Apart from photography, cycling – and especially cycling long distances – has been a passion of mine for most of my life. I discovered early on that I enjoyed setting ambitious goals of riding 100, 200 or more miles in a day, and I’ve been doing it ever since. For most of those rides, I’ve carried a camera. I started with disposable film cameras in the 1980s, transitioned to digital cameras, and now have swung back to film cameras. I’ve probably taken thousands of pictures, many of which in the past would prompt my wife to say something like, “Oh, another picture of a road. How nice.”
These days, my rides have grown to include more photography, and I’ve striven to take photos of more than just the road in front of me. As I tell my friends, cycling nowadays is half riding, half art project. I process the film at home after the ride, and share the memories with friends and on Instagram.
The Ride: 200 Miles in Two Days
The photos here were taken on the weekend of May 15 and 16, 2021. Two friends and I set out on a 200-mile ride, following the route of a traditional organized ride, the Davis Double Century (“double century” here meaning two 100-mile or “century” rides in one day). The Double Century was unfortunately cancelled this year (last year as well), but I wanted to be out on the roads of Northern California on the traditional day so I invited my compatriots to turn the one-day event into a two-day tour. All three of us were fully vaccinated against COVID, and followed all local social distancing requirements, including masking indoors.
The route starts in Davis, California, and almost immediately heads away from civilization and into the backcountry of Napa, Lake, and Yolo counties. As the photos show, parts of the ride still bear the scars of recent fires, with devastated forests and destroyed buildings. We were awed by the destruction, but hopeful for the rebuilding and new growth that will surely come.
Film Cameras for the Bike
I carried two film cameras with me: an Agfa Optima Sensor 1535 loaded with black-and-white 35mm film, and a Lomo LCA 120 with medium-format Lomography 100 color film. All of the photos below were taken with the Lomo. I enjoy medium-format photography, and the Lomo LCA 120 has turned out to be great for carrying on the bike. I keep mine in a bag mounted my handlebars, where it’s safe but easy to get to. The Lomo is easy to shoot, requiring only that one choose from four distance presets (almost always the “infinity” setting on my rides), compose the photo, and take the picture. The camera automatically calculates shutter speed and aperture (you can’t set either one), and while bright light sources can confuse the camera it generally does a good job exposing the film.
I loaded a roll of Lomography 100 into the camera and set a goal of capturing some signature views of the course. The resulting images were shot over the course of the two days, along with a bunch of photos with the Agfa 1535.
Riding long distances without support often requires one to deal with mechanical and other problems in distant locations where options are limited and ingenuity is needed. One such problem cropped up on this ride in the form of a problem rewinding a roll of film in the Agfa. It simply wouldn’t start rewinding, and I couldn’t tell why. Having no other options, I went into the bathroom in the hotel room, turned out all the lights, and created a makeshift darkroom. In the darkness, I was able to open the back of the camera and carefully hand-feed the film back into the cartridge. My emergency rewinding worked perfectly, and film developed a few days later with no ill effects.
12 Frames From the Ride
Now, back to the ride. Photos start in the countryside near Davis, California: