Editor’s note: This is actually Part 2 of the Series. The first part, with the photographer, Hank Arriazola, was featured in the first official ADVrider Magazine. The last 50 copies can still be ordered.
Cheryl Jones has been a registered nurse for 19 years. She was born and raised on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and is the mother of three grown men. She has owned a local pub since 2013, and has shared a love of photography and adventure riding with her partner Ray McKenzie since late 2017.
How did you get into photography, and how did you improve your skills?
I have always loved taking photos but did not really get into photography until I met Ray. I knew he was a professional and asked if he would give me a few lessons on how to work the camera I currently owned. With time, practice, and a lot of patience, I have escalated my photography to a level of which I am proud. Whether a photo is re-posted on a social media platform or published, I am truly humbled and thankful for the instruction and support I have received.
Motorcycle travel and photography are two activities that complement each other perfectly. Both take some skill and learning and there is continued growth in both. Some people just have the ability to tell inspiring stories with their photos and writing.
This is a series of articles dedicated to some of these people. They share an addictive, insatiable passion for motorcycle adventure travel, photography and storytelling.
They are not necessarily the famous types, some are not on social media or well known, many are not good at or not interested in promoting themselves. These are the people that just get on with moto-photo-travel and following their passions.
Where did your love for travel and motorcycling start and where has it taken you?
I have always loved the idea of seeing exotic places. I love the culture, architecture, and history, so traveling is the best way to experience these things first hand. Motorcycles did not come until late in my life. Since about eight years old, I had ridden as a pillion but at 48, I decided it was time to pilot my own two wheels. I have had amazing instruction from Ray, who raced and has traveled extensively across the globe, and with Don Hatton, an off-road skills instructor and Dakar rally racer.
I was bitten by the bug with the first upshift! In the three years I have been riding my own bike I have traveled through several of the western states of the U.S., extensively in British Columbia, and Ray and I rented light ADV bikes in Nepal, traveling unguided.
Nepal was an incredible adventure and certainly eye-opening as a female motorcycle (not scooter) rider. Whether it was traveling in the shadows of the Annapurna mountain range, navigating our way through the crazy that is Kathmandu, riding among the terraced fields of small villages, or riding down the road next to elephants, it was an experience that is unparalleled as of yet.
What does moto photography mean to you?
Moto photography began as a way to memorialize parts of our trips for my own personal album but soon blossomed into more of a diarized story of our journeys. It is not so much about photos of our bikes and us but about the places we go, the things we see, the people we meet, and how we can share with others. I think the human experience behind the story is what fascinates me. How did this particular adventure make you feel? Were there obstacles? How did you overcome them? What are the highlights? Why did you choose this journey?
It is a visual story that as well as emphasizing the enjoyment of a trip often includes the trials and tribulations of traveling on two wheels, and it can highlight the relationship between travel partners. Ray and I have been in some sticky situations and looking at the photos later reminds us of just how well we work together and have persevered in difficult conditions.
It is always my hope that the photos, along with the written word, may inspire others to experience the places Ray and I have been. Some of our stories are published in ADVMoto Magazine and others are told through social media. We have a website that we are currently working on that will include blogs of our adventures.
What is special about moto-adventure photography for you?
Photographing moving objects in changing conditions is challenging. You must truly know your camera and be able to adapt on the fly. From static shots to more dynamic captures of movement, the audience gets a sense of the landscape, the people behind the adventure. Oftentimes the motorbike will take you to places that are not accessible to others and that is exciting and definitely one of the benefits of being a moto-travel photographer.
I love it when I see a moment or image that screams, “This will be a great shot!” You set it up and boom, in your viewer is something creative, artistic, and uniquely you. I have done some crazy things to get that shot!
What are your favorite moto-photography destinations?
Everywhere I have traveled has offered something different and exciting so I find it hard to choose. The Oregon-California coastline is a stunning asphalt experience with so many opportunities to stop and capture photos or just enjoy the view. British Columbia is rugged and wild so off-road experiences here are off the hook. The vistas are epic, the wildlife simply breathtaking and there are areas remote enough that you can find peace in your travels and of course, as mentioned, Nepal offered something exotic and unlike anywhere I had traveled before.
How has your photography evolved over the years?
I believe every day is a learning opportunity behind the lens. It may be the same bike, same location but settings, angles, lighting and framing can be adjusted, and thus the perspective changes; this can create some wonderful photos. Not to mention the different techniques that can be studied and practiced. I think my photography has evolved from simply taking a photo to attempting to tell a story.
What are the experiences that truly move you?
Witnessing the beauty of our world, seeing animals in their own habitat and the incredible people Ray and I have met. One that stands out was a local of Bella Coola who saw us by the river admiring a carved totem. She approached us and revealed the story and significance of this totem to her people, and how the traditions associated with it continue today. These stories give us an appreciation of the heritage and history of other cultures.
Then there is the wildlife. To see these beautiful creatures in their own habitat always leaves me overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity. In Bella Coola, each spring bears, both black and grizzly, appear from hibernation and head down the mountains to gorge. While we saw several scrambling away, it was extremely difficult to photograph them while on the bikes; Ray’s Ducati was a natural bear repellent.
We spied one lovely black bear across a field who, with a flower in mouth, stood on his hind legs and promptly scratched his back up against a big old tree. We cut the engines, rolled to a stop and I excitedly jumped off my bike and grabbed a few quick photos. This was definitely a highlight of this trip for me. The locals tell us that as the summer hits its high peak, bears and their cubs often wander the town streets!
And how can you ignore the breathtaking beauty that is Mother Nature? Snow-capped mountains, glacier-blue lakes, and the smell of a rainforest. Flowered fields and the swell of an angry ocean. Ray and I always take the time to appreciate the moment, find peace in our surroundings, and never take for granted what man has not spoiled.
What is your preferred genre in photography??
Initially, I thought my love would be nature photography – landscapes and wildlife. While I still love this format, I have discovered my love of capturing people in raw moments. The essence of humans in their element holds great fascination for me and I love the opportunity to capture them.
While on a trip to New York I saw a young man on a busy subway with his head buried in a book, pencil in hand, earbuds in. I assumed he was doodling. It was a cool shot and when I zoomed in, I was moved to tears. He was using the words on the billboards to practice writing his alphabet. It is a photo that I love, for so many reasons. My dream is to travel and expand this genre of photography.
Tell us a bit about editing and post-processing of photos.
If the photo is taken with the correct settings, I find the post-processing relatively simple as you are just making minor tweaks to a well-balanced raw image. Using the histogram to ensure your light and dark areas are not clipped is critical, as this is almost impossible to amend. I love post processing because this is where the photo takes on its own life. I can immediately tell whether the picture is conveying what I want it to. Lightroom is the editing platform of choice for us and it has not disappointed.
What type of camera equipment do you use, and what types of equipment would you recommend to others?
We recently traded our Canon gear for the Sony 7 Alpha series hoping the mirrorless system would be less inclined to receive damage. It has not come without its issues, however. I am a big fan of the 70–200 mm lens and it is usually on my camera body. I love the depth of field I can get with it and Ray has taught me the subtle nuances of compressing the distance, which has created many of my favourite images. We always carry a tripod for those longer exposures and a polarizing filter is a nice-to-have accessory. Do not forget a good lens brush and cloth; it is amazing how much dust is kicked up from off-road sections of a route!
How do you carry your gear and keep it protected?
Changing from the Canon to Sony definitely lightened the load for starters and we always wrap our gear. It is important to think about what and how much tackle you actually need for the type of shooting you will be doing. There may be no need to drag all of your equipment around. If you plan to shoot landscapes, do you need your big zoom lens? Ray and I are lucky that we use the same camera bodies; this actually means less gear for us as one will carry the wide-angle lens and as I said, I usually carry the zoom. Occasionally we pack the 100–400 mm if we expect to see some critters in the distance.
We have the camera body and lens wrapped separately – great use for the soft helmet bag. For short trips, I used to carry a sling camera bag on my back, which had a side zipper for ease of access, but a tip-over can potentially damage the camera so we switched to using our tank bags. The issue with the tank bag is that the vibrations, particularly from rough terrain, can do damage just as easily. We are in the process of looking at some sort of hard case that can mount to the bike. An update may be in order in the near future.
What would you suggest are three easy things any motorcycle traveler can do to take better photos?
1. Shoot from all angles and do not be afraid to let your imagination flow. Shoot it straight on, from up above, from the ground up, from the side, from oblique angles . . . you name it. Be creative (but safe); it is your photo. I have climbed rock faces and lain down on the road to get something unique and original.
2. Frame your photo to include what landscape you want and look for unwanted “extras.” Make sure there are no “pokeys” in the picture, so branches that stick partway into the photo or bright road signs, anything that potentially distracts from the subject, unless that is your intent. Use the angles you shoot to block the unsavory components.
3. Always check your photos before you leave an area. Nothing worse than getting home to find your photo blurry, over/underexposed or not framed how you wished.
4. Maybe most importantly, learn to use your histogram. This will create a well-balanced image that will require less post-production work and reduce disappointment.
How do you deal with ethical questions when shooting people?
Great question, especially for someone like me that loves to photograph people. I simply ask, or gesture if there is a language barrier. Most people are willing to have their picture taken and those who are not I simply thank them anyway. I have had people want money in return and that is up to the individual to determine if this is something that they feel alright about.
I have found in third world countries, most people are quite intrigued by having their photo taken and I love to show them what I have captured on the screen. It seems to bring smiles all around. So, if in doubt, simply gesture with your camera, smile and show them the result.
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