos and narration of a first-timer it is almost like being a new arrival myself. There is no need for professional journalism in those ride reports. The innocence and naivete of the writer convey more of the experience than flowery wording.
    #15
  16. RandyM

    RandyM Less talk, More ride

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    I have a few thoughts on making reports better.

    1. The teaser pics are great because they help the reader decide if it is the kind of ride report they want to spend time reading or not. The opening paragraph and teaser photos should give the reader enough information to figure out what kind of ride it is.

    2. The beginning of a trip often involves a long ride out of the city or hundreds of miles of interstate. I find that this is the hardest part to make interesting, because it is usually uninteresting to me. I'm thinking that I need to plan a stop at some place interesting, scenic, or weird on the way out to help get the report going.

    3. One thing that can also add to the report is a short discussion of any special gear, or bike modifications, for the trip. Any time you have to improvise is good story and photo material also. On the other hand, I have seen a few with dozens of photos of the rider tearing the bike down and rebuilding it. If there is too much of that, it could change the flavor of the thread from Ride Report to Rebuild report. Exceptions maybe for vintage bikes or for very neglected bikes.

    4. Some very good ride reports follow a theme throughout the report. Cannonshot's reports, for example, often take us to historic places and he provides a little background history of the place he visits. Another theme that works well is when the rider is trying to complete a goal that may not be obtainable. 50 passes in 50 hours is a good example.

    5. Excessive Bike photos. In some reports, nearly every photo has the bike in it as the central subject. It can make the report look like it is about the bike, and less about the rider and the ride. What I am trying to say is that the bike should not be the central subject of every photo. The bike is a participant in the ride and most photos should reflect that. The bike can be used very effectively in a photo to show scale, i.e. how big the rocks are on the trail, or how deep the mud puddle is.

    6. Excessive ADV salute photos. It seems like half of the photos from rallies are of various inmates wallowing around camp, drinking and giving the salute. I think it gives a miss-impression that everyone sits around camp drinking and saluting each other instead of riding. My opinion is that photos of people riding, should outnumber static photos of inmates giving the salute.

    7. Video can really add to a ride report if there is good action, rough trails, or great scenery. I have been playing with a contour HD helmet camera and have had some success, but video can take a lot of time to edit and publish.

    8. Ending a ride report is the second hardest part of a report for me. Again, it is usually a long uninteresting trip back. Usually I end it quickly, but you can also make a review of your personal thoughts and feelings about the trip, what you learned, and what you might do differently next time.

    Those are some of my thoughts about writing a ride report. Hope it helps.
    #16
  17. machinebuilder

    machinebuilder Long timer

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    I know you've already said "IT"S NOT THE CAMERA....ITS THE PHOTOGRAPHER" or something like that.

    In my years of being a semi serious amateur photographer, I have learned several things.

    1. on the newer camera's auto works very well 90% of the time.

    2. look at the light, shadows are hard to photograph

    3. take lots of pictures....and cull heavily
    When I took film I thought I had gotten pretty good, I was getting 2-3 GOOD pictures in a roll (36)

    4. sometimes you don't need a great picture to tell the story

    there are more but that's enough for now

    I need to learn how to stop enjoying the ride and take picutres of things on the ride.
    #17
  18. Ladybug0048

    Ladybug0048 Bug Sister

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    Looking foward to the progression of this thread and learning from it. I enjoy doing ride reports after my rides but truthfully they pretty much suck lined up along side reports from the talented writers and photographers here.

    A couple of my favorites are Larryboy and The Darth Peach.

    Larryboy shows his passion, it's right out there for all to see and when he took his daughter along doing the photography in Death Valley - WOW!.

    The Darth Peach, while she is not able to do long rides she has a way of making a ride around the block look fun and her sense of humor gives things a bit of added punch. She'd make those long boring rides out of town to the start and the finish of that last boring bit of ride back home some spice.

    I enjoy reports people write while on the road, there is no sneaking a peak to find out the ending. I look forward to the progress and what turn the report takes next.

    During the winter I followed a couple reports in South America and now I'm following these:

    ShooterDave: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=565350

    Job3-14 (Will and Amanda) http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=515712

    Both the above reports are fun because they are showing the ups and downs along the way as well as all the new things they are experiencing. The passion is coming out as they are experiencing so many things for the first time.

    I always follow any report Radioman does and he is on the road now with http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=594005
    When I read what you said about passion I though about Mark and him jumping for a joy a few days ago in his report.


    I'm looking forward to all the tips about writing a report after the ride and at the same time I hope someone with experience writing reports while on the road will jump in and add some tips as well.

    Thank you for taking the time to do this. :thumb
    #18
  19. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    What a great thread! This concept has captured my imagination, having just written my first ride report this past Spring. It was so amazing riding to Panama and back on a 250 dirt bike that it seemed important to share the story with a wider audience.

    Having emailed stories from the road to myself in the past, this trip was no different. The excitement of being on the road headed who knows where always compels me to email tales from the road to myself so I can read about it later. I forward them to friends as well. I have been doing this for years and always enjoy reading about road trips I have taken to Alaska or Baja or Guatemala, Asia, Costa Rica. Even years later, it is so fun to read these tales. They bring back the memories as if were yesterday.

    I personally have to get my impressions down before they drift off. The idea of pen and paper journal or email of day to day impressions is important. Even better is posting ride reports from the road. This is what I intend to do next year when I head down to South America to wander around. I am a loner and have plenty of time to write and upload stuff. This wouldn't work so well for a more social person or someone traveling with others.

    What I tried to do differently this time was to think about fellow ADVriders who might be heading down these roads in the future. So I brought along a camera. I have never taken along a camera since I am a minimalist to the max. I just stop in at internet cafes and write an email and send it to myself and friends. This trip I took an Ipod Touch with wifi internet access and used that to email myself and check out ADVrider and post some postcards from the edge to the minimalist touring thread on thumpers.

    I took pics that I found interesting with a crappy 1 megapixel camera with the idea of writing a ride report to share with fellow ADVriders when I got home and could upload photos. This was GREAT. Why haven't I done this in the past? I am an idiot. I found myself stopping and taking cool pics of things I found interesting.

    When reading ride reports, I like to learn from others mistakes and get ideas and useful information. So I like ride reports that are honest and forthcoming about costs, cheap places to stay, nuts and bolts info and current practical travel info to the countries and areas I may ride in. So I tried to include a lot of that.

    I also like seeing pics of people you meet along the way. So took pics of riders and people that I met.

    As well, I appreciate people who answer questions in their ride reports. Heck, it was drrags excellent ride report where I found out how cheap it was to get your teeth fixed in Guatemala. He was kind enough to answer my followup question with GPS waypoints to his dentist in Xela. That was a good enough excuse for me to hit the road to Guatemala.

    I will be following this thread with great interest. What makes a great ride report is different for different people. That's what makes ADVrider so interesting! I appreciate humility, honesty, a positive mental attitude, never-say-die ride report. But let's face it, a ride report by a hot single female who rides like the wind, has excellent writing skills, is articulate and funny, and takes stunning photos of the Himilayas at sunset would get to a million view five star status in pretty short order.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
    #19
  20. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

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    Excellent Points ALL, TricePilot!

    I too really enjoy writing the ride report for the purpose of re-living the ride and being able to continue to do so years later. Also I like riding and spending time alone, but I'm also a family man and love to share the experience with my friends and family. Does that make me weird? My co-workers waste alot of man hours viewing my Ride Reports.

    I have always looked at great photographs and wanted to know how to make my photographs better. I have been inspired by the many really great photographers here on advrider. Alcan Rider, I have seen many of your great photographs of Alaska. I know someday I WILL make it up there myself. I figured I'd better get busy improving my photo skills if I wanted to bring back some of that beauty to remember. Hopefully by improving all of my Ride Reporting skills I can convey the wonder I'm sure I will feel.
    #20