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200 Miles by Bike in California / 12 Photos from a Lomo LCA 120 – By Eric Norris

June 12, 2021

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.

Lomo LCA 120

The Lomo LCA 120 is a great choice for cycling–light, durable, and easy to use, but don’t let it get fooled by bright lights and backlit subjects!

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.

Emergency Darkroom

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:

Vineyars

Grape growing has expanded from Napa County and now extends to large areas of Northern and Central California

Golden Hills

My friend, Tara, with her little dog, Finn, in a backpack. Finn joins us on many of our rides.

Monticello Dam

Monticello Dam, completed in 1958, holds back Lake Berryessa, a major source of irrigation and water for the area.

Pope Valley, CA

I liked the colors and composition of this shot. In the distance is the Pope Valley roadhouse, now closed but once a thriving way station for local travelers.

Stone Wall and Vineyard

The backcountry of Napa County is very scenic, but lacks the traffic and commercialism of the more popular Napa Valley. Dry stone walls like these are common.

Burned Tree

Recent fires have left their mark on the backcountry.

Litto's Hubcap Ranch

Litto’s Hubcap Ranch is an official State Historical Landmark, commemorating one man’s lifelong quest to create art from found objects (in this case, hubcaps).

Car on a Pole

My only out-of-focus shot (I accidentally knocked the focus out of the “infinity” setting). I love quirky and interesting signs, and this is about as quirky as it gets.

Oasis Cafe

The Oasis Cafe sits at the base of the last major climb on the ride. Closed now, I hope it opens again so I can go inside next year.

Rumsey Bridge, Rumsey, CA

There are two of these bridges in the area: this one near the hamlet of Rumsey, and a twin near Davis. Unfortunately, the Rumsey bridge shown here is slated for demolition, having deteriorated over the years.

Guinda Store, Guinda, CA

There are very few stores on the second half of the course, so this was a welcome stop. We chatted with the owner of the Harley, who recently purchased a house just down the road. The store has been open for 130 years!

End of the Ride

My last photo was taken by a passer-by. I’m in the center, with Kevin (left), Tara, and Finn (the pooch). Two days of cycling and photography–what could be better?

If you enjoyed these photos, you can see more cycling and other images (almost all on film) on my Instagram: www.instagram.com/Campyonlyguy I’m also on YouTube, at www.youtube.com/Campyonlyguy

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Jack
    June 12, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    Wow. Felt like I was there. Nothing like a road trip, even on a bike. Great photos.

  • Reply
    Fred
    June 12, 2021 at 6:19 pm

    Great pictures! Great narrative! I liked seeing the lomo lca 120!

  • Reply
    shawn granton
    June 12, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    Awesome, Eric! It makes me want to get out on a bike tour with a couple film cameras. Perhaps I shall…

  • Reply
    Mark
    June 14, 2021 at 4:52 am

    I rode the Davis Double in 1976. Loved your pics! I often carry an Olympus mu on rides: one-handed operation, and it fits in a jersey pocket.

  • Reply
    John Bennett
    June 15, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Nice photos, Eric!

    Have you had any issues with the LC-A 120?
    I’ve been tempted to buy one in the past, but the “spendy” price, coupled with mixed reviews regarding its reliability,
    always gave me pause.

    • Reply
      Eric Norris
      June 17, 2021 at 6:30 pm

      John:

      Yes, the LCA120 is pricey. I had been looking at purchasing one for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger in part to commemorate a certain historical event of last November. Every time I use the camera, I’m reminded of the excellent feelings of that day. (I also found one in pristine condition at a slight discount from KEH camera.)

      My camera has been relatively trouble-free. The only issue I have had is with inadvertent double exposures. There’s a switch on the camera to take a double exposure, which I don’t use. Occasionally, however, the camera will take a picture and then won’t want to allow the film to be advanced. This is rare, and I’ve found that a firm and complete press of the shutter button keeps this from happening.

      As you can hopefully see from the photos, the pictures are sharp and properly exposed … provided that you don’t shoot toward a bright light source, in which case the meter is fooled into underexposing the image.

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